Yaletown Bistro

I first tried Yaletown Bistro’s (耶魯小鎮 ) fries at the Kaohsiung International Food Festival several years ago. The fries are fresh cut and can be ordered with several different seasonings or sauces (called loaded fries). One thing that sets them apart from most of the expat owned restaurants is that their food is a little healthier. In addition to the fresh cut fries they also have paninis, sandwiches, salads and two new savory rice dishes. I usually order the lemonade (made from squeezed lemons instead of concentrate) but they also have smoothies.

The loaded fries (butter chicken pictured above) are a good option for those that want something more than a snack and less than a big meal.

Kevin and his wife opened Yaletown 4 years ago and it is located between MEGA/FE21 and the 85 Building. They chose the name Yaletown as part of Kevin’s Canadian roots. Yaletown is a trendy Vancouver neighborhood that is known for its nice restaurants. It might be a good idea to use their online reservation system (on their FB page) if you are coming during the peak meal times. There is a parking lot next to MEGA and several private garages in the alley that offer parking (30 TWD/scooter).

The Porchetta Rice is a new addition to their menu. The pesto dribbled on the pork porchetta was a perfect touch.

Location – No. 26-3, Xīnguāng Rd (next to the Family Mart and one block west of FE21)

Prices – 150 to 250 TWD although fries (more of an appetizer) are cheaper

Hours – 11:30 to 8:30 (or 9 Sat/Sun) – closed on Tuesdays

Contact info – 073341257 or 0973013900 – yaletownbistro@gmail.com – Yaletown FB


Previous Local Spotlights

ZZyZx Restaurant and Bar

Beast Bar and Grill

303 Kitchen and Bar

Legend’s Lunchcart

Truman’s Motorcycle Repair

Teresa’s Restaurant

Lighthouse Bar and Grill

Namasia’s Fireflies

Fireflies were part of every summer growing up as a child in Minnesota. Last year someone mentioned firefly season and I realized that I hadn’t seen fireflies for 10 or 20 years. Or that most of my students probably had never seen fireflies. Here is some great information on fireflies in Taiwan from Travelking.

I did a little research and found that there are many great spots to find fireflies in Taiwan but the closest to Kaohsiung is Namasia. I have visited Namasia a few times and in my opinion it is like Maolin or Wutai except there aren’t nearly as many tourists nor has it been developed like those villages. I plan on taking a couple more trips to Namasia this year and eventually I will write a full guide like I did for Maolin and Duona.

The best time to see the fireflies is just after sunset and in March and April. We apparently showed up during a firefly festival and there were busloads of tourists everywhere but that didn’t affect anything (other than eating at a restaurant). We viewed the fireflies on the private property of a friend but there are many places to see them. The most important thing is that it needs to be a light free area.

Taking photos of the fireflies will be difficult. The above photo is a single shot taken on a tripod with a 40mm lens (cropped DSLR). I found the best results to be done at the largest aperture (f2.8 in this case), high iso (12,800) and a long shutter speed (30 seconds). The 30 second shutter speed means that one firefly shows up many times since they light up every couple of seconds. If I go back I will take my 50mm f1.7 lens and experiment with light painting some of the surroundings to create a forest scene.  Here is an article from a fellow (and much more experienced) waterfall guide writer about photographing fireflies.

For now here is a brief overview of Namasia

Xiaolin Memorial

88 Waterfall

Yudashan short hike – potential sunrise spot

Many aboriginal restaurants – recommendation – look for the archer shooting the sun (on the signboard)

Longfeng Waterfall (found on Google Maps) was completely destroyed during Typhoon Morakot – I also haven’t found any other waterfalls yet

Holy Mount Zion

Valas Guesthouse and Campground

Sanmin Fire – probably still there  – It is an eternal flame fueled by some sort of gas vent.

This is an account of Namasia (including Longfeng Waterfall) from before Typhoon Morakot.

Here is another overview of Namasia from before Typhoon Morakot.

I am sure that I am missing many things but there isn’t a lot of English information about Namasia available.  Do you know about any other places in Namasia?  Are there any other blog accounts (in English) that you like about Namasia?

Explore Taiwan – Maolin and Duona

Maolin was the first area that I explored on motorcycle when I moved to Taiwan 6 years ago. I knew about Typhoon Morakot but I had no idea just how severe it was or how much things had changed. I moved to Taiwan months after Typhoon Morakot but I didn’t know just how devastating it was for many of the aboriginal villages in southern Taiwan. Almost every bridge was taken out in Namasia, the entire Southern Cross Island Highway (parts still closed), Maolin and Wutai (among other places). In addition to that villages were washed away (mostly evacuated) and one village was completely buried (Xiaolin – not evacuated).  Altogether over 600 people likely died and the rebuilding continues today.

Duona was just a dreary ghost town with a couple of basic convenience stores selling snacks on my first visit. Fast forward a couple of years and Duona’s main street is packed with busloads of tourists on weekends and a dozen of stylish restaurants and businesses lining the main street. I have seen the reconstruction of numerous bridges on my various trips. Many of the trails to the sights below have been built in the last 3-4 years and they are so much easier to access.  Things have changed so much for the area and I love going back every time.

My goal is to explore every hidden corner of Taiwan and there will no doubt be even more spectacular places but Maolin will always be a special place because it is where the exploration started. It is also a pretty awesome place with many things to do.

Are there any places that I have left out?  What are your favorite places in Maolin and Duona?  

  1. Maolin is best known for its purple butterflies. There are many places in the world where butterfly migrations pass through yearly but there are only two (known) overwintering valleys in the world. One is in Mexico and the other is in Maolin, Taiwan. The numbers of butterflies have declined but with a little luck you can find swarms of butterflies along the Zishalishi Butterfly Trail in Maolin Village. Before hiking the trail there is a visitor center which explains the significance of the butterfly migration.

Click for directions to Maolin’s Purple Butterfly Valley

2. Lover’s Gorge Waterfall is the most popular of the waterfalls near Maolin and it is one of the best swimming spots in Taiwan. Two bridges (pedestrian and vehicular) to the waterfall have been built since Typhoon Morakot devastated the area in 2009. The rebuilt trail (2014 or 2015) starts at a parking lot waterfall and it is now an easy walk to the 2nd tier (and best tier) of the waterfall.

Click for directions to Lover’s Gorge Waterfall

3. After Typhoon Morakot, Douna Suspension Bridge was the only bridge that wasn’t destroyed. For awhile it provided the only permanent connection to Duona Village at the end of road 132. Today most traffic goes over a new bridge but tourists can still visit the 103 meter tall bridge (tallest in Taiwan) and hike out to nearby Longtoushan (Dragon Head Mountain).

Click for directions to Duona Suspension Bridge

4. Longtoushan and Shetoushan are pair of interesting case studies into Taiwan’s fascination of naming rocks and hills after animals that they vaguely resemble. In this case these are actually pretty cool.

Longtoushan (Dragon Head Mountain)

Shetoushan (Snake Head Mountain)

View the full blog post from one of my first trips to Maolin

5. I was originally told that Meiya Waterfall was broken up by several different sources but broken up seemed like a strange description and I was determined to investigate as far as I could. I was initially turned away by an impending rainstorm but the following year I walked up the creek to find Meiya Waterfall. The trail is completely destroyed though and visitors will have to pick their way through a rock field in the creek. There are rumors about a new trail being built but so far the project hasn’t started. Hopefully they don’t remove the best Chinglish sign ever.

6. I found Deengorge Guesthouse completely by accident 5 years ago. I was exploring Maolin a year or two after Typhoon Morakot and went down a random road ending up at the guesthouse on a Sunday evening. They were as surprised to see me as I was to see them since very few tourists came to Maolin after the big typhoon and even fewer ventured as far as Deengorge. We chatted for awhile and this has become my favorite campground in Taiwan. One of my favorite memories is the guesthouse owner looking at all of the frogs in the middle of the night because he heard an unusual croak that sounded different than the 12 species that are usually present.

Click for directions to Deengorge Guesthouse

7.  On my first or second trip to Deengorge I asked about the name of the waterfall near the guesthouse and they said it doesn’t have a name and it is only used for drinking water. I might have been the first person that was ever interested in that little waterfall but it is a nice two tier waterfall right next to the road and I have thus named it Deengorge Waterfall.

Click for directions to Deengorge Waterfall

8. I first attempted to go to Maolin Waterfall in 2012 and was told that it was an easy hike. Instead I found bridges lying in the creek and no trail so I improvised and walked up the creek (a lot of fun). Ultimately I was blocked by a small waterfall and wasn’t able to get to Maolin Waterfall. I still put it up on the guide but later I started getting comments about not having to walk in the creek and pictures of a completely different waterfall from confused hikers. In 2014 the government built a beautiful trail (27M TWD) back to Maolin Waterfall. This has become one of my favorite waterfalls in Taiwan.

Click for directions to Maolin Waterfall

9. On one of my trips to Deengorge I was told about the Tapakadrawane Festival happening that night in Duona. Tapakadrawane is a harvest festival that ironically is held at almost the same time as American Thanksgiving. Many groups participated in a talent show but the highlight of the evening was a ceremony similar to homecoming king and queen. About a dozen young men and a dozen young women performed and gave speeches in hopes of winning.

View the full blog post

10. Guifu Canyon is one of the rarest places that I have visited in Taiwan. Downstream and upstream the creek is a fairly typical green valley filled with river rock but for a short stretch it becomes a narrow slot canyon with steep walls and a waterfall drops into it from a sidestream. The end is blocked by a 2nd shorter waterfall. Trips need a little luck to be successful. If it has rained heavily recently then you won’t be able to enter the canyon and the waterfall dries up during the winter.

Click for directions to Guifu Waterfall

11. Weiliaoshan is at the entrance of Maolin Valley and it is a challenging but excellent dayhike. The trail follows the ridgeline on the Kaohsiung and Pingtung county line rising 1275 meters in 8.5 km.  The last 3 km are particularly steep and rocky.

Click here for directions to Weiliaoshan

12. I haven’t hiked the Liugui Special Garrison Trail yet but Tyler has provided excellent details on a lost and overgrown section of the trail in his new blog. The Liugui Special Garrison Trail is a 50 kilometer route along a ridgeline all the way from Dajin to Baolai. The trail was built by the Japanese and had a police station every kilometer. Now the police stations are just piles of rocks and only sections of the trail are walkable. Tyler plans on blogging about these sections next on his blog.  You can follow his blog at tylercottenie.wordpress.com.

Note – I wouldn’t recommend walking the section that Tyler did in his blog but the other sections look very interesting.

Click to view the full blog post

13.  There are three waterfalls located just outside Maolin Valley that can be a fun side trip. Dajin Waterfall is very popular on weekends and goes up (and then down) over 800 stairs. Dazhi Waterfall is a decent waterfall but it goes dry early in the season (read between the lines here – it is one of my least favorites). My recommendation would be Hulugu (Calabash or Gourd Valley) Waterfall for a cool little area to explore or relax.

14.  One area that I would like to explore further is an overgrown trail at Meiya Waterfall. The sign is now obscured and unreadable but it mentioned an old aboriginal village somewhere up the hill. It is also possible that this trail leads up to an overlook for Meiya Waterfall.

15. I don’t know anything about Wanshan Petroglyphs but I have been told that it is strictly off limits unless you arrange a local guide (no idea how to arrange a guide though). This is on my secondary (or tertiary) to do list. I have so many other trips planned in Taiwan before I figure out how to go back there.

16. There is a small waterfall and hot spring up one of the river valleys but I lost the blog link to it. Based on memory this required an overnight camping trip (maybe 15 km each way).

17. I definitely need to add more info on things to do in Duona and Maolin Villages. There are numerous cool spots (including UBAKE art space) and we have eaten some amazing food. We enjoyed the meal below from the Diplomatic (?) Restaurant near the main intersection in Maolin. We also ate roasted chicken in Duona and the food at Deengorge (a large set meal) was delicious. One local specialty is xiaomijiu (millet wine). On two separate occasions this led to disasters though so be prepared for the bottles to explode (when opening). I don’t even want to write about the other disaster.  It was awful.

18. And just so people are clear – Duona Hot Springs are completely buried by 10+ meters of rock (Typhoon Morakot). Perhaps they will excavate this in the future but I have not heard of any plans to do so.  There might be plans to setup a hot spring at a different location but I don’t know any details about it.

Are there any places that I have left out?  What are your favorite places in Maolin and Duona?  

Local Spotlight – ZZyZx Restaurant and Bar

After working in the guitar industry for a couple of decades in Los Angeles, Steve Tsai moved back to Taiwan and has entered the restaurant business with a trendy spot near Old Hanshin Mall.  Steve merged his passion of guitars and has an entire wall built out of over 300 guitar bodies.  In addition to that Steve’s musical background is obvious with the rest of memorabilia and the music. He is also set up for live music and check his Facebook page for any upcoming gigs at ZZyZx.

The name ZZyZx is actually an interesting story and is tied back to Steve’s California roots.  Here is a great version of the story.

Part of the ZZyZx team (Steve, Albis and Chris)

Steve opened ZZyZx in late November and recently brought Chris (formerly of The Eatery) in to set up the kitchen.  Since closing The Eatery, Chris has been working for a high end kitchen supply company (www.jendeindustries.com).  Chris gave me a tour of the kitchen and their setup is really impressive (although I know nothing about the restaurant business).  The menu consists of burgers, pasta and a few main dishes starting at 250 TWD and a large selection of drinks.

This bunless burger was excellent.

Location – No. 234 Chenggong 1st Rd., Kaohsiung, Taiwan 80249 (next to Bottom’s Up)

Prices – 250 to 400 TWD for most meals

Hours – 6pm-2:30am (or later)

Contact – Facebook Page and phone (07 269 3438)

Previous Local Spotlights

Beast Bar and Grill

303 Kitchen and Bar

Legend’s Lunchcart

Truman’s Motorcycle Repair

Teresa’s Restaurant

Lighthouse Bar and Grill

Thanksgiving in Taiwan 2015 and a waterfall

All over the world people love to celebrate foreign holidays simply for the fun of it (and an excuse to drink beer).  Taiwanese put on impressive Christmas and New Year’s celebrations despite Chinese New Year falling one month later.  Thanksgiving though is largely celebrated only by small groups  (including the Canadian Thanksgiving in October).  We are actually quite lucky that several of the expat run restaurants serve a Thanksgiving meal.  I was luckier and through the connectivity of Facebook (friends and groups) I was invited out to an amazing Thanksgiving meal at a mountain lodge in the furthest reaches of Kaohsiung.

Not your usual Thanksgiving dinner.

Croc and Janna prepared a massive feast.

Yes, that is a huge traditional turkey (from Costco) and it was juicy and delicious.

Croc and Janna live in an amazing home in Laonong, Kaohsiung, Taiwan.  They operate it as a part time B&B and someday I will add it to the waterfall guide as a lodging option in the area.  You will need to prebook because they host groups and they also travel a lot.

One bonus of having Thanksgiving in the mountains is the exploring that can be done after the festivities are finished.  This is the the Laonong River Valley from Shaonianshi (near Baolai Hot Springs).

Pretty much everything at Shaonianshi was destroyed during Typhoon Morakot 6 years ago.  There used to a famous hot spring and a 2nd waterfall downstream but now both are buried under meters of rock.  There was even a really long suspension bridge over the Laonong River taking you right to the hot spring.  Now the area is only accessible by rarely traveled backroads.  It is possible to get a motorcycle up on this bridge.  Just saying…

But Changlong Waterfall is still amazing.  It takes a little more effort to reach but you will likely be alone.

Directions and info for Changlong Waterfall

Local Spotlight – Beast Bar and Grill

BEAST Bar and Grill is another western style restaurant that has opened this year in Kaohsiung.  This stylish restaurant was opened in July 2015 by a German and Taiwanese partnership and is the second restaurant operated by them.  They also run Belfort Bistro (pasta) in the Love River/Wufu Road area.

Almost immediately I heard a couple of comments from friends about a new burger place.  It seems to have started out as a burger and sandwich focused bar and grill but they have added a few excellent Mexican dishes (quesadillas, burritos and tacos) and several main courses.  A friend has commented several times that each of the fixings on the burger are in perfect proportion and complement each other very well.

The Veghammer is a falafel patty that has gotten good reviews from vegetarians.  Large groups can reserve a room upstairs and the complete menu is posted in the photos on their facebook page.

The quesadillas

This is the bacon cheeseburger but I would recommend the Farmer Pete Burger.  Why wouldn’t a fried egg on top of a burger taste excellent?

Contact – Facebook – 07-2865137 or 0905193723

Prices – burgers, sandwiches and Mexican food 200-300 TWD – main courses 400-600 TWD

Hours – 11:30-2:30 and 5:30-midnight (1am on Friday and Saturday) – closed on Tuesdays

Location – 118-1 Liuhe 2nd Street – 前金區六合二路118-1號 – It is about 5 minute walk from Liuhe Night Market.

Previous Local Spotlights

303 Kitchen and Bar

Legend’s Lunchcart

Truman’s Motorcycle Repair

Teresa’s Restaurant

Lighthouse Bar and Grill

Photo of the week #57 – 6 years in Taiwan

I have already been in Taiwan twice as long as I planned and I will probably stay here at least twice as long as I already have been.  Taiwan might not be perfect but it is an easy life and there are a lot of great places to explore.  This photo was taken on Banpingshan (click for directions).

I have a lot of exciting plans in the works for the next couple of years.  Some things will change while others will merely be tweaked but there will be more waterfalls, more hikes, more summits and more countries.

Local Spotlight – The 303 Kitchen and Bar

A pair of Coloradans met in Kaohsiung five years ago and struck up a friendship.  Five years later (August 2015) they opened a new restaurant based on their Colorado roots (the 303 area code).  It is a sharp looking establishment located around the corner from The Lighthouse Bar and Grill.  Leewei (on the left) recently moved back to Kaohsiung permanently.  Brandon (not pictured) formerly ran The Bayou and has re-entered the restaurant business.  They are using a few items from the Bayou’s menu (like the pizza) but overall it is a new menu.  There is a nice variety of popular western dishes and a large range of appetizers.

The 303 features a nice patio which would be an excellent place for drinks after work.  Leeway was especially proud of carrying a pair Brooklyn Brewery selections (Lager and East IPA).  Peter (on the right) agreed that they were excellent.  During October they are serving Samuel Adams Octoberfest along with several other beers.  They also have a dozen or so mixed drinks to pick from.

Yes, I eat my burger like a steak.

Follow them on Facebook – The-303 Kitchen and Bar

Prices – meals are mostly in the 200-350NT range

Hours – 6pm to 11pm

Location – Anji St # 422 安吉街 #422, Kaohsiung, Taiwan – near Fuguo Rd and Yucheng Rd – a 5-10 minute walk from Kaohsiung Arena MRT (R14)

Previous Local Spotlights

Legend’s Lunchcart

Truman Motorcycle Repair

Teresa’s Restaurant

Lighthouse Bar and Grill

Local Spotlight – Lighthouse Bar and Grill

The Lighthouse Bar and Grill is one of Kaohsiung’s most popular western restaurants.  This is THE PLACE in Kaohsiung to watch soccer (I’m American and I call it soccer).  Brett grew up playing soccer but he has become a passionate fan after moving overseas.  If there is an important game there is a good chance that it will be on at the Lighthouse.  When soccer isn’t on they have several different sports playing on TV’s all over the bar.

The drink selection is impressive but the menu has almost everything that you might be craving from home.  I frequently stop at a few restaurants after hiking trips and the ribs at Lighthouse really hit the spot after a long weekend in the mountains.  Several times I have taken out of town or out of country guests to the Lighthouse and they cannot believe how many different options there are on the menu.  The menu includes (forgetting a few things): most bar appetizers, burgers, sandwiches, pizza, Mexican food (tacos and quesadillas), pasta, steaks, ribs and a full Chinese food menu.  All of the food is excellent.

I had ribs while my friend had a pulled pork sandwich.  Large mojitos were one of their summer drink specials and they were awesome.

You can follow their FB page for the latest specials and game schedule (Lighthouse FB).  You should expect it to be busy on the weekends but they have a lot of seating and can usually find you a place.  They have a great staff and the food comes surprisingly quick considering how complex the menu is and how busy they are.

Location: 239 Fuguo Road – It is a 5-10 minute walk from the Kaohsiung Arena MRT station (R14)

Hours – 5:30pm until really late

Previous Local Spotlights

Legend’s Lunchcart

Truman Motorcycle Repair

Teresa’s Restaurant

Banpingshan, Taiwan

Click for directions to the Banpingshan guide

Kaohsiung’s Shoushan National Park is much more than just Monkey Mountain but many forget about the other parts of the National Park.  Banpingshan is located between the Lotus Pond, the HSR station and World Games Stadium.  Embarrassingly I didn’t hike here until this spring because Monkey Mountain is just a couple of minutes from my apartment.  I will travel all over Taiwan and East Asia looking for new hikes but for some reason 20 minutes within Kaohsiung was too far.

My initial hike on Banpingshan was less than spectacular.  Banpingshan was heavily mined for cement and lime for over a century.  During this time the height of the mountain was reduced by 53 meters to its current height of 170 meters.  (gov’t source)  Michael Turton wrote an excellent blog with old photos about the history of the cement operations earlier this year so I won’t rehash that.  Read Michael’s piece here.

My first trip to Banpingshan was rather boring as I hiked up the stairs to the main mining road to the main observation point and back down the mining road past the old quarry on the eastern side of the mountain.  The southeastern portions of Banpingshan were most heavily affected by the mining and I almost entirely walked through that area.  The next time however I hiked along some trails about halfway up the western slope (near pt 2 on the map) and the trees and rock formations match or exceed the best on Monkey Mountain.

Fascinating trees and rocks can be found all over Taiwan but one of the highlights is a completely intact military bunker at the northeastern end of Banpingshan.  The bunker is likely from the post WWII militarization of Taiwan by the KMT as defense against a possible PRC (China) invasion although it could have been made by the Japanese during WWII.  The bunker has 4 exits, 2 tunnels, 1 connecting tunnel and 5 small rooms.  The longest tunnel is 50 meters long and about 1.6 meters tall.  It is made of concrete and is very safe from cave ins.

The Nanzih factory region.  Down there somewhere is Oil Refinery Elementary School.  Such a homey name.

One of the five interior rooms.  Maybe 2 meters wide by 3 meters deep by 1.5 meters tall.

Banpingshan overlooks World Games Stadium and the Straits of Taiwan.  Further north of this is the Nanzih factory zone.

Click for directions to Banpingshan