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.
Lugang (鹿港) in Central Taiwan is rightly known for its traditional architecture and stunning temples. Most of its inhabitants, of course, live thoroughly modern lifestyles, and the township has its share of factories.
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!
There is a small road just past the large resorts at the mouth of the Chihpen (知本) Valley, located where the road begins to climb towards the deeper hot springs and the national forest park.
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.
When Taiwan was not Taiwan, but a lonely island in the Pacific Ocean, when there was no Han population in this land and we can imagine the idyllic aboriginal paradise, living in several valleys and plains of this almost empty region, the Tang (唐) Dynasty ruled in the huge, heavily populated Chinese empire.
As the summer heat picks up, hiking in the steep little mountains around Taipei is rapidly becoming a less than tempting proposition, so it's great to discover that rarest of hikes in Taiwan: the long, scenically stunning, yet mostly level walk.
You can look, but you can't touch. Sounds like advice you might hear regarding certain beautiful girls in Taiwan. However, when in Taimali (太麻里), Taitung (台東) County, this wisdom applies to an amazing stretch of beach along the coastal highway.
The trail is less than a meter wide and five hundred meters long, but as our group gingerly follows the narrow strip, suspended halfway up the sheer face of Taroko Gorge's highest cliff face, I think the feeling is unanimous that this is probably the most spectacular, easily accessible hike in Taiwan.
I almost didn't want to go back to this valley, that's how much I love it. Between 2000-2004, I river-traced and camped in this gorge twelve times.