Lele Hot Springs

Lele Hot Springs

Nantou (南投縣), Taiwan’s only landlocked county, is where I first fell in love with the island, a few months after arriving here in 1993, when I got a job in an English cram school in a rural part of the county. It’s also one of the richest and most spectacular parts of the country for hikers, river tracers and other nature lovers.

For most tourists, the attractions of Nantou County start and end with Sun Moon Lake (日月潭), a lovely place that has become one of Taiwan’s top tourist draws. Some also get to the Forest Recreation Area at Xitou (溪頭), and since opening in 2005, the Heavenly Steps () suspension bridge at Zhushan (竹山) has been a huge draw among locals. It’s worth mentioning though that what we can see along the Heavenly Steps trail today is a very pale shadow of the true wonders of the (presently inaccessible) main part of Taiji Canyon (太極峽谷) a kilometer or two downstream.  When (or rather if) that awe-inspiring place ever reopens to hikers, it will be a major cause for celebration.

Among its other tourist draws, Nantou County has more than its fair share of hot springs, although they’ve taken a bit of a battering in recent years. The springs at Aowanda (奧萬大) near Wushe (霧社) in the north of the county) are now all but gone, and most of the crowds visiting the Forest Recreation Area are there either for the cool mountain air, or for the spectacular display of autumn colors (probably Taiwan’s finest), put on each winter by the forests of maple trees in the park. Lushan Hot Spring (盧山溫泉; Chiang Kai-shek’s favorite spa) survives, despite damage caused by a series of typhoons in recent years, and several other hot springs sources in this part of Nantou have been tapped to supply smaller-scale resorts and bath houses.  

For such a rugged part of the island, it’s quite surprising that so many of Nantou’s hot spring sources have been developed. Happily, a couple do survive in all their splendidly untouched, natural beauty.  Just below Lushan (the aboriginal village area, not the hot spring resort downstream), Jingying Hot Spring (精英溫泉), although never formally developed, can be reached by a bumpy one-track road, and is besieged on weekends. A short clamber upstream a couple of small sources have, however, escaped attention and remain attractively untouched, and a kilometer or two further upstream, the beautiful Yunhai Hot Spring (雲海溫泉) is unknown to all but keen hikers, as getting up there involves scaling a couple of vertical dam walls on fixed ropes. [Since my last visit to Yunhai in 2017, it seems, from photos I’ve seen recently, that access to the hot springs might be easier now before, as ladders and foot holds could have been added to the dam walls].

Easier to reach, yet still strenuous and awkward enough to keep all but fit hikers out, Lelegu Hot Spring (樂樂谷溫泉) lies in the deep gorge below Nantou’s second hot spring resort, Dongpu (東埔). The slightly odd name (which means “happy happy valley”) is in fact a transliteration of the original Bunan aboriginal name for the hot spring, Laku Laku, which represents the sound of the pressurized, boiling-hot water as it bubbles out of rock faces in the gorge, just above the river.

Before planning a trip to Lelegu Hot Springs, note that the place is one of many around the island that are officially off-limits to general visitors, yet remain very popular with hikers, so if you go, you do so at your own risk. The hot springs are accessible year-round, but the best time is December to late April, not only because of the cooler weather, but also because the river level will be lower, making the hike more straightforward. Definitely don’t attempt to visit for several weeks after a typhoon. 

Start the journey at Dongpu, the main drag of which is lined with hot spring hotels. Walk straight past these and follow the road, contouring the hillside, through a tunnel, and on to a residential area beyond, where fruit and veg are farmed on the flat alluvial plain at the foot of the gorge.

On the left is the modern trailhead of Batongguan Historic Trail (八通關古道), and for the first hour of the hike, follow it, first zigzagging steeply upwards, then round the sheer, severely eroded bluffs of Father and Son Cliff (父不知子斷崖). About twenty minutes after the cliff, there’s a fork, marked by a red warning sign familiar to anyone who hikes a lot along Taiwan’s less popular trails. Turn right.Officially there’s a NT$3,000 fine for going any further down this side path. In practice, many local (and foreign) hikers still visit the hot spring each year without incident. I’m not saying that you should ignore the sign, but let’s say similar signs stand at the start of the trails to many of Taiwan’s most fantastic places, and many hikers read them as warnings that trail conditions ahead are poor, and take appropriate care, rather than prohibitions banning anyone from using the trails. The trail that descends into the gorge. At first, it’s clear and wide, but soon narrows, and although easy enough to follow, it’s steep in parts, and the thick layer of loose leaf mold makes for slippery footing, so take care!

The trail zigzags down the precipitous face of the gorge, with one or two relatively easy scrambles. At the bottom the trail veers left and levels out, finally reaching the river bank just upstream from a rocky defile through which the water seethes, even during the dry season. 

Now simply follow the boulder-strewn left bank of the river. Cairns mark the best route through the maze of huge boulders, rock faces and thickets of tall grass. Keep high and well to the left as the river falls over a small waterfall and rages through a small gorge, and the first hot spring sources are in the rock face on the left just a little further upstream. The water emerges from the cliff at a perfect temperature for a bath, and there’s usually a pool or two, made from rocks, left by earlier hikers.

About a hundred meters upstream is a second area of hot spring sources, spluttering furiously out of the cliff, emitting large clouds of steam, and far too hot to dip even a toe into. Be careful where you tread in this area, as the water is close to boiling point in many places.

Continue another five minutes upstream (this last bit is impossible during the wet season), and more hot spring sources sputter out of the rock into a series of pools. You almost certainly won’t be alone here if you come on a weekend, but it’s a beautiful spot, and you’ll definitely feel happy happy!



A guaranteed highlight of any visit to China is spending a day or two exploring one of its amazing sacred mountains: those lofty eminences shrouded in a misty veil for much of the year, studded with ancient monasteries inhabited by grizzled old monks, and chockablock with stunning vistas, cloud-kissing peaks, and the occasional hanging monastery clinging to a sheer cliff face. Lion’s Head Mountain (Shitoushan; 獅頭山) is Taiwan’s answer to amazing Buddhist (and Taoist) sacred mountains in the Middle Kingdom such as Huashan, Emeishan or Mt. Jiuhua, and while you’ll won’t see wizened old monks or centuries-old buildings on your visit, it’s a very special place in its quieter, less spectacular way. 

   While Lion’s Head Mountain is still only beginning to appear on the radar of foreign expats and tourists, it’s far from being off-the-beaten-track among the Taiwanese, attracting crowds on sunny weekends.  Not even hordes of people, however, can spoil the beauty and unique atmosphere of this rather special place. For all its popularity, Lion’s Head Mountain covers a large area, with many kilometers of marked trails, and only at peak times are the most popular paths likely to seem too crowded for comfort.

   Lion’s Head Mountain, about 25 kilometers’ drive south of Hsinchu city, is one third of the Tri-Mountain National Scenic Area (叁山國家風景區), established in March 2001 to protect three upland regions in central Taiwan.  The other two are Lishan (梨山), in eastern Taichung City, and the Mt. Bagua (八卦山) range of hills near Changhua.  This last is another major draw for the island’s Buddhists; a temple in the hills here right above Changhua city has a famous, 22 meter-high black statue of the sitting Buddha.  

   Lion’s Head Mountain is a rocky eminence, and most of the main temples on the mountain are built into small natural caves or overhangs in the rock face. The largest is Shueilien Cave (水簾洞; Water Curtain Cave), close to Lion’s Head Mountain Scenic Area Visitor Center, on the lion’s “tail.”  The walk down to the temple, through the small but attractive gorge of the Shijing Stream, is nice, but the cave itself is aesthetically challenged; its main feature is a tall and very ugly wall, which detracts from the beauty of its cave setting. Downstream (but reached by a different trail from the road above) is the very short (half-kilometer-long) “Sticky Rice” Bridge Walk (糯米橋步道). This is a more scenic experience, dropping into a short length of especially narrow and dark gorge, crossed by a century-old bridge, the stone blocks of which are cemented together with mortar made from (believe it or not!) a mixture of rice, brown sugar and lime! 

   Almost opposite the trailhead of the sticky rice bridge trail, a road passing through a temple gate is the start of the walking route that connects most of the temples on the ridge, from “tail” to “head.” If you’re short of time (or energy) the temples on this side (and the “trail,” which is a surfaced road most of the way) can be safely skipped, to allow more time at the opposite end of the ridge. This is the setting for Lion’s Head Mountain’s most impressive set of temples, and to reach it drive or catch a shuttle bus from the visitor center. Here at the lion’s “head,” nestling on the steep, densely forested mountainside high above a large car park, is probably the most aesthetically pleasing ensemble of temples and monasteries on Taiwan.

   The main structure of the group, Qinhua Tang (勤化堂), is a magnificent edifice of classical Chinese prayer halls, pagodas and gates, each crowned with bright orange-tiled roofs which shine in the sunlight. It’s complimented by a series of smaller structures, including the Morality Gate (道德門), Kaishan Temple (開善寺), and Lingyun Cave (凌雲洞), which all share the same photogenic classical architecture (reinforced concrete and uninspired functionality are almost nowhere to be seen) and combine to create a truly impressive scene. A couple of the temples, such as Lingxia Cave (靈霞洞), which has a florid, baroque façade, even show distinctly Western influences.

   The ensemble looks beautiful from the car park below, but to get a closer look, take the steps up to Qinhua Tang, after which the path is more-or-less level along the base of the cliffs, passing a succession of temples built into caves and natural overhangs at the base of the rock.  After the fine Morality Gate, the path climbs again, steeply at first, but this is a lamb in lion’s clothing, and it’s a fairly easy and brief climb to the base of the impressive Shishan Rock Face (獅山大石壁, below), near the summit of the mountain. Turn left here and you’ll probably have the path to yourself as it follows the base of this lofty and impressive wall of rock. It eventually loops round and rejoins the outward route at the Morality Gate, passing a string of peaceful, little-visited cave temples on the way. 


Huisun Hot Springs

Landlocked Nantou County lies at the heart of Taiwan in several senses. It’s the island’s geographical center, has a rich aboriginal culture, and is a showcase of much traditional Chinese and Taiwanese heritage too. For hikers, it has also some of the island’s most stunning scenery. Forget the over-rated charms of Sun Moon Lake, which is lovely, but way too developed. Instead, head for the county’s true scenic wonders, including Batongguan Historic Trail (八通關古道) and (if the trail into the best part of it ever re-opens) Taiji Gorge (太極峽谷); both are magnificent.

Huisun Hot Springs lie, uniquely, in a small cave halfway up a cliff face!

   Up there among Nantou County’s greatest destinations, although a lot less well-known than most, Huisun Hot Spring (惠蓀溫泉) is possibly unique among Taiwan’s natural hot spring sources, since it lies in a small cave set into a sheer cliff face about eight meters above the surface of a fast-flowing river. The hot spring itself is fascinating, but the real highlight is the tough journey to it, which, although a bit problematical, is a real adventure, and a stunningly scenic one.

The hot springs are impossible to reach from the first plum rains (usually in May) until the beginning of the following year, and even during the dry season there’s no guarantee of making it. We succeeded on our second crack, in February, although even then the water was uncomfortably deep and fast-flowing in places. A couple of weeks later a group of friends tried, and couldn’t even start the river trace because the water was too high.

The entrance to the little hot spring cave

The jumping-off place for the hot springs is Huisun Forest Recreation Area (惠蓀林場), and a lane branching sharply off the main road through it, six hundred meters after the service center. Walk up this road, pass around the gate at the top, and follow the wide track downhill into the deep river valley beyond. The track is carved into sheer cliffs, so watch out for falling rocks! A group of Atayal aborigine locals we met here warned us of monkeys throwing rocks down on people as they walked along the road. It sounded like a joke, but we had exactly the same warning from some Truku aboriginal guides when entering another of Taiwan’s great scenic wonders, the Golden Grotto (黃金峽谷) in Hualien County, so they might just have been serious!

The road crosses the river by a very large bridge, and after it narrows to a trail, descending to the river, and the start of the exciting river trace up to the hot spring.

You’ll need to cross the river immediately, and if this first river crossing feels at all unsteady or risky, turn back immediately – the river crossings get trickier further up!

The scenery is already very impressive, with huge crumbling cliffs rising several hundred meters above the river in places. Look out for several small hot spring pools on the riverbank as you make your way upstream.

After about an hour, the trip really starts getting exciting, as the gorge narrows greatly, and the water is squeezed into the first of a series of awesome canyons (photo above), flowing deep and fast through them. Expect to be wading waist deep in many places.

Further upstream rock faces are stained by tiny trickles of hot spring water oozing out, and further tight, awesomely sheer gorges, through which the river runs swift and deep, make it a spectacular trip. A magnificent waterfall – a tall, narrow plume of water the better part of a hundred meters high plunging straight into the river – is a highlight.

After the waterfall, the hardest part is over. More startlingly bright colors stain the rock faces of the gorge in several places as small hot spring sources seep out of the cliffs. The gorge widens, and becomes far less impressive. In another couple of hundred meters, however, the river narrows and becomes more rugged again, and on the right a small cave in the cliff conceals Huisun Hot Spring. Climb up the short rock face, and the cave holds a pool of bright green, bath-hot water, which trickles out of cracks in the back of the cavity. On our visit a colony of tiny bees had set up residence here, and buzzed harmlessly around our heads as we soaked, trying not to think of the long, tough river trace back to civilization!

Huisun Hot Springs is a tough and slightly risky place to get to these days; don’t underestimate the trip, and be sure to check the weather forecast before you go. Don’t even think of attempting to go before early February, when the water level has (usually) receded enough to make an attempt safe, and be prepared to cancel the trip if the going looks dodgy early on. The trip normally becomes impassible once again a couple of months later, in mid April, as the first rains of the plum season begin. Start early!! It’s a long way out and back in one day, and camping or carrying heavy, bulky backpacks in the narrow canyon is a bad idea. A gravel track which once made the trip relatively easy (it was even used by mountain bikes!) has long since been washed away by typhoon floods. A few short, overgrown stretches remain (look out for these – they’re all on the right as you work your way upstream), and you’ll need to use them all to reach the hot spring and get back in one (long) day.

Get an early start by camping in or near Huisun Forest Recreation Area. Officially camping isn’t allowed inside the FRA, but in practice campers set up in car parks or quiet spots near the road after dark, and as long as they’re gone soon after dawn, there’s rarely a problem. It’s best to do this in fact, because the Recreation Area (which isn’t open 24 hours) opens at 8:30 am for day-trippers, making it a rather late start for a tiring day.

The Stone Candle (石燭尖), Pingxi

NOTE: This article was written in 2017, so conditions may have changed since

The Stone Candle, as seen from the rocky peak next to it

  The little village of Pingxi (平溪) is synonymous with sky lanterns these days, so it’s only too easy to forget there’s actually a great deal more to do in the area, especially if you’re a walker! The three Pingxi Crags (Filial Son (孝子山), Loving Mother (慈母峰) and Mount Putuo (普陀山)) have also become very popular in recent years, as people discover this amazing adult adventure playground of rocky pinnacles and whaleback rocks and head out there to see if they are, indeed, real. For the reasonably fit hiker, however, the Pingxi Crags are just one of a whole range of excellent routes of varying difficulty in the mountains around Pingxi village, and a rather more environmentally friendly way to spend your day than releasing a sky lantern.

   Standing in the center of Pingxi village and looking around, it’s already pretty clear that the local landscape is rugged, rocky, and densely wooded, and at first glance it might seem that much of the area is inaccessible to the average hiker. And indeed it is, which is why sky lanterns, when they finally float back to earth, usually stay there, often for years, as the wire frames slowly rust away. However, some surprisingly wild-looking places can be reached relatively easily from the village. The Stone Bamboo Shoot (石筍尖) is the toothy-looking chunk of rock that sticks conspicuously out of the ridge to the north of the village. At first it appears to be a very steep and possibly technical climb, but following “improvements” made to the trail over a decade ago, two formally rather tricky spots are now much easier to pass, and it’s a relatively simple hike to the top from Pingxi. The views from up there are extraordinary.

The view from the summit of the peak

   Some of the area’s finest summits, however, are invisible from the road, and take a bit more searching out. I hope to highlight a few of the finest hikes in the area in future Off the Beaten Track installments. First though, I’d like to introduce the short but mildly adventurous hike to one of the least-known yet most distinctive natural landmarks within easy reach of the village: the Stone Candle (石燭尖). It’s true that the Pingxi area may lack the huge, wide-open spaces of Yangmingshan National Park, or the dramatic mini-mountains of the area around Jinguashi (金瓜石) on the northeast coast, but with so many fun, exciting hikes like this one, few places in northern Taiwan can hold a candle (so to speak) to this little corner of New Taipei City.

The wonderful needle of rock known as the Stone Candle is the pointiest of the many arresting peaks of rock (or “pitons” as the Chinese is oddly translated on maps) that jut out of these forest-covered hills. Although little known, it’s not too far from the road. However, distance in Taiwan is often little help in determining how difficult or how long a hike will be. A signpost at the trailhead suggests the Stone Candle is just thirty minutes away, but for the average mortal soul, this timing (like several others in the area) is very inaccurate. Several fairly steep climbs and a narrow, rocky ledge or two make getting to the Stone Candle a fun but surprisingly rough short adventure, so allow about an hour each way.

Three shallow caves have been hewn into the cliff on the climb up to the Stone Candle

   The trail starts opposite Pingxi Lower High School, just west of the village center. Climb the steps that scale the bank beside the road, and at the top ignore a second set of steps, instead bearing right along a dirt trail through a wooded gorge, above a stream. Soon the gorge opens out, and the trail wanders past an area of allotments and a house. Re-entering the gorge, the trail crosses the stream at a small concrete dam. The small pool it creates is a great place for a quick cool-off on a hot summer day. Continue upstream through rather beautiful little glen, and in about five minutes the trail veers right up a very long flight of stone-slab steps, covered in a thick layer of bright green moss.

   Now the fun begins as a slippery dirt trail continues upwards from the top of the steps, climbing through the jungle to the base of a long, vertical cliff, with three shallow caves artificially carved into its face. The trail now climbs steeply along the foot of this impressive rock face to connect with a short knife-edge ridge leading up onto the peak. It’s safer since several rough “steps” were cut into the blade of rock, but for less confident hikers there’s an alternative, easier route to the left along the bottom of the narrow ridge. The two trails rejoin just before the Stone Candle.

The mossy steps leading up to the rock shelters

   Finally, the jungle falls away to reveal a sloping rock face, dropping away vertically on the far side, at the summit of the peak immediately in front of the Stone Candle. The top of the spiky rock formation looms ahead, but to see the whole thing, wriggle up to the brink and peer over the edge. Beyond, looming out of the thick jungle ten or twenty meters away is a slim and very pointed tower of rock about 35 meters tall, the Stone Candle itself. A side trail around the foot of the ridge leads to the base of the pinnacle, but it looks much less impressive from below, so spend your time peering across at it from up on top, while not forgetting to enjoy the fantastic views over Pingxi, the shapely summits of Shulung Peak (薯榔尖) and the Stone Bamboo Shoot (石筍尖), and the verdant green valley of the upper Keelung River, far below.

Near the trailhead

Taiwan’s Top Hundred Peaks: 2. Eight Easier Treks


Yushan, Taiwan’s highest mountain, is also one of its easiest to climb


Mountains in Taiwan are famous for their sunrises, but often it’s the sunsets that are the most unforgettable


Early morning on Mount Tao, Wuling Quadruple


Jade Mountain is both an exciting climb and a surprisingly easy one

Let me start by saying I’m no expert at hiking Taiwan’s high mountains! Of the Top 100 Peaks (a list of one-hundred mountain peaks from the 270-odd summits in Taiwan that exceed 3,000 meters in height), I’ve so far only done 29 – a lot less than some hiker friends of mine. However I’m acutely aware that starting out on the Top Hundred can be be a bit daunting – the difficulty of the peaks on the list varies hugely, and while two or three summits on the list are within the ability of all able-bodied people, and a further ten or twenty can be conquered by anyone that’s reasonably fit and has a few Taiwan day-hikes under their belt, after that the difficulty level quickly goes through the roof, and inexperienced hikers could easily find themselves in serious trouble if they pick the wrong trek. Continue reading

Mount Baiguda (白姑大山; 3, 341 meters)


The deceptively gentle-looking summit peak of Mount Baiguda


Dusk at Siyan campsite, day one


On the crags which lead to the final climb to the summit



Ancient trees (both standing and fallen) are a dominant feature of the trail to Mount Baiguda

Mount Baiguda (3,341 meters, no 45 on the ‘Top Hundred’ list) on the border between Nantou County and Taichung City doesn’t seem to get nearly as much love as some of the other summits on Taiwan’s Hundred Peaks list. Permission to climb is easy to get (only a police permit is required), yet there were few other people up there this last weekend, despite the absolutely perfect weather. It’s among the tougher peaks on the list I’ve done to date, especially since we did it in 2 days (meaning a 14-to-16-hour second day of hiking!), but it amazed us all with its beauty. Photos I’ve seen on blogs and elsewhere are usually of the deceptively gentle, rounded, wooded summit dome, which looks boring as anything, but is in fact steep and very rocky, with a stellar 360-degree view from the top. Even more rewarding are the series of crags which the trail follows on the way to the final slog up to the summit peak – nothing technical or difficult, but plenty of tough, knee-breaking  ups and downs, and absolutely stunning views over the surrounding wilderness. Definitely one of my top five high mountains so far, and among the tougher ones too! Continue reading

Guguan Seven Heroes, Taichung

Near the summit of Mount Baimao

Near the summit of Mount Baimao

Mt. Wuwowei, the steepest climb of the seven, is also one of the most interesting

Mount Wuwowei, the steepest climb of the seven, is also one of the most interesting

Mount Tangmadan, although the l;owest of the seven peaks and the shortest hike, is one of the most unremittingly steep climbs

Mt. Tangmadan, although the lowest of the seven peaks and the shortest hike, has one of the most unremittingly steep climbs

The Seven Heroes are also described in Taiwan 101, volume 2, on pages 57-60

The Seven Heroes are also described in Taiwan 101, volume 2, on pages 57-60

Flowing westwards down from the mighty central mountains towards Taichung city and the coast, the Dajia River (one of Taiwan’s major waterways) cuts a magnificent gorge through the foothills of the Snow Mountain Range, threaded by highway eight (the Central Cross-island Highway). Before part of the road was severely damaged during the great 921 Earthquake in 1999, the highway connected Taichung with Hualien on the east coast, climbing over the Snow and Central Mountain Ranges. Once one of Taiwan’s best road trips, part of the western half of the highway remains closed in early 2016, although there are persistent rumors that the road may eventually reopen.

Until that day, heading eastwards from Dongshih (東勢), just east of Taichung city, highway eight can be followed for only about 35 kilometers, till just after the hot spring resort village of Guguan (谷關), beyond which a roadblock bars further progress. It’s a very scenic drive out there, however, and Guguan itself (apart from the charms of its hot spring resorts and hot spring park) has a magnificent setting, deep in the Dajia River gorge. Continue reading

Taiwan 101: The books are out!

volume 1

volume 2

WARNING: This blog entry includes an image of a bawdy traditional folk belief which might offend some readers!

After three years of writing, and a gaggle of delays and headaches, my latest (and probably last!) books are out. They finally emerged at the end of May, just a week before I jetted off for my summer holidays (which themselves didn’t turn out anything like I had planned, although that’s another story completely…).

Anyway I think Taiwan 101 is my best work (although I suppose I would say that), and I certainly learned more about the history and culture of this wonderful island than while writing anything else about it.

I’ll keep this brief, since I’ve got to get back to regular blogging, so if you’ve bought a copy, thanks, and of not, buy them! They’re available in Eslite and Caves books around Taiwan, and I can send them by mail if you don’t mind paying the postage.




Salt fields in Tainan City, a reminder of an ancient industry that's been practiced in today's ROC for eight centuries

Salt fields in Tainan City, a reminder of an ancient industry that’s been practiced in today’s ROC for eight centuries

Memorial at Checheng, Pingtung County, one of several places in the area associated with the Mudan Incident of 1871, one of the key defining incidents in Taiwan's history

Memorial at Checheng, Pingtung County, one of several places in the area associated with the Mudan Incident of 1871, one of the key defining incidents in Taiwan’s history

Here’s the advertising blag (and I’ve scattered a few photos around to keep things colorful too…):

Taiwan 101: Essential Sights, Hikes and Experiences on Ilha Formosa  

Taiwan is a perfect illustration of the saying that good things come in small packages. In comparison with more popular tourist destinations in the Far East, Taiwan is very modest in size, but despite its diminutive scale, the island has an astonishing amount to offer the curious explorer.

The boat burning ceremony at Donggang, Pingtung County...

The boat burning ceremony at Donggang, Pingtung County…

...and Yanshui Beehive Firework Festival, two of Taiwan's amazing, unique traditional festivals

…and Yanshui Beehive Firework Festival, two of Taiwan’s amazing, unique traditional festivals

The two volumes that make up Taiwan 101 are the perfect guide for exploring the very best of Taiwan: not only the island’s finest hikes, but also its best historic towns and cities, brightest traditional festivals, unique Chinese and aboriginal cultural riches, and its little-known natural wonders such as eternal flames, mud volcanoes and badlands.


The huge Lulin Tree in Chiayi County is ranked only fifth in Taiwan, meaning that there are at least four larger on the island, while other bigger ones could exist. [There have recently been reports that a tree has been found that might now be the largest in Taiwan]

More giants, and the outrageous phalli spaced around Man Rock in Taitung County, one of the more unusual sights of folkloristic Taiwan!

More giants, and the outrageous phalli, placed at intervals around the Man Rock in Taitung County, one of Taiwan’s more unusual sights!

Together, Taiwan 101 Volumes 1 and 2 present Taiwan’s finest attractions to anyone who wishes to get to know this island of kaleidoscopic charms, and comes with detailed information on getting around by public transport, and accurate GPS coordinates of nearly 800 fascinating places.

The Crescent Pillar at Taitung City, part of a huge prehistoric site that includes the largest known prehistoric graveyard in the Pacific Rim area

The Crescent Pillar at Taitung City, part of a huge prehistoric site that includes the largest known prehistoric graveyard in the Pacific Rim area

Liukou Hot Spring, one of many wild, untapped hot springs that can still be found around the island.

Liukou Hot Spring, one of many wild, untapped hot springs that can still be found around the island.


Taiwan 101: Part 6. Offshore Islands

My latest book, Taiwan 101: Essential Sights, Hikes and Experiences on Ilha Formosa, will be published in May (in two volumes), and the photos in the following six blog entries describe just some of the hundreds of places and events that appear in the book’s 101 chapters. After this main part, a substantial section at the end of volume two gives a run-down of Taiwan’s aboriginal tribes, the island’s listed historic relics, its National Parks, National Scenic Areas and National Forest Recreation Areas  etc. and there are tables with info on the complete Top One Hundred Peaks and the Little Top Hundred Peaks. About 800 GPS coordinates pinpoint the locations of all the main places described in the book, and there’s info on car and scooter hire from various cities around the island, and bus/train access, where available. It’s been the hardest of all my books to put together, but immense fun, and during these several years of selecting which places to include, re-visiting many favorite places and visiting many new ones for the first time has only reinforced what an incredibly dynamic, diverse, and outrageously beautiful place Taiwan is!  


Swallow-tail-roofed house on Kinmen

Temple at Qinbi, Beigan island, Matsu

Temple at Qinbi, Beigan island, Matsu

The Old Man Rock, Lanyu

The Old Man Rock, Lanyu

Rock formation on remote Hua Island, Penghu

Rock formation on remote Hua Island, Penghu

Continue reading

Taiwan 101: Part 5. The South

The endemic Formosan macaque at Shoushan, Kaohsiung City

The endemic Formosan macaque at Shoushan, Kaohsiung City

The Boat Burning Festival at Donggang, Pingtung County

The Boat Burning Festival at Donggang, Pingtung County

Titantic Rock, Chiayi County

Titantic Rock, Chiayi County

Sperm Whale skeleton, Taijiang National Park

Sperm Whale skeleton, Taijiang National Park

Southern Taiwan has some of the most interesting aboriginal culture on the main island, with atmospheric (and often remote ) villages of Paiwan and Rukai stone houses, and several of Taiwan’s most memorable traditional festivities, including the insane Yanshui Beehive Fireworks Festival, surely one of the most intense traditional annual participation events anywhere in the world.

For lovers of natural beauty, Chiayi County is unsurpassed. The crowds all flock to Alishan, but the best places in the area are Continue reading