Day 22: Wulai, Taipei - 17.4.2015:
While we did see the hot springs of Beitou two days before, we also wanted to visit the hot springs of nearby Wulai. So off we went with the MRT to Xindian Station. We originally wanted to take bus 849 from there, but instead of waiting for the next one we granted ourselves the luxury of a cab, which has fixed rates from Xindian Station to Wulai (600 Taiwanese Dollar or 16€). It took about 30 minutes till Wulai.
Wulai was especially easy to navigate, as the cab let us out nearby the bus stop, from where the street leads to the Wulai Old Street. The Old Street also houses the Wulai Atayal Museum and leads directly to a bridge. From there, stairs lead up to the Wulai Log Cart, that drives to the Wulai Waterfall and the Wulai Gondola. We started our sightseeing with a visit to the (free) Wulai Atayal Museum.
The Museum has an impressive exhibit of the history, customs, culture, rituals, religious faith and festivals of the Atayal aboriginal tribe. It gives insight about the indigenous Atayal people, which once reigned the region, and its history. It is a quite modern museum and showed hunting techniques, that were also explained on audio when we pushed a button. We visited all the three floors, that presented exhibitions about hunting, fishing, farming, weaving but also about their religious beliefs, witchcraft, facial tattooing and head hunting. I especially liked the saga of an Atalay warrior, who killed one of the two suns, so that the dead sun today is our moon. We appreciated their weaving skills by buying a new pocket for my cellphone, while my friend bought a cute little owl-bag for his niece.
From the museum, we continued through the Old Street, where you find a lot to eat, especially if you like a wild boar. We walked further and came to a bridge, that goes over the Nanshi River, where we saw earlier people already bathing in the hot river. We first got a snack at the 7-11 and then walked up the stairs to the Wulai Log Cart. Actually, my friend tried to get to the post office first, after seeing a sign for it, but they were closed at lunchtime.
After purchasing a ticket for the Log Cart, we soon boarded the little train and quickly arrived just a few steps from the Wulai Waterfall. You can actually walk the way, as it´s just 1,6 kilometers in distance, but the ticket for the Log Cart is cheap and it was quite hot that day.
Opposite the waterfall, we found more shops and also the stairs up to the Wulai Gondola, which we followed. The Gondola carried us above the waterfall to a platform, where more stairs awaited us. It was so hot, we actually needed a break on a viewing platform between the stairs, to take a breath.
Soon we arrived at a lovely lake and a restaurant. From there, little trails lead to a variety of attraction, that are part of the hotel up there or the amusement park. We walked some of them, but some attractions seemed to be out of order (no water in the pools), while the fitness trail didn´t look like the right thing to explore on this day.
Soon we walked back down to the gondola platform and went back down to get a more direct look at the Wulai Waterfall. There´s also a cultural show, but we weren´t in the mood, as it seemed to be something like a restaurant-theatre and wasn´t for free. Instead, we stayed for some time at a viewing platform opposite the waterfall, before we took the little train back to the Old Street.
We weren´t finished with Wulai just yet. We chose not to bathe in the river, as we didn´t have swimwear with us and I actually did bath in a hot river before, on our trip to Iceland. We opted for a spa, to enjoy the hot springs of Wulai. We chose the Full Moon Spa, which is located at the beginning of the Old Street when you come from the bus station, just when you crossed the first little bridge a few steps to the left. The Full Moon Spa is actually a hotel we eyed when planning our Taiwan trip. However, in the end, we decided to come to Wulai just as a day trip. We regretted a bit of not staying there, as it seems modern, clean and spacious. The male section of the spa was a dream with a big warm pool, where you could lie in, a cold pool and a spacious very hot pool. They also have two saunas and massage showers and I was really in need of a foot massage. While it has a roof, it´s otherwise not separated from the outside. So we could lie in there, inside the warm water, and hear and see the rain starting to pour. We really loved it and stayed for quite some time.
Finally, we walked to the bus station, where also a lot of cabs were waiting. My friend toyed with the idea of taking a cab back, but when I had finished taking some photos from a bridge behind the bus station there was just a bus 849 coming, which would take us back to the Xindian MRT-Station. What followed were 40 minutes of standing inside the bus, as every seat was taken for the whole journey. While the bus seems to ply the route rather frequently, there are so many people who use it, that we even had to stand on a weekday. It´s probably much worse on a weekend.
As it was a stop on the MRT-line between Xindian Station and our hotel´s Ximen Station, we next went out at the Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall MRT-Station to take a look at the National Theater, the Concert Hall and of course the Chiang Kai-shek MemorialHall. It is a huge and impressive complex. While we were too late to visit the inside, we were just in time for a flag retreat, that took place at 6.p.m. After that, I took my time for some long exposure shots, while my friend observed an event sponsored by Carrefour, who had built a stage and seemed to be looking for recruits for an expansion of their supermarkets in Taiwan.
We still hadn´t enough and decided to go to Taipei 101 next. I really wanted to go there in the evening, to get a look from above at Taipei and also to see this building, which was classified as the world´s tallest in 2004. We also eyed the food court inside the 101-Mall for dinner.
From the Taipei 101/World Trade Center MRT-Station we followed the signs and soon bought a ticket for the elevator up, which was also in 2004 the fastest in the world. While we got our tickets fast, the line to actually enter the elevator was pretty long. However, the queue went relatively briskly forward, so we soon were inside and shot upwards. We arrived on a floor, where we found some information, a terrifying (at least for people with fear of heights) mirror-installation and of course great views, before we walked further up to the heavily protected outside platform. After that we followed the course down to the impressive "Tuned Mass Damper", which helps to keep the balance of the building. Before we could enter the downward-elevator, we had to go through an expensive looking shopping area, in which especially coral products were highlighted and sold, which I can´t endorse, considering the tragic decline of coral reefs in the world.
However, apart from the coral shops the 101 was really impressive and we also found something nice to eat at the food court. We also went into a supermarket there, which was a premiere - we hadn´t seen one in Taiwan before. Everywhere we were, there was an abundance of 7-11´s, but we never came in sight of a real supermarket until inside the 101 Mall. Finally we returned to our hotel, walking from the Ximen Station through the lively Ximending to our hotel.