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Ilan's secret natural wonder: Yuemeikang Waterfall

It's still early (not even 9 am) when we arrive, yet the car park at the entrance to Wufengchi Waterfalls (五峰旗瀑布) is packed with cars this fine Saturday morning in June, and we're forced to find an empty roadside place to leave the car. It's not surprising that so many people are here already.

We're near the hot spring town of Jiaosi (礁溪) in Ilan (宜蘭) County, which has been an extremely popular destination for weekend breaks for many years, even before the new freeway bought this area of northeast Taiwan within an hour's ride of Taipei.

Aside from the hot spring resorts, Wufengchi Waterfall is Jiaosi's most famous attraction, and with good reason, as this set of three waterfalls is among the finest in northern Taiwan. It's just a short walk from the car park to the tiny but photogenic lowest fall, and a short climb from there to the much higher and more impressive middle fall.

Although surprising missed by many visitors (perhaps because of the stiff climb up from the middle waterfall), it's the uppermost fall that makes a visit to Wufengchi so thoroughly worth it. One of the tallest waterfalls in northern Taiwan, plummeting free of the cliff for fifty meters, it's a truly breathtaking sight.

Moving on from Wufenchi after a brief visit, our main objective is the very little-visited yet quite spectacular Yuemeikang Waterfall (月眉坑瀑布). It's thanks to a solitary source that we've found that the waterfall even exists, as there's next to nothing about it online, even in Chinese. Certainly upon asking local people, we're constantly directed to either Wufenchi Waterfalls, the pretty but small Shipan Waterfall (石盤瀑布), or other better-known waterfalls in this part of Ilan County.

Early on in the hike we have to ford a stream, and rather than taking off my shoes and socks and braving the hard, rough stones in the riverbed, I accept the fact that my feet will be wet for the remainder of the day and plunge in, shoes and all. I needn't have worried: we'll be wading across and up streams for much of the way to the waterfall, and shoes or river tracing booties are an essential piece of equipment.

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Ilan's secret natural wonder: Yuemeikang Waterfall
Below the waterfalls the stream plunges through an exceptionally scenic gorge. (By Richard Saunders, Special to The China Post)

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