The Wormhole, Lingjiao Waterfall, and the 'Opening Up' of Taiwan's Natural Sites


((Update 06/2019)) I’ve received reports that the Wormhole is now closed off and monitored. This report and Google reviews seem to back this up and it looks like a long stretch of the river has been declared illegal for water activities. A victim of its own popularity. I can’t ignore my own part in bringing this site to a wider audience so I will rethink my approach here and also my optimism towards how sensible the general public actually is. About half my friends and myself have had to help people out of here so I expect this is a big reason it’s shut now. It’s no secret that a lot of not very outdoorsy people see Instagram shots and over-estimate how safe places are. Though I don’t like the government sealing somewhere natural I understand that they’ll be blamed if someone dies here. My sense however is this place will still be possible to reach with some river tracing just that the easy access from the village will be shut off. I still want to share cool natural places. I think anything that positively raises Taiwan’s international profile and helps it look awesome is a good thing. However it’s unlikely I’ll be giving detailed locations for many sites like this in future. I hope other writers and content makers in this space also reconsider giving detailed locations of many fragile, easily accessed, or dangerous sites. A few more views are really not worth the crowds, sealing off, or destruction of many of these places. It’s far too late to keep Lingjiao a secret so I’ll leave that one as is.

After being annoyingly canny about the location of this site here are a couple that are definitely well-known. I found The Wormhole via some friends who used Follow Xiaofei's excellent guide for natural sites. The canyon also appears on Google Maps now. Lingjiao has been known among friends and a lot of the public for many years. The Xiaofei site is a great piece of work and I'm sure it's helped a lot of people enjoy Taiwan's outdoors. I look forward to visiting some more springs myself. However, I have to admit my first reaction on seeing it was trepidation, especially as it was promoted quite heavily over Facebook.

I felt a lot of the sites listed were ecologically quite sensitive. While a small influx of people is fine they could easily be overwhelmed. The litter, concrete, and tarpaulins that have affected other popular areas worried me when I first started this blog and map. I didn't want to inadvertently lead to their destruction by sharing them with an large audience. On seeing it I did briefly think “well, that's the end of those sites”. (2019: Hmm… this did actually come to pass)

Someone left a cicada husk on the bus back from the Wormhole

But since I started this blog I've come to see things in a different light. The trepidation was short-lived. Xiaofei is using his reach to point out the garbage problem in Taiwan's forests and encourage responsible travel, which is great. There is a chance here to open up Taiwan's beauty to the mainstream in a positive way. I think the mass-tourism 'managed' approach of the government has failed in many places and destroyed them (think concrete, masses of warning signs, ugly fencing, tacky stalls, gaudy hotels etc). I hope in a way blogs like this one and others can get a conscientious public visiting before the authorities cotton on, so that there's a voice of resistance when some tourism manager tries to wreck them. 

Places like these should not be shut off from the public's knowledge and consciousness. How will people develop a love of nature and respect for it if everything stays completely hidden? It always seemed a contradiction to be both extolling people to care about the environment yet trying to hide many of the most special sites away from them. So share away! It was wonderful after initial posts on my own Facebook last summer to see knowledge of both these places ripple out among my friends and then their friends. (2019: I still believe in this but clearly the Wormhole shouldn’t have been so widely shared. I’m not sure there has been much unified resistance to the closure either so I’m not seeing much benefit in giving detailed locations of places like this anymore.)

Reflections in the Wormhole

The places that I will keep more hidden are those like the waterfall pool. They are too small, located very close to large populations, and/or really dangerous. It would also be hard to get any substantial amount of garbage out of them. I hope Xiaofei and others will put similar limitations on their sites. Some places are really not meant for large groups of people, who are not experienced with river swimming or climbing, yet are easily seduced by the perfect 'instagrammable' shot into doing something daft. So anyhow here is the peculiarly named Wormhole, a beautiful gorge I visited last summer that's easily accessed from Taipei:

The entrance to the gorge

The way down is near a small bridge in an old mining hamlet. There are ropes and steps and it's not very difficult. The gorge is a strange winding chasm with deep green walls and a small waterfall. It's too deep to touch the bottom here so it's better to just float through to the other end and swim back up. Make sure you have at least some swimming skill here. The current is gentle and the sunlight on the water casts some beautiful patterns. Of course this place is probably a raging torrent after rains so don't go there then.

A small waterfall on the right

Going upriver from the gorge there are a few stretches of boulders to scramble over before a series of wide pools open out. One is a near perfect oval with a small cascade. This part of the river is very open and good for just lazing in the sun on the water. Further upstream and downstream beyond the gorge the river is quite flat and unremarkable. You'll need river tracing shoes to access the upper areas.

I've heard recently from friends that the place is quite busy at the weekend, and that there was some litter around. When I went on a summer weekday it was deserted. I've been doing some beach cleaning days recently. While a lot of the trash is washed up (and damn there's a lot of it) a fair portion had clearly been thrown from the coast path. While I wish there was a jerk filter preventing those sort of people accessing these places, there isn't. I can only hope that people reading this will pick up any discarded stuff they find there too. (I recommend this org for beach cleaning specifically).

Beach cleaning on the Wanli coast last year. Not bad for five people I think but still a lot left

Lingjiao has been known to a lot of people for many years. Google actually auto-completes the waterfall before anything else in the village. The two sites are close enough though that you could visit both in one day so I decided to include it here. It would be easier if you were driving but bus 795 stops by the Wormhole and also goes close to Lingjiao. Use the bustracker app as this bus is only every 30 minutes to an hour. Follow the train tracks out of Lingjiao Station heading downriver. Steps down to the waterfall are on the right.

The fall is quite powerful and the pool is very deep. On one bank some strange grottoes have been carved which look like little Hobbit holes. It's best to expect crowds on a weekend but the pool is large so it didn't feel especially crowded until a kayaking group arrived.

Like most sites in Taiwan on weekdays you'll likely have it to yourself. As a warning, there have been cases of people being swept away on rougher days. It's also a bad idea to jump off the top and there has been at least one recent death from that. Otherwise on a calm day it's a really beautiful and peaceful place.

If you want truly deserted natural sites you won't find them using stuff like the Xiaofei site or indeed my own blog and map (unless I've been a bit obtuse with directions). The irony of seeing friends all trying to “get away from the crowds” while all using the same maps and blogs isn't lost on me. For that you'll need to comb through Chinese language blogs. Most Taiwanese work long hours with regular weekday schedules so these places will be empty during the week. Otherwise, just go drive or cycle through the mountains. I found this waterfall and pool last week on a random drive near Shiding. I doubt it's often busy but it's accessible enough that I'm gonna keep it a secret.

Shame about the water pipes

In the meantime enjoy these two places and more that are by no means ruined for having to share them with a few other people.