My trip to Sun Moon Lake took two days in total. While I wish we’d squeezed a third day in as a breather, it was still enough time to take in everything we wanted to: the boat rides, the hikes, the pagodas, the temples, the tea eggs, the sun rise… and then… Formosa Aboriginal Culture Village.
Originally opened in summer of 1986, this park is continually expanding on what it has to offer. At the very start, for example, all you could see was the village itself and a European garden. Now, there’s a proper amusement park built into the grounds, with plans to expand with water rides and who knows what else. What I’m saying here is that if you come, expect to spend the entire day here.
The cost of a ticket is normally 790 TWD, but we were able to go on Taiwanese Father’s Day. As such, we were able to find and use a coupon that got us tickets for 390 TWD each! Keep an eye out for discounts online, or alternatively, ask your hotel concierge if they can hook you up with a deal. This ticket not only includes the cost of entry to the village, amusement park, etc. etc., but also grants you unlimited access to the ropeway, which can take you all the way over the mountain back to Sun Moon Lake!
All right, so you can see cool stuff and ride amusement rides; what’s the deal with the Culture Village thing? Well, the name for this place in Chinese is 九族文化村– “9 tribe culture village”. What you’re looking at are steps that have been taken to preserve the culture of Aboriginal peoples in Taiwan through performances and education. More on all of that in a moment!
We hopped on a bus first thing in the morning from our hotel so we could arrive at the main gates around 9AM. After purchasing our tickets, we were just in time for the 9:30 AM opening ceremony. Someone over a PA system told us (in Chinese) that the performance was about to begin, and to follow the instructions of the performers. One performer, an older, heavyset man in full costume, showed us a smoking branch which had just been lit, and requested we all step over it while entering the village. We did so, and were led into a covered space with a few benches where we were told to sit.
Then, the dances began.
The performers wore a swirl of colors and patterns, all representative of a different tribe. Even with my complete ignorance, I could hear differences in the songs they were singing, and see the unique ways each group would dance. The performance was dazzling, and at the end of it, my friend glanced at me and grinned.
“They say we can take pictures with them before going further into the park. Shall we?” she suggested.
I agreed, and we got a group shot before going further in.
As we did so, we made a brief stop by a reception desk, which not only offered us brochures in English, but also free anti-bug goop you could put all over yourself. Apparently, this area is infamous for mosquito bites. We helped ourselves to a liberal amount of the stuff, as my friend is often a victim of bug bites, then found ourselves in the European gardens.
We took a half hour or so to admire the neatly plotted flowers, the water fountain, and the quiet (as most of the families with kids had rushed off to the amusement park area already). As we did so, we found a listing of the other performances on the back of the brochures we’d been given. There were several throughout the day, at various locations throughout the park.
There was plenty of time until the next show, so we went for the ropeway ride to Sun Moon Lake, which we’d seen the previous day. The line was extremely short, so we were able to score a cable car all to ourselves! Our arms were stamped so we could be able to re-enter the park, and away we went. The whole ride was 10 minutes of smooth gliding over the mountains and toward the lake. Absolutely beautiful, and honestly worth the cost of the ticket in and of itself.
We spent a few minutes enjoying a walk by the lake, but didn’t want to get caught up in a long line so soon hopped right back on the cable car and went all the way back, just in time to catch the next show.
And so it went, hopping from area to area to see the different dances. In between, we had time to check out the village proper; a large collection of buildings, all broken into sections where you could see things specific to a given Aboriginal group. Signs explained in Chinese, English, and Japanese about the types of buildings that were common, as well as each tribe’s general outlook and beliefs on life. They were all fascinating, and while many had similarities, there was something in each area that was unique.
We were able to get every performance, and in each one, audience members were asked to join in a particular ritual or game. Each time, the announcers were explicit in asking visiting guests to not refuse a request by the performers, because they are attempting to involve you in something important to them. With that in mind, should you not be in the mood to join in a performance, it’s best to linger at the back of the crowd or, perhaps, show up at these performances a couple minutes late so they’ve already chosen victims–I mean, audience members–by the time you show up.
The final performance is one long act, starting from the back of the village and slowly winding its way through the park. You are free to follow the actors as they sing and dance their way to the first stage where they welcomed you that morning, but maybe don’t stand there staring the entire time, as they will want to take breaks! Once you’re back at the entrance, they’ll do one more dance, followed by one more song on a separate, nearby stage. During this song, you can take pictures with and of them once more, but we opted to sit and enjoy.
They finish by 4:40, and the park closes at 5:00pm, which allows you time to duck into the souvenir shops–conveniently located immediately next to that final stage. If you need to buy omiyage for coworkers, they have plenty of individually wrapped candies, cookies, or crackers. If you want to get a scarf for a family member as a gift, or perhaps some wine, or whatever, they’ve got that too. Shop yourself out, then get out, because now’s the time to head home.
In our case, we wanted to get on a specific bus that left at 5:25 for Taichung Station. We hustled to the exit and got in line, and were glad we did because the line got long, fast. While this bus will allow everyone on, they’ll only take standing customers until you reach the midway station of Puhi. There, you’ll need to change to another bus where you can get a seat. If you’re already sitting down, you’re all set and can relax.
I cannot recommend this experience enough. The performers were wonderful, the village was fun to look through, and the ropeway was lovely. Judging by the screams from the amusement park rides, I assume those were fun, too, but honestly? Our day was so full already I can’t imagine adding bumper cars or whatever else into the schedule!
Have you been to the Culture Village? Where would you recommend to go?