I found this bracelet on a bridge in the middle of nowhere. I’m so curious what the story is. How did it get there? Did someone leave it there on purpose? Or did they lose it and whoever found it leave it where it might be seen and reclaimed? I’ll never know, but I can’t help wondering. But I’m grateful to whoever thought it belonged in just this spot. The purple on the yellow background just makes me happy.
The previous post was all about the Ruikai wedding and the dancing. But I thought the headdresses deserved a post of their own. I found them so interesting. For me, there is an obvious similarity to the headdresses from my home. These are familiar and yet totally different. I find that so often in Chinese minority cultures…I always feel quite at home, but at the same time intrigued by the differences.
We attended a Rukai Wedding in WanShan. A Rukai wedding is pretty much like any other wedding you’ve been to…just a whole lot better. First there’s a ceremony, then a banquet, and finally dancing. Lots of dancing. The only difference is Rukai are just way cooler than you and me.
Cosmos is one of my all time favorite flowers. I think they are so photogenic. And butterflies love them too. I think the thing that has surprised me the most is how many different varieties there are in Asia that I never saw anywhere else.
Before we arrived, I had read online that the trail to the waterfall was destroyed by Typhoon Morakot in 2009. We hiked up the river from the LuMuSu Bridge and then came to the trail head for the waterfall, but didn’t plan to go. Fortunately, we ran into a couple from Kaohsiung who told us that we could get to the waterfall. They had done the hike several times.
Two of the bridges were destroyed and are only now being rebuilt. It’s a bit challenging getting through these sections, but totally doable if you just go slowly and carefully. The rest of the hike is no problem at all.
We had the waterfall all to ourselves, and so I was kind of glad that the trail wasn’t repaired yet. It’s a really lovely spot, and one of the best waterfalls we’ve been to. So peaceful and quiet. The water in the pools was so clean and clear…it’s worth the effort to get to.
The Japanese, during the occupation, planted a lot of coffee trees in the Maolin Valley. After they left, the Rukai didn’t know what to do with them…it wasn’t edible, so they just cut them down or let them go. But a few years back, some NGO workers came in and discovered the coffee trees. They taught locals how to harvest and roast the coffee.
We came across coffee trees just growing on the mountain sides in the Maolin Valley, when we hiked up the river.
But it’s great that now you can have a cup of locally grown coffee. It’s quite good. Da Tou roasts his own at De En Gorge Guest House.
There is also a charming coffee shop and gift store in Duo Na Village. Their coffee was really good as well…they had the coffee berries drying in the sun in their courtyard.
I really loved the slate house with its fantastic details. And shopping for local handcrafted items is always fun.
They also had home made wine from millet. Our friend encouraged us to try it. Because of its bright yellow color, I was afraid it was going to be really strong. But I was pleasantly surprised. It’s delicious! I wish I had a bottle of it right now, but I was afraid I couldn’t get it through customs.
One of my favorite things about traveling is getting to try local dishes. We not only got to try this one, we got to be involved in the preparation. The inner leaves are stuffed with a meat mixture, then folded and wrapped with the outer leaf, before being tied up. After they are steamed, the inner leaf is edible, but the outer is discarded. Jinafu is a quite yummy and a must try Rukai dish if you visit Maolin.
If you go to Maolin, this is where you want to stay! It’s really a wonderful little family run ecological guest house. DaTou, his fiance and his parents, have created a lovely little get away to base out of for exploring Maolin (see previous post). We enjoyed getting to know this family, spending time with them, sharing their home and culture so much. They are unbelievably gracious hosts, and just wonderful friends. We will be going back, hopefully many, many times!
I knew this was where we wanted to go, but had a hard time finding information online, so I’m going to give some of the details I wanted to know before hand, for other butterfliers.
The guest house is not in one of the villages, but on an adjacent hillside across the river, which is wonderful. There are several roads and trails and rivers to hike, all with plenty of butterflies.
You will want to arrange ahead of time to have your meals here. DaTou’s Mama is a fabulous cook, and her food was one of our favorite things about our whole vacation in Taiwan. She uses seasonal, local produce to make traditional Rukai dishes – fantastic! Also, DaTou roasts his own coffee and makes a great cup of Joe! So coffee in the morning is not a problem, even though you are in the middle of nowhere. It doesn’t get any better than that!
There are 4 options for accommodations. We went with the cheap dorm rooms. These rooms are in a long house, and each room has four beds. We were there for 8 days, and didn’t have to share our room, even though the guest house was pretty packed for the weekend. We were completely satisfied with the room, which also had it’s own bath. It’s not luxury…think more along the lines of summer camp. But as we were staying over a week, cost was a factor and we were not disappointed.
If you are looking for higher end accommodations, there is the little slate house that is adorable. I peeked in the window it’s really charming.
The rooms in the second long dormitory are much nicer than the ones we stayed in. They have five beds I believe. But they are also a bit pricier, especially if there are only one or two in your party. For a family or group, they are probably more economical.
There are also two camping areas. On the weekend, the camp areas were packed! But on the others days, they only had one or two tents.
Each evening, DaTou leads a tour around the property and explains about a lot of the species that have been sharing the place with you, and that you probably have just walked right past! It’s interesting and fun, and definitely a don’t miss part of staying at DeEnGu. Also, DaTou can arrange for an English speaking tour guide to show you around the area for a very reasonable price. He also arranged for our taxi to the Kaohsiung Airport. You can book a room through Hostel World, or contact DaTou directly at firstname.lastname@example.org or +886-989-579-751. The facebook page also has more information. If you have any questions, feel free to leave a comment and I will be happy to answer if I can.
We went to Maolin for the butterflies (I’ll be blogging about that soon). But honestly, it’s just a great area to explore. There are plenty of places to hike, waterfalls, rivers, culture. We stayed 8 days, and we didn’t manage to see it all by a long shot. The area is comprised of three small Rukai villages – Maolin, WanShan and DuoNa. The Rukai are one of the smallest aboriginal groups in Taiwan, but honestly one of the most interesting and wonderful peoples I’ve ever been around. We thoroughly enjoyed our visit in their villages and will definitely return.
A view of Wan Shan from De En Gu Guest House
The view from the top of Maolin Butterfly Valley Trail
Viewed from the Suspension Bridge
Ellen and I chatting on the bridge