Maolin District of Kaohsiung City is an amazing outdoor paradise and my favorite place in Taiwan. In this mountainous district of Kaohsiung, you can find waterfalls, streams, hot springs, butterflies, aboriginal culture, and great views, all by the roadside! Popular activities include swimming, hot spring bathing, river tracing, camping, and hiking.
Please note I have also finished blogs about Maolin Village, Wanshan Village, Duona Suspension Bridge, and Duona Village (click the links to see each individual blog).
During the Japanese occupation, some of the original inhabitants of Maolin Village live in the mountains behind Wanshan Village. However later these aboriginals were forcibly moved to the current village. Many of the inhabitants were originally located elsewhere, but had to relocate their home or village due to typhoons or unsafe terrain. There are a few abandoned villages above the current village that you can still hike to.
The villages have about 2000 total inhabitants, mostly aboriginals from the Rukai (魯凱族) Wulu Bunun (布農) and Paiwan (排灣) tribes, as well as some Han Chinese people. The district also has Maolin Middle school, the only middle school, and three elementary schools.
Wanshan has the smallest population of any village in Taiwan according to the government website here, with a population of just 450 people. 95% of the people are aborigines from the Rukai Tribe (魯凱族), and the rest are either from the Wulu Bunun Tribe (布農) or Han Chinese.
Originally the people of Wanshan village lived at the base of Mali Mountain (麻里山), but were moved by the government in 1956 to their current location.
Many of the inhabitants of Maolin were originally located elsewhere, but had to relocate their home or village due to typhoons or unsafe terrain. There are a few abandoned villages around Maolin that you can still hike to.
Typhoon Morakot brought record floods to Taiwan because it slowly moved over the island delivering torrential rain. Nearly 700 people were killed during the disaster (to see what Maolin looked like right after the flooding, check out this blog here).
Basically all the bridges in Maolin were destroyed during Typhoon Morakot in 2009 except Duona Suspension bridge which is built so high that it would never be affected by floodwater.
Most all the bridges currently in Maolin were reconstructed after the 2009 floods.
Duona is the most remote village in Maolin District of Kaohsiung City, and is said to harbor the most complete version of the Rukai Aborigine culture.
The Rukai People first began to move into the area now known as Duona about 300 years ago (1700s), making it one of the oldest aborigine villages in Taiwan.
Most of the people live in traditional stone houses made from nearby plentiful shale rock, which are characteristic of the Rukai Tribe. The stone houses are warm in the winter and stay cool during the summer.
Near the village is a small plain which is said to be the home of Taiwan's indigenous species of black rice. The village was almost completely cut off from the outside world until the Japanese built the Duona Suspension Bridge, which helped to link it to the rest of Taiwan as well as better control the native population.
The actual Distrcit boundaries extend to Pingtung County and Taitung County, and include largely untouched and "virgin" forests and mountain wilderness areas such as Shuang-guei Lake, providing precious wildlife habitat for many of Taiwan's indigenous animals and plants.
When to go:
I recommend going in the summer time when the waterfalls have plenty of water and warm temperatures make it a great time to go swimming. In winter it will be cold and the waterfalls can dry up.
On the other hand if you want to go just for hiking, winter would be a better time to go.
If there is a Typhoon, the inhabitants of Maolin will be evacuated, and you should not try to go in for your own safety.
If you are coming to see butterflies, the butterfly migration is in the fall and ends roughly in November.
How to get there:
By Car: Maolin can be reached via provincial highway 27 from Pingtung or Liugui. Once you come to Dajin Bridge, go straight up the mountain.
By Bus: You can take a bus there but I don't recommend it. It's a 3 hour bus ride from Pingtung Bus Station. If you can rent a car or scooter it is about a 1 1/2 hour drive from Kaohsiung.
Please see a map below marked with all the destinations we will visit in this blog:
Yangmingshan National Park is a mountainous area in Taipei and New Taipei, known for its volcanic activity, hiking trails, wildlife, waterfalls, hot springs, and sulfur vents. It is definitely worth a stop on your trip to Taipei.
The area known as Yangmingshan now was formed by volcanoes about 700,000 years ago, forming many mountains about 1000 meters or less in northwestern Taiwan. The park still features active volcanoes, vents, and hot springs.
The original name of the area was Caoshan (grass mountain 草山). During the Qing Dynasty, the area was used to harvest sulfur, and many of the hills were burned to help catch sulfur thieves, Qingtiangang likely being one of these areas.
Sulfur mining started in the Qing Dynasty by a British mining company who first obtained the rights to mine here in 1897. In 1927 during the Japanese era, Yangmingshan was made as the first national park in Taiwan, then known as Datunshan National Park Association.
The area around Qingtiangang to Lengshuikeng was made into a ranch for water buffalo, and grass from Japan was planted here for them to graze.
In 1950 after the ROC took Taiwan, Chiang Kai-shek renamed the park after the philosopher Wang Yangming, and called the area Yangmingshan.
The KMT kept the ranch at Qingtiangang and continued to maintain it. They also built bunkers here and kept a garrison of troops.
In 1985, after resolving many land disputes, Yangmingshan National Park was officially designated as a national park in the ROC era.
Due to its easy accessibility from Taipei and many natural attractions, it is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Taipei City. Most visitors come on weekends, and it has parking lots and a visitor's centers throughout the park.
The visitor's centers are open from 9 AM to 4:30 PM. However you can visit the park 24/7.
Free entrance into the park
(car parking 30-50 NT， scooter parking 20 NT)
When to Go:
Silver Grass Season: Mang Grass season goes from September to November. During this time you will be able to see silvery grass all over the mountain tops around the park.
Cherry Blossom Season: Cherry blossoms can be seen in the park from February to late March.
Snowfall: Once every few years it can snow here from December to February. The snow usually only lasts a day or two and melts away quickly.
Best Weather: In my opinion the best weather is in the summer when constant rain makes the air cleaner, and summer mornings are usually clear. Be sure to start hiking in the morning for the best views and sunshine, as afternoon thundershowers are common.
How to get there:
By Car/Scooter: From Taipei, take provincial highway 2A north to the park, where you can see the main attractions such as Zhuzihu, Qixingshan, Datunshan, Qingtiangang, etc. There are many parking lots, but car parking is limited on weekends and the number of cars allowed up the mountain is also limited. There is also paid scooter parking.
On weekends this place can be packed, and cars can be backed up for up to an hour or more, so consider taking a scooter or bus.
By Bus: From Beitou MRT Station, Take Little Bus 19 (小19), or another bus to the park.
See below for a map of places mentioned in this blog:
The Pingxi Railway in New Taipei has some of the most popular attractions in Northern Taiwan. With a total of 7 stations (plus 2 if you count Ruifang and Houtong), there are endless places to explore, eat, hike, and enjoy Taiwan's history, culture, and natural beauty all in one place.
Before the Pingxi Railway was built, during the Qing Dynasty a section of the Danlan Old Trail ran through roughly the same area, connecting Yilan to Tamsui. The Japanese completed the Pingxi Railway in 1921 in order to transport coal from the area. Most all of the stations and villages along the line were economically reliant on the coal industry until its downfall in the late 1990s.
The coal industry remained strong after the ROC took over Taiwan after WWII, but slowly waned in the 1980s and 1990s due to the decrease in global coal prices.
In the year 2000, Sanxia’s Lifeng Mine shut down operations, and Taiwan’s mining company closed, and thus all coal mining in Taiwan effectively stopped.
The Pingxi Railway is a single track that is 12.9 KM long with 7 stations.
Recently the government has offered many plans to connect the Pingxi Railway to the Taipei MRT via Jingtong to Jingmei, however due to many factors these plans have never been approved.
The area around Pingxi and Ruifang is made up of sedimentary rock which easily erodes, creating many large waterfalls such as Shifen Falls, and pointy jagged peaks like the Pingxi Crags.
Popular activities along the Pingxi Railway include hiking, river tracing, eating at one of the many old streets, setting off sky lanterns, and exploring the many historical coal mining sites.
The first train reaches Sandiaoling daily at 5:25 AM and the last train leaves Jingtong at 8:33 PM.
80 NT per person for a one day pass
When to go:
Any time of year is great. However, waterfalls are most enjoyable during the hot summer, and you may want to come for lantern festival when hundreds of sky lanterns are set off at once.
To avoid crowds and packed trains, do not go on weekends or holidays.
How to get there:
By Train: Take the TRA to Ruifang Station, buy the Pingxi Railway line one day pass, and then switch to the Pingxi Railway line. Get off at any station!
By Car/Scooter: Take provincial highway 2 east toward Pinglin, then get off the main highway once you reach Shifen. You can drive right or left to reach all of the stations on the Pingxi Railway line. But please know there is limited car parking around the stations.
Please see below:
Mudan Old Street is a small old street in Mudan Neighborhood of Shuangxi District. The old street is almost totally a residential area. Now it is a quiet town with very little tourists, but with lots of nature sights, mountain roads, camp sites, and hiking trails nearby.
Mudan is named after the tree peonie flower.
During the Qing Dynasty, Mudan was an important stop along the Danlan Old Trail (淡蘭古道 which means the road between Tamsui and Yilan), which was split into three paths, and Mudan was on the Northern Path. The Northern Path winded from Mengjia Old Street to Nuannuan, then to Ruifang, and onto Jiufen and Houtong. From Houtong, the road then went to Mudan and then Shuangxi, then went along the coast to Yilan. During this time, most of the things traded were tea leaves and agricultural goods.
Historically Mudan and the areas nearby have been rural, and in the 1900s relied on coal, gold, and mercury mining to drive the economy. The mining industry died down in the late 1900s and is now defunct.
Currently the neighborhood of Mudan has a population of only 1953 people, and is dropping every year.
The Mudan Train Station was recently upgraded to a simple station, with a TRA employee stationed there to sell tickets. There are about 200 people coming and leaving the station every day. Only the shuttle train stops at the station.
Now it is a quiet town with very little tourists, but with lots of nature sights, mountain roads, and hiking trails nearby.
About 10 AM to 6 PM.
How to get there:
By Train: Take the TRA to Mudan Station. Only the shuttle train stops at the station.
By Car/Scooter: From Taipei, on provincial highway 5 until you reach Keelung, then take provincial highway 2B to Shuangxi. You then need to take county raod 102 to Mudan. The old street is only one lane, so you can get stuck if driving a car.
Please see below:
Gold Mountain Ranch and Resort (aka Jinshan Yijing in Chinese, or simply "Horse Camp") is a campground and horse ranch in Jinshan District of New Taipei. A stay here includes activities such as horseback riding, four-wheeling, archery and bb-gun practice, and also a filling BBQ dinner and western style breakfast. Staying here makes you feel like you are in the rural American West, which is a unique experience in Taiwan. With a shortage of ranches and horse riding opportunities in Taiwan, Gold Mountain is a special place that you should not miss on your trip along Taiwan's northern coast.
From my conversation with the Laoban (Boss), Mr. Z, as well as info from their website, Mr. Z. started this ranch about three years ago as a pet project, due to his love of horses. Before that he was in the restaurant business. He said that he searched the entire island for a suitable place for a Horse Ranch, which was his dream, and happened to find this spot of land where the ranch currently operates. When he started the ranch, he would still drive back to Zhonghe every night to take care of his ailing cat. Now he spends all his time taking care of the horses, even sleeping next to them at night in case something goes wrong. Now him and four other employees help to run the campground and ranch.
Currently the ranch has 6 horses, about five ATVs, and can accommodate 60 people. Soon they plan to open a restaurant and bar on the property, as well as a wilderness survival training camp.
Check in: 1 PM
Check out: 11 AM
1600 NT - 2750 NT per night per person
Additional horse rides charged per hour/lesson.
Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/goldmrandr/
(like and share button below)
How to get there:
By Car/Scooter: From Taipei, take National highway 3 north to Wanli, then take provincial highway 2 along the northern coast until you reach Jinshan. Then take provincial highway 2A east to county highway 25, and turn right at Sanhe elementary school. Turn left when you see the sign for "金山驛境." The ranch is at the end of the road. It takes about 50 minutes from Taipei by car.
By Bus/taxi: There are buses that leave from Taipei City Hall station to Jinshan hourly. The ride takes about an hour. From central Jinshan you can take a taxi (about 200 NT) to the ranch.
Please see below:
Bishan Campground (aka Bishan Camping Area) in Neihu District of Taipei City is the only free campground run by Taipei City (although it has an extension campground in Beitou). Near the campground is Bishan Temple, which has one of the best views of Taipei. Besides camping and temple worship, the area is also a popular hiking spot, and there are multiple tourist farms and tea shops to explore.
How to apply for a camping spot:
You can apply using this online form (it's in English!):
You must apply at least 7 days in advance, but no more than 30 days in advance.
You must enter your passport ID or Taiwan ID.
You can check the status of the application online as well.
For more info, check here (Chinese): https://www.geo.gov.taipei/mp10504b/
Camping time starts at 2 PM and ends at 1 PM the next day.
You can only stay for two nights at a time.
How to get there:
By Bus: You can take a bus to about 1 KM away from the campsite, but then you have to walk with all of that gear. If that's not what you want then you should take a taxi or your own vehicle.
By Scooter/Car: From East Neihu, drive up Bishan Raod (碧山路) until you see the campground. It's hard to miss.
Please see below:
Disclaimer: We are not affiliated with any camp ground or camping products in Taiwan. The following FAQ is only based on our opinion after years of camping in Taiwan, and should not be considered absolute fact. If in doubt, make sure you check with the local police station or other government office to make sure you are following local regulations while camping in Taiwan.
With two thirds of the island covered in mountains, Taiwan has some of the most beautiful scenery in the world. One of the best ways to experience the natural beauty of Taiwan is via camping. Below is a very basic level FAQ on camping in Taiwan for foreigners that have never experienced it.
Disclaimer: We are not affiliated with any hotel or hostel in Taiwan. The following FAQ is only based on our opinion after years of booking accommodation in Taiwan, and should not be considered absolute fact.
What is the best website for hotel booking in Taiwan?
Agoda. From my own experience, they are the cheapest, provide the best quality listings, and have incredible customer service. They once gave me my money back for a hostel (which did not have free cancellation) just because there was an earthquake in Hualien the day before. Also, they gave my money back on a room that had a shared bathroom because it wasn’t obvious from the listing.
What is the average price of a hotel in Taiwan?
According to Hikersbay.com, the average price of a hotel in Taiwan is 2,197 TWD.
In our experience, a fair price for a hotel in Taiwan that I like to stick to is around 1,500 TWD (about 45 USD).
What is the average price range for hotels in Taiwan?
The following prices are from personal experience booking over tens of hotels in Taiwan over 5 years (Please note 1000 NT is roughly equal to 31 USD):
Typically, the cheapest of the cheap hotels will go from 700-1000 NT
Lower range Hotels will go from 1000-1700 NT
Mid Range Hotels will go from 1500-2500 NT
High Class Hotels will go from 2500-5000 NT
Super Fancy Hotels will go from 5000-30,000+ NT per night!
Please note these prices also vary by location.
We are US Expats that have extensive experience living, working, and travelling in Taiwan. In our day, we had to learn many things about Taiwan the hard way. But we have come to learn that Taiwan is one of the best places in the world for Foreigners to live. Our blog does not represent the opinions of every foreigner in Taiwan. We are just trying to help others learn more about this beautiful country.