Maybe everyone else already knows this, but the carloads of Taiwanese visitors who shared my disbelief didn’t, so…
If you’re planning on making the trip to Dulan on Highway 11, don’t do it on a weekday. There is absolutely NOTHING artistic going on there on weekdays. (Weekends there is music, and they were setting up tents that looked like they were for vendors, but I don’t know what will be sold). There is basically one workshop with someone doing huge driftwood sculptures with a chainsaw open. There were two guys in the back somewhere glueing the legs onto driftwood stools, but not in a shop environment. By 11 am or so, one gift shop opened up, offering fewer local things than were on sale at Xiao Yeliu down the road.
If you’re driving your own vehicle and it is not hot out, you might not be bothered by this in the context of your entire trip, but if you’re biking up 11 from Taitung in the heat and “Water Running Up” seems fascinating by comparison with Dulan’s offerings, it’s something to consider seriously.
Water Running Up, surely one of the greatest mis-sells on the entire island . I’ve even seen mainland tourists laugh in disbelief (“is that it?”) when faced with the tiny concreted stream just across from the toilet-area.
I laughed when we saw that too…looked at the hordes of Chinese tourists…we were outta there fast! (sane with those caves further up…)
Dulan is a community not an tourist village. Don’t go with an attitude of “here I am, entertain me” (this is not meant as a slam of IL so please no one launch into a tedious attack on me for being belligerant). Most of the artists in the area don’t give a crap about tourists and aren’t working to please anyone but themselves. It’s what makes the place interesting but yeah, for the casual busloads of gawking Taiwanese, or someone with an hour to spare, it’s likely going to be dull.
I’ve been there midweek and had nothing more exciting happen than getting the cup of coffee I ordered. Another time I met a bunch of locals and was invited to a house party where I got to hear some wonderful musicians play in front of me.
If you go midweek, try to meet some of the people running the cafe. Or head into the hills. Its a gorgeous area teeming with bird and butterfly life. Climb Dulan Mountain, check out the stone coffins, head up to the Moonlight Cafe (often has art exhibits up there though the views are enough), head down to the beach to swim or watch guys net fishing. And stay at a B&Bs in the area if you want to learn about the scene.
Otherwise, yes, Saturday’s are best if you just want a show.
Seriously though Ironlady, with your Chinese ability you should give the place a chance midweek to expose yourself to a special part of Taiwan. There’s a distinct vibe to the place that may not strike you on a casual visit. Stay overnight. A Canadian and Taiwanese couple I know have a B&B up in the hills. The husband is an artist and the two are among the sweetest people you’ll ever meet. I can give you their contact number if you like.
I’d also like to say that if you are on a bike, I think midweek is definitely better on the east coast. Less crowded, safer roads, and a chance to take things in slow in a slow part of the country.
I did stay overnight. I did talk to the people in the cafe.
There was one – count him, ONE – artist there. I think. If it was in fact the chainsaw carving guy who was tying these huge trunks of driftwood together into the frame of a building out front. Apart from that, I only saw locked buildings, some of which seemed to have woodcarving activities set up inside. No glass. No other media.
Sorry, but that might need to be re-worded for people like me who evidently will mis-read it. It’s not just me, either – the Taiwanese tourists who were arriving in their cars were similarly surprised to find – not much. The couple from Taipei I was chatting with told me that this was their second time in Dulan and still nothing to see. I would strongly suggest adding specific language stating that this is not an arts colony in the manner of those seen in the West, with people in residence doing art in front of you and standard hours and all that. Yes, I understand Taiwanese culture. But the fact is (according to the people I spoke to there) people have to make a living and most of them are working a regular job during the week, or at least doing something else.
And, just for the record, I actually thought “Water Running Up” was kind of cool. The busload of Mainlanders who pulled into the place five seconds after I did did not seem to be casting aspersions at it, but they were also partially distracted by the little blue truck that arrived ten seconds after I did to sell them fruit.
in the literal sense of riding through on a bike on a warm afternoon and being able to paddle in it, yeah.
Heck, you could even lie down in it if you were on the thin side. I was hoping for something natural the first time I visited, not a man-made thang, that’s what spoilt it for me. Still, we do tend to buy breakfast from Dulan on the way through and stop to eat it there, so it can’t be all bad.
MM, pls post up your BB contact or pm me, I’ve tried 2 so-so ones in Dulan area already. Time for something new, time for something half-Canadian.
Water Running Up, surely one of the greatest mis-sells on the entire island . I’ve even seen mainland tourists laugh in disbelief (“is that it?”) when faced with the tiny concreted stream just across from the toilet-area.[/quote]
What about Fire-Water Cave @ Guanziling?? I was imagining a huge cave with gushes of fire across the water and stuff… and it took me two years before I went back to guanziling and got to go there. I was very disappointed
It’s all in the approach. Dulan is a mix of rat-race refugees, artists, and musicians, who have found their way to the place for the picture post card scenery and better weather. They are not there for the tourists. They are there for themselves. The sugar factory cafe-bar is the best bar in Taiwan, I think. It brings local artisans out of the woodwork. They meet up there and share their arty war stories. That’s it. It’s not the type of place that is going to jump out and entertain you, but if you dedicate yourself to it, it gives back in kind.
On the other hand, there are attempts to commercialize the area for mainstream tourists, but that meets as much resistance as not. The refugees don’t really want it or want it but at a level that doesn’t ruin the place whist the original local inhabitants are probably more for it because it makes them land rich.
You’re right fox in the sense of how to appreciate Dulan, but I think Ironlady is largely talking about her expectations based on the text of LP. That said, I don’t believe her expectations are universal in any sense and the lack of any opening and closing hours of the sugar factory should have been one clue she wouldn’t find something entirely familiar. Dulan in fact is much like the Gulf Islands off the west coast of Canada: filled with artists, sometimes collective events, but no real fixed daily schedule for when you can see things. It’s also like Canada’s top art centre at Banff (where I lived for a year): hundreds of artists about but it was hit and miss when you would see things. Mind you there were events schedules so you could at least plan things.
All of which is to say we all have different expectation, and as a writer I try to be aware of as many as I can. If possible I’ll try to stick something in the next guide about this. But I wouldn’t want to discourage people from visiting midweek. I’ve never encountered it as slow as Ironlady, the area strikes so many as magical, and in any case you have a much better chance midweek than weekend of meeting some of the cool odd local people who really make a trip.
Things change. Seven years ago the fires were very large, with 2m high flames. You couldn’t stand too close. For the past few years it’s been pretty weak. Maybe one day an earthquake will crack open a new gas vein and it will grow stronger again.
Either way, not much a guidebook can do to influence events.
For what it’s worth, I had the same exact experience as Ironlady did. Drove by on a weekday and literally didn’t see a single person. Hell, I didn’t even a sign that anyone had been by there in the past 10 years, just a rusted, neglected factory and I had assumed that the book was out of date and whatever artists there had since left long ago. I was a bit pissed because getting there was a several hour detour out of my way.
The comments are all good. But take a look at this writeup on Dulan and then tell me how you would present things in a guide: some people are raving, some are walking away disappointed, and my experience is more in line with the ravers.
taiwanese-secrets.com/taiwan … dulan.html
In any case, I just submitted the final text for the next edition a few weeks ago and so wrote to my editor this morning asking that we add a line about how it is usually very quiet midweek and so come on the weekends if you want to see more things happening.
But I would encourage anyone who’s got to go out of their way to get to a place to at least check online if maybe it has changed. We only issue the Taiwan guide every 3 years. Lots happens in the interval.
If I had read this before I went to Dulan then I probably would have been very disappointed. Best beach on the island?
I thought the lonely planet description was pretty valid. It did only get half a column worth of coverage, so I wasn’t expecting that much.
Well, the other consideration is that if you’re saying one must talk to the locals and so on to have the “experience”, how many of the ordinary users of LP guides are going to have the language to be able to do that?
Someone living in-country might have the time to make a trip specifically there and stay a few days, but someone who is doing the “see Taiwan” thing in a week or two would probably only have allotted a day (or a stop for part of a day) to Dulan as part of an East Coast tour. So I think it does bear emphasis or at least very clear statement in the LP guide that you can really only expect something to be “happening” in the sense of something organized on the weekend or Friday/Sat night, as the case may be.
[quote=“ironlady”]Well, the other consideration is that if you’re saying one must talk to the locals and so on to have the “experience”, how many of the ordinary users of LP guides are going to have the language to be able to do that?
Thanks for the vote of confidence, but I know what I am doing. One, other sections cover how much English you are likely to encounter outside the cities so I don’t need to repeat that every paragraph. Two, there are now foreigners running businesses in the area who can now help visitors get into the local scene (and I cover this in the new edition). Three, Dulan was a new region for the last guide and I went with what little information I could find at the time (and knowing how perishable it could be).
Things change rapidly in Taiwan and I’ve learned that sometimes not writing too much is better when something is new (and the scene was pretty new 4 years ago). Finding the right person who can clue you into a scene is also critical and sometimes you aren’t lucky have to go with what you have. That’s life.
In any case, I know a little more now about Dulan and I’m writing more. But in an area like this it’s best to find ways for visitors to have local contacts. With foreign artists and business owners in the area English speaking visitors now have that contact. Problem solved. Of course even in the latest guide you have the number for the Sugar Factory, the East Coast National Scenic Area, Taitung tourism office, etc. I certainly would have called one of these before traveling half a day to check out an art scene that was written about in a guide published in 2007.
Goodness, sorry I spoke to try to help anyone out, I’m sure.
I’m not sure where the sarcasm is coming from but you have been helpful, and as always I appreciate all sincere feedback.
I can see how Dulan could be a bit hit or miss for a tourist, but as a resident, I love it - it’s like hippie heaven. Great sense of community, with a base of strong local Amis culture. Fox and Mucha Man are right when they say the key is to take a few days, meet a few locals, pretty much all of whom are relaxed and friendly, and then take it from there. I like how the days just seem to unveil, often in weird and wonderful ways. Here’s a video of stuff shot on weekdays and weekends.
Nice video. What is the cannon? Is that girl at the end playing that flute with her nose?
Thanks Fox. That was the non-vulgar version. The cannon was part of an Amis kids performance thing going at the Tourist Centre just north of Donghe. They also did a musical performance that included the nose flute, which is a traditional aboriginal instrument. Sounds really nice, very moving. Reminds me a little bit of The Mission soundtrack. There are two shows each weekend day at 10:30 a.m. and 2 p.m. – they encourage audience participation – it’s great.
Technically, it’s not in Dulan, but when I think of Dulan I think of the area from Shanyuan beach up to Donghe at least. Iron Lady is actually right. Dulan, as a physical bricks and mortar, well mainly mortar place, especially on weekdays, can really seem very sleepy. And if you are there during the afternoon siesta time from noon to 2 p.m. or later, that would be because it is. Me included.