The Golden Grotto: spectacular chasms, stone-throwing monkeys and, blue, blue water

The spectacular waterfall at the highest accessible point of the Golden Canyon

The Golden Canyon of Sanjhan has long been on my ‘to do’ list, but for all kinds of reasons I never made it to this spectacular place on Taiwan’s east coast until this hot, sunny May Day weekend.  Now I’ve been I don’t think I’m up to going through all that again, but wow! it’s a truly amazing place….   Continue reading

Caves, Waterfalls and Archeological Sites: Guanyin Mountain’s little-known curiosities

Guanyin Mountain summit from Mount Jhan

Guanyin Mountain is a familiar sight to anyone who’s taken the MRT from Taipei to Danshui as the shapely, many-peaked mountain rising across the broad waters of the Danshui River estuary. It also makes for some great hiking, commanding one of the Taipei area’s most magnificent views from the top if you’re lucky enough to get a clear day.  I generally avoid the popular ‘tourist’ route up the mountain from the showpiece Lingyun Temple in favor of a less well-known but more interesting (and demanding!) route from the front (river) side of the mountain, via the satellite peak of Mt. Jhan (占山).


   Taking this route also has the advantage of passing close to one of the peak’s most intriguing yet little-known landforms, Chauyin (‘tidal sound’) Cave, a very narrow box canyon rather than a real cave, housing  a tiny shrine and, at the end, a small waterfall. Continue reading

Yuemeikang Waterfall

The way to Yuemeikang Waterfall is described on pages 222-227; for Wufengchi Waterfall, see pages 218-219.

The way to Yuemeikang Waterfall is described on pages 222-227; for Wufengchi Waterfall, see pages 218-219.

It’s still early (not even 9 am) when we arrive, yet the car park at the entrance to Wufengchi Waterfalls (五峰旗瀑布) is packed with cars this fine Saturday morning in June, and we’re forced to find an empty roadside place to leave the car. Continue reading

Zhongliao and the Chessboard Rock


Tucked away in a corner of Nantou County well away from Sun Moon Lake, Sitou and the other major tourist attractions of the area, Zhongliao (中寮) village receives few outsiders, except those passing through on the way to the nearby resort town of Jiji. Hidden in the steep valleys to the east of town, however, are a number of interesting natural curiosities that make this an excellent half-day stop on any tour of Nantou. The individual sights may be interesting rather than spectacular, but they are unusual, and exploring the area of small, narrow roads which cross this rural, quiet part of Taiwan’s center is a joy in itself. Continue reading

The Amazing Water Curtain Cave of Ping Lai Stream


As a kid growing up in England I never dreamed I’d end up living in the Far East. In fact I don’t think I ever even thought, as a youth, of visiting the mysterious Orient; poring over books describing the wonders of England and Wales (especially the mountains, waterfalls, lonely moors and (for some reason), prehistoric stone circles of the far-away north provided more than enough to set the imagination of this pre-teenager racing. About the full extent of my exposure to Chinese culture (apart from a tablecloth mum embroidered using the ‘willow pattern’ design she’d traced off a plate) was watching ‘Monkey’ on TV. In those days I had no idea that the series was based on a Chinese classic (Journey to the West), and the mad antics of Monkey, Pigsy and Sandy (quite unlike anything else on TV in the UK at that time) made a bigger impression than the fabulous scenery of the locations, so it was only after my hastily planned arrival in Taiwan in 1993 that I learnt that crazy TV series was based on a great work of art. In the novel, the Water Curtain Cave is the home of the monkey king, Sun Wukong, and this wonderfully evocative name has been adopted at some of the island’s most enchanting waterfalls.  ‘Water Curtain Caves’ can be found in Taoyuan, Chiayi, Yunlin, and Hualian counties, but perhaps the most beautiful (and certainly the most mysterious) lies in the hills below the resort of Sitou in the central county of Nantou.  Although not far, as the crow Continue reading