Fenghuanggu Bird Aviary, Nantou

Nantou’s national bird aviary is one of those places that has its moments but overall is a little disappointing.  It’s located in a stunningly beautiful area in the Nantou mountains but many of the buildings are an eyesore.  They have assembled a beautiful collection of birds but some of the habitats are small and inadequate.  They have built a nice trail to a waterfall but it’s only viewable from a distance.   Overall the aviary has huge potential but it needs to feel less like a subpar zoo and more like a natural habitat for the birds.  They are located in an outstanding area for natural habitats.

Cassowaries greet visitors at the main parking lot.  They are one of the largest birds in the world similar in size to the ostrich and emu.  They have a reputation for being dangerous but there is only one recorded death.  Never the less they look unfriendly.

There are dozens of friendlier macaws in one of the first exhibits.

A blue crowned pigeon in one of the nicer habitats.  The pigeon habitat is larger and visitors are able to walk through the habitat.

A Golden Pheasant in the second walk through habitat.

A small bee that was more interesting than most of the bird habitats.

Another flower on the walk

The Stork Center at Fenghuang is quite different than the rest of the aviary.  It’s a spectacular and new building with some well done displays.  There didn’t seem to be any storks but they have an impressive habitat at the back of the building.  This building gives an idea of the type of potential that Fenghuang Aviary has.

Two years ago I visited the aviary but the waterfall was still inaccessible.  Considerable effort has been expended to reopen a trail back to the waterfall and it is now finished.  It’s a short easy hike but you are not allowed to travel to the base of the waterfall.

Directions to Fenghuang Waterfall from my waterfall website

Yuanyang Waterfall 鴛鴦瀑布 in Laiyi, Taiwan

It’s been three years since I tried to find this waterfall.  At the time the area was still recovering from the devastating Typhoon Morakot 2 years earlier (2009).  Many aboriginal villages throughout Taiwan had been devastated by the storm that killed over 600 people.  The river in one Laiyi aboriginal village rose so much that approximately half of the houses were destroyed by the flowing water.  In addition nearly all of the major bridges were washed away cutting villages off for weeks and months.  It would take years to rebuild all of the bridges.  Some places are still rebuilding five years later.

But this trip was different.  The bridges and roads have been rebuilt and once again we can access the area.  Laiyi is similar to the Wutai area with waterfalls cascading out of the cliffs at nearly every turn.  Our goal however was to hike back to Yuanyang Waterfall and see the two waterfalls converge within a couple of meters from each other.

A photo from 2011 showing the village with half washed away houses that are now buried in a protective dike.  We didn’t have time to visit this time but it would be interesting to see if the houses remain.  I cannot imagine how difficult it would be to have a daily reminder of the damage.  For more photos here is a link to my old trip.

Asher leads the way since he visited here this summer.

One of the water crossings and a side valley on the way to the waterfall.  It was shortly after this that we saw 3-4 Formosan Serow but I wasn’t able to get a photo fast enough.

Yuanyang Waterfall.  The waterfall on the right cascades down the cliff several hundred meters while the waterfall on the left is a small drop in the main river valley.

Directions to Yuanyang Waterfall can be found on my waterfall website.

Yilin Waterfall is next to the road and you can quickly stop there on the way to Yuanyang Waterfall.  This is the 4th tier which is a little tricky to reach but gives you access to a private swimming pool.  That’s one of the benefits of the extra work required to reach it.

The second tier shows how the waterfall has shifted over time with a variety of ladders and stairs that are now in the waterfall.

The first tier of Yilin Waterfall

If there’s water then Asher will playing in it.  The locals enjoyed his show.

Directions to Yilin Waterfall can be found on my waterfall website.

Tsengwen Reservoir and Waterfalls

We have been incredibly fortunate this year to have multiple 3 day holiday weekends.  This doesn’t happen every year since some holidays are based on lunar cycles and others are date specific.   The challenge every 3 day weekend is finding awesome places to go that aren’t completely overrun by others also taking advantage of the 3 day holiday weekends.  This weekend we chose Tsengwen Reservoir in Tainan/Chaiyi county and were able to avoid most of the weekend crowd.  Tsengwen Reservoir is Taiwan’s largest reservoir but we were focused on the 15-20 waterfalls that show up on maps surrounding the reservoir.  We haven’t found all of them yet but we found 5 last weekend.

Tsengwen Reservoir on a hazy day from the spaceship looking observation deck

Two years ago this observation deck had been built but looked abandoned.  Since then they have built up the tacky touristy attractions in the recreation area and there is now a cafe in the observation deck.

Our target the 1st day was Feiyun Waterfall on the west side of the reservoir.  We explored several roads but we only had a general idea of where it was and where we were and we couldn’t find it.  Obviously I didn’t take this photo of myself.  Asher Leiss took it as I rode up a mountain in a fruitless search.

We did find Shuiliandong Waterfall just off of the road near Tsengwen Dam.  I was quite surprised to find this perfect grotto for swimming and it is still a little hot here so we went swimming.

Directions to Shuiliandong Waterfall (click here).

One great thing they have done with Tsengwen Reservoir Recreation Area is setup a large and free (with paid entry 100/50NT) camping area near the south entrance.

Landslides are a constant issues on mountain roads and the workers are reinforcing the hillside with concrete to prevent road closures.

We observed a target from across the valley and concocted a plan on how to get there.  We weren’t able to go here this time but we found this stream with several waterfalls above it.

Asher is scouting a potential trail to our waterfall target.

After a 2km roadwalk uphill through a betelnut farm the road became an overgrown trail.  We weren’t going to turn around at point.

First we heard the water and then we were rewarded with an amazing swimming hole and waterfall.

Directions to Caoshan Stream Waterfalls (click here).

There are numerous waterfalls upstream and downstream but climbing equipment is needed.

Rolling hills on the walk back to our motorcycles.

We quickly stopped at Chingyun Waterfall on our way to our campsite.  Chingyun is a very popular swimming hole near Dapu.

Directions to Chingyun Waterfall click here.

Our campsite is the island in the foreground right on Tsengwen Reservoir.

A morning guest at our campsite.

There were also 10-20 powered paragliders flying over the reservoir.

Just by chance Ken Nelson (Asher’s friend) was flying that day and took a photo of our campsite.  We are on the little island in middle right of the photo.  We are still there but we look pretty small from way up there.


We talked to Ken Nelson for awhile and I took this video of another paraglider taking off.

This was the start to our hike on our third day.  On the other side of these seven sturdy pieces of bamboo is a water lover’s playground.  It’s not for those scared of heights though.

There is no way to access the area without going over the bridge.

There are many interesting pockmarks caused by water erosion.

And there is of course Chinglong Waterfall (Green Dragon).  Twice this weekend we had an idea of where to go looking for waterfalls but we were very surprised to actually find such amazing places.  We aren’t so lucky other weekends.

Directions to Chinglong Waterfall (click here).

We visited one last roadside waterfall on our way back to Kaohsiung.

Directions to this waterfall are available in my waterfall guide (click here).

The Kaohsiung Skyline

The overwhelming reason that I chose my apartment was the view of Kaohsiung.  I am very happy with the rest of my apartment but I still love the view.  I have a completely unblocked 180 degree view with the Pingdong mountains to the east, the 85 building to the south and Monkey Mountain to the west.  During the summer the air pollution (it’s bad) blows away and there are spectacular views of the city.  The only bad thing is that I typically am teaching during the evening and miss the sunset.  Here are the views from various times during the summer.

Sunrise to the east

The eastern view in the late afternoon

The blue hour

A common view to the south

Another common view to the south.

Kaohsiung gets 2 meters of rain each year.  Almost all of the rain falls between May-September.  The remainder of the year is a drought.

I think this is the only rainbow that I remember during my 5 years in Taiwan


Sadly summer is ending and the air pollution will return stealing the sunsets.

Lost in the rain in Majia ( 瑪家)

I have known about this waterfall for 2 years and lately a friend has been teasing me with pics from his frequent trips back there.  I decided that I was going for a long motorcycle ride and check this one off of my long to do list.  Majia is a stunningly beautiful and mostly unknown mountain village near Sandimen.  Despite its enormous size Shalawan Waterfall rarely shows up on maps and I didn’t notice any signs for it.  I was even looking for the Chinese but I could have missed one.  There were about a dozen roadside waterfalls that were the location of many Moon Festival barbeques.

Sometimes I have problems finding stuff in the mountains since the roads rarely have names or numbers and signs are rarely in English.  Sometimes they don’t even have signs in Chinese.   I’m also a man which prevents me from asking for directions.  I went to the end of the three main roads that I found past Majia and Shalawan Waterfall eluded me this time.  At the end of one of the roads I found an interesting aboriginal slate house.  At the end of another I found a great hiking trail and the other ended at a great mountaintop camping spot.  It turns out that the slate house was pretty much the trailhead for Shalawan Waterfall so at least I know where I need to return to next time.

The most impressive of the road side waterfalls.

One of the ends that I explored was the Zhenlishan trail.  It doesn’t summit a great peak but in the rain today it was a stunning trail to hike.

That dark cloud basically summarizes my day in the mountains.  It rained and then it stopped.  And then it rained and then it rained until I reached the sunny

parts of the flat plain.  This was quite refreshing after a hot, humid summer though.

The trail was a pleasure to hike even in the rain.

I have always enjoyed walking in clouds.

It really was an easy trail to walk.

It was just one of those days.

Looking north towards Wutai before more rain came down.

todays rainfallI’m pretty sure that I was inside of one of the those red dots in southern Taiwan this afternoon.


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