To say that the Formosan Aboriginal Culture Village (九族文化村) is unique would probably be an understatement. I’ve never been to a place that mixes a modern-day theme park with an ethnic and historical village-slash-museum like this one before. Oh, and it’s a place that connects to the Sun Moon Lake via a ropeway too.
Located in Nantou County, it’s a good place to pop in for a one-of-a-kind experience. Whether you enjoy amusement park rides, traditional activities and performances, or just plainly like nature, I feel like this place has a bit of something for everyone. The entrance fee isn’t cheap, but you definitely can make the most out of your visit here if you know what you’re in for.
Before I share with you my snapshots of the Formosan Aboriginal Culture Village, check out this short video giving you a peek into what you can expect:
Formosan Aboriginal Culture Village (九族文化村)
It’s not difficult to believe that this 62-hectare park took a total of thirty years to plan and build from the ground up. Initially, only the culture village and the European Garden were opened to the public in 1986. They added the amusement park portion in 1992, but while we were here, I saw that some of the bigger roller coasters were still being constructed. It seems they’re constantly thinking about how to improve the park and make good use of the space, which is a good thing.
There are three main sections within the Formosa Aboriginal Culture Village: the Aboriginal Villages, Amusement Isle, and the European Gardens. They also have the Ti Ka Er Rainforest here, I believe. Our first stop upon arriving was the European Gardens.
Apparently, this European Garden (歐洲花園) is the largest European garden in Taiwan. It has a clock tower and a Roman fountain, but I guess because it was wintertime in Taiwan, there wasn’t much activity in this area. The garden was quiet, although none of that takes away from how great it feels walking along the pathways to the Ritz Palace.
Can you blame a girl for imagining, even for just a second, that this is her mansion and she’s standing in her garden? Haha! We actually had a pretty good lunch here.
There wasn’t much to do at the European Garden, so after getting our tummies filled we walked back to the Amusement Isle to see what rides the theme park had to offer.
We must’ve come during a day where majority of the rides were closed for maintenance, because many of the rides had a closed sign posted at their entrances. On one giant space, the skeleton of a roller coaster was laying in wait for its builders to arrive. I love me a good roller coaster ride. I definitely have to hit this place up again once the additions are completed. (Here’s a great blog post about the different rides here!)
For those who aren’t too keen on roller coasters, the Aladdin Pavilion offers more kid-friendly experiences that even adults can join in on. There’s a carousel and some carnival games with prizes up for grabs. There are about 25 rides and attractions at the Amusement Isle though, so don’t worry about not finding anything to do.
Personally, I actually do enjoy roller coasters. After trying some smaller-scale ones like the Space Mountain VR, we went looking for something more exciting and found the Mayan Adventure Roller Coaster. Oh my goodness… What an incredibly exhilarating ride that was! You go through the entire thing with your feet hanging in the air. Fans of roller coasters will get a kick out of it, but you don’t have to go on if you don’t like roller coasters. (And you probably shouldn’t if you have a weak stomach.)
We skipped the Carribean Splash ride (below) because we didn’t want to get wet, but it looked like fun! Something to try for the warmer months.
I don’t have too many pictures of this side of the amusement park because we soon crossed over to the other side of the park– the completely different world that is the Aboriginal Village Park. Looking down at it from the cable car, I fell in love with the sight of the greenery that stretches on for miles, disappearing into the mist.
We were supposed to watch a show during a certain time and my brothers and I were early to the spot, so we killed time wandering around through the tree-lined paths. The weather was blissfully cool, complementing the crisp scent of pine trees. In hindsight, I wish I had taken this time to learn more about the different aboriginal groups.
What I loved about this side of the park was how real everything feels. It’s almost like you’ve been welcomed into someone else’s homeland. You can interact with members of the different aboriginal groups and take a look at their jewelry and wares for sale. You can even try out some of the things that are a part of their culture and practices. Have you ever tried hitting a target with a blow dart? It is MUCH harder than it looks.
After exhausting our lungs and failing miserably to hit the target even once with the blow darts, we headed over to the Naruwan Theather for a performance. ‘Naruwan’ is actually a welcome greeting in the aboriginal language, similar to ‘Aloha’ in Hawaiian. This was the theater I saw from the cable car– the theater built on top of water.
Since I am not at all knowledgeable about Taiwan’s history and aboriginal groups, I didn’t have any sort of background on the performances we were about to witness. I can tell you however that the songs were sung with grace and perfect pitches, and the dances were performed with so much gusto the audience could not help but clap along to the beat. It was definitely a good experience overall.
I remember seeing shows like this when I first came to Taiwan as a kid. I love that Taiwan as a country continues to embrace its heritage and makes its aboriginal groups a big part of its tourism efforts.
I realize I didn’t do a good job exploring this place to give any tips. According to my research, these are the aboriginal groups represented in the village: Atayal (泰雅族), Saisiyat (賽夏族), Tsou (鄒族), Bunun (布農族), Puyuma (卑南族), Rukai (魯凱族), Yami/Tao (達悟族), Amis (阿美族), Paiwan (排灣族), and the local Thao/Ngan (邵族). Each of these tribes have a section dedicated to themselves within the village, so there’s definitely much to come back for.
Sun Moon Lake
Once you’re done enjoying the Formosan Aboriginal Culture Village, you can make your way to the Sun Moon Lake Ropeway. I highly suggest you go to the lake when the weather is clear rather than foggy as heck. You will not get to enjoy any sights at all because the fog would have erased all traces of a view.
In any case, it’s easy to make one’s way to the ropeway station from the Naruwan Theater. There will be some stairs to climb though, so just be warned. The ropeway is really the only way to Sun Moon Lake from the Formosan Aboriginal Culture Village. Just look for this building:
The Sun Moon Lake is the largest lake in Taiwan, and geographically, it is also smack in the middle of Taiwan island if you look at it on a map. The lake is named such because of its shape: the east side is round like the sun, while the west side is longish and narrow like a crescent moon. From ground level, it is impossible to witness this shape. The fog was also determined not to show me the entire picture.
We took a ferry for about 10 minutes to XuiShe Pier across the lake. We didn’t sleep here or anything, and pretty much just wandered around and ate some tea eggs. We took a flight of the stairs and found the Xuanzang (玄奘) Temple. The rain and the fog prevented us from venturing on, and I was left wanting more.
I was able to get a foggy glimpse of the sacred Lalu Island from my spot at the top of the steps. This island is closed off to the public because this is where the aboriginal tribes perform their religious duties to their own gods, including the legendary white deer that apparently led the Thao tribe to discover the Sun Moon Lake. Of course, that is something I only know from reading about it. As for the facts, Lalu Island used to be bigger until a major earthquake hit in 1999. It looks too small to be inhabited now, doesn’t it?
Ending the day, we headed back to the Ceremonial Arch overlooking the lake to wait for our ferry. I was kind of bummed by the fog to be honest with you. It created an effectively eerie feeling, but it curled its fingers too tightly around the mountain views. I saw nothing of the true beauty of the Sun Moon Lake.
Perhaps I should consider trying to visit again in the spring so that it’s not so foggy.