Elephant mountain’s secret rival

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I’m a big fan of sunsets. Perhaps surprisingly, the concrete jungle of Taipei city is actually a good place to see them; at ground level thanks to the city’s NESW grid layout, meaning that in the correct spot the falling sun is framed nicely between glass panelled office buildings, and at higher points in one of the many surrounding mountains. Since I arrived I’ve been keen to keep searching for viewpoints that beat Elephant mountain, and thankfully my quest hasn’t been fruitless. Here’s one I like in the south-east of the city, called Zhongbu mountain (中埔山).

There are two ways you can find this spot. The first and easiest method is to take the trail from “Lane 24, section 4, Xinhai road”, which is a short walk from the Xinhai MRT station on the brown line. The hiking path is clearly noted on Google maps with the help of a handy dotted line, so finding your way to the peak is pretty self explanatory. Just look for the brown camera/photo logo with “中埔山東峰” (Zhongbu mountain East peak) underneath. It’ll probably take you 15 minutes or so from the start of the trail to the top, and as far as I could see there are no drinking fountains, so take your own water lest you wither and die like an old leaf in the sun.

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Easy route: follow the blue trail. Easy peasy.

The challenging route is more fun, but I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone that isn’t confident with a little climbing, especially if it’s wet. Nearer to the peak there are several ropes to help you scale up steep rock formations and traverse narrow mossy ridges with some scary looking drops below. There’s even a conveniently placed ladder at one point. Still want to go? Alright, listen carefully.

The nearest MRT station is Linguang (also on the brown line), and your first checkpoint is the criminally under-visited Fuzhoushan park (福州山公園) which incidentally is another cracking place to take photographs of Taipei city at any time of day. The best view here is at pavilion 3, shown on the park’s map below.

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After pavilion 3 you can head pretty much directly south to get to Zhongbu east peak, which eagle-eyed readers will notice is marked at the bottom of the above map. If it isn’t clear, you can cross reference this bad boy with your GPS to figure out the exact route.

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If you take the route through Fuzhoushan but decide that you don’t want to take the difficult route, there’s a cheeky shortcut. When you reach the shelter two-thirds of the way to the top, you’ll see a path going uphill afterwards (tough way) and some stairs leading slightly downhill to the right (see below). Take the stairs to avoid the climbing and it will bring you to some stone steps that will lead you to the peak. I normally take the difficult route up and this way down. Otherwise, enjoy yourself on the obstacle course…

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Easy right, hard left. Easy, right?

The peak is distinguishable by it’s ramshackle shelter overlooking the city, which seems to have been built by local peeps. A large number of chairs, some tables, and various other personal items suggest that this is a community area of sorts, where locals gather to cook, talk and let the children run wild. Maybe if you hang around for long enough they’ll invite you to join their hot pot.

So in my opinion, the finest and most peaceful view in Taipei city (and I’m talking the city not the literal boundaries of Taipei city) easily accessible by public transport. So get yourself some snacks, a six-pack of cold ones and send off the day in style.

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The gutter installed on the roof here is part of a water collection and filtration system which is stored in the metal tub at the end. It has a tap on the bottom, and I’d guess they use it for cooking here. Probably wouldn’t drink out of it though.

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The views. Yeah, you don’t get 101 in your sunset shot, but you also don’t have to jostle your way to the best spot at Elephant mountain.

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The final day: Hualien to Taipei

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Today was going to be a trek. Heading 168km north back to my flat in Taipei isn’t exactly a short distance, but fortunately it is incredibly scenic. To quote myself from the prelude of this diary:

“Imagine a day’s drive of winding paths through hilly green tea plantations and quaint villages, a flat cruise through scores of utterly still fishery ponds reflecting the surrounding mountainous landscape and warm rays of the sun. Lastly, a coastal finale providing all the good stuff; hairpin bends, clear blue ocean, and practically vertical towering cliffs with house sized waves regularly and spectacularly crashing into them, producing an astounding natural water display”.

Just put the order of that description back-to-front and you have my journey for day sixteen. The weather looked good, I felt good, I found a nearby breakfast joint for a bacon bagel and hash brown pancake, and was ready to rock and – even more so – roll. Except I needed to get my bike serviced before the long drive home, and didn’t fancy my chances of locating an English speaking mechanic. Time to give the old Mandarin a run out.

After filling up with petrol I saw a couple of mechanics on the opposite side of the road, and aimed for the one with the Kymco sign outside (I’m loyal). A gaunt old gent in a faded vest which looked older than me stood up from his tiny plastic stool to greet and wave me inside. His mostly toothless, betel-nut stained grin seemed much more friendly than alarming as he looked at me curiously for my request.
“Wo… xiang yao… huan yo” (I’d like an oil change)
“Huan yo! Hao…” (Oil change! Alright…)
“Huan yo ma??” *uses both hands to demonstrate a mechanical rolling motion, an ‘exchange’ action*
“Er… dui” (Er… yeah)
“Hao” (Alright geezer. I’ll get on it immediately)

He clearly overestimated my ability to speak the lingo, so began asking me a couple of questions while the oil drained from my engine. I met each one with a shrug and shake of my head, while apologising for how terrible my Chinese was. Ironically, one thing I’m very good at is explaining how bad I am at it. Clearly he noticed the bags I was carrying as a couple of words randomly registered; “huan dao ma?” (which means, “round-island trip?”) along with another brilliantly acted charade – a single handed upright oval-shaped circular motion. Yes. I felt like a native speaker. I nodded and smiled enthusiastically while verbally machine-gunning “dui-dui-dui-dui-dui!” as is the fashion in Taiwan. He nodded his approval in response. With a few taps of his finger, he noticed the Union Jack sticker placed just underneath my number plate and asked if I was from England. Yes sir, I am! I’m in there. I’m practically fluent. This is amazing. And to top it all off, it was cheaper than I’d normally expect to pay.

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One of Hualien county’s many rugged yet bushy cliffs.

Less than 100m from the mechanic’s garage, I waited at a crossroad junction next to Hualien airport for the light to turn green. As I did so, two cars approached each other from opposite directions, and neither were using indicators (surprise, surprise). At the last minute, driver one decides that he would, in fact, like to turn left (Brits: we have right lane traffic here) in front of car two going straight ahead. Car two screeches to an immediate halt, while car one continues on to the left as if nothing happened, at a consistent slow speed. Car two does not appreciate this, and as soon as I spot him fuming through his open window at a standstill in the middle of the junction, I gleefully notice he is wearing a police uniform, and furiously bellows “GAN!” (basically, the Taiwanese version of FUCK) at the top of his voice. Much to the restrained amusement of some other scooter drivers and I, he takes drastic action and spins his car around in pursuit of the dodgy driver. As some of you already know of my disdain for some Taiwanese drivers, you’ll also know how satisfied I was to realise that it’s not only me that gets wound up by these careless morons.

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I ride what’s left of the sublime 193 road (and incidentally, I pass a lone pig strolling through a village) before it joins onto the number 9, and decide to stop at one of the many viewpoints over the ocean for a rest. It’s the last chance for me to enjoy a view of the Pacific like this one for a while, so I park up at the side of the road and sit on the grassy cliff edge for a short time, which drops steeply by about 30 metres straight into the tumultuous water below. In between the rhythmic slams of waves battering the rocks I hear a scooter side-stand kicked into position, and turn around to see a younger man in his early twenties. He waves and shouts hello to me with a smile, then points above the mountains towards a thick manifestation of moody black clouds, as if to say: you’d better get moving, son. I gave a thumbs up and nodded to him in thanks and with absolute agreement as he put on his yellow poncho and headed northwards.

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I ride another 30 minutes or so before stopping off in a small village within Nan’ao township called Wuta. It’s home to a tour bus pit stop, made up of toilets, a gaudy souvenir shop, and overpriced restaurant. Actually, the last comment is unfair because I’ve never eaten in there. It just looks like it’s overpriced. Anyway, it seems to be the halfway house for buses driving between Hualien and Yilan, but I used it as a free shelter from the increasingly heavy rainfall, and was a suitable spot to put on my waterproof gear. I wasn’t the only one, however, as I spotted ol’ yellow poncho from earlier pull up and set his scooter underneath a small area of cover, that was probably only enough to keep his handlebars dry.
“I followed you here!” he jokes cheerfully, while searching for a dry spot to place his helmet. His English is at least conversational level, and clearly wants to practice a little, or perhaps just stay out of the rain for a bit. He tells me that he is on his way to Yilan (宜蘭) but the rest was a little unclear, as I couldn’t establish if he was going for a job interview or starting work today. After examining my chic rain poncho and fake crocs, he tells me – sincerely it seems – that he thinks Europeans are “very gentle”. After hearing this a lot, I’ve worked out that here people seem to confuse the adjectives “gentle” and “gentlemanly” pretty often, but I don’t have the heart to tell him right now. Especially after he says that out of all Europeans, British people are the most gentle and stylish. I ask if he’s interested in going to the UK for a working holiday, but with a frustrated smirk he quickly responds that he needs to work for a while and save a wad of money before he could afford to do such a thing, but travel is high on his list of priorities. He had to get a move on to reach Yilan, so said his goodbyes and zipped off into the distance.

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Several of the billions of people that queue up for a shot in front of the gates of Hualien’s Taroko gorge daily.

I stopped about five minutes drive away in Nan’ao (home of the beach caves) for some luncheon, as my hunger was getting the better of me. On a previous visit my friends and I stopped at a popular seafood restaurant by the train station, and remembering the high level of deliciousness it was the first option that came to mind. I park up and walk towards the restaurant, thinking of what I want to eat, but more importantly how I’m going to order it without the assistance of my local buddies, as reading seafood menus isn’t one of my strengths. In the end, none of that is important as piles of bouquets, balloons and a panicked hubbub from the workers inside tell me that it has been booked out for a wedding. Instead I found a small family run restaurant around the corner, but at first glance couldn’t tell if it was open for business or not. The frail old lady inside gave me a menu and sat me down at the smallest 2 seater table. Maybe they were expecting guests too? I ordered lamb fried rice, and noticed that the restaurant started to fill more as I ate it, and some of the visitors held a larger degree of curiosity towards me than I would receive in Taipei. I don’t mind, as long as they don’t ask me to have my picture taken with them. Stop that nonsense pls.

On the outskirts of Yilan it started to get considerably wetter, so my scheduled visit to the Kavalan whisky distillery couldn’t have come at a more suitable time. Yeah, you heard me right, whisky. Kavalan was established in 2005 after parent group “King Car” realised that the high quality of the water and damp, yet hot climate in Yilan would make ideal factors for producing and ageing one of the world’s favourite spirits. In fact, the climate is so suitable here that a barrel can be aged for just 6 years and have the taste of a 12 year old cask, as the frequent change in temperature and constant humidity considerably speeds up the ageing process. The proof is in the pudding, or in this case the ‘World’s best single malt’ prize in the 2015 World Whiskies Awards, and considering that was a mere 10 years after opening, the brand clearly has a big and exciting future ahead. In recent years Japanese single malt has started to challenge the big boys in Scotland, but now I’d bet that other Taiwanese brands are either thinking about or actively moving to join the fray. Anyway, if you’re in the area it’s an interesting place to visit, and previously I was lucky enough to be given a free personal English tour. The staff are very nice and pretty good at explaining the company’s background and their manufacturing procedure. If you can, visit during the week…

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A sneaky peek-er-oo of the copper stills within.

As it was a Saturday, the car park was utterly rammed with dithering tourists and awful children. Parking was a living nightmare as I fought the urge to run down zombies totally unaware of their surroundings, that is, a car park. A park for cars, buses, and other shit that will seriously injure you if you don’t move out of their way. Eventually I found a spot without murdering anyone and slowly made my way inside the building. One of my main objectives – as I’d already visited here – was to buy a bottle or two of the Kavalan distillery reserve, unavailable to buy anywhere else but from this building. Thankfully, the shop is just to the left hand side as I walked through the front door, but sadly is heaving with people. I find the bottle I’m looking for, but it’s more expensive than I remember so decide to pass up the opportunity. I was going back to the UK in a couple of weeks so it seemed like a slight extravagance considering the relatively cheap price of scotch in comparison. But, I text my mate back home to see if he wanted me to pick him up a bottle as he also rates it, but after hanging around for 30 minutes and hearing no response I decided to leave empty handed. A large part of me was happy with the lack of reply as I almost instantly realised after texting that I had absolutely no room in my backpack to get it home.

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Ageing oak casks of delicious Taiwanese whisky.

Driving through central Yilan at the weekend can be a huge annoyance. As if someone decided that traffic rules don’t exist for two days per week. On the way through I experienced a few incidents, one of my favourites was a car driver that simply decided that he didn’t want to wait in a traffic jam, so attempted to jump the entire queue and pull in front of someone, while almost knocking my bike. I had to brake sharply to avoid any dinks, and made a point of giving him the most evil of looks I could produce to hopefully notify him of his colossal level of bellenditry.  Another was planning to U-turn on a main road. No problem, there’s no traffic coming, so go for it pal. So he slams his foot on the brake for some unknown reason, meaning I have to stop completely and find a way around him in the busy traffic, as does everyone else. Maybe he had an epiphany that he was Taiwan’s shittest driver. If not, hopefully he will soon. But not while driving.

Another road that I enjoy riding is the number 9 from Yilan to Taipei. It takes a couple of hours but has a lot of sweeping roads in good condition, leafy scenery, and a great view of Yilan city from the mountains as you ascend. Alas, I wouldn’t be able to experience this road at it’s finest today, as the rain continued to beat down mercilessly and a thick fog rolled in, shielding the majestic view. Being December there was also a mighty chill in the air, causing my hands to numb slightly at times. Frankly, this was one of the least enjoyable sections of my whole trip, and it was a little sad to finish on this note. Boo. But, it was nice to sleep in my own bed once again.

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My apartment, last door on the left. Keep the noise down.

Lenpep’s final thought:
So that’s that, as they say. 16 days of thrilling adventure and hilariously entertaining stories. I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I did writing it down (that is, only briefly for once a week). My main purpose of this diary was to have something to document the finer details of a trip that I’d never forget, but I’d be over the moon if it inspires or helps others do a similar thing.

Taiwan is such a surprising country with seemingly unlimited interesting places to visit, home to a friendly population, rich flora & fauna, and a far more interesting history than you might expect from such a small island. If you’re considering coming, then I hope this has persuaded you. If you’re already here, then what are you waiting for? Get yourself a motorcycle and do the huan dao, mofo’s!

– L

Day Fifteen: Hualien city

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I awoke at around 9am and was pleasantly surprised to realise that I had been granted my own choice of wake up time for once. I was the only backpacker staying in this dorm room which gave me more peace than I’d hoped for. The bad news was that I checked the weather outside and saw possibly the bluest sky in the world. Bugger it. I starting thinking that I’d picked the wrong day to go to Taroko, but unless I bumped into Doc and Marty McFly then there was no chance of changing that. And even if I did, they’d probably feel a little put out only going back 24 hours.

The plan today was simply just to have a wander around the city, maybe pick up a souvenir or two and check out the local grub. With a rumble in my belly I hopped onto the KTR and headed towards an area that had been recommended by hostel staff for having decent food options. I arrived to find that almost nothing was open. I previously mentioned in one of the earlier days that finding breakfast between the hours of 9am – 10:30am can be a nightmare for some reason, and it was certainly the case today. After around 15 minutes of careful checking of opening times and menus, luckily I eventually stumbled across a shop which I later worked out was called “Mr Goose”; the drawings of geese on the fascia clearly showing that at least I know what animal I’ll be eating.

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Qixingtan beach (七星潭海邊) in Hualien.

The restaurant cook, a moon faced auntie sporting a hairnet and stained black apron grinned at me as I approached, with the usual tourist pleasing “hello, hello”. In Mandarin, she immediately asked if I could speak Chinese, to which I replied “only a little, it’s not good”. “Hao-ah” was her response, which kind of means: “alright then”. Then she proceeds to point at various dishes and explain what they are in Chinese, which doesn’t help much. Every time I use the phrases “bu zhi dao” (I don’t know) and “ting bu dong” (I don’t understand) she holds her stomach and roars with laughter – like a Bond villain – and repeats what I said, followed by more chuckling. As I can recognise a little writing on menus, I crane my neck to the front of the cooking stall and try that approach instead. I see something that looks like “oil rice”, so I order one of those, then I notice that inside one of her broths has a favourite of mine: duck’s blood pudding. Now hear me out… it’s delicious. OK, that’s all I’ve got. I point decisively at the red squares, and she motioned for me to sit down.

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After some brekkie I headed back to the hostel for a shower, before I planned to hit the souvenir market. Well, if you are looking for pineapple cakes or jewellery then you’re in luck. But there’s practically nothing else for sale on the street that was recommended. This is another Asian phenomenon that puzzles me; rather than have a street consisting of different types of shops and businesses, they will often be located all in the same area. For example, it’s not uncommon to see three or four mechanics all working next door to each other, or in this case, a street of mainly jewellery and pineapple cake shops. How do the ones in the middle of the street make any money? Do people walk along for five minutes, passing cake shop after cake shop and think “no, not today” and then finally succumb to the temptation? Anyway, I digress. The hostel had mentioned a decent souvenir shop that sells aboriginal and hand crafted items, so I headed there first. As luck would have it, it was closed that day. Bugger it again.

The urban explorer side of my brain had been keeping an eye out for something interesting, even though I had heard that abandoned buildings were either few and far between or not particularly interesting around these parts. I spotted a Starbucks on the corner of one of the city’s main streets, and the windows above the shop showed a number of indications that the second floor might be abandoned. Sadly the first hurdle was insurmountable; a concierge at the main – and only – entrance. I gave up on that idea pretty sharpish.

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While I continued my search for some decent trinkets I couldn’t help noticing that the sky was becoming extremely murky, and sooner than expected it started to come down relatively heavily (say that three times fast). I was passing a McD’s and had the desire for a burger and ice cream, so I ducked in there for an hour or so while the rain poured. Unfortunately this continued for the rest of the day, which – if nothing else – gave me ample reassurance that I did pick the correct day to visit the gorge, and allowed me to get some nice shots of Hualien during the evening rush hour. My final evening didn’t get much more exciting than that, as I watched episodes of The Office to the sound of rainfall outside, and enjoyed a relaxed hotpot dinner courtesy of the generous hostel hosts.

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At this time tomorrow I’d be back in Taipei.

Day Fourteen: Taroko Gorge

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I won’t lie. The thought of driving my motorcycle through the meandering roads of Taroko gorge was one of my prime motivators during planning. For the uninitiated, it’s a 20-ish kilometre canyon based in Hualien county which shapes a gloriously rewarding route to drive taking you through the central mountain range, as far as Taichung or Sun Moon lake. Along the way you’ll see the turbulent Liwu river, rushing from the highest peaks of Taiwan down to the Pacific ocean. Let’s not forget the amount of lush vegetation, staggeringly high cliff drops and wild hot springs (if you can find them…) that are gagging to be checked out too. To sum it up, it’s a nature lover’s paradise.

Arguably holding the top spot in my list of favourite places in Taiwan, I’ve been here a couple of times already. I came with Masta Minch in 2015 on a 5 day camping trip, and distinctly remember saying that “if we have to drive the whole length of this road every single day, I’d be happy”. Luckily we did, due to necessities such as petroleum and food from the 7-eleven, both located outside of the national park area. Anyway, hopefully now you understand the magnitude of the beauty and my love for this place, so we can begin. About time.

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Frankly, even I am getting sick of mentioning that military jets woke me up early again. But it bloody well happened. From 8:30am to 8:45am, I counted no fewer than 7 low flying fighter pilots hell-bent on fucking up my comfortable sleep, but for once, I welcomed it. The weather reports looked good around Taroko gorge and I was keen to get there early and do a little hiking before the inevitable afternoon rain set in. My heart was set on one particular route, known as the Lianhua pond trail (蓮花池步道) as I attempted this with the previously mentioned Mr Minch in 2015, however we were forced to turn back as the trail looked a little dangerous while simultaneously seeming to be closed a few weeks after a typhoon.

Approximately five minutes after entering the national park, the rain started to come down, enough so that I admitted defeat by pulling out the poncho and rain shoes. I remember feeling pretty gutted that my Taroko experience would have to be under grey clouds and rainfall, but so be it. 20 minutes passed as I made my way through sweeping bends and mountain road tunnels, when all of a sudden I was greeted with fresh blue sky and dry roads. Was I dreaming? For the rest of the day, the rain clouds were being kept out of the majority of Taroko by the might of the mountains, and I couldn’t believe my luck. Off came the poncho.

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This charming little spot is called “Frog Rock”, because… the rock looks like a frog. And the pavilion is like a little hat, I think. It’s normally flooded with tourists so watch the road as you come by here. They like to shuffle around on the sharp bend like lemmings sometimes.

At one point on my journey I had a moment of severe déjà vu. I was sure that the trail I was aiming for began at a small car park on a hairpin bend, and – while the roads certainly are winding – there aren’t many bends as sharp as the one I was looking for. I drove past one that was missing the car park, but looked familiar. So, stopping at a small viewpoint sixty seconds down the road, I checked my GPS. It confirmed that my instinct was right, and this was indeed the bend I was looking for. Maybe I’ll go back for another look. Well, I did, and I was a little upset. Without a doubt the victim of a gargantuan landslide, the car park had disappeared, and there was nothing to indicate that it had ever existed. The mountainside above the trail used to have a thick carpet of vegetation, but was now reduced to a cold stone face. I took a few minutes to reflect and imagine how terrifying this landslide must have been to anyone unfortunate enough to witness it in person. On my previous visit the Lianhua pond trail began with a memorable low cliff overhang above, but the damage was so severe it was difficult to see any traces of its original state. So I suppose it’ll be a few years before I can try this one again, unless I’m willing to brave the locals’ “safety rope” system…

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Squint a bit, look to the left of this picture and you’ll see some very thin ropes that I assume the locals use to get around the pesky inconvenience of a massive landslide. I thought about having a try myself, but quickly realised that I value my life.

Well, as I was in the area I decided I may as well enjoy the roads. I carried on a little further and traffic was stopped by a band of aboriginal construction workers who were clearing loose debris from the mountainside above the road. It’s not unusual to see this around here, and the normal protocol is to park up, wait for 15 minutes and then continue on. A couple of Taiwanese bikers started chatting with me, one with a Kawasaki sports bike and the other with a rather fetching Triumph. The latter seemed to take pride in showing off his bike to a Brit, but I didn’t mind at all. In fact, I could barely take my eyes off of it. He was a middle aged chap, mentioned he had been to London twice, and was a professional photographer. Mid conversation, I noticed how impressed some tourists on a bus were that a Taiwanese person and a foreigner were having a normal conversation, so they decided to take some very low-key (and by low-key, I sarcastically mean extremely unintentionally obvious) photos of us to commemorate the occasion. They’ll talk about that for years.

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After the initial disappointment of the day, I decided to head to another spot that Mr Minch and I failed to properly explore back in 2015. At that time, it seemed to be a shamefully neglected and overgrown entrance to a possibly abandoned temple. While making our way in we noticed that a gang of macaque monkeys were sneakily trying to get into some sort of defensive or ambush position, so we called it off pronto. This time when I stopped by it looked to have been cleared and open for business. Here we go then. There was no sign of any mischievous monkey activity thankfully, but there were a few angry chained mutts. Anyone that has owned a dog will know the sound of a bark from a genuinely angry or aggressive canine. In the first instance I brushed it off as your classic chained dog behaviour, but as I got nearer to one of the buildings I could almost feel the burning fury in this mongrel’s soul, and the froth spraying out of his angry gob. Taking the hint that I wasn’t welcome in the slightest, I 180’d and headed back to my bike, much to the relief of the flea-infested guardian. Today was not going well.

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Welcome to the jungle, we’ve got dogs and chains.

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An abandoned old wooden shack discovered shortly before the livid guard dog.

My final stop – one which I prayed wouldn’t let me down – was going to be the Wenshan hot spring (文山溫泉). Every time I’ve been to Taroko, no matter what time of year, I religiously stop by this place for a soak in the soup. It is arguable whether or not you are allowed to be there, but it seems while the local authority would like to dissuade you from entering there with tough-talking “prohibited” signs, they also know it is virtually impossible to police. Some visitors may be put off, but there are almost certainly a troop of local residents that regularly visit, enjoy, and maintain the hot spring for others. Every time I have visited here the layout or construction of the spring has been different due to the fast flowing river along side it, and of course those darn landslides.

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The famous Wenshan hot spring view from the suspension bridge above. It used to be much more polished than this, but a huge landslide in 2005 dramatically altered the layout.

A short walk down some stairs of varying degrees of traction followed by a cheeky hop around the side of a metal gate gets me right where I want to be, down at the bottom of a canyon next to a raging river and a natural hot spring conveniently located inside a shallow cavern, like a big sheltered bathtub. There are already a number of other bathers already here. One is a well groomed young gentleman sporting a Duke Nukem haircut and sunglasses, whose main pastime seems to be taking hundreds of selfies. There are a boisterous group of two middle aged women and a man enjoying themselves, who I thought might have been on the Gaoliang, but it turns out that they were just from Guangzhou in southern China. Through my broken Chinese and his broken English, we managed to find out enough about each other to satisfy our curiosities. It takes me around 5 minutes to reach some kind of relative comfort in the hot spring, as temperature here is normally around a scalding hot 45 degrees Celsius. The river next to the spring is a Godsend, as you can switch from hot to cold water or vice versa instantly.

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A shot from the river beside the hot spring.

After starting to feel a little light headed, I decided that I’d had enough bathing for today. A 45 minute drive home was fairly uneventful in the dark, except for when one of the biggest moths in the world decided to fly directly into my face when my visor was up, causing significant panic. Kids, if you learn one thing from this blog, it’s that you should always ride with your visor down.