Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Pingtung - Rukai Villages

In honor of 10/10 - the National Day of Taiwan - we had the day off!  I was lucky enough to be invited to Pingtung with my roommates to visit family.  Pingtung is the southernmost county in Taiwan, and home to the aboriginal tribe of the Rukai people.  My roommates, Abi and Muni, and their family are part of the Rukai tribe.

We took an overnight bus to reach Pingtung City and were taken to the home of Abi and Muni’s parents.  The family, and many others from the tribe, have relocated out of the mountains from remote Ali Village.  Ali was greatly damaged during Typhoon Morakot in 2009, leaving villagers displaced, homes destroyed, and roads inaccessible.

After a quick nap, we drove up into the mountains to the village of Shenshan, which translates to “God’s Mountain.”  And it was beautiful!  The drive up the narrow, winding mountain roads was made slightly more nerve-wracking by all the construction crews working on repairing the damaged sections washed out in the latest round of typhoons.

In Shenshan, the Rukai tribe was holding a multi-day sports competition between area villages.  We spent some time cheering on the Vedai team in men’s volleyball and at the track meet. 

Team Vedai (the red guys)

Kids' relay race

Adults' relay race -- check out the barefoot runners!

Me and my favorite cheerleader, Kiki :)

We walked around Shenshan, taking in the views and wandering the narrow village streets. 

Shenshan Village

Traditional home (with a nontraditional roof)


Village road

Marriage mural



A quick car ride further up into the mountains, we arrived in Wutai (Vedai) village.  Wutai means “far place” - and for good reason.  It is remote.  Really far up there.  Like.... I didn’t even see a 7-Eleven. 



"Far Place" sounds about right

We stopped for lunch at the Wutai church, where the pastor invited us in and brewed some locally-grown coffee to share with us. 

Wutai Church

Wutai Church

The Pastor brews up some local coffee

Revived and buzzing from caffeine, we wandered off through the streets of Wutai.  The tribal culture is strong here, and most of the homes are decorated with tribal carvings and paintings.  Many of the walls and structures are built with the traditional stone-slab method.  The village was beautiful, peaceful, and so different from life in Taipei. 

Streets of Wutai

Stone-slab wall with carvings telling tribal stories


Hunters returning with their kill -- wild boar and bear

Remains of a traditional home

Our trip was very short -- we were in Pingtung for less than 24 hours -- but with my personal tour guides, I feel I got a real insiders experience.  And I learned one word from the Rukai language.  It means both “hello” and “goodbye” -- sa bao

Clockwise from top left: Muni, A Mei, Stacy, Abi, and Anna
My traveling partners in crime :)

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