1/04/2009

Back Up to Wulai

"In 1964, the Wulai Feng-ching Ch'u Kuan-li So or Administrative Office of the Wulai Scenic Area (AOWSA) in Wulai was founded. It is estimated the number of tourists coming to Wulai has averaged about 3,000 per day since the mid-1960s. Tourist revenues have become the most important economic resource in Wulai. Although the government has actively encouraged the Atayal residents to plant firs and mushrooms, the great majority of this indiginous group, especially the women, continue to depend on the tourist industry...." -Hsieh Shih-chung

When I read something like this, I wonder why the government doesn't encourage Taiwanese people to plant mushrooms and then work on the Atayal (泰雅) Aborigines to open shops and become prosperous. It's like when Chen was targeting Filipino and Indonesian workers, saying they were stealing labor jobs from Aborigines. He never said, "let them have them, because I'm going make sure every Aborigine goes to university to ensure he or she can make more than NT$16,000 per month, maybe less with forced days of unpaid leave off."

Anyway, Wulai (烏來), though crowded, is great place to visit especially if you're like me, even on a busy holiday like this (see above pic - I think there must have been three times the average for visitors, amazing for a town with a population around 2,000). First of all, it's right up the road from Wenshan (文山) where I live. Second, they've got a lot of cheap, tasty dishes. It's also in the mountains and the scenery is beautiful. Finally, they've got hot springs everywhere; it can be quite relaxing (although we ended up paying NT$1800 or US$60 for a 1.5-hour soak). The waters and fresh air are a nice way to recover from any new year-party hangover.

Normally in the Wulai (烏來), the shopkeepers will do anything to attract your attention. They'll wave at you, talk broken English or stick food samples on toothpicks in your way. This Indian restaurant was different. If it hadn't been for the Indian guy working the upside-down woks, where they heat up Indian springroll shells, I never would've noticed. According to the owner, an Indian man from the Punjab, they've been in business for a year. That means I've walked by this place on several occasions without taking the slightest notice.

Wulai is actually supposed to be Atayal (泰雅), the name given to Aborigines of similar traits and a shared language some 101 years ago by Japanese anthropologists. In truth, it's a hodgepodge. The last I heard, the town was 98+ percent Taiwanese owned. The Aborigines who work in the shops for the gratifiction of Aborigine-seeking tourists come from all over, though most of them do come from from a town just beyond river. The owners have asked them to bring stuff from home, to make the shops look more authentic. That's why you can seen pictures of Bunun (布農) Aborigines on the walls singing in religious ceremonies or clothes that might be Kavalan (噶瑪蘭). There's a really good variety.
I had this after the Indian spring rolls. It was supposed to boar meat, but when was the last time you saw a boar in Taiwan? Whatever it was, I couldn't complain. Fried with chilis and lots of onions, a serving only costs NT$100 (US$3) and really hits the spot.
This line, which stretched out on to the bridge with Taiwan flags, was for sausages . (See the sign? They contain boar meat!). There were about ten stands selling sausages in Wulai, but this was the only place you had to wait for a half an hour to get one. I asked my wife what was so special about the sausages. She couldn't really be brought to believe that the sausages were that much better or worth a thirty-minute wait. She hadn't seen anything about this place on the news, etc. "The thing that is special," she explained, "is there are a lot of people waiting to get a sausage. If you stand in this line, you could get something other people can't and that makes you special. Plus, these people are bored." I didn't have anything to do either. That was why I was in Wulai. But I wasn't about to wait this long unless they were giving the things away. And even then, I 'd still probably decline. I do know that if I ever open a food stand, I'm going to get my friends to stand out front. Or, I'm going to organize 10 to 15 food stand owners, so that we take turns rotating from stand to stand to drum up business.

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