The Wonderful Waterfalls of Puli, Nantou County

Shuishang Waterfall

Shuishang Waterfall


Zhongkang Waterfall

Zhongkeng Waterfall




Despite the fact that many locals have a certain affection for the place (which I actually share, since I lived there for 18 months in the early 1990s, just after arriving in Taiwan) the town of Puli, sitting at the geographical center of Taiwan, is a pretty nondescript kind of place, indistinguishable from many other provincial towns around the island. However what richly merits a visit to the town is its marvelous surroundings. There’s enough exploration and even adventure to be had around here to keep the most avid explorer busy for a week or more, from easy family friendly strolls (Guanyin Waterfall) to day-long adventures into surprisingly remote places (the tricky-to-reach Shicheng Gorge (石城谷). Even today I’m still finding new places (such as the wonderful Zhongkang Waterfall, which I discovered just two weeks ago!), so it doesn’t look as if the area has revealed all its secrets even now. Anyway, the subject at hand is waterfalls, so here’s a quick run-down of (most) of the waterfalls in the Puli area. And since these don’t appear in my new book (due out early next year), I’ve added basic getting-there info for each, too! Continue reading

Jiufenershan: A sobering reminder of the Power of the 921 Earthquake

The famous collapsed temple at Jiji, near the epicentre of the quake

The famous collapsed temple at Jiji, near the epicentre of the quake

The Grand Canyon at Zuolan

The Grand Canyon at Zhuolan

The Slanting House at Jiufenershan

The sloping house at Jiufenershan


Photo in the 921 Earthquake Museum of Taiwan, showing tea fields on the line of the Chelongpu Fault, which ruptured during the eartlquake

Photo in the 921 Earthquake Museum of Taiwan, showing tea fields on the line of the Chelongpu Fault, which ruptured during the eartlquake

At 1:47 am on September 21st, 1999, the most powerful earthquake to hit Taiwan in over a century (measuring 7.3 on the Richter scale) struck the center of the island, killing 2,415 people. Over 11,000 were seriously injured, and damage to property (many of the buildings that fell were shoddily constructed or designed to inadequate safety standards) was estimated at NT$300 billion.

The quake has become part of the national conscience (most people still usually refer to it as simply “921”, after the date on which it struck) and although the island has well and truly moved on, plenty of memories of that awful night remain to this day. Like Jiufenershan, a place guaranteed to bring home the primeval power of the catastrophe. Continue reading

Twenty Favorite Taiwan Waterfalls

The Golden Grotto in Hualien County

The Golden Grotto in Hualien County

The YUanuang Waterfall on the Xiaonianxi in Kaohsiung County

The Yuanyang Waterfall on the Xiaonian Stream in Kaohsiung County

Longgong Waterfall, Chiayi County

Longgong Waterfall, Chiayi County

Taiwan is paradise for a waterfall lover like myself. It’s a bit of a joke among friends and family, but I’ve loved these things since I was a kid and used to scan guidebooks back home in England, reading about stunning cascades with rich and evocative-sounding names such as Cauldron Snout, Pistyll Rhaeadr, Falls of Glomach and Sgwd y Eira. When I finally passed my driving test (em…on the fourth try…) and got my first car, a Datsun Violet, there was no stopping me  – in a series of weekend trips and longer holidays I started methodically touring first Wales and then England, exploring all those waterfalls I’d read and dreamt about in books. Within a year or two the interest had become almost an obsession, resulting in me writing a book (sadly never published) covering the complete waterfalls of England (totalling some 370… named examples).

It would probably be near-impossible to see all the waterfalls in Taiwan even if I made it my full-time job, since they are just too numerous and many are simply very remote or otherwise difficult to reach, so it’s just as well I’ve at least partly grown out of my youthful obsession. Waterfalls are still an irresistible magnet  however, and I’m never happier on a hike then when it includes at least one (but preferably more than one) waterfall. Continue reading

A Few Photos

Husband and Wife Trees, New Central Cross-island Highway

Husband and Wife
Trees, New Central Cross-island Highway

Maliguang Waterfall, Hsinchu Conty

Maliguang Waterfall, Hsinchu Conty

Above the aboriginal village of Laiji, Chiayi County

Above the aboriginal village of Laiji, Chiayi County

It’s been so long since I’ve been hiking that I’ve started putting on weight and seem to be entering a mild depression.  The plum rains seem – hopefully – to be loosening their grip on the island and there are hopes that we might have a good weekend exploring coming up (our last attempt, a scooter trip around the mountains of Chiayi three weeks ago turned into a soggy disaster). Meanwhile, partly as a little self therapy, and to replace my last, angry, post from top position where its been for the last couple of weeks, here’s a couple of photos from recent and not-so-recent trips around the main island of Taiwan. Thanks to Oksana for the ancient tree photo – much better than any of the ones I took myself!


On the road up to Luchang, an aboriginal village in magnificent countryside in Miaoli County

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Taiwan’s Bat Caves

Yuemei Cave, above Wudu, near Keelung

The routes to Ruifang, Nuandong Gorge and White Horse General Caves are described on pages 67, 45 and 197)

The routes to Ruifang, Nuandong Gorge and White Horse General Caves are described on pages 67, 45 and 197)

Until my right little finger finally heals, and allows me to practice piano for more than fifteen minutes

The way to Sanmin,  Guanyin, Quhu Immortals, and Sun Moon Caves are described on pages 69, 70, 21 and 171.

The way to Sanmin, Guanyin, Quhu Immortals, and Sun Moon Caves are described on pages 69, 70, 21 and 171.

without swelling up (and God knows when that will be!) I seem destined to releasing my emotional energies on as many long hikes as I can, and on reliving various recent and long-passed adventures on this blog. At least this gives me the chance to look out and arrange some of the huge backlog of photos from trips around the island that are presently slowing down my computer….

My return visit to Huangdidian Bat Cave the other week has set me thinking about Taiwan’s  many other caverns. I’m no geologist, but Taiwan’s geological makeup doesn’t lend it to the formation of deep caves – there’s very little limestone here!  (Now my home country England – that’s a different matter – check out this Titanic cave, discovered only in the year 2000!)  Even Wikipedia, rather embarrassingly, has only one entry on its ‘Caves of Taiwan’ page – the well-known Baxien Caves on the coast of southeastern Taidong County.  Actually there are loads of ‘caves’ on the island, and although most are little more than impressive, wind-eroded overhangs in rock faces, Taiwan has a number of true caverns as well.

Sanmin Bat Cave, the largest of its kind in northern Taiwan

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Hohuan North and West Peaks (合歡山西/北峰)

Hohuanshan North Peak puts on a spectacular show each May as the rhododendron bushes studding the mountainside come into bloom

Hohuanshan, straddling the Nantou-Hualien County boundary in the center of Taiwan, is the most accessible slice of high mountain magnificence in the whole of Taiwan.  And high it is – Wuling (武嶺), the highest point of the road (route 14, which connects the town of Puli in the south with the Central Cross-island Highway at Dayuling in the north) is 3,275 meters above sea level, making it the highest road in Taiwan, and one of the highest in northeast Asia.

Near the North Peak

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Taiwan’s Top Ten Day Trips

I’ve just written this piece for a Korean magazine, and while most of the places here have already been put on the Blog, it’s probably worth putting the whole thing up here  – Taiwan really is an extraordinary place!

This list is only a start, and on another day I might have come up with a completely different ‘top 10,’ but these are wonderful places, and all are great personal favorites. I’ve uploaded new photos and expanded the write-up on the spectacular Taiji Canyon, which is not covered elsewhere here.


The secret’s finally out: more and more tourists are discovering that Taiwan is an island of quite extraordinary natural beauty. But whatever you do, don’t limit yourself to the big tourist draw cards such as Sun Moon Lake, Alishan and Kenting. The island’s popular sights are great of course, but be sure to make time for at least a couple of the countless little-known gems that lie scattered around the island and on the outlying islets.

There are enough enchanting spots to keep a weekend explorer going for decades, and any ‘top ten’ list is bound to be highly subjective, but here’s a personal list of ten places – all feasible day trips from one or other of the island’s big cities – that may well prove to leave more lasting memories than lying on the beach in Kenting or zooming through Taroko Gorge in a bus.

1.  Loyal Son Mountain and

2. Sandiaoling Waterfall Walk, Taipei County

Descending Loving Mother Mountain

See pages 172-177 and 138-143 for detailed descriptions of how to get to both places.

See pages 172-177 and 138-143 for detailed descriptions of how to get to both places.

The 12 kilometer-long Pingxi Branch Railway Line, an hour’s ride from Taipei city center, is one of the most beautiful train rides in northern Taiwan, but the real attraction of coming here is the host of natural and cultural attractions easily accessible from the tracks. The area is dotted with atmospheric reminders of the area’s coal mining past, and the valley (which boasts the wettest place in Taiwan) features well over twenty waterfalls. The most famous (and touristy) of these is forty meter-broad Shifen Waterfall (十分瀑布), the widest waterfall in Taiwan, but waterfall lovers can’t do better than take the stunningly scenic, 3-hour Sandiaoling Waterfall (三貂嶺瀑布) Walk nearby. Named for an impressive 30-meter high fall which plunges over a huge overhang behind which hikers can stand, the walk also features a further two beautiful waterfalls, and several exciting but safe climbs up cliff faces on chunky rope ladders.

Niya Waterfall, on the Sandiaoling Waterfall Walk

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Mounts Junda and Xiluanda

The summit of Mount Junda

Yushan (Jade Mountain) is not only the highest summit in northeast Asia, but also forms the high point of its own mini-mountain range. Yep, Yushan is officially (and I suppose there’s geological evidence to support this) the smallest of central Taiwan’s three big mountain ranges, boasting eleven peaks on the ‘to do’ list of any budding Taiwan peak-bagger.  Continue reading

Badlands Country

Between Caoshan and Tianliao, in Tainan County

Apart from some magnificent temples, the occasional fine old town, and a scattering of miscellaneous minor sights, the flat plains and rolling foothills that run down Taiwan’s western coastal strip is generally a zone to pass through quickly, rather than stop and explore, but in northern Kaohsiung and southern Tainan counties, the otherwise monotonous and unremarkable landscape is punctuated by a quite remarkable series of bizarre landforms, known collectively by the Taiwanese as ‘moon world’ (月世界). Continue reading

Mount Chilai (奇萊山)

One of Taiwan’s more notorious high mountains, reams have been written about ‘black’ Chilai and it’s been a goal of mine to climb it for myself for many years. About a decade ago, during my first spate of high mountain climbs, I did almost tackle it with a local hiking club, but I came down with a nasty cold two days before the off and missed the trip.

The problem with Mount Chilai (or Qilai) is probably less due to the actual dangers of climbing it (although the North Peak does have a few dicey moments!) than with the experience (or lack of) among the people who used to climb it. Continue reading