The stretch of national route 184 between the towns of Meinong and Liuguei in Kaohsiung County rates as one of the more scenic and interesting stretches of road in southern Taiwan.
Taiwan is an island with more than its fair share of natural curiosities, but nowhere on the island is there as intriguing a selection of geological oddities as the southern counties of Kaohsiung and Tainan.
With a setting as lovely as this, and a location conveniently close to both the north-south freeway and the big cities of Tainan and Chiayi, it's only the fact that the main road bypasses the area -- following the far side of the wide, boulder-strewn Laonong River -- that Bulao Hot Spring (不老溫泉) has remained a relatively quiet backwater.
Standing atop a wooden viewing platform at 1,804 meters, the highest point of Tengjhih National Forest Recreation Area (藤枝國家森林遊樂區), the wilderness that covers much of Taiwan's interior is suddenly revealed in all its breathtaking beauty and sheer enormity.
I once believed that the hot springs of one area were much the same as those of another, and that when you've seen one, you've seen them all. It seems I was mistaken.
In this era of high-speed trains, it seems odd to recall that a rail network originally built to haul sugarcane used to be one of Taiwan's major transportation systems.
Speeding along a serpentine country road through the unexceptional, low rolling countryside of Kaohsiung County, our scooters round a corner when abruptly the mixed woodland bordering the lane ends, the ground on the left falls away steeply, and an extraordinary ravine of crumbly, light brown earth unfolds to the left.
Beside route 37, a busy road linking the towns of Tianliao (田寮) and Gangshan (岡山) in Kaohsiung (高雄) County, a temple stands set back from the road, fronted by a large car park and a flight of steps.
With several Indonesian volcanoes in the news a few weeks ago (including the dreaded Krakatoa itself) threatening to blow their tops, it's a comfort to know that the volcanic domes of Yangmingshan, which tower right outside my apartment window in Guandu, shouldn't (knock on wood) be giving Taipei citizens any trouble in the foreseeable future.
The town of Yanchiao (燕巢), just off freeway one in Kaohsiung County is (apart from its curious Chinese name, which means "swallow's nest") a thoroughly unremarkable southern Taiwanese town: