Sat, Jan 22, 2011 - Page 16 News List

Tribal belt

If spending the upcoming Lunar New Year in a restful Aboriginal village sounds like a good way to enjoy the holidays, read on for a rundown of destinations

By Ho Yi  /  Staff Reporter

Photo: Ho Yi, Taipei Times

Go ahead, play mahjong. Stuff yourself on holiday food. Mingle with crowds of Chinese tourists at popular destinations such as Sun Moon Lake (日月潭). But if none of the usual Lunar New Year activities above hit the spot, a visit to Taiwanese Aboriginal tribes can offer a refreshing experience filled with natural beauty and cultural diversity. Read on for an introduction to several Aboriginal hamlets selected by the Taipei Times, and stay tuned for more destinations next Saturday.

Lalashan (拉拉山)

Nestled in Taoyuan County’s (桃園縣) Lalashan, the Atayal (泰雅) village of Baling (巴陵) is especially popular during the summer months of May and June, when succulent peaches lure visitors to the mountain tribe at an elevation of some 1,200m.

Qara (卡拉), a neighboring Atayal hamlet of about 20 households, is a much less-visited spot — making it a better choice for those seeking peace and seclusion. Visitors can go on a hike along the historical Kaya trail, which used to be the village’s only connection to the outside world. Along the way, pristine forest surrounds Qara Stream (卡拉溪), which teems with trout, and an ark-shaped Christian church delights guests with its unique architecture.

A jaunt to Baling and Qara would not be complete without a visit to the well-known grove of majestic Formosan cypresses known as shengmu (神木), or divine tree, at the Lalashan Forest Reserve (拉拉山自然保護區). The area is home to about 120 trees estimated to be more than 500 years old, with one tree about 2,800 years old. A 3.7km trail winds through the 22 giant cypresses marked out for public viewing.

Within the shengmu grove, aspiring hikers will find the entrance to the Bafu Ancient Trail (巴福越嶺古道). The 17km mountain path used to be the route Atayal tribespeople took when traveling between settlements in Baling and Fushan (福山), Wulai (烏來). The six-hour trek from Taoyuan to Taipei may be exhausting, but relaxing in a Wulai hot spring at the end of the day makes it all worthwhile.

For the daring, bungee jumping off the Dahan Bridge (大漢橋) over Dahan River (大漢溪) is among the favorite outdoor activities on the Northern Cross-Island Highway (北橫公路), which leads to Lalashan. Jumping sessions are organized on a weekly basis. Visit www.bungy.com.tw for details. Meanwhile, the Sinsing hot spring (新興溫泉), also known as the Galahe (嘎拉賀) hot spring, is one of the Atayal territory’s best kept secrets. Getting to the secluded natural spring requires a 40 minute expedition involving mountain hiking and river tracing from Sinsing, or Galahe, village, located 11km from Baling.

HOW TO GET THERE

■ Lalashan is located on Route Seven (台七線) between Taoyuan and Yilan (宜蘭) and easily accessible by car. Able cyclists can reach the 2,000m mountain through the picturesque Northern Cross-Island Highway, which is part of Route Seven.

WHERE TO STAY

■ While Baling has no shortage of lodging (take a look at tourism Web site lala3.emmm.tw for a taste of what’s on offer), Qara has a more modest, but decent selection of bed and breakfasts including Bafu Farm House (八福農園, tel: (03) 391-2013) and Fu-yam Tourist Home (福緣山莊, www.fu-yam.com). Many guesthouses have orchards and homesteads so visitors can sample homegrown fruits and vegetables such as peaches, persimmons and mushrooms, or take them home for souvenirs.

Smangus (司馬庫斯)

Before the completion in 1995 of the first and so far the only semi-paved road into the village, the Atayal (泰雅) tribe of Smangus spent decades in isolation deep in the lush mountains of Hsinchu County (新竹縣). Times have changed, and now tour buses often pull up outside the village entrance carrying city dwellers in search of fresh air and the noted grove of ancient Formosan cypresses, located some 5km away.

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