Culture and Coasters: Formosan Aboriginal Cultural Village

Most people think of Taiwan as that mostly-Chinese country that makes a lot of electronic goods. Travelers may also know about the night markets, historical landmarks in Tainan, and possibly the beautiful east coast. But similar to America, people have lived on this land for quite some time, and the history of those cultures can be found in Taiwan's mountains. Just head to the amusement park.
 Formosan Aboriginal Culture Village is located almost smack-dab in the middle of Taiwan. It is possible to get there from either the west or east coast, though I understand access from the east is much more difficult. Interestingly enough, a very western-style garden and house is found as you approach the entrance to the park. Just head to the right and up the hill to get to the rest of the park. This is called a European Court Garden, and it and the palace are/were apparently used to film a TV show or movie. The palace supposedly holds a restaurant, but I never went close enough to find out.
 The theme park rides are found next. This space-themed entrance area didn't seem to have much of a function; someone decided to put some fun decorations just because.
 Head to the right and you come across what looks to be an Arabian themed building. You can go inside, of course!
 A two-level small carousel awaits you!
 Off to one side is a swinging pirate ship ride.
 And in the other corner is a balloon ride that doesn't do much of anything. It's great for those with babies or who just like to sit.
 In between those two attractions, set into the back wall, is the first roller coaster! This was similar to Space Mountain at Disney parks, in that it travels quickly in the dark and is themed like a space station. Well, the station is; the wall around it has that giant castle thing. I rode this very early in the day; the line got long very fast and stayed long all day (unlike many other attractions in the park) so if you have the chance to ride plan on doing it early.

We'll go back inside in a while, but first, head to the left-hand side of the park.
There isn't much over here, but you will find the unsurprisingly-rough inverted coaster themed with a Mayan mountain.
 Here is the Mayan mountain tower. And behind it is a UFO-themed drop ride that was pretty fun and sometimes had lines. The ride has a large capacity though so it wasn't a problem.
 I'm heading to the top of the mountain now via the cable car, and I can see a water ride! This one is pretty unique, and I'll visit it later.
 There is an overflow parking area right in the middle of the park; the grassy area handles extra cars.
 The further up the mountain you go, the more things seem to be cultural. Those look like they're in the style of traditional buildings.
 And under a roof, I see some people in traditional costumes dancing!
 There are a few pavilion areas along the way. I must be near the top now...
 Ahh yes, the top! I don't know what this building is (maybe a hotel?) but from here you can take another cable car to Sun Moon Lake. I decided to skip that and instead started my walk back down the mountain.
 I was starving, and I saw porn corn! But I passed. Seriously. It says Porn Corn. You can click on the picture to enlarge it.
 As you descend the mountain you get a bit of a history and culture lesson. First is a collection of giant "rocks" (they could be clay, similar to the Chinese gardens in Taipei) with carvings.
 The carvings and paintings have some sort of meaning which was described on the sign. Unfortunately the sun washed out the sign.
 You then travel from village to village, learning about the building styles and daily lives of the people of that village. Here are a bunch of totem poles.
 You can go inside pretty much every building. This one held a canoe.
 I quickly found myself back at the stage I saw from above. It turns out the women (yes, all women) were part of a stage show.
 They were rehearsing their dance moves. I sat and watched for several minutes before continuing on.
I don't consider myself knowledgeable about buildings, but I love looking at and exploring them. So I spent about three hours looking in each one.
 I think this was some sort of ceremony.
 Another ceremony?
 This older man is sure concentrating hard.
 Now, my son, you are a man.
 One of the buildings held a typical museum, showing lots of costumes and artifacts.
 A few of the tribes were from the mountains, so their houses were built as you see here.
 The roofs were very interesting, made with sticks that look like popsicle sticks.
 Some sort of warrior show was going on at the lower pavilion. A tiny crowd had gathered to watch.
 The village near that pavilion must have been from an area with lots of snakes, rodents, or swampland, because many of its buildings were elevated.
 Some buildings had stone floors, as you see here.
 This one seems to be very well-built, with even floors, square beans, and lots of structural elements.
 This one, too, has lots of intricate carvings. However, many of the buildings had dirt floors.
 Kill the monkey in the cage! It'll make you a man!
 One building had a long line of animal skulls, or at least jaws. I don't know if they're real bones, but they had teeth.
 Inside the same building, you can see corn drying. So it must be a food storehouse.
 Do you have a toothache? Tribal dentistry involved tying a string around the offender and yanking it out.
 Speaking of teeth, as you near the bottom of the mountain (back around the theme park area) you come across some food. This meat was good.
 This building is more spacious than my apartment! Two beds, places to hang things, and a loft ceiling. I'm jealous.
 While the houses were certainly not perfect - bugs, small animals, and possibly wind and rain could get through some of the walls and straw or stick roofs - I could imagine living in one. But then, where would I plug my computer in?
 Remember that water ride? I finally reached it after spending a long time walking through the villages. It stands alone in the middle of a plateau on the hill.
 One Piece, a popular Japanese manga (comic book), could be seen throughout the park. It's about a bunch of pirates, so it makes sense that there would be some One Piece stuff at the water ride.
 It's a unique water ride in that after climbing the lift hill (behind the building) your boat is rotated and it rides along the short piece of roller coaster track. Then the boat is rotated again and heads down the water chute.
 That makes this ride half roller-coaster and half water ride.
 There is a small hill after the big drop too on a roller coaster-style track before the final splashdown.
 Then, it's back into the castle for more riders! It was quite busy due to the heat. But the lines were still short enough.
 Oh, look, over the trees! There's that UFO ride!
 By the way, similar to some water rides in the US, there are water "bombs" or "cannons" that explode and shower riders with more water; these are activated by people standing nearby. I think most people got wetter from the cannons than the ride itself. And just like Japan, many riders chose to wear ponchos to stay dry.
 Moving on, back down to the top of the theme park's main area now. There is a monorail which scoots around some of the park, but it doesn't offer any good views. However, next to the path...
 There is a large building that was being used for a One Piece exhibit.
 It turns out that One Piece had a touring exhibition with a lot of 3D characters and art from the show. Outside, you can pose with some of the characters.
 Inside, there are lots of areas made to look like parts of the show/comic book/movie (not sure exactly which). You could take photos with the exhibits.
 I thought the theming was really cool, even though I don't know anything about it.
 I guess you could stand under this guy and make it look like he was standing on your head. Or lay down beneath it and make it look like he was about to jump on your chest.
 Have a seat, and take a picture!
 Fist bump!
 Naturally, after seeing the monorail I had to ride it. There wasn't too much to actually do in the theme park so I started riding other stuff. From there I noticed a whole other small section of the park; outside was this kid's car ride.
 And back inside the Arabian building, there was another area in the back!
 This Waikiki Wave ride was closed, seemingly forever, which is quite sad - I was hoping it would be open. This is the kind of ride I might be able to spend time riding a few times and really enjoying the park.
 Also in this part of the building was a dinosaur boat ride with animatronic dinosaurs. It was okay.
 I rode the UFO drop ride a few times. It was the only thrill ride in the park that I could do over and over again without developing a headache (the inverted coaster was really rough).
 How many arms do you need? This little exhibit from One Piece is worth pointing out for a couple reasons. First you can see how it's interactive, at least as far as being able to take pictures. Second, if you enlarge the picture to full size, you'll notice a plaque near the girl's feet. It appears to list a price; it seems that you could buy these props to take home!
 As my day wore on, I started to wear out. The park suffers from a lack of rides with reridability. Children can go on the water rides (I had a camera) and rides like the pirate ship over and over again, but adults don't have much to experience multiple times. So I tried this: bamboo rice. It was sticky rice with some vegetables and meat (shrimp, maybe?) stuffed inside a bamboo stick and grilled. They split open the bamboo and you ate the rice inside. It was quite good!
 For most of the day, I managed to not even notice one other ride in the park, tucked up in the back of the theme park area. I came to find it was another water ride, which was closed for refurbishment when I visited.
The theming here was incredible. Around the ride were areas to walk up around around. And had the ride been operating it would have been even more fun to find little areas to watch people on the ride.

By mid-afternoon, all three of my camera batteries were basically dead from shooting the villages and I was tired and uninspired to ride anything else again, so I managed to catch an earlier bus back to town.

Formosan Aboriginal Cultural Village is located very near Sun Moon Lake, and as such it is kind of accessible from the lake. However, I recommend getting there by bus from Taichung. It takes a little while and buses are somewhat infrequent but they are timed conveniently around the park's opening hours. Information about the park can be found on their English website - admission is less than NT$800. The park itself is open from about 9-5 daily but a few attractions have shorter hours or close for a lunch break in the middle of the day.

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