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FYI SOUTH Magazine September 2005.

Whitewater Rafting On The Laonong River

Closed: Laonong Whitewater Rafting Company
105, JhongJheng Rd., Baolai Village, LiouGuei Township, Kaohsiung County(07) 688-2996 FAX: (07) 688-2997
For details of other rafting companies, see: bolang.com.tw and baumay.com.tw

--By Steven Crook, translated by Annie Liu
Photos courtesy of Laonung River Rafting company

Taiwan is ideal for whitewater rafting: The wet season brings huge amounts of rain, and the island's steep mountains mean fast rivers cut through some great scenery. Hualien County's Xiuguluan River has long been Taiwan's No. 1 rafting venue. No. 2--a few hours' drive from either Tainan City or Kaohsiung City--is a stretch of the Laonung River near the hot springs resort of Baolai.
Organized river trips have been setting off from Baolai for more than a decade. We booked with one of the older rafting businesses, Laonong Whitewater Rafting Co., and after meeting at their office joined about 90 other floaters down at the riverside.
Everyone got kitted out while listening to a comprehensive safety lecture (if you don't speak Chinese, don't worry; the guides will check you've got your lifejacket and helmet on properly, and will ask your companions to translate key points). Then it was into the inflatables, eight to ten people per boat. Everyone sits with one leg in and one leg out the boat, except the guide at the back.

As a paying passenger, you're required to do very little except hold on. That's not as easy as it sounds, even with the guide and accompanying speedboats steering and pushing the boats away from the most dangerous rapids. The boat rocks and spins constantly. We almost turned over; one lady on our vessel fell in twice; and we ran aground several times.
Whitewater rafting is safe, but not for the faint-hearted. Don't be embarrassed if you scream out loud when the prow of your boat suddenly plunges into a whirlpool of froth--you won't be the only one!

The Laonung rafting course is 20 kilometers long, and takes around two hours. Rafting trips are organized between April and November each year. At the beginning and end of each season, floats are often canceled if the water level is too low. The price per person is NT$700 (NT$800 on weekends); this includes shower facilities at the end of the course, and transport back to Baolai. Calling ahead is advisable, especially if you want to raft on a weekend.

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