Ever wondered where Maokong (貓空), that ever-popular hillside on the southern edge of Taipei where everyone goes to drink tea, got its name?
The summer time is the reproduction period for some wild birds in Taiwan. When you walk in the forest and watch the trees carefully, you may easily find bird nests.
For most weekenders, the small town of Sanjhih (三芝) is nothing more than a hazy memory along the road to bigger, more well-known places such as White Sand Beach (白沙灣, surely the loveliest beach in north Taiwan) and Cape Fugui (富貴), which combines a fisherman's market (offering delicious seafood lunches) with some wild and panoramic sea views from Taiwan's northernmost point.
Summer is now in its hottest period with temperatures having reached as high as 35 degree Celsius in the past few days forcing people to find cool places.
Paying a visit to the wonderful Sanmin Bat Cave, which was once one of the best short adventures of northern Taiwan, is a pretty straightforward affair these days, since the local authorities, seeking to open this imposing natural curiosity to everyone, changed the route of the access trail to the cavern, bypassing a long wade up the slippery stream bed, and the steep descent and ascent (with fixed ropes) of several rock faces.
Considering their location right beside a drivable road and that the many cool, shady spots in the glen below the falls are just made for relaxing on a hot summer day, it's a big surprise to find that the beautiful Chiedong Waterfalls (茄苳瀑布), in the hills above the Taipei County town of Xichi (汐止) haven't become a popular summer destination, as I've never seen more than a couple of other persons each of the many times I've paused at this lovely spot through the years.
Of all the satellite towns surrounding Taipei City, Xichi (汐止), which is to the east of the metropolis and located on the road towards Keelung (基隆), has undoubtedly received the worst press.
There's a spot about twenty minutes' walk from the entrance of Manyueyuan National Forest Recreation Area (滿月園國家森林遊樂區) where (unless the weather is misty) almost all visitors to the park seem to stop walking for a moment, admire the sudden and impressive vista that opens up for a few brief moments, and take a photo of the arresting scene laid out in front.
Edging our way around the deep overhang behind the waterfall, we reach the far end, directly behind the slim column of falling water, only to be greeted with an astonishing sight: the other people sitting gazing out into the gorge are packing up their sleeping bags – they've just spent the night camping behind the waterfall!
With such evocative place names as Full Moon Mountain, Cloud Heart Falls and North Piercing Heaven Mountain, the area south of Sansia (三峽) near Taipei County's western border promises lots for the hiker, and it doesn't disappoint, with some excellent walking opportunities to waterfalls, 2,000-year-old trees, and several challenging mountain summits.