Taiwan 101: Part 1. The North

The Candleholder Rocks, Jinshan

The Candleholder Rocks, Jinshan, New Taipei City

Disused logging railway tracks at Taipingshan, Yilan County

Disused logging railway tracks at Taipingshan, Yilan County

The Buddha's Tongue, Stegosaurus Ridge, New Taipei City

The Buddha’s Tongue, Stegosaurus Ridge, New Taipei City

Cave of Foreign Words, Keelung

Cave of Foreign Words, Keelung

I’ve started exploring new places again, and should start getting back to regular blog posts in the next couple of week. Meanwhile, I thought I’d make a few posts giving a short overview (in photos) of my latest book, Taiwan 101, which aims to show the incredible variety of sights around Taiwan (and the ROC-controlled islands). It really is an amazing place, and I’ve come to realize this even more during the several years I’ve spent researching and writing the new books (there are two volumes), during which I’ve seen loads of places, attended a number of amazing festivals, and done quite a few things that I’ve never done here before. Hopefully I’ll get out six posts, one for each of the six main sections into which the two volumes of the book are dvivided.


First up: the north: Taipei, New Taipei City, Taoyuan City, Keelung City and Yilan County. Here’s a taste of the many, many places to 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

Mount Beichatian and White Veil Waterfall: Northern Taiwan at its Wildest

White Veil Waterfall (thanks to Nick E for the photo)

White Veil Waterfall (thanks to Nick E for the photo)

The Hewei Tree

The Hewei Tree

One of the many crude ladders on the final push to the summit of Mount Beichatian

One of the many crude ladders on the final push to the summit of Mount Beichatian

escape2 cover

The walk (including the trail to White Veil Waterfall) is described on pages 194-201).

Mount Beichatian (北插天山: 1,727 meters) is such a popular challenge hike (it’s the highest peak that can reasonably climbed as a day trip from Taipei) that I (and I’m sure many other weary, muddy hikers) fail to appreciate just how beautiful it is while panting up its steep, seemingly never-ending ridge. Good weather does of course make a great difference, so that’s probably why my third trip there, on a weekend in mid October that turned out unexpectedly nice, was the first time that I really noticed its extraordinary scenic merits.

The first time I climbed the mountain was as a day trip, coming in and out from Manyueyuan, near Sansia in Taipei County, and although we made it up and back in daylight, my main memory of that climb was how damned muddy the final section to the summit was. It was nearly a decade later when I climbed it again, 2 years ago (in 2011), with a group of Taipei Hikers. This time the trails were very much better, with wooden boardwalks in places on the trail up to the campsite, and log ladders up the steepest muddiest parts of the summit trail. For this trip we decided to split the trip into two days, camping the night in the idyllic wooded ‘spring’ (水源) campsite on the shoulder of the mountain, which worked great, because it gave us time to explore the nearby Yunei Stream Ancient Tree Grove on the second day before heading down. Continue reading

Hike, this weekend (April 16th)

This hike is described on pages 202-207.

This hike is described on pages 202-207.

Late notice, I’m afraid (juggling loads of balls at the moment, with a small recital coming up, the book in layout and proof at the same time and a big summer trip in the intensive planning stage besides all the usual distractions and work), but this Saturday we’re off to Datieliao Old Trail in Taoyuan County (I know the TAS Spring Fair is on the same day, but Sunday the weather is due to change for the worse).

Datieliao is a really lovely walk and not hard by our usual standards. It’s also a very good first step for those who are comfortable in walking ‘ordinary’ dirt trails and want to try a hike with a few easy rocky pitches. Continue reading

Hiking Plans for the the Year of the Rabbit

Statuary at Panther Mountain, Four Beasts Mountains, Taipei City

Just two weeks back from England, and I’ve been hiking five days a week (before class, all-day at the weekends) trying to get these darned books completed. Nearly there, with just eight hikes to go.

The Wind Moving Boulder at Xiaowulai

   The weather didn’t cooperate the two weekends I was back for organising a group hike, but I’ve saved four great hikes for  definite group outings in February and March, so hope some of you can make them! I’m off to the airport in, er, two hours to fly to Bangkok en route to the mystical kingdom of Bhutan (yeeeeh!) for a couple of weeks , but will be back mid February, ready for at least four more hikes in Taiwan.

Dragon Phoenix Waterfall, Xiaowulai

Meanwhile, here are just a couple of the places I’ve been visiting (all in the new books, so buy them if you wanna go too!!) this last two busy, busy weeks.

Church at Sanmin

Temple rock carving between Elephant and Panther Mountains, Four Beasts Mountains, Taipei City

Above Silver Stream Cave, Xindian

Fuxing Suspension Bridge, North Cross-island Highway

Xiaowulai Waterfall (incidentally the same waterfall that appears on the cover of Taipei Day Trips book 2)

Statues in the cliff face below Panther Mountain, Four Beasts Mountains, Taipei City

Doll Valley Waterfall, Neidong Forest, Wulai

The ‘Little White House’, Danshui

Gorge between Wulai and Neidong

Luofu Bridge, North Cross-island Highway

Hikes this weekend: November 27th – 28th

Summit of White Rock Mountain

I despair at getting any more hiking done on the northeast coast area before Christmas! Last weekend’s ‘long’ hike turned into a wet couple of hours scrambling through the mud, and we gave up after the Stone Bamboo Shoot. I really cracked that day, and so to ease my frazzled nerves, I’m planning to ignore the area altogether for the next few weeks  unless the weather forecast is looking really good.   Continue reading