After my failed attempt to book us into an onsen in Tokyo, she who must be obeyed’s plan for our Taiwan trip included a day’s outing to Wulai, where we could theoretically insert ourselves into hot, healing water. After three days of walking, my legs were tired and the thought of sitting on a bus, followed by a long soak, was very appealing,; so off we went.

The on-line guides to Wulai are very complimentary, summarising it as a charming town, home to the Atayai aboriginal tribe. And it probably was before typhoons in late 2015 destroyed many of the buildings. Rebuilding is in progress, but surprisingly slowly; perhaps aboriginal areas receive funds less quickly….

We arrived early and most things were shut and the place had a feel of desolation, with dust in the air and the sights and sounds of heavy construction.

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With nothing better to do, we decided to go to the waterfall outside of the town. The online guides advised ignoring taxi touts and enjoying “the pleasant ten minute walk to the waterfall”. There was one taxi and he seemed disinterested in touting, so we dragged our weary legs in the gathering heat up a steep hill for close on half an hour. There used to be an option to take a little train, but that had been wiped out by the typhoon too.

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At the waterfall there was a sort of a village.

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More importantly, there was a coffee shop which sold excellent coffee and had comfy seats where we could relax and look at the waterfall which was much bigger than this photo implies:

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After two cups of coffee and a good chat with the proprietor, we shambled back down the hill and into town. We chose an establishment for our hot spring experience and were given a room with a fine view over the hydro plant.

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There was a tub with a rubber duck on the end of the plug, a TV playing Taiwanese cartoons, and an endless supply of scalding water and/or freezing cold water. After some dicking about we achieved a full tub of almost bearably hot water. I lasted about ten minutes before my ascending heart rate convinced me that soaking in near boiling water was not a good idea. My wife lasted a little longer; a bit of a let down because we had chosen a place that allowed us to stay all day had we wished.

Instead we found a place for a surprisingly good lunch and then caught the bus back to Taipei.

Wulai travel tip: don’t bother until they have finished the rebuild. Good coffee, water too hot.