4-day Sun Moon Lake and Alishan
Working with a travel agency partner, we develop itineraries that highlight Taiwan’s rural and indigenous areas. They are focused on places that are off-the-beaten-path and that offer a glimpse into Taiwan’s hospitality, cultural diversity and spectacular scenery. In addition, an effort has been made to link them with more popular tourism destinations, to allow travelers to make the most of their time in Taiwan.
What to expect:
Taiwan is a small, advanced island nation. Many of Taiwan’s indigenous communities are located in somewhat remote areas, but all can be reached by paved roads. Taiwan’s indigenous tribes have had contact with the outside world and mainstream society for a long time. Even in their villages, they mostly live in, to Taiwan standards, modern houses and dress in modern clothing. However, it is still possible to experienceTaiwan’s rich indigenous culture. In addition, communities are surrounded by natural beauty, offering excellent ecotourism opportunities. These include, but are not limited to, hiking, river tracing, bird watching, swimming, white water rafting, and paragliding.
There is usually at least one small grocery store in each village where you can buy snacks and toiletries. However, you will need to bring along enough New Taiwan Dollar (NT$) in cash, as credit cards are rarely accepted and there are very few ATMs or banks.
Basic medical care and first aid is usually available but there is rarely a pharmacy. So, bring along an ample supply of all necessary prescription and over-the-counter medication.
There are not many hotels located in indigenous and rural areas. Accommodation will mostly be in family-run guesthouses.
What to bring:
*Adequate supply of all needed prescription and non-prescription medication.
*Toiletries: Shampoo/conditioner, soap/shower gel, towel, toothbrush, toothpaste, comb, hair gel, etc. In indigenous villages, we will mostly be staying in family-run guesthouses and not all will provide these items, so it is best to prepare.
*Sunscreen, hat, sunglasses, swimsuit, mosquito repellent, comfortable walking shoes.
*Most, but not all, guesthouses will have Internet access. Voltage is 110V.
*Camera, extra battery, extra memory card.
*Adequate cash (in NT$).
*Sense of curiosity and sense of humor.
4-day Sun Moon Lake and AlishanTsou Culture
Meals: Lunch and dinner
After being picked up from hotel lobby in Taipei or other designated location, we will drive to the Alishan National Scenic Area, which is located in Chiayi Township of southern Taiwan. Our first stop may be Fenqihu, which is an old forestry stown. Here, we will enjoy a local specialty—a railway lunchbox featuring meat that is stewed or roasted and stir-fried vegetables. After lunch, we will explore Fenqihu Old Street and the surrounding town. Some of the buildings from its heyday are still well preserved. After this we will head to a village of the Tsou tribe.
Accommodation: Lanho Guesthouse or equivalent
Meals: Breakfast, lunch and dinner
On this day we enjoy some of the natural and cultural beauty of Alishan Township that makes this one of Taiwan’s premier tourist destinations. We explore indigenous culture such as the kuba (pronounced ‘koo ba’) or men’s meeting hall. There are a number of trails to hike and artisan workshops to explore including leather engraving, bamboo and rattan weaving and wood carving. We will also visit Shizhuo’s tea growing area and sample some of the local brew in a tea processing shop.
Accommodation: Alishan 53.1 Guesthouse or equivalent
Alishan to Sun Moon Lake
Meals: Breakfast, lunch and dinner
On this day, we leave Alishan and explore the central Taiwan county of Nantou, considered one of Taiwan’s most beautiful counties for its towering mountains, pristine forests, crystal clear rivers and natural hot springs. We may stop at Wangxiang, an indigenous Bunun community, where in good weather, there are views of Yushan (Mt. Jade), Northeast Asia’s highest peak. In addition to being home to the Bunun tribe this area of Nantou is famous for its plums, which are turned into many products including liquor. We visit a local winery to sample some of these products and learn how they are made. We end the day by arriving at Sun Moon Lake.
Accommodation: Sun Moon Lake hotel
Sun Moon Lake (Nantou)
Meals: Breakfast and lunch
Explore Taiwan’s largest, natural lake by boat and then see some of the sights up close, such as the Wenwu Temple, devoted to the ancient Chinese sage Confucius and Cien Pagoda built by the late President Chiang Kai-shek in memory of his mother. We will also visit Itathao, a village of the indigenous Thao tribe, before ending the day in Taipei or designated drop-off point.
INCLUDES: Meals (breakfast, lunch and dinner); Admission; Insurance, Transportation; Professional, Licensed Tour Guide; Accommodation (based on double occupancy).
Itineraries are subject to change due to weather or road conditions and availability.
Alishan National Scenic Area (Chiayi County)
The Alishan National Scenic Area covers four townships in Chiayi County, located in southern Taiwan. It is famous for its towering mountains, pristine forests, cherry blossoms, tea plantations, coffee plantations, and indigenous Tsou culture. Although this scenic area is rich in natural forest, Alishan was once home to a flourishing forestry industry. Traces of that can be seen in the small town of Fenqihu and in the narrow gauge railway that zigzags up the mountain. The indigenous Tsou tribe is concentrated in eight communities—four in the northern part of this scenic area and four in the southern part. The Tsou have been working to protect various aspects of their culture, such as the Mayasvi or Warring Ceremony. This traditionally took place several times during the year to mark the renovation of a kuba (men’s meeting hall), the construction of a house or the start of a battle. Today, it is held on average once a year. Tsou communities also offer the opportunity to explore this tribe’s interdependent relationship with nature, such as Bird Worship Trail, which describes the use of flight patterns and calls of a certain species of bird to determine if it is a good time to set out on a hunt. Although the Tsou did not develop their cultural industries as early as some of Taiwan’s other tribes, there are still a number of workshops producing interesting works based on cultural themes such as wood carvings, rattan weaving and leather engraving.
Xinyi Township (Nantou County)
Xinyi Township is located in the mountainous part of Nantou County. In good weather, it is possible to see to the peak of Yushan (also known as Mt. Jade), Northeast Asia’s tallest peak. Many hikers start their journey to the summit of Yushan in Xinyi Township, as there is a large concentration of certified ecotour guides in this township, most from the Bunun tribe. In addition to the hike to Yushan, there are a number of trails in this township. The Dongpu hot springs are naturally at a temperature of about 49 degrees Celsius and are carbonate springs that are colorless and odorless. This is a major farming area. One of its main agricultural products is plums. These are turned into a number of products including wine, which can be sampled and bought at a winery established by the township’s farmers’ association.
Sun Moon Lake (Nantou County)
Sun Moon Lake is Taiwan’s largest freshwater lake, located at an elevation of 748 meters above sea level. The lake is divided into two sections by Lalu Island. One section is circular, somewhat shaped like the sun, while the other is more crescent shaped, similar to the moon. Thus, this is how the lake got its name. Lalu Island is considered the dwelling place of the ancestors and the sacred land of the Thao tribe. Thao legend tells that the tribe originally lived in Alishan but hunters following a mysterious white deer found their way to the banks of this lake and found it to be a good place to live.
This is a very diverse scenic area with more than a dozen hiking trails, cycling paths and boat tours. In addition to a Thao village, there are several temples to explore including those devoted to Confucius and to two monks from the Tang Dynasty. In addition, at the top of the Cien Pagoda are panoramic views of this breathtaking lake and its surrounding mountains.
Information about the tribes visited on this tour:
The Bunun tribe’s distribution includes Nantou, Hualien and Taitung counties, as well as Kaohsiung City. The men of this tribe are considered excellent hunters, even today. Bunun boys learn how to hunt early on and hone their skills by shooting targets as small as the ear of a deer. The Bunun tribe was the only tribe to develop a calendar using icons to mark major farming and hunting activities, as well as important ceremonies.
The tribal legend of the Thao says that this tribe once lived on Alishan. One day some hunters chased a white deer and found themselves on the banks of this lake, and realized that it was a good place to live. They fished in the waters using nets, spears or and traps made from rattan or bamboo.Every family of the Thao has an ancestral spirit basket, which is usually hung on the wall of their home. Into it are placed the clothes and jewelry worn by the deceased members of their family. During the New Year worship of ancestral spirits, these baskets are brought to the ceremonial grounds. Wine is offered to the ancestral spirits and traditional songs and dances are performed including pestle music, which involves seven or eight pestles that are struck against rocks placed on the ground.
The Tsou tribe is mostly concentrated in Alishan Township of Chiayi County. The two communities of Dabang and Tefuye each have a kuba or men’s meeting hall, where the males of the tribe gathered to decide important issues and to train the young warriors in fighting and hunting, as well as the legends of the tribe. The Warring Ceremony (Mayasvi) is held each year at the kuba, either in Dabang or Tefuye. This ceremony originally took place several times a year, to mark an important battle or a major event such as the completion of a house or the renovation and repair of a kuba.