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?  

Great Bloggers – My 2016 Waterfall to do list

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

 

The 2015 blog stats

2015 was a big year for content on my blogs because I went many places.  2015 was also the year that my waterfall guide started taking off.  My blog became more popular also but the waterfall guide is becoming very well known.  It is pretty common meeting people that know about and use my waterfall guide.  Shown below are the top 11 most viewed waterfall guide pages.  Some are my favorites while others are conveniently located near Taipei so they are often visited.

  1. Shifen Waterfall – a photographer’s dream

The waterfall guide grew from 41,000 views to 69,000 views for a 68% increase last year.  The World Is Not That Big was viewed another 17,000 times.  That really isn’t the interesting part.  It is more interesting to see what pages they are viewing, what countries they come from and how they are referred to the site.

2. Sandiaoling Waterfall Trail – one of the best waterfall hikes in Taiwan

Pingxi happens to be one of the rainiest areas in Taiwan but it hadn’t rained for months when I visited.  I must go back.

Shifen Waterfall actually isn’t one of my favorite waterfalls but it absolutely dominates the traffic on my website.  Sandiaoling Waterfall Trail and Shalawan Waterfall are two of my favorites and deservedly rank 2nd and 3rd.  Shalawan Waterfall is unusual because when I published the guide there was almost no English information of it and I visited it for the first time this year.  Typically it takes a year or two for a page to become popular enough to rank highly but Shalawan immediately shot to #3 and I hear constant comments from expats about how much they love it.

3. Shalawan Waterfall – a remote and less visited waterfall

There were some pages that were viewed less last year but for the most part page views went up for every waterfall.  In addition to increased traffic on existing pages I also added over 60 pages of waterfalls, hikes, temples (Bali) and other sights to the guide.  Shalawan Waterfall (pictured above), Qufengbi Trail, Beidawushan, Haishen Waterfall, Laomei Reef, Qingshan Waterfall, Alibang Waterfall and Dadi Gorge all were viewed over 200 times despite being published this year.  Maybe a couple of these will be in the top 10 next year.

blog stats

note – %’s don’t include the home page or guide organization pages (each county page)

I don’t think anyone is surprised that Taiwan ISP addresses dominate my readers.  It will be interesting to see how this changes during the next 2-3 years as I add more and more content from outside of Taiwan.  Another expected stat was that the largest native speaking English countries ranked in the top 10 in addition to Singapore and Hong Kong which speak multiple languages at near native levels.

4. Lover’s Gorge Waterfall – the perfect swimming hole after a short hike

Indonesia made the largest year to year increase due to my trip to Bali in June and it should climb even higher if I am able to add content from Sumatra and Lombok this year.  One country notably absent is Japan since they have a large population and are one of Taiwan’s closest neighbors.  I am not sure if I will be able to travel to Japan this year or not but I want to take many trips to Japan during the next 5 years.

54. Banyumala Waterfall, Bali – this is the top ranked waterfall from Bali could vault into next year’s top ten

It is interesting that I get fewer readers from Taiwan on my blog versus my waterfall guide but this makes sense with how I use social media.  Most of the time I post my waterfall guide updates to the Taiwan’s Waterfalls FB page (followers are mostly in Taiwan) and I usually post my latest blogs to my personal FB page (a lot of friends and family from back home).  Additionally the waterfall guide is more useful to those living in Taiwan.

country stats

note – stats are for the waterfall guide except for the last column as a comparison

Referrals are essential for any blog to succeed and I have done very little to promote the blog myself.  I finally became active on social media (non-personal accounts) this year but I have barely scratched the surface.  The Taiwan’s Waterfalls FB page has grown from 120 followers to 640 followers this year since I have been posting regular guide updates in addition to linking to various waterfall sites from around the world.  Other than regularly (less so every year) posting on forumosa.com and occasionally commenting on other blogs, I have done very little social media promotion.

referral stats

More important than producing your own social media following is getting your site linked in other blogs and in their social media feeds.  Most of my referrals aside from FB (and many on FB also) and forumosa are from other people mentioning my blog.  Foodie Baker wrote a blog about Wulai years ago and their referrals keep increasing every year so their blog must be doing really well.  Michael Turton is a very popular (and sometimes polarizing) expat blogger in Taiwan with interests in politics, biking, history and travel.  Steven Crook is the Bradt Travel Guide Taiwan writer and does some blogging on two sites.  Taiwan Explorer has a popular FB page with a lot of discussion, writes a blog and publishes a blogroll at mytaiwanblogs.blogspot.twCamping in Taiwan is my go to resource for finding a campsite on my weekend excursions.  Green Laundry, Nomad Notions and Taiwanvore have in the past linked to my blog and their content still brings a few visitors.

My next social media avenue is pinterest.com.  This seems like an excellent outlet for photography blogs.  For the last couple of months I have been creating boards and pinning blogs that I like.  The plan is to create boards that people want to visit and build up a following (currently 140 followers) before adding a lot of my own content to the boards.  I have enjoyed creating my pinterest board Travel Blogs – The World’s Waterfalls.  Another big area of improvement is including properly sized images in blogs for different types of social media and to start putting titles on the photos.  Every blogger should be doing this (an example).

What types of social media do you think I should start using to promote my blog?  I plan on using Instagram this year.  I despise Twitter although many say that it is essential for bloggers.  Tumblr seems interesting but I didn’t really like using it.  Does anybody actually use Google+?  Is there any reason to post stuff on there?  I have no understanding of Reddit but somebody posted my guide on there last week and within a couple of days I had 200-300 hits from that site.  Snapchat sounds like my own little personal hell.  I won’t be using that.  There is definitely a lot of untapped social media potential but ‘social’ isn’t exactly something that I do well.

Neidong Waterfall

5. Neidong Waterfall – a sad casualty of Typhoon Soudelor – unknown reopening of the trail

6. Wufengci Waterfall was one of my first waterfalls that I added to the guide in 2011

The opposite of referrals (clicks) is also true in my blogs as well.  I have frequently included links to other blogs when writing blogs but this is an area that I want to improve on next year.  One specific area is to include links to 2-3 blogs for each of the pages in my waterfall guide so my readers can access more information about a place.  I think my information is good but it isn’t always perfect nor does it tell the entire story about a place.

7. Maolin Waterfall – Hike the newly completed trail back to one of southern Taiwan’s best waterfalls

Clicks from my blogs fall into 3 main areas.  The first area is resource sites such as China Post (newspaper), Guide to Taipei, various National Forest Recreation Area website and the Central Weather Bureau.  The second area is a group of bloggers that have remained on my links pages and still get some traffic.  This page needs to be updated to include more relevant links for travelers in Taiwan.  I have linked to 3 different websites written by Richard Saunders (my favorite article that he has written) in addition to numerous China Post articles written by him (and a few other authors).  This shouldn’t be a surprise since he has been (almost) everywhere that I want to go.  He has a new must have book coming out soon for those traveling through Taiwan.

click stats

The last area is random individual bloggers and this is where I want to improve my linking the most next year.  In 2015 I started featuring relatively unknown bloggers that are doing great work in my series Great Bloggers.  So far I have done a series on Asia, Australia/NZ and Waterfalls with 10 bloggers featured in each article.  My next article is 10 waterfalls to visit in Taiwan for 2016 and it wasn’t easy finding 10 active bloggers that have great blogs/photos of waterfalls that I haven’t been to.

8. Juansi Waterfall

10. Datun Waterfall

These two waterfalls rank highly because of their proximity to Taipei and many go there.  They are relatively boring waterfalls though so I won’t post photos of them.  Most likely they will fall out of the top 10 statistically next year.

9. Liangshan Waterfall is a little more impressive than the previous two but its popularity is due to its nearby proximity to Kaohsiung and Pingtung.

Do you have any thoughts on any of these statistics?  Are they completely irrelevant?  Is anything surprising or interesting?  I don’t use any fancy Google Analytics or even have a hosted blog (yet).  I am currently working on improvements and getting it hosted but I have a real job that I earn real money at so that is (usually) prioritized.  I have many things to improve but do you find anything particularly frustrating about either site?

11. Guifu Canyon is one of the most unusual places that I have visited in Taiwan.  Absolutely incredible.

My top 10 waterfalls of 2015

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

Tsengwen Reservoir and Waterfalls, Taiwan

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).

Duona, waterfalls and the moon?

I returned to familiar terrain on my last motorcycle trip and I served as an assistant guide for our group since I have made about a dozen trips to Maolin.  Unlike previous trips we explored Duona this time.  Duona is the last village in Maolin Valley and it suffered a terrible loss when its famous hot springs were buried under a cliff.  In the last 3 years Duona has transformed into a pleasant bustling aboriginal village.  There are now a half dozen nice restaurants and several nice tourist shops.  There’s a chance that it becomes overly touristy but currently it’s just about perfect.

Despite being to Meiya Waterfall a couple of times before I got us lost.  Not such a great a guide I guess.  I was also so convinced that the waterfall would be dry that I left my tripod and needed to balance my camera on a few small rocks for this photo.  Directions to Meiya Waterfall are on my waterfall website.

Duona High Bridge is the tallest suspension bridge in Taiwan towering 103m above the valley before.  We chose to Evil Kenevil it across the bridge (not necessary for visiting Duona).  It’s not particularly difficult but it is a little tense.

The trip gave me an opportunity to visit a new place in Maolin.  Guifu Canyon (Ghost Axe) is located about 1km upstream from Duona and it seems to be flying under the radar.  Apparently before Typhoon Morakot the canyon was full of small rock swimming pools but there are filled in with rock and silt now.  Perhaps they will resurface in a few more years.  Directions to Guifu are on my waterfall website.

Guifu Canyon is a narrow canyon that is similar to some of the tight canyons in the American Southwest (minus the red rock).  Not far from the entrance a waterfall drops into the canyon over the cliffs.  It is possible to go further upstream past the waterfall but you should bring some ropes and safety equipment with you.

The walk out of Guifu Canyon back to Duona.

Richard Saunders also led us around to several scenic oddities in Taiwan.  These are part of Taiwan’s Badlands.

Yangnu Mud Volcano was one of several that we visited during the weekend.  This isn’t actually a geothermal vent but rather a methane vent that can be lit on fire.  It didn’t actually smell from where we were.  Taiwan is one of the few countries in the world with mud volcanos.

An action photo from the weekend.  This was taken by Trevor Barth while wearing a backpack and twisting around on the back of a scooter traveling at 50km/hr on bouncy mountain roads.

A little piece of heaven – Xiaobantian

Xiaobantian is located near the popular tourist areas of Shanlinshi and Xitou but it’s not overrun by tourists luckily.  Of course the only reason that I went there was for a couple of waterfalls that I found on a map.  Usually mountain roads like this are pretty rough but these were in excellent shape and I could have spent an entire day or two driving around these roads as wound through small hillside teafields and bamboo forests while occasionally offering a scenic view of the valley below.  Unfortunately one waterfall was inaccessible due to yet another landslide but it didn’t really matter.

 

Xiaobantian waterfall is located upstream around the corner.  The trail down to the creek is still hikeable although it’s not used very much anymore.

 

This is the best view of Xiaobantian waterfall due to a landslide wiping out the trail.  It looked pretty impressive but you aren’t quite able to get a good view of it.

 

I could have spent hours driving around this area.  This particular tea field was my favorite with the cedars in front of the bamboo forest.

 

I wasn’t quite able to get what I wanted so here’s a B&W version but I think I’ll have to go back sometime and spend more time here.

One waterfall might have been inaccessible but Desing waterfall was popular with local fisherman.

 

One of the fisherman with an impressive fishing pole.

 

Located near Xiaobantian was Shuixiao Waterfall.  This trail was only built 5 years ago but it is also damaged by a typhoon although it’s easy to hike around the damage.

 

A rare photo of me at Shuixiao waterfall.