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Most normal people wouldn’t step off of an 11 hour flight from Asia and stop for a waterfall hike on the way home but I (and my sister and brother-in-law who were on the same flight) am not normal. We landed early in the afternoon and one of the most important things (in my experience) to get over jetlag quickly is to stay up until 9pm the first night no matter how tired you are. The short hike to Hidden Falls (#1 on this list below) was perfect. It wasn’t very difficult but we stayed active and jet lag was minimal for the trip.

My trip started at my father’s farm near Conger, Minnesota before spending a few days in the Twin Cities and finishing up on Minnesota’s North Shore. I had taken many trips to the BWCA as a child but other than Gooseberry Falls we didn’t stop at many of the waterfalls along Hwy 61. I am still surprised at how many and how big the waterfalls are up there but those will be shown in part 2 (3 parts) of this blog series. Other than Minnehaha Falls (not really southern Minnesota…) I had no idea that any waterfalls existed in southern Minnesota. Here are the five waterfalls that I visited in southern Minnesota.

  1. Hidden Falls at Nerstrand Big Woods State – Northfield, MN

Hidden Falls in Big Woods State Park was the biggest surprise for me on this list. The Minnesota and Mississippi river valleys have some hills so waterfalls aren’t a complete surprise but southcentral Minnesota is as flat as a pancake. Hidden Falls is only 8-10 feet tall but it is a broad fall and is very impressive after recent rains. It is only a short hike to the waterfall but there are 11 miles of hiking trails at Big Woods State Park for those wanting to stretch their legs a little more.

Click here for directions to Hidden Falls

2. Minnehaha Falls – Minneapolis, MN

Minnehaha Falls is Minnesota’s most popular waterfall since it is located in the center of Minneapolis. It will be crowded on weekends but the park is a lovely area to spend an afternoon in.

Click here for directions to Minnehaha Falls

3. Minneopa Falls at Minneopa State Park – Mankato, MN

Minneopa Falls was an unexpected surprise fairly close to my hometown. I had taken many trips to Mankato and even lived there for a month as a child (Vikings training camp was awesome) but Minneopa Falls wasn’t on my waterfall radar until I started planning my trip home. My expectations for Minneopa Falls were modest but we were pleasantly surprised by a beautiful 40 foot waterfall that nearly matches the more famous Minnehaha Falls.

In addition to the waterfall you can also visit a bison conservation area at Minneopa State Park. We saw about 8 bison in a meadow near Seppmann Mill. Only cars (DO NOT GET OUT) are allowed into the conservation area but there is a walking trail on the other side of the enclosure where you might have a better chance of seeing them.

Click here for directions to Minneopa Falls

4. Minnemishinona Falls – Mankato, MN

Until recently Minnemishinona Falls was on private property but Nicollet County took advantage of an opportunity and acquired the land. The waterfall and the overhanging cliff are pretty cool but I really wanted to be at the bottom of the waterfall instead of on the bridge. They only acquired 3 acres of land and the rest is private property. Please respect the neighbor’s land.

Click here for directions to Minnemishinona Falls

5. Vermillion Falls – Hastings, MN

Vermillion Falls is part of Hastings history with one its mills located right next to it. There is a nice park and a few miles of trails next to the river to explore within the town of Hastings.

Click here for directions to Vermillion Falls

These are certainly not all of southern Minnesota’s waterfalls but these are the ones that I visited during my trip home in June 2016. Hopefully I will visit a few more waterfalls on my next trip home. Do you have any favorites that aren’t on list that I must visit next time? Remember that this is only part 1 of my trip home. I still have another blog of waterfalls along the North Shore to write. That entire area is beautiful and we only visited a small part of it on this trip.

I would like to give a special thanks to Lisa Crayford’s ‘Waterfalls of Minnesota’ guidebook (connect with her on her waterfall FB page). She has directions to over 100 waterfalls in her book (just released in May 2016). I really enjoy taking waterfall photos and I love her technical perfection that she shows in the book. I have been given a few new ideas for tricky to photograph waterfalls.

Sandiaoling Waterfall Trail is one of the best waterfall hikes in Taiwan. Not only are there 3 great waterfalls on this trail but there almost another 10 nearby waterfalls that can be combined as part of your dayhike. Typically most people start their hike at Sandiaoling Train Station and end it at Shifen Waterfall but I have suggested a different and in my opinion better route in my waterfall guide. Shifen Waterfall looks great in photos but it is filled with mobs of people and the entire area is concreted. The other problem is that if you end your Sandiaoling hike at Shifen then you have to walk through a railway tunnel. I have done this before and it kind of freaked me out (no trains came). It is also very illegal to walk through the tunnels although many do.

Directions for Sandiaoling Waterfall Trail on my guide

Instead I recommend that hikers start at Dahua Train Station. If you have time you can take a short walk down the tracks and view the Dahua Potholes (photo above) at the exit to Yerengu (Wildman Valley). Yerengu was a famous attraction with 4-5 waterfalls until a typhoon wiped it out over a decade ago. I would love it if they were able to open the area up again someday

The red bridge crosses the Keelung River just downstream of Shifen Waterfall and can be reached from Dahua Train Station. This bridge and trail used to connect to Yerengu but now it is the longer version of the Sandiaoling Waterfall Trail.

After the red bridge you ascend almost 1/2 km up what I call ‘The Stairs of Death’. These kind of stairs covered in moss are found all over Taiwan and are probably one of the most dangerous parts of hiking here. I strongly prefer walking up stairs like this instead of down. At least they have installed a railing for part of the route now.

 

After hiking up ‘The Stairs of Death’ you come to the large parking for Yerengu. The gates are locked but you can access a small Tudigong Shrine with a view of Xinliao Waterfall.

The next part of the hike is a mix of roadwalking and small trails until you get near Pipadong Waterfall. You can easily make a few wrong turns between Yerengu and Pipadong Waterfall but hopefully my waterfall guide is clear enough to follow.

Directions for Sandiaoling Waterfall Trail on my guide

Before reaching Pipadong Waterfall you will have to climb down a ladder similar to this one. This ladder was between Pipadong and Motian Waterfall and has been replaced with a metal staircase. I don’t think it would be fun in the rain but it looks scarier than it actually is to use.

Pipadong is the first waterfall that you will reach if you start at Dahua Train Station. The water falls over an impressive overhang and there is a small pool below. The water isn’t very deep but this is probably the best swimming opportunity although there are some nice pools downstream of Motian Waterfall.

At Pipidong Waterfall you can see potholes being hollowed out. The rocks are stuck in the holes and during heavier rains they move around in the hole. These potholes are everywhere in the Pingxi area.

The rope-log ladder might have been replaced by metal stairs as shown below but that doesn’t mean that it is an easy trail between the two waterfalls though. Overall it isn’t that difficult but some might be comfortable hiking here. The trail from Sandiaoling Train Station to Motian Waterfall is quite easy to hike and doesn’t involve any ropes or ladder climbing. That is an excellent option for those that are less confident in these situations.

Motian Waterfall is frequently called Sandiaoling Waterfall but there actually isn’t a Sandiaoling Waterfall. The trail is named after a local village and the 3 waterfalls have different names.

At Motian Waterfall you can hike in a small cleft in the rock wall behind the waterfall. Here is a rare photo of me.

There are two cool rope bridges pass over small streams near Hegu Waterfall.

There might be some old trails that lead to the top of Hegu Waterfall but most only see the waterfall from the viewing platform. One improvement is that your view isn’t as obstructed as much at the viewing platform as before and you can see most of the lower tier at Hegu Waterfall.

My version of the hike ends at Sandiaoling Village although for most it starts there. The old school has been turned into a small museum. There are bathrooms at the school and some snack and drink vendors are now in Sandiaoling on the weekends. Don’t expect much but several years ago there was nothing to buy in the village.

Directions for Sandiaoling Waterfall Trail on my guide

It isn't easy to reach Shimenggu (Taiwan) but you will be rewarded with a waterfall, giant cypress trees, a 500+ meter deep valley, a mossy forest, little pools in the creek and a great trail.

Shimenggu (Stone Dream Valley) is located in one of the most remote parts of Chaiyi County in Taiwan.  Shimenggu itself is a series of strange pools but the hiking trail is absolutely amazing with several different amazing sights.  At the beginning of the trail there is a suspension bridge that links to an alternate entrance to Shuiyang Lake (blog) (and another Shuiyang blog) and some stands of enormous bamboo while walking up a valley of 500+ meter walls.  After a hard ascent (300 meters in 1+km) you reach the perfect mountain garden.  This garden used to be the home to a nice elderly couple that we met in 2013 and they operated a part time B&B.  Since then they have moved away but their garden is still perfect.

The trail is nice before the garden but the best places are the furthest away.  I had hiked part of the trail 3 years earlier with Richard Saunders (Richard’s blog from that trip) but I stopped at the garden to rest because I had a 5 hour motorcycle ride home that day.  Richard and several other hikers came back gushing with how great it was.  It took me 3 years to return but I finally found out how great the rest of the trail is.

Directions to Shimenggu and Qingrengu can be found on my waterfall guide

Near the end of the trail is a loop that we hiked the loop clockwise.  The waterfall was much larger than expected and is one of my favorites in Taiwan.  Just above the waterfall are some great pools for summer swimming.  The hike becomes very steep after this going past a grove of ancient trees that remind me of Jianxibao.  Sadly most of the trees have been illegally logged.  Immediately afterward it changes to a damp forest with green moss hanging from the trees like it was part of the Lord of the Ring set.  Finally we arrived at Shimenggu.  Shimenggu is a series of bizarre pools in a stream that runs down a large piece of rock.  The hike is difficult but not impossible and it will take most of the day.

It isn't easy to reach Shimenggu but you will be rewarded with a waterfall, giant cypress trees, a 500+ meter valley, a mossy forest, little pools in the creek and a great trail.

Looking up the main valley from the suspension bridge.  The suspension bridge leads to an alternate route to Shuiyang Lake.  We have looked a couple of times and the route to Dadianyu Waterfall seems to be blocked by a giant boulder.  According to some hikers it takes 4 hours to reach 1000 person cave and an additional 2 hours to reach Shuiyang Lake.  The trail was in much better shape on my 2016 trip though.  In 2013 we couldn’t find anything that looked like a trail but now it seems to be in decent shape although it is a very steep climb out of the valley.

The cables across the valley are for a small cable car that was used by the family to transport their personal items up the mountain.  The path shown leads to the small waterfall.  Instead the trail climbs 500 meters in 2 kms to the top of the cables.

It isn't easy to reach Shimenggu (Taiwan) but you will be rewarded with a waterfall, giant cypress trees, a 500+ meter deep valley, a mossy forest, little pools in the creek, a bamboo forest and a great trail.

Huge bamboo flanks parts of the first half of the trail.

It isn't easy to reach Shimenggu (Taiwan) but you will be rewarded with a waterfall, giant cypress trees, a 500+ meter deep valley, a mossy forest, little pools in the creek, a bamboo forest and a great trail.

There is a fair amount of stinging nettles at the beginning of the trail and much more of it on the other side of the suspension bridge (a side trip and not the way to Shimenggu).  It isn’t serious if you touch it but it is VERY annoying.

It isn't easy to reach Shimenggu (Taiwan) but you will be rewarded with a waterfall, giant cypress trees, a 500+ meter deep valley, a mossy forest, little pools in the creek, a bamboo forest and a great trail.

The flower garden that was part of a beautiful home and part time B&B.  We met the owners 3 years ago but they have since moved away (likely into the village).  The garden is stunningly beautiful and you walk through a tunnel of rhododendrons, cherry blossoms and other flowers.

It isn't easy to reach Shimenggu (Taiwan) but you will be rewarded with a waterfall, giant cypress trees, a 500+ meter deep valley, a mossy forest, little pools in the creek, a bamboo forest and a great trail.

This rather bizarre rock is right next to the trail.  I have no idea what caused this.

It isn't easy to reach Shimenggu (Taiwan) but you will be rewarded with a waterfall, giant cypress trees, a 500+ meter deep valley, a mossy forest, little pools in the creek, a bamboo forest and a great trail.

Qingrengu was just the first spectacular sight of many near the end of the hike.  The cave behind it is accessible and actually had an old stone wall built in it.  This one will definitely be on my favorite waterfall list whenever I publish it.

Directions to Shimenggu and Qingrengu can be found on my waterfall guide

It isn't easy to reach Shimenggu (Taiwan) but you will be rewarded with a waterfall, giant cypress trees, a 500+ meter deep valley, a mossy forest, little pools in the creek, a bamboo forest and a great trail.

Directly above Qingrengu Waterfall are some perfect pools that would be awesome to swim in during the summer.  It is at 1500 meters of elevation so it might not be warm enough to swim even in early spring or late fall.

It isn't easy to reach Shimenggu (Taiwan) but you will be rewarded with a waterfall, giant cypress trees, a 500+ meter deep valley, a mossy forest, little pools in the creek, a bamboo forest and a great trail.

Asher (followxiaofei.com) stands directly on top of Qingrengu Waterfall.

It isn't easy to reach Shimenggu (Taiwan) but you will be rewarded with a waterfall, giant cypress trees, a 500+ meter deep valley, a mossy forest, little pools in the creek, a bamboo forest and a great trail.

The trail goes vertical again climbing 200 meters in the next kilometer.  This giant cypress tree is right next to the trail and is sadly one of the last ones in this area.  There is access to an impressive valley here that I will explore next time.  It looked like there was a nice waterfall and some vertical cliff walls.

It isn't easy to reach Shimenggu (Taiwan) but you will be rewarded with a waterfall, giant cypress trees, a 500+ meter deep valley, a mossy forest, little pools in the creek, a bamboo forest and a great trail.

Illegal logging has taken its toll on the giant cypress trees.  There were several recently logged trees and we only saw one giant cypress and several other much smaller ones.  I cannot imagine how difficult it would be to carry the entire tree (chopped up) out by hand.  And they would probably have to work at night.  This is a fairly difficult hike with a daypack.

It isn't easy to reach Shimenggu (Taiwan) but you will be rewarded with a waterfall, giant cypress trees, a 500+ meter deep valley, a mossy forest, little pools in the creek, a bamboo forest and a great trail.

At the highest elevations the trail becomes a lush green paradise.

It isn't easy to reach Shimenggu (Taiwan) but you will be rewarded with a waterfall, giant cypress trees, a 500+ meter deep valley, a mossy forest, little pools in the creek, a bamboo forest and a great trail.

One of the more creative parts of the trail.  I am guessing that this type of construction is no longer allowed to preserve the larger trees in this forest.

It isn't easy to reach Shimenggu (Taiwan) but you will be rewarded with a waterfall, giant cypress trees, a 500+ meter deep valley, a mossy forest, little pools in the creek, a bamboo forest and a great trail.

This part of the hike was probably my favorite.  It occurs at the highest elevation on the trail (about 1700 meters) and almost the absolute farthest point of the trail.  It is definitely worth it to hike the entire trail even though is over 800 meters of elevation gain to reach this spot.

Shimenggu is a series of bizarre pools where the rock has worn away in deep pools that go straight down.  This hole was well over 1 meter across and 2-3 meters deep.  I think these would be good places to swim during the summer.  We didn’t have time to walk upstream from the trail but there is potentially something really cool up there.

It isn't easy to reach Shimenggu (Taiwan) but you will be rewarded with a waterfall, giant cypress trees, a 500+ meter deep valley, a mossy forest, little pools in the creek, a bamboo forest and a great trail.

The whole trail is nice but the best part is the loop at the end of the trail.  The bridge near the trailhead provides access to 1000 person cave (marked in Chinese in the top right of the map). It must be an exhausting hike since there are A LOT OF contour lines that it crosses. Shuiyang Lake is 2 hours past the cave.

It isn't easy to reach Shimenggu (Taiwan) but you will be rewarded with a waterfall, giant cypress trees, a 500+ meter deep valley, a mossy forest, little pools in the creek, a bamboo forest and a great trail.

The isn’t quite as long as shown due to the off trail exploring across the bridge and the long breaks at the break area and the waterfall.  Overall the trail is about 10 km long.

It isn't easy to reach Shimenggu (Taiwan) but you will be rewarded with a waterfall, giant cypress trees, a 500+ meter deep valley, a mossy forest, little pools in the creek, a bamboo forest and a great trail.

During Chinese New Year I traveled to North Sumatra for my second trip to Indonesia. Last June I traveled to Bali but avoided the popular beaches along the southern coast and instead spent my time exploring small roads. In Bali I found 14 waterfalls, visited 10 temples and climbed a volcano and loved it. This time I picked something a little more off of the beaten path although rural Bali is not at all like the touristy parts.  In Sumatra I only visited 6 waterfalls but they were some of the best ones in all of Indonesia.

See my previous post on Bali’s Waterfalls

Sipisopiso Waterfall was of course the first thing that I knew about North Sumatra but as I researched the area I found a lot of other great waterfalls. I found travel logistics difficult and a lot of the roads are in terrible shape but North Sumatra is full of cool places (if you can get to them). The food was good, the people were really nice, I felt safe (didn’t stay in Medan) and the natural beauty was incredible. My biggest complaint is a complete and total lack of garbage/recycling programs. There were a few collection areas in Berastagi but throughout the countryside people either pitched their garbage in road ditches or burned it on the side of the road. A few of the top sights were well developed for tourism but many sights required a lot of effort from tourists to get to. I have many places on my to do list that either would have taken too long to get to or the roads were in questionable shape. This area has a lot of potential though and I look forward to returning in a few years.

Here are a few basic travel observations for North Sumatra. Buses travel all over North Sumatra but are slow. Private cars and drivers are available for hire and can be arranged through your guesthouse. The driest season to travel to Sumatra is Dec to April but they still average 100+ mm’s of rain every month. It rained almost every day during my trip in February. Most guesthouses are private rooms with shared or private bathrooms. I saw a few large palm oil plantations in North Sumatra but I saw mostly vegetable and fruit farms. According to a local the big palm oil plantations are in the southern part of Sumatra. The National Parks have been a success but there are still problems with poaching and illegal logging but things seem to be improving.

I am hoping to travel to Lombok (hike Mt Rinjani and some waterfalls) in May but I am not sure which Indonesian region to travel after that (in 2017). Yogyakarta and Borobudur? Mt Bromo and Madakaripura Waterfall? Flores and Kelimutu? Something strange like Sulawesi? I have a year to think about another destination but does anyone have any advice for a waterfall focused trip?

1. Sipisopiso Waterfall was at least 90% of the reason that I chose to travel to North Sumatra this year. Not only is it over 100 meters high but it flows out of a cave near the top of the cliff. From the main viewpoint visitors are able to turn around and also see Lake Toba. Those wanting to get closer to the waterfall can descend over 600 stairs to the base of the waterfall. Of course they will have to walk back up all of those stairs.

Click for directions to Sipisopiso Waterfall

2. Pelaruga Waterfall was a nice waterfall but at some point a tree was washed downstream and ended up directly in the middle of the waterfall. It has been there so long that it is more commonly referred to as Tongkat (Bahasa for stick) Waterfall by everyone. It is an adventure to reach but it is definitely worth it.

Click for directions to Pelaruga Waterfall

3. We found Sidompak Waterfall completely by accident. We knew virtually nothing about Tongging Village other than it was right next to Sipisopiso Waterfall and Lake Toba. We found Tongging to be a stunningly beautiful village surrounded by fjord like valleys that taper off into Lake Toba. We called Tongging ‘A place that isn’t a place yet’ and expect this sleepy village to transform into a tourist town in the future. But we visited Tongging before that happened.

Just by chance we stayed at the Wisma Sibayak Guesthouse and they had photos of a nearby waterfall on their wall and it wasn’t Sipisopiso Waterfall. We asked about it and not surprisingly they offered to find us a guide to the waterfall. We discussed whether or not we actually needed a local guide and we were extremely glad that we chose to hire one. There isn’t a trail and it is really challenging to make it to the waterfall even though you know where the waterfall is. I love finding places like this where there is nearly no information available on the internet in any language.

Click for directions to Sidompak Waterfall

4. Sikulikap Waterfall is a thunderous waterfall near Berastagi. The best part is that it is really easy to reach using public transportation. The downside is that most of the hike follows the valley directly below the Penatapen Restaurants and it is difficult to escape the noise and trash from the restaurants.

Click for directions to Sikulikap Waterfall

5. Ponot Waterfall is Indonesia’s tallest waterfall at 250 meters and it impressively plunges over a cliff wall. I am not completely convinced it is a natural waterfall though. I think Ponot Waterfall is actually a diversion tunnel for the upstream Siguragura Dam. Siguragura Waterfall is officially considered as Indonesia’s tallest waterfall but I believe that it is permanently dry just downstream of the dam.

Click for directions to Ponot Waterfall

6. Dua Warna (Two Color) Waterfall is perhaps one of the most beautiful waterfalls that I have seen. It is only about 30-40 meters tall but it falls into a brilliant opaque blue pool that I haven’t seen before. Not only that but it is an outstanding hike through a beautiful forest and there is a second waterfall falling into the valley 30 meters away.

Click for directions to Dua Warna (Two Color) Waterfall

Other waterfalls that showed up in my research and are on my list for my next trip to North Sumatra. This page (in Bahasa) is a great resource for all of the sights in North Sumatra.

Lae Mbilulu Waterfall

Lae Une Waterfall

Tonduhan Waterfall

Pelangi Waterfall

Sampuren (Teroh Teroh) Waterfall

Bah Biak Waterfall

Lau Berte Waterfall 

Batu Lobang Waterfall

Nionggang Waterfall

Situmurun Waterfall

Tinggi Raja – not a waterfall but similar to Pammukale in Turkey

It wasn’t easy finding 10 different (and active) bloggers that have been to waterfalls in Taiwan that I haven’t been to.  This isn’t my full to do list for this year but these are 10 more great ones that I hope to add to my waterfall guide.  Some of these will be more of a challenge than others because of where they are located but this year I will be putting on a lot of kilometers in cars, motorcycles (bicycle?), trains, buses and maybe even a plane ride (Hualien?).

Check out my waterfall guide

One thing that I discovered while researching this blog is just how many excellent bloggers are covering Taiwan.  I follow a lot of bloggers in Taiwan (and everywhere) but there are still so many that haven’t shown up on my radar.  This is by no means a comprehensive list of bloggers but I would love to know some of your favorites.  I would really love to know of bloggers that have been to waterfalls that I haven’t been to yet.  You can check my site for all of the waterfalls that I have been to and I will include a list of some additional notable ones at the bottom of this post.  I am certain that there are some great bloggers that have been to waterfalls that I haven’t been to.

Check out previous great bloggers blogs

Great Bloggers – Waterfalls

Great Bloggers – Australia/NZ

Great Bloggers – Asia

None of the photos below are mine.  I contacted each blogger prior to blogging for permission to use a photo and link to their blog.  I encourage you to visit their sites to see more of their great work.

  1. Asher and I have been exploring southern Taiwan together for the last 2 years.  He has a little bit of a different style than I do and the only thing that will keep him out of the water are the recent cold temps.  This spectacular photo captured him jumping off of Lingjiao Waterfall in Pingxi a few months ago.  He has finally started blogging and has an excellent waterfall guide for Taiwan.  You can check it out at followxiaofei.com

Click here for directions to Lingjiao Waterfall

2. Emily has since left Taiwan and she is now blogging her adventures in Mexico.  At the time I wasn’t aware of Fenghuang Waterfall in Chaiyi but it has been on my to do list for almost one year.  It has been nicknamed 1000 step waterfall due to the many stairs that need to be walked down.  You can follow her travels at everythingisgolden.wordpress.com.

Click to view the blog post at her site

3. I loved my trip to Yilan last year (11/2014) and was able to add 5 great waterfalls to my site.  Houdongkeng Waterfall is another nice one that Thomas added to his blog.  Yilan is a bit tricky to travel to from Kaohsiung but it is pretty amazing and I should figure out how to make another trip up there.  You can follow his blog at randomibis.wordpress.com.

Click to view the full post at his site

4.  In all honesty very few serious hikers travel all the way to Wuling Farm just for Taoshan Waterfall.  There just happens to be a really nice waterfall on one of the best high mountain hikes in Taiwan.  The Wuling Sixiu is part of the Sheipa (Snow Mountain) National Park system and features 4 of Taiwan’s top 100 peaks.

Martin Rubli has an extensive list of highly detailed high mountain hikes on his site and is a great resource for those planning high mountain trips in Taiwan.  I have tentative plans to do this trip with Taiwan Adventures in April so hopefully I can check this waterfall (and the other 4 peaks) off of my list.  You can follow his site at rubli.info

Click to view the full post on his site

5.  Dajianshan is a nice hike with several waterfalls east of Taipei.  In addition to posting about Hidden Places in Taiwan, Tom is an outstanding artist that draws aerial views of cities.  You can follow him on FB (here) or on his site – overthecity.asia

Click to view the full post on his site

 6.  Fengmei Waterfall is at the very end of long road in Miaoli County.  I completely underestimated just how long it would take to get back there two years ago on a trip to Miaoli and Hsinchu.  I haven’t had a chance to return but will have to schedule another trip to Luzhang this summer.  A Conscious Venture went on a great river tracing trip back to the waterfall but there is also a 40 minute hiking trail back there.  You can follow her at aconsciousventure.com

Click to view the full post on her site

7. Richard Saunders is in the midst of publishing his 7th book (2 out of print) on travel in Taiwan.  One of his hobbies is finding hidden places and especially waterfalls.  Golden Grotto (not exactly unknown) is one of the top river traces in Taiwan and has been on my to do list for a couple of years.  Travel logistics (Kaohsiung to Hualien) have prevented me from making the trip but this year I will have Fridays off and it will be a lot easier.

Richard has been nearly everywhere in Taiwan and his blogs, guidebooks and group trips have been immensely valuable for my own adventures.  His FB hiking group (Taipei Hikers) has grown to over 3000 members with 10-15 hiking trips being led each month by a variety of great hike leaders.  It is free to participate in any of the hikes (space is limited on weekend hikes) and you can follow his blog at taiwandiscovery.wordpress.com

Click to view the full post on his site

8.  Yinhe Waterfall is a small waterfall that flows over a temple.  It is part of the Maokong region and can be accessed via the Maokong Gondola or by bus.  BikeHikeTaipei has been busy and has compiled an extensive list of hikes (and bikes) around the Taipei area.  You can follow his site at hikebiketaipei.wordpress.com

Click to view the full post on his site

9. Golden Waterfall is a popular oddity near Jiufen.  It is debatable whether or not the water is toxic but the color is due to a naturally occurring mineral.  I still wouldn’t drink the water but I have to visit sometime to see the vivid colors.  Catherine splits her year between several places and her blog is full of interesting places all over the globe.  Follow her at cattanblog.wordpress.com

Click to view the full post at her site

10.  Josh Ellis is one of the top photographer/bloggers that I follow.  He covers a broad range of topics in Taiwan but his specialty is the cultural side of Taiwan imo.  He does pretty well at waterfalls also though and has been many places that I haven’t yet.  I recommend checking out his Best of 2015 blog post to see his full array of work.

Manyueyuan (Full Moon) Forest Recreation Area has always been on my to do list (like many other places) but I so rarely take trips to northern Taiwan and I haven’t been there yet.  There are several waterfalls (as many as 10) located in the park or just outside the park and many hiking trails.  You can follow him at goteamjosh.com

Click to view the full post at his site

Some other notable waterfalls that I haven’t been to yet

Sandie Waterfall, Taipingshan, Yilan County (possibly inaccessible permanently)

Guanwu Waterfall, Hsinchu (closed for seemingly 5 of the last 6 years)

Butterfly Valley Waterfall, Taichung

Aohua Waterfall, Yilan County

Guanyin Waterfall, Chaiyi County

Wanan Waterfall, Pingtung County

Xiaobantian Waterfall, Nantou County

White Veil Waterfall, Taoyuan County

Silong Waterfall, New Taipei City

Shuiliandong, Caoling, Yunlin County

Longfeng and Changqing Waterfall, Yunlin County

Shimongu and Lover’s Glen Waterfall, Chaiyi County

 

My 2015 wasn’t just filled with waterfalls.  I visited Sabah and Sarawak, Malaysia (Borneo) in February and Bali in June in addition to dozens of trips around Taiwan.  Some of these places are well-known but some are well off of the beaten path.  They also show just how varied Taiwan and east Asia can be.  I have already mentioned my plans for next year in my waterfall recap but I expect to have an even better year next year.

My Top 10 Hikes and Places from 2015

  1. I usually shrug my shoulders when someone mentions going to see a cave but I was traveling in a group in Sarawak, Malaysia that wanted to go to Niah Caves.  It looked pretty interesting and they also wanted to go to Lambir Hills National Park (with waterfalls) so we teamed up and rented a car.  Niah Caves was incredible.  To say that it is big is an understatement.  You can fit football fields in the cave.  There are 1000’s of bat and swiftlets that live in the caves and they provide two very valuable products for the local population.  Bat guano is used as fertilizer and bird nests are harvested for a popular Chinese soup.  Over-harvesting has led to a big decline in the swiftlet population but they are now setting quotas and times to restore the population (I don’t know the effectiveness though).

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2. In January Mark Roche (Blue Skies Adventures) led a trip to a mostly abandoned aboriginal village in Pingtung County, Taiwan.  In 1979 the village moved out of the mountains to a new village lower in the river valley and was able to connect to roads.  In 2009 Xinhaocha (the new village) was completely buried by rising river silt and rocks during Typhoon Morakot.  Luckily the village had been evacuated prior to the storm and the villagers have moved to Rinari near Sandimen.

Jiuhaocha (the old village) is a beautiful village with slate houses in various condition.  Some haven’t been lived in for decades while others are maintained by villagers that live in both the new and old villages.  It requires a little effort to visit and for most it is best as an overnight hike (stay in a slate house).  It is one of the coolest places that I have visited in Taiwan.  It feels like an authentic aboriginal experience instead of the festivals in the villages.  I have attended and I enjoy the festivals but I really liked seeing what life was like in an original aboriginal village.

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3.Beidawushan is the southernmost 3000 meter peak in Taiwan and a very popular weekend trek.  The hike is challenging right from the start and climbs almost 2000 meters to the summit.  Many hikers do Beidawushan as a 2 day trip but that requires getting up at 2am to summit and return to the car by dark.  If you have an extra day and can do a 3 day trip then I highly recommend it.

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4.  I am possibly the only person to ever plan my entire Bali trip around visiting its waterfalls but you would have to try very hard to avoid visiting Bali’s temples.  There are 1000’s of them on the small island.  Instead of being grand complexes (a few are) each unique temple possesses a lot of character and detail.  I blogged about my 10 favorites from my trip and Tanah Lot (pictured below) is one of the most famous and visited.

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5. One of the best and most unusual festivals in Taiwan is Donggang’s Wang Ye Boat Burning Festival.  Every 3 years they hold the 10 day festival.  All week they shoot off firecrackers and make noise to lure the evil spirits out from hiding with everyone following in the parade.  On the festival’s conclusion the local temples march a giant boat to the ocean.  All night long they prepare the boat for its voyage by piling up a mountain of (fake) paper money.  Finally they light the boat on fire taking the evil spirits with it so the town is prosperous for another 3 years.

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6.  Laomei Reef is one of those rare places that is hard to believe exists until you visit it.  The green algae only blooms for 2-3 months (March and April most likely) every year and you will need to track the ocean tidal charts and visit during low tide.  Unfortunately it will be crowded on the weekend but English teachers that start in evening could do a weekday trip from Taipei and be back in time for class.

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7. Brunei is a tiny country on the island of Borneo whose economy is heavily tied to oil.  One side effect of their wealth is that their rainforests are virtually untouched compared to their Malaysian and Indonesian neighbors on the island.  Although small compared to its neighbors the size of their virgin forests is significant.  Brunei’s crown jewel is Ulu Temburong National Park.  99% of the park is set aside for conservation and only researchers are allowed access to those parts.  Tours are available starting with a traditional longboat ride up the Temburong River from Sumbiling Eco Village or even Bandar Seri Begawan from several tour agencies.  Once inside the park the hike leads to a canopy skywalk but unfortunately a hard thunderstorm rolled in and we were unable to go up there.

Our guide with a researcher discovering a new ant species.

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8.  Taiwan only has two short stretches of roadless coastline.  Both of them are located in Pingtung County north of Kenting.  There were serious proposals to build a road along this part of the coast but thankfully that appears to be permanently shelved.  The Qufengbi Coastal Trail leaves from the Jialeshui Scenic Area and is full of interesting sights.  The Jialeshui Scenic Area is the sight of fascinating ocean carved rocks.  There are also shipwrecks (the big one is dismantled), an old army fort and green cliffs that seemingly fall into the ocean.  The Alanyi Trail is a little farther north in the same area.  It is a little shorter and includes great views of the ocean.

The Jialeshui Scenic Area at the beginning of the Qufengbi Trail

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The Alanyi Trail

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9. Gunung Batur is Bali’s most hiked volcano since it can be done in a day (1/2 a day actually).  Gunung Batur is the center cone in one of Bali’s largest craters with an impressive lake in the southern portion.  I was unaware of this when I decided to hike Batur but it has erupted at least a dozen times in the last 150 years.

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10.  Hehuanshan is Taiwan’s most accessible high mountain area due to the Central Cross Island Highway (new version) passing nearby.  It used to be the site of Taiwan’s only ski hill but the area no longer gets significant snow and the infrastructure is in ruins.  Now Taiwanese flock to Hehuanshan on snowy weekends so they can experience snow likely for the first time.

Overall there are 5 of Taiwan’s Baiyue (top 100 peaks) in the area and several others (Cilai North) that can be accessed via longer trails.  Hehuanshan Main Peak, Hehuanshan East Peak and Shimenshan are short hikes that hikers of most abilities can handle.  Hikers that want a little more challenge can tackle Hehuanshan North Peak or go all the way to Hehuanshan West Peak (a very long dayhike).

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My Top Ten Waterfalls of 2015 (link)

2015 was a great year for myself and for my waterfall guide.  I fell a little short of my goal to visit my 100th waterfall in Taiwan but I should reach that goal in February this year.  I have now visited 13 out of Richard’s 20 favorite waterfalls in Taiwan but I still have a personal list of 30-40 more waterfalls to visit.  More importantly I traveled outside of Taiwan twice this year on waterfall/hiking trips.  In February I went to Sabah and Sarawak in Malaysian Borneo and in June I went to Bali.  Of course I ventured far from the typical path in Bali and visited 13 waterfalls in 10 days.   Bali’s waterfalls were amazing and it was really difficult to choose only 3 for the list below.

Riding back to Ali Waterfall, Pingtung, Taiwan

The list below only includes new waterfalls that I visited this year.  One focus this year (and next) has been on revisiting some of my favorites (like Lover’s Gorge) because they are my favorites but they aren’t included.  Another focus has been doing more hikes and the other best places that Taiwan has to offer.  I am hoping to do at least 3-4 of Taiwan’s high mountain hikes this year.  A 3 day hike of Beidawushan is a certainty.  Other hikes could include Jiaming Lake (Taitung), Shuiyang (Nantou), Wuling Sixiu (Taichung) or Qilai North Peak (Nantou).

Fenghuang Waterfall was my last new waterfall of the year.  We visited on New Year’s Eve.

I am hoping to go on four international trips this year so next year’s competition for this waterfall list will be even tougher.  In addition to that I have some great waterfall trips in Taiwan planned (like Golden Grotto and Manyueyuan).  In February I will travel to North Sumatra and visit Sipisopiso Waterfall and Sibolangit Waterfall.  I am very close to booking a ticket to Lombok in March/April to climb Mt Rinjani (at least to the crater – seasonal weather issues) and Tiu Kelep Waterfall.  In June I will hopefully be making a trip home to Minnesota and there are some great waterfalls (Gooseberry Falls) in Minnesota.  My October/November trip is a little undecided but the most likely destination choices are the Philippines (including TBEX Asia), Japan (anywhere and everywhere is on my list) or northern Vietnam (Sapa and Ban Gioc/Detian Waterfall).  If I can actually pull off this busy schedule (I also work full time and run a business) then I might have to expand next year’s list to a top 20.  I also might have to find a sponsor, sell plasma and/or cash in all of the worthless baseball cards that I have in my mother’s closet.

2015’s best waterfalls

  1. I had known about a possible waterfall near Majia for several years but I never took a trip until January this year.  Part of the reason for this was that no information existed about this waterfall on the internet until my friend Asher visited it (many times).  I finally visited and it instantly became my favorite in southern Taiwan in addition to being the #3 most viewed waterfall page at my Taiwan’s Waterfall Guide.  As an added bonus there is an old slate house village (Jiupaiwan) located near the falls that you can walk around in.

Click for directions to Shalawan Waterfall, Pingtung, Taiwan

2.   Langanan Waterfall is one of Sabah’s most impressive waterfalls (#2 on My Sabah’s top ten list) and one of the highlights from my February trip to Malaysian Borneo.  The waterfall is located on the eastern flank of Mount Kinabalu and is a slightly challenging half day hike.  The trail is a lush example of what Borneo’s rainforests would look like if they were untouched by the plantations and logging.  Lupa Masa (link) is a great eco-camp near Poring Hot Springs that allows you to fully experience the rainforest.

Click for directions to Langanan Waterfall, Sabah, Malaysia

3. Lambir Hills National Park in Sarawak, Malaysia was one of my favorite hikes of the year.  The park is located outside of Miri and is a waterfall lovers paradise.  There are 6 different waterfalls and one peak to hike to but hiking to all of the waterfalls (and the peak) in one day can only be done by the strongest hikers (25+ km in heat with a 5pm park exit) though.  Sometime in the next 5 years I plan on returning to Sarawak to visit the Mulu Pinnacles and I will definitely take an extra day or two visiting Lambir Hills National Park again.

Tengkorong Waterfall

Click for directions to Lambir Hills National Park, Sarawak, Malaysia

4. One of my favorite forgotten areas in Taiwan is Zengwen Reservoir.  Many people visit the Zengwen Reservoir Recreation Area and drive the road to Dapu (one of the best motorcycle rides in Taiwan) but other than that very little of the rest is explored.  Asher and I tried to find one of Richard Saunders’ 20 favorite waterfalls 2 years ago but we got lost (terrible directions from a local) and ironically found the correct valley but didn’t explore far enough.  I went back this year with better maps (and ignored the terrible directions from a different local) and found an incredible and almost never visited waterfall.

Click for directions to Feiyun Waterfall, Taiwan

5.  Later that weekend I joined up with Richard Saunders and a group of Taipei Hikers on one of the most interesting trips of the year.  We hiked down to the river on a barely used fisherman trail and swam across the river to the other side of a flood control dam.  We walked up a fish ladder and then had to crawl through a 1 meter tall hole in the dam.  Continuing upstream we found many fossils (shells) in broken up river rock before arriving at an amazing swimming hole with multiple small waterfalls.  Lianyun Waterfall and several others are located up a side stream.  It isn’t the biggest but there is something special about the perfect pool in the perfect forest.

Click for directions to Lianyun Waterfall, Chaiyi, Taiwan

 6.  Melanting Waterfall was the highlight of my favorite part of Bali.  Munduk and Melanting are a pair of beautiful villages located just east of Bali’s 3 lakes region at a slightly cooler elevation of 700 meters.  There are at least 3 nice waterfalls in the area, a nice hiking trail between them and many nice guesthouses and restaurants with picturesque views of Gunung Batukaru.

Click for directions to Melanting Waterfall, Bali, Indonesia

7. The best thing about Bali was that so many great places were so close together and the road infrastructure made travel very efficient.  In 11 days I visited 13 waterfalls, 10 temples, hiked Gunung Batur, went dolphin watching (as disappointing as the reviews are) and traveled with my sister.  Aling Aling Waterfall is a stunning waterfall in Bali’s waterfall rich north central region.  The main waterfall is the most impressive but there are 3 smaller waterfalls downstream that are perfect for swimming at (local guide required for swimming).

Click for directions Aling Aling Waterfall, Bali, Indonesia

8.  Sekumpul isn’t the most famous waterfall in Bali but it is the most spectacular.  It falls close to 100 meters in multiple streams from allegedly multiple sources.  As an added bonus Lemukih Waterfall is located on the same hike (different stream) and you experience a 360 degree waterfall where you can experience multiple different branches that surround you.  Both waterfalls are great places to swim.

Click for directions to Sekumpul Waterfall, Bali, Indonesia

9.  Changlong Waterfall was once a popular destination near the Shaonian Stream Recreation Area.  It was most famous for its hot spring but there were also two great waterfalls.  In 2009 Typhoon Morakot destroyed the hot spring, the lower waterfall and the entire hiking trail but the upper waterfall survived.  It is a short but rocky hike up to the rarely visited waterfall.

Click for directions to Changlong Waterfall, Kaohsiung, Taiwan

10.  Maolin Waterfall was another waterfall trail completely wiped out by Typhoon Morakot.  I tried finding this waterfall in 2012 and walked up the river to a small waterfall that was impassable.  In 2013 they built a new 27M NT trail back to the waterfall.  The new trail has two suspension bridges and leads to one of the best waterfalls in southern Taiwan.  This is just one of 4 great waterfalls in Kaohsiung County’s Maolin Valley.

Click for directions to Maolin Waterfall, Kaohsiung, 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.

The Wang Ye were members of the emperor’s royal family that protected the empire.  Over a milennia ago their ship sank and they were transformed into protector spirits.  Over 300 years ago Donggang, Taiwan began holding wangchuan ceremonies.  Every 3 years they call one of the Wang Ye protector spirits on Day 1 of the festival and for 7 days they lure the evil spirits out and finally send them away with the ceremonial boat burning.  I won’t attempt to tell you the complete history but will instead give my impression of the things that I saw.  I encourage you to check out the links below for a much more detailed explanation and history of the festival.

Background information

The best explanation of the Donggang festival is on a new Facebook page (Taiwan Temples) that was started by Robert Kelly (Lonely Planet Taiwan author) and Rich Matheson (The Taiwan Photographer).   This post from their Facebook page explains day one and this post explains the final day.

Another great explanation of Wangchuan ceremonies throughout Taiwan and their history is this article by Steven Crook (Bradt Travel Guide Taiwan author).  Similar but smaller festivals are also held in Xigang (Tainan County), Xiao Liuqiu and more recently Penghu.

Day 1

On day one there is a beach ceremony in the afternoon as described by Taiwan Temples.  This would be interesting to witness but I was very busy that day so I arrived in Donggang around 7pm for the procession and later the fire walking.  There are about 30 temples in Donggang dedicated to the Wang Ye.  The Donglong Temple is the center of the ceremonies but each temple has a part in the ceremony and takes part in the procession.

These students were playing a horn like instrument that collectively sounded like bagpipes.  For a long time I never understand why temples played bagpipes and now I know that it isn’t actually bagpipes.  Regardless it is a rather awful sound.  Okay, this guy playing AC/DC on the bagpipes is pretty awesome.

Each storefront and home along the procession route attempts to create as much noise and chaos bring the evil spirits out of hiding.  This storeowner was particularly proud of the mess that they had made.  Most likely your eyes will burn and your ears will ring from the massive amount of fireworks and the burnt paper money.

Surprisingly they didn’t close off the road to traffic.  They did have a no fireworks or burning zone around the gas station though.  If you don’t like fireworks this might be a good place to stand.

The boat wasn’t the main attraction on Day 1 but it was visible at Donglong Temple.  These temple followers have already removed their shoes and are ready for the fire walking.

Around 9pm they prepared the fire walk.  Initially there was charcoal on the ground and then they splashed an excessive amount of fuel to liven things up.

After the fire dies down they throw large amounts on rice and salt onto the smoldering charcoal.  It appeared to be very large crystals of salt that would really hurt to walk on.  A master of ceremonies (my description) performed many elaborate rituals while waiting for the charcoal to cool at which time the entire procession would cross.  It likely took many hours for the entire procession but I went home after the first several hundred people crossed.  I think they waited long enough for the charcoal to only be warm but you can judge for yourself in the video.

The first two fire walkers had crossed several times before and they finally gave the okay for the procession to cross and the crowd applauded.  The bagpipe-like music is played in the middle of the video.  I have read that people will take a small piece of charcoal (walked over by hundreds) home and make special drinking water or food with it.  I chose not to.

The Final Day

During the day the boat was paraded through the streets of Donggang and finally it was parked in the center of the Donglong Temple for all to see.  We arrived at 10pm in time for the evening ceremonies.

This elaborate ritual was one of the last big performances before the boat exited the temple at 2am.  They ran in choreographed patterns and then would touch banner staffs or whatever other instrument they had.

The boat exits the temple at about 2am and the mob follows in absolute chaos.  The boat comes out of the temple and turns right so that would like be a better place to take a photo from.  After that the mob follows the boat through the streets of Donggang to the beach.  It really doesn’t matter where you are for this part.  Everybody is going the same place.

Once again a ridiculous amount of fireworks are shot off and excessive stacks of paper money are burned.  Don’t worry about leaving the temple early in order to get a good spot for the boat burning.  There is plenty of time to weave through the crowd at the beach especially if you are a small group.  However it is impossible to move quickly while the boat is being moved to the beach.  You are constantly being pushed and pushing and all you can do is shuffle your feet forward.

The boat is pushed down near the water and for over 2 hours the temple followers pile a mountain of paper money (fake obviously) around the boat.  They will even allow foreigners to help with this although a lady wasn’t allowed one time.   This will be the hardest part of the night physically (the waiting).  You will be standing the entire time and you don’t want to move away at this time since you might not get your spot back and the crowd has become very dense by now.   The best place to stand will be near the crowd of 3 meter tall (or taller) tripod photographers that are on ladders.  There are hundreds of them at this event and they take it very seriously.

Your hopes will be raised when they start putting the mast up but it will still be awhile before the fire begins.  The center mast requires a lot of effort to put up and it looks like it is ready to come down at any time.

After the sails are raised the anchors are symbolically loaded onto the ship.  At this time they are also spreading a layer of sand over the paper money to fool the evil spirits into coming towards the ships.  It is now time to get ready for the main event.  At around 5am they will ask for permission to light the fire.

Somebody has a sick sense of humor and starts the fire with a volley of firecrackers.  These don’t actually start the fire but they start a small panic in the sleepy crowd.  Be very careful to not push over the photographers on ladders right behind you when the crowd surges backward.  Surprisingly the fire starts very slow due to the dense paper mountain.  It gradually becomes hotter though and the crowd inches back.

It will take over an hour for the boat to catch on fire and the mountain of paper money will burn until at least noon.  We left the beach area around 7am after the entire boat was in flames.

Overall it was an amazing experience but I really hate staying up all night.  There is a lot more to the festival than just the boat burning and so many things are really cool.  One of the hardest things as a spectator is that things are cool for 15 minutes but they might last 2 hours.  This is of course understandable but it requires a lot of time spent standing and waiting.   I will probably go back in 3 years since there are so many cool things that are happening.  There have only been a few circumstances in Taiwan where I don’t mind excessive pollution created by an event.  It is completely ridiculous how much paper money (and of course the boat) is burned and money spent on this festival but it is really cool.

How to get there:  It is a one hour motorcycle or car ride from Kaohsiung.  It will be very hard to find parking for a car but it isn’t a problem for motorcycles.  I would not recommend riding down there for the final night night since you will be extremely tired on the ride home.  Buses leave from the main train station (several different companies) every 20-30 minutes and they are probably the best bet.  You can also ride the MRT Xiaogang and take a taxi to Donggang (maybe 1000+ each way).  You will have to pre-arrange a taxi on Sunday morning or take the bus (pickup near McDonalds).  Another option would be to book a hotel/homestay in Donggang for the weekend so you can experience all of the events but relax in your room in between the big events.

When to go:  The next festival won’t be until 2018.  The first day can be interesting when they are calling the spirit of the Wang Ye at the beach (I didn’t go) and in the evening they start the festival with a loud procession (starting around 7pm) ending with a fire walking ceremony (about 9pm in 2015) at Donglong Temple.  On the last day they parade the boat through the city streets in the afternoon and do many ceremonies (maybe starting at 10pm) at Donglong Temple.  At around 2am the boat is moved to the beach and it is burned between 5 and 6 am.  During the week there are also many ceremonies (I didn’t go) including dancers with amazing painted faces.

It required a little guesswork but I found the Neishih Waterfall parking lot.  I had seen the large brown Neishih Waterfall sign on Hwy 1 many times on trips south and I finally took the time to look for the waterfall.  The road was mix of rough concrete, gravel and few short asphalt patches only wide enough for one car.  I had been scared out of my mind on that road when an angry, chained up dog charged my motorcycle and stretched its metal chain taut a couple of feet away from my leg.  The parking lot itself is overgrown with grass and looks like very few people ever visit this place.  I hiked up the natural trail and 15 minutes later I was at a huge and virtually unvisited waterfall.  There was a small set of rocks set up as a picnic area but other than that it hadn’t been disturbed.  This was the start of my waterfall guide 4 years ago.  It might have been my 6th waterfall visited (I don’t keep track of that stuff).  I took many photos that day attempting to find the perfect angle (I didn’t really know what I was doing) and was extremely lucky when the perfect waterfall rainbow formed in the late afternoon sun.  After awhile I was joined by 3 late teen boys and their family.  I spent a couple of hours there taking photos and relaxing.  This was 4 years ago.

Directions to Keyoufeng (Neishih) Waterfall from my waterfall guide

Fast forward 4 years and everything has changed.  For a long time I have focused on new places and hadn’t visited Neishih since then.  I was extremely surprised when I visited again last Sunday.  My first clue to the changes was passing and meeting several cars on the narrow road with my motorcycle.  Yet I was shocked that the parking lot was overflowing with cars and a group of 20 was waiting to hike to the waterfall together.  The trail has been completely rebuilt with wide textured concrete steps.  I prefer natural trails but this was nicely done and should stay moss free.  They also built a huge viewing platform and they even renamed the waterfall to Keyoufeng.

I have struggled writing this post for awhile.  I don’t like it as much now but places change and it is inevitable.  There is a natural reaction by travelers that a place is ruined when accessibility is improved and places become crowded.  That is a pretty selfish view in my opinion.  Taiwan is one of the most densely populated countries in the world.  Every week I ask my students if they did anything interesting and almost all of them stayed home for the entire weekend.  Many of the people that I saw on Sunday were families taking a small trip and if I had gone one day earlier I would have seen 2 of my students there.

How can I be angry if my students follow my advice and visit Taiwan’s beautiful places?  What about all of the other families that are exposing their children to Taiwan’s natural beauty?  Isn’t this a great thing since it can raise environmental awareness?  Of course there are some problems with the impact on these places and some are irresponsible but it is impossible to justify a nobody is allowed but me policy.

How do you adjust to unknown places being discovered by the masses?  Do you think that bloggers and guidebook writers should keep their damn mouths shut and leave these places unpublished?  Do you simply shrug it off and still enjoy the place?