If you didn’t know it was there, it would be easy to miss the small town of Dulan (都蘭, also spelled Doulan) as you barrel down the No. 11 Provincial Highway through Taitung County. You might notice an improbably large number of shops selling school bags for the local Dulan Primary School (都蘭國小), but there is little else about the town that would make you pull over for a closer look. This would be a pity, as Dulan is the center of a community that brings together Aboriginal culture, alternative arts, eco-friendly lifestyles, and a variety of recreation activities from hiking to water sports. It is a unique combination that offers something for everyone.
According to the East Coast Scenic Administration Web site, Dulan “is the largest tribal community on the southern East Coast,” and a number of archeological finds in the area have led to the suggestion that it is also the “birthplace” of Taiwan’s Amis people (阿美族發源地). Sarcophagi, steles and a number of other stone structures dating back around 3,000 years are part of the attractions of the Dulan Site (都蘭遺址) scattered in the hills rising above the No.11.
While Dulan’s ancient past is of considerable interest, its primary appeal now is what has been made of the town by a modern generation of Aboriginal and Taiwanese artists and alternative lifestyle seekers. The symbol of this new movement in Dulan is the Hsindung Sugar Refinery (新東糖廠), which, as with many relics of Taiwan’s past as a major sugar producer, has since been repurposed as a cultural park. The vast complex of factories, dormitories and warehouses has become an arts venue in which artists exhibit, local produce is sold and concerts and parties are often held.
The Siki Workshop (Siki木雕工作室) is a permanent presence at the cultural park, and many contemporary Aboriginal woodcarvings can be viewed there. A small gift shop called Hao De Bai (好的擺) is an excellent place to buy artwork work by local artists as well as produce such as local honey, handmade vinegar and millet wine.
Another center of tourist activity in Dulan is the Moonlight Inn (月光小棧), located on the slopes of Dulan Mountain. It offers spectacular views of the coastal plains and the ocean beyond. The Japanese-style building, originally a forestry administrative center, became a popular destination for tourists after it was used as a location in the film The Moon Also Rises (月光下我記得), which won best female lead and best screenplay at the Golden Horse Awards (金馬獎) in 2004.
The building has been well maintained and is attractive, though rather too much like a museum replica to provide much sense of history. Located high in the hills, it catches the ocean breeze, and the small terraced garden is a delightful place to enjoy a coffee. A gift shop run by a female artists cooperative offers some interesting knick-knacks and provides surprisingly good coffee.
While both the cultural park and Moonlight Inn are destinations carefully crafted by Taiwan’s tourism authorities, there is much in Dulan that has a more independent vibe that speaks to those looking to get away from it all. One of the best-known eating establishments in Dulan is Marino’s Kitchen (馬利諾廚房), opened by David Marino, formerly of Taiwan’s English-language radio station ICRT. The story of how the former newsman upped roots and started a bakery in Dulan was widely publicized in the media, and the bread, the best-known product of Marino’s Kitchen, is very tasty. A variety of Italian-American style food from pizza to pasta is also available, and it is an excellent option for anyone looking for a break from local cuisine.