I had a wild blast yesterday with good friends at BulauBulau. My best friend Sandy came back from Shanghai, I’ve told her about this trip months ago so she can make herself available.
What is BulauBulau? It literally means idling around in the Atayal language. It is a village of the Atayal tribe of 9 families, the Chief Wilang was a landscape architect in Taipei but wanted to move out of the city 8 years ago, he wanted to return to his wife Sayei’s homeland but it took him 2 years to wrap up his business in Taipei and to gather up the aborigines to execute the plan and to fulfill the dream. Finally they moved up to the mountains to begin this lengthy process 6 years ago, Wilang wanted to build an aboriginal village in the Atayal tradition. His son Kwali who lived in Australia for 8 years was our main guide who introduced us their village and gave us a tour around the land.
Bulau Bulau is located in the mountains, it gets very humid and cold in the winter as it falls around 2C. Upon arriving at YiLan which is about 1.5 hour from Taipei, 12 of us had to cross the longest hanging bridge of Taiwan and followed by a 15 min off road before we reach our final destination. Upon arrival, we see goats scattered on the field followed by a display of animal skulls on 2 wooden benches as souvenirs from hunting.
Bulau Bulau is a small village, we were greeted with lemongrass tea in the entertainment quarter for guests, it has a small kitchen where food is prepared, a dining area with 3 long massive wooden tables where they take a maximum of 30 guests. Our welcome treat was to BBQ our own pork on a stick which took them 4 days to marinate, there is a very special lemony scent to the meat, you can even eat it raw. All drinks were served in bamboos of different sizes which they dispose every week.
We had a quick tour of the village, we saw goats, chickens and ducks. We saw their current living quarters, the new ones which are still in the process of construction, it is said that it takes 2 years to build their new space which look like a modern villa. We saw how they make the rice wine, we saw women weaving, the fibers are woven into traditional patterns. The women have to sit with their legs stretched out with the wooden trunk on top of for at least 4 hours before they can take a break.
They hand make and hang build everything in the village, their diet is over 60% self sufficient from the land. We started with yam topped with a piece of ginger, the rice wine to pair with it was bubbly, it tasted like beer. 2nd dish was 3 types of vegetable presented with a Japanese touch, followed by angel hair like noodle with sauce which was super tasty. The 4th dish was grilled fish with cous cous like rice wrapped in a leave. Then came bamboo shoot topped with local salmon roe, it was a very refreshing touch to the palette. The last dish was spring chicken for ladies and ribs for gentlemen, the meat was tender and nicely marinated. I think we ended the course with soup if I remembered correctly. I was sober enough for the first half of our visit to finish the full course before the party turned into a wild blast.
Everyone started singing and dancing while local instruments were played. We were taught how they drink to make peace with enemies, two people must drink together from the same small rice wine glass. That was a highlight of our trip, we took turns drinking with the locals and within our group. We danced on the grass and befriended goats and the surrounding. Somehow the scenes recollected my memories on the images of Greek vases where Dionysus frenzied with men and women in distorted postures. It felt festive as if we were celebrating some sort of triumph, perhaps the getaway from the hustle and bustle for us the city dwellers.
My memory began to deteriorate due to the heavy amount of rice wine intake, we had 4 kinds of rice wine to pair with our 7 course lunch. I remembered I went to the kitchen to pay for the trip and came out busted and wearing a local apron snatched from one of the ladies in the kitchen. A lot of the memories were only reminded later by the photos taken.
Bulau Bulau was created to recapture the aboriginal tradition, to maintain everything as close to nature as possible. The drizzling rain added the misty touch to the mountains and created the romantic flair to the village. I praise these people who have the courage to pursue their dreams, to make the impossible so possible. May be one day I will be able and have the courage to pursue my own dream. Close friends of my brother’s and mine joined, it was a Monday so everyone made the effort to attend, as the Chinese always say, the sky, the earth, the people were in harmony.