The journey began with an early morning train ride on Tuesday from Taichung to Tainan. In Tainan Ben and I got the motorbikes ready and hit the road. We were soon beyond Tainan’s city limits and riding through verdant countryside. After a few hours passing through towns like Qishan, Meinong and Gaoshu amidst the rolling hills, we reached the edge of much more substantial mountains and the entrance to the Maolin National Scenic Area (茂林國家風景區) in Kaohsiung County.
We had lunch in Maolin before heading further up the valley to the Rukai village of Dona (多納). This village is one of the few places in Taiwan where you can find slate houses. Slate is used as a building material in the village for constructing fences and the walls and rooves of houses. It is a traditional building method of the Rukai and Paiwan peoples.
After exploring the village for a while we headed down to soak in the hot springs for a while. Dinner was at one of the local restaurants that specialised in cooking on a slate BBQ (石板烤肉).
The next day started with a visit to the Dona Suspension Bridge (多納吊橋) which spans the valley at a height of about 100 metres. It is a very impressive bridge and I was surprised to see the locals riding their motorbikes across it. It obviously makes a good shortcut for them.
The next spot we visited was the Meiya waterfall (美雅瀑布). The bridge across the river was destroyed by a typhoon in 2005. However, it was possible to hike along the riverbed to get to the base of the waterfall. The pool at the base of the waterfall wasn’t really suitable for swimming so we went for a swim lower down.
After that we headed out of the Maolin Valley to the Hakka area of Meinong. There we visited the Meinong Hakka Museum (美濃客家文物館). The museum had plenty of interesting and informative displays and was a good place to learn some more about the local area. After a nice hearty lunch of Hakka food we went on to Liugui (六龜). Here there is a series of tunnels that were built by the Japanese for harvesting camphor. The tunnels run parallel to the main road and are all passable by motorbike. There were signs in the area saying “Little Guilin” (小桂林) but the scenery actually reminded me more of Thailand.
The trip came to an end with an early morning motorbike ride from Dona village back to Tainan. It took about three hours to cover the distance. From there it was a train to destinations further north.
*more photos in the Maolin set at flickr.