Bunun Forest Excursion – A Visit to the Luanshan Forest Culture Museum

In recent years, more and more visitors have made the pilgrimage to Taitung’s huge secret forest of majestic white banyan trees. This magical place looks like its straight of the movie Avatar. The Luanshan Forest Culture Museum is situated in this lush forest that is a treasure trove of indigenous culture and natural beauty. On this half-day tour of the Luanshan Forest Culture Museum, you can get an understanding for how the Bunun lived in harmony with mother nature as well as the wisdom the Bunun have of coexisting with their natural environment.

鸞山森林文化博物館

About the Forest Museum

Luanshan Village, or “Sazasa” in the local indigenous language, is where many Bunun people live. “Sazasa” means “The land of tall sugarcane, lively animals and prosperous people.” The Bunun people used to live in the foothills of Taiwan’s Central Mountains Range, but were forced to relocate to Luanshan during the Japanese colonial period.

This banyan forest has mystified people for generations. When the Bunun first arrived in this fertile land, thousands of intertwined banyan trees left them awestruck. Without the words to describe what they saw, the Bunun named the banyans “Trees with Many Legs”. This name similar to what we now call “Walking Trees!” How do these banyans walk? The museum’s curator Aliman explains that the banyans often take root on a hillside. As the roots continue to spread, they grow and take the place of dead branches. This makes it seem like the banyans are moving further and further away from where they first took root.

Around twenty years ago, developers wanted to buy this beautiful forest full of spiritual energy. Aliman couldn’t just stand by and watch corporations destroy his ancestral homeland. Therefore, he sprang into action and bought the forest by taking on debt. He then founded the Luanshan Forest Culture Museum to revitalize indigenous culture and protect this gigantic swath of untouched banyans.

鸞山森林文化博物館

Visit the “Walking Trees”

You must make reservations before visiting the Luanshan Forest Culture. There is also an special tradition that guests must follow. Similar to bringing gifts to a dinner party, visitors have to bring a bottle of rice wine and a bag of betel nut as “tribute”. Aliman will then take you his ancestorial home for a prayer to commune with the spirits of his forebearers as well as the gods of the mountains. This prayer allows the party safe passage while displaying reverence towards nature.

The Forest Museum has designed a special route that takes visitors through the trees the entire trip. The journey starts by climbing up “Hero’s Cliff,” a steep 10-meter rockface. This requires you to use the ropes that line both sides of the trail to get to the top. Traversing the steep and rugged path is quite hard for most people. However, the indigenous guides display their physical prowess by running the trail. Next up, you must take on the “Heaven’s Rock,” a small crevice between two rockfaces. Visitors have to suck in their bellies to make it through this narrow path. Right after, the path takes you to a two-story-high boulder that you have to climb over to reach the exit. The entire journey is packed with mystery and excitement. The final and most enticing part includes the thousand-year-old banyan tree. The tree’s massive vines seem to be filled with a life of their own. Climbing through the interwoven banyan roots, you’ll think you’re living in the world of Avatar.

Once you have completed your adventure, you will enjoy a authentic Bunun meal in traditional hut that the tribe built. Visitors are alwaus blown away when they enter and see the amazing feast in front of them! Bunun cuisine is full of natural flavors because most traditional dishes include wild greens, such as bird’s-nest fern and Sargent gloryvine. You can also try the some meat grilled the traditional Bunun way. Bamboo spikes are sharpened to place wild boar meat over charcoal flames. The meat always comes out succulent and tender and the juice has a subtle bamboo aroma. This is a delicacy that can only be found here! After the meal, you can try an interactive “mochi making” activity. Visitors will be able to bring a scrumptious hand-made dessert back home with them.

The last activity is the tree planting session. Every group of visitors will have one person to plant a sapling. This allows travelers to give back in a real way to this beautiful place. It’s well-known that “We are all members of one global village.” The forest and nature belongs to everyone. Aliman showed us the saplings planted by visitors a decade ago have now grown to the same height as a fully-grown person. This forest will continue to grow for generations thanks to the hard work of Aliman and the people of the tribe. We welcome you to become a part of this blessing that protects this sacred land.

(Please remember: in the spirit of environmental conservation, Luanshan Forest Culture Museum will not provide single-use disposable tableware. Please bring your own bowls and cutlery.)

  • Address: Luanshan Forest Museum, Yanping Township, Taitung County
  • Contact number: 0911-154-806
  • Operating hours: Please make a reservation by phone