Taiwan In-Depth: Indigenous Culture of Taiwan

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Before the influx of Dutch, Portuguese, Chinese, and many other foreign influence in Taiwan, the indigenous peoples of Taiwan lived on the island. The indigenous peoples of Taiwan are Austronesian peoples, with linguistic and genetic ties to other Austronesian ethnic groups, including those of the Philippines, Malaysia, Indonesia, Madagascar and Oceania. Taiwan had over a dozen aboriginal tribes living and thriving on the island. Through generations of immigration and foreign influence, many of the tribes’ languages, customs and culture were lost to the past. Today, the aboriginal people make up less than 3% of Taiwan’s population. However, there remains a minority of tribes and aboriginal people who continue to preserve their ancestors’ way of life. On our Taiwan Island tour and Taiwan East Coast tour, we’re able to experience 3 unique aboriginal activities.

1. Taroko National Park

Taroko Gorge
Taroko National Park

The name “Taroko” literally means “magnificent and beautiful” in the Truku aboriginal language. The national park is one of eight national parks in Taiwan and home to the landmark Taroko Gorge. For comparison, you can consider Taroko the Yosemite of Taiwan and considered a natural wonder. There are many trails to hike throughout the park and one of the most famous ones is Swallow Grotto Trail. In this section of Taroko valley, countless small holes in the rock walls were created through erosion and became natural habitats for birds. In the past, swallows soared through the air, creating a vision of hundreds of swallows flying in the valley. Thus, the beautiful name “Swallow Grotto” was given.

Swallow Grotto

When our tour visits Taroko National Park, we’ll actually overnight at Silks Place Taroko. The hotel is actually built inside the Taroko National Park. The hotel also boasts a rooftop pool and fire pit, but probably the most unique feature is it’s design. The architecture is modeled after the design work of Taiwan’s aboriginal people, which helps the hotel blend beautifully into the setting of the national park. Since the hotel is located inside the park, we’re able to experience the park peacefully after all the other park visitors have left. Additionally, we get to see an aboriginal music performance at the hotel’s rooftop fire pits.

Silks Place
Silks Place Taroko
Aboriginal Performance
Aboriginal Performance

2. Biking in East Rift Valley

The East Rift is long and narrow with expansive greenery, and framed by the north-south Central Mountain Range and the Coastal Mountain Range. The area is traditionally home to many aboriginal people as well. The area was made famous by an EVA Airways commercial and the road that cuts through the valley is actually called Paradise Road.  To help our guests enjoy the area to its fullest, we include time for biking along the road. Biking through the area allows you to fully immerse yourself in the area.

East Rift Valley Biking
East Rift Valley
East Rift Valley

3. Tasting Aboriginal Cuisine

Another very special experience we include in the East Rift Valley is offering guests the opportunity to taste local aboriginal dishes. We visit a local restaurant owner, Mrs. Lim. Her family owns a fish farm and continues to fish and prepare the fish in the same style as her aboriginal ancestors. You can see photos below of this unique method.

Aboriginal cuisine

Another aboriginal cooking technique we get to experience is known as earth kiln cooking where the food is buried and cooked underground.  This is continually one of the most enjoyed experiences on tour because guests get to connect with local people of the area and enjoy the same meals people have been enjoying for centuries.

Aboriginal cuisine2
Earth Kiln Cooking

Ready to explore Taiwan? Check out our Taiwan Island tour.