I've always wanted to visit Smangus. It's a remote village in Hsinchu of an indigenous group, the Tayal people. The village is named after Mangus, the leader who brought his people to migrate to this location. It was the last village to get electricity in Taiwan, so it was called the "dark tribe." Now, it is called "God's tribe" and is famous for its co-operative living style and ecotourism. The total population is 178.5 people (one is on the way), and about 70% of residents live in this co-operative style.
My favorite part was probably walking in the woods at night. We were very lucky to see a flying squirrel closely. Before we headed back, we turned off the flashlights, stayed quiet and our guides sang a song in Tayal about being grateful to life. That is the first song in the video.
The main attraction of Smangus is the hiking trail to "Yaya Qparung," the giant trees of Formosan Cypress (紅檜). We took our time, so it was a 5 hours hike. The hike was easy and tourist-friendly. Walking in the woods and listening to the frogs and birds was very relaxing.
There are several more buildings to visit in the tribe. The elementary school is one of them. From 7:30am to 4:30pm, the students learn both standard education and Tayal traditions, including the language, culture and knowledge of nature. It is wonderful to hear them talking in Tayal, when the younger generation in Taiwan generally has lost their mother tongue. The school buildings are built by the residents, with logs and stones. Children used to have to walk 5 hours to another mountain for school before the roads were built in 1995. To save the trouble, they used to send kids to school on Monday morning, and bring them back on Saturday. But being separated was difficult for the family to keep a close relationship, so they eventually started a school in Smangus in 2000 (it is still in experiment though). The classroom has skylights and uses energy saving light bulbs. So do the street lights, by the way.