Taiwan · Work and Travel

A First-Timer’s Review of WorkAway in Taiwan, Part 1: Dulan

Now that I’m back home, it’s time to review my first WorkAway travel experiences.

I’ve introduced WorkAway in a post on how to travel the world on a budget and summarizd it in a more recent post about planning my trip to Taiwan.

In total, my partner and I spent 15 nights in Dulan and a week in Taipei—and didn’t pay a penny for accommodation. Hurray for WorkAway!

In the next two posts, I’ll focus on reviewing the overall experience at these very different locations: one a tribal village with good surf and the other the bustling capital of the much-loved-by-travelers country of Taiwan.

(Warning: this may or may not turn into a post about why you should travel to these places.)

Discovering Dulan

Dulan is a small town along Taiwan’s south-eastern coast. In the past decade, this small tribal town has morphed into a haven for surfing, art, cultural exchange, and yes, hipsters too.

I believe you’ll find more foreigners per capita here than any other part of Taiwan and it might be the smallest village in Taiwan where restaurants and tea shops have English menus.

This part of the island belongs to the Amis people, Taiwan’s largest indigenous group. As places like Dulan turn into tourist hotspots, locals strive to preserve their culture.

In school, children choose between learning either Taiwanese or Ami in addition to the standard Mandarin curriculum.

Funny story: What attracts Taiwanese tourists to Dulan is not the surf so much as its elementary school. Ask a local why.

Head a few kilometers north of Dulan and you can explore the Amis Folk Center and appreciate their enchanting music, art, and culture.

In Dulan there is a constant influx of new faces, with some passing through for a few days, some staying for a few months, and others who have made it their indefinite home.

Such is the lure of this charming town: people often spend more time in it than originally intended.

Regardless of how long you spend here, it’s hard not to feel at home. At least, that was the case for us. The two weeks we spent in Dulan felt like an eternity and the blink of an eye at the same time.

We quickly adopted a lifestyle of bare-foot walks to the beach, surfing at every opportunity, scallion pancakes and milk tea for breakfast, breezy afternoons, and evenings spent around a table of beer, board games, and an ever-rotating array of faces.

Two Weeks of WorkAway at WaGaLiGong

An ocean view from WaGaLiGong’s guest kitchen. On a clear day, you can see Green Island in the distance.

We did our WorkAway at a surf hostel called WaGaLiGong—a spot that’s become notorious for the pizza and burgers it doesn’t sell. In truth, WaGaLiGong’s kitchen isn’t that unlike the others in town: they’re open when they want to be open, and closed when they want to be closed.

As a surf shop and hostel, though, it’s open daily from 8 AM to 11 PM. You can take my word for this because I’ve both open and close up shop. Walk in today and you’re likely to find some traveler manning the ship (and as it goes with travelers, there’s always a 50% chance that he or she is German).

What does WaGaLiGong mean?
Wagaligong is a Taiwanese phrase akin to “Let me tell you something.” Though I have to say I imagine it being said in a much friendlier tone than the way Hulk Hogan’s does it. (Because the Taiwanese are extremely friendly.)

As a destination for WorkAwayers, WaGaLiGong has its appeal, as well as some drawbacks.

If you’re looking for a lot of privacy and a systematically organized hostel, kitchen, bar, and shop, this might not be your spot. But if you’d rather have people around you than personal space and you’d take a relaxed approach over a methodical one on any day of the week, give it a go.

That being said, who knows how the place will change. When we arrived they were in between managers.

Ultimately, though, what you get out of the experience is up to you, and what you put in.

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