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May 30, 2017

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Aboriginal Culture Village shows tribal lifestyles

Central Taiwan's Nantou (南投縣) County has a wealth of glittering travel treasures embedded in its emerald mountains and lush jade-hued scenery. A shiny prospect for an educational and fun-filled day out is the Formosan Aboriginal Culture Village (九族文化村)in Yuchih Township (魚池鄉), near Sun Moon Lake.

The village, in essence, is an aboriginal theme park that comprises three main areas: the Aboriginal Village Park, Amusement Isle, and European Garden. Outdoor displays depicting the villages and lifestyles of Taiwan's nine major tribes give visitors a glimpse of aboriginal heritage in an authentic setting. Sprawled across 62 hectares (1,550 acres), a trip to the village easily requires an entire day to enjoy all the educational and recreational riches it has to offer.

When disembarking a vehicle in one of the village's myriad parking lots catering to hundreds of visitors, one immediately notices the union of manmade structures with the area's abundant natural beauty - cable cars moving against a picturesque backdrop of mountains, like pearls sliding down a string.

Visitors can opt to explore the rides and games in the Amusement Isle first. However, the best option is to take a smooth cable car ride to the topmost region of the village, as it offers a spectacular bird's eye view of the surrounding scenery on the way up. From the top one can take an easy, albeit long, walk down a gently sloping hill among constellations of beautiful cherry blossom trees and the totem poles of the Aboriginal Village Park.

The park provides a window on aboriginal life with its arts and crafts demonstrations by native aborigines, as well as popular folk dance shows at the Naruwan Theater. The village claims that all show performers are native aborigines who, in addition to performing traditional dances representative of Taiwan's indigenous tribes, also invite members of the audience to participate in onstage activities. There are also ongoing music shows and craft demonstrations in the village's Culture Square.

If walking down the winding path becomes too tiring, visitors can hop onto village buses passing by at regular intervals for transportation to the Amusement Isle. The Amusement Isle is divided into sections with different themes. The outdoor Mayan area features a smorgasbord of daredevil rides, such as the stomach-churning UFO Gyro Drop, which is the highest free fall in Taiwan at 85 meters. For less hair-raising pursuits that cater to visitors of all ages, the tame rides and gaming arcade of the indoor Aladdin Pavilion are ideal.

Away from the hullabaloo of the recreation area, visitors can saunter through the structured beauty of the village's extensive European Gardens, brimming with flowers and bedecked with a Roman fountain. There are also plenty of snack bars and restaurants situated in convenient locations around the village's different areas, offering a wide range of cuisine.

While the Formosan Aboriginal Culture Village offers an enjoyable insight into the aboriginal way of life in a commercial setting, the abundant forests of Nantou are also ideal for a more tranquil experience. A drive away from Yuchih Township is Puli Township (埔里鎮), which is home to the Chung Tai Chan Monastery (中台禪寺), one of the largest Buddhist monasteries in Taiwan.

The monastery is breathtaking in its award-winning structural magnificence. An architectural gem painstakingly cut to perfection, its lone spire towering above treetops is reminiscent of a fairy tale castle. Although the monastery's intricate gold and white details are more clearly visible during the day, the night view is definitely worth seeing, as the entire structure glows with laser beams and lights that illuminate the golden statues sitting in alcoves in the monastery's exterior.

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