Here at Pop Rooms we believe in hobbies. We enjoy writing, we are semi-professional bubble tea drinkers, enjoy the occasional dalliance with a surf board (2nd dictionary definition, not the 1st), but recently we have been thinking about loftier pursuits. For a long time we have wanted to try our hand at paragliding.
This wish brought us to a tent outside No.9 Cafe in the town of Wai’ao, in Yilan County, shortly before 10 am on a gorgeous Friday morning. After speaking briefly with the driver of Wai’ao Paragliding, we hopped into a rust-bucket Toyota Van, sans seatbelts, and found ourselves trundling up winding roads to the hills above the coast. Through the trees we could make out the beach and the ocean growing ever smaller. Finally, after one last steep switchback, we arrived at a small cafe-like area perched on a hilltop with a large green lawn. A handful of people sat around a covered outdoor area like a group of 山神 or mountain gods gazing at the breeze which swept in off the ocean and at a vulture which spiraled on updrafts in the space beyond. We had heard from the internet that the paperwork process was quick, but it was even less than what we had imagined. Contrary to the safety videos and release forms that they inundate you with in the United States and other parts of the world, this was a simple sign in: name, birthday, passport number, payment of 1,200 NTD, done.
In hindsight, the process truly does make sense… You have shown up here electing to launch yourself off the side of a mountain. Only true idiots need to be reminded that there are risks involved or that you need to listen to what the pilot tells you to do.
We barely had time to put our change away before we were being strapped into a harness and outfitted with a helmet and selfie stick. The guide went over the launch instructions: “When I tell you, start to run. No stopping. No jumping. Just run easy down the hill.” And like that we were up, up, and away.
In Taiwan there are a wide range of places to paraglide. There are over 12 different companies and clubs on the Island that offer paragliding tours. Some of the best flights are in Puli, Hualien, and Wanli. The prices vary, but a single flight will often cost somewhere in the range of 2000 NTD. Wai’ao Paragliding is cheaper largely because it is a shorter flight time.
Puli is Taiwan’s Paragliding Capital. Although there are likely more than a few schools in Puli, these two are the ones that get the best press:
If you want a quick, cheap, and easy way to experience a paragliding flight, we would highly recommend Wai’ao Paragliding. Connect with them over Facebook, either ahead of time or the day of. The whole process takes less than thirty minutes with most of the time being the van ride up the hill (it is basically a 7-10 minute glide down to the beach). You could even pair your flight in with a day of surfing or a visit to Jiaoxi Hot Springs or Kavalan Distillery.
May your own hobbies in Taiwan take flight,