Smangus (司馬庫斯) is in Hsinchu County.
Smangus is a remote Atayal (one of the indigenous peoples of Taiwan) village at 1,500 metres altitude in Jianshi Township, Hsinchu County. It is famous for its ancient cypress trees.
The village of 23 families is an experiment in communalism. The system of communal management draws on traditional Atayal culture and ideas from other sources including the Israeli kibbutz.
Before the giant trees in the area were discovered, Smangus was completely cut off from the outside world. The fact that it is so far removed from "civilization" does nothing but promote an air of mystery about the area and the people who live there, which is why it was once known as "Black Village". It is now known as "God's Village".
As far as modern conveniences go, the village has had an interesting history of development. The area didn't have electricity until 1979. Their homes are made mostly of wood or bamboo, in stark contrast to their city counterparts. Making the community even more remote is the fact that the only road to the outside world wasn't even completed until 1995. Before that, the closest road was on the other side of the valley and people had to carry anything they couldn't make in the village on their backs. Children also had to walk three hours across the valley to go to school.
The village sits on a ridge at 1,500 metres above the Takechin Creek.
Flora and fauna
Bamboo forests, ancient cypress trees.
Because of the altitude it gets cold at nights and during winter. It snows in the village about once every five years.
When you arrive in the village there is a central plaza (24.578583, 121.334683). The building straight ahead against the mountain is the food hall. The building to the left near the entrance to the village is the meeting hall and there are often events here in the evenings. There are various accommodations located on the left and right sides. Follow the road on the right side heading out of the village which will take you past some peach orchards where the road ends at the entrance to the path to see the giant cypress trees. The walk to the trees is another 4-5 kilometers, so you'll need to plan several hours walking round trip. Frequent flash thunderstorms appear on what seem to be nice-weather days, with very large temperature drops, so it's best to prepare an all-weather waterproof jacket just in case. There is one wooden dwelling with bathrooms 2/3 along the path that can provide shelter from storms. Village life is very different than elsewhere because of its isolation, and it's important to book ahead of time, let them know how many people are coming and how many meals you intend to eat. Like an aircraft: if they don't know you're coming there won't be meals or seats available for you.
Mealtimes are set. Please tell someone as soon as you arrive that you wish to eat communally with everybody else. It is best to let the staff know at least 1-2 days before arrival. If they don't have advanced notice, you won't be able to eat as everything is prepared ahead of time without waste.
The road to and from Smangus can be dangerous at times due to the isolation. It's very important to fill up with gas before entering the mountains. You can do this at the gas station about 2km past Neiwan on a side road on the left side of the highway. The community of Xiuluan is about the halfway mark. You'll need to register at the police booth before proceeding into the mountains past this point, which is for your own safety. After you climb the next mountain, you'll arrive at Taigang which is an Atayal community that extends further and further up this face of the mountain. Check your gas levels and make sure you still have more than half left. If not, you'll need to purchase gas from the locals in water bottles or you can do this on your way back. Expect to pay a premium for the gas though. After descending this mountain, you'll cross over to the next range and cross one more mountain, descend again and cross a bridge at which time you'll make the final ascent up the mountain to Smangus.