Hengchun's Flame Wonders

---By John Matthews Translated by Annie Liu

Just East of Hengchun Town, Pingtung County. Follow Country Route 200 for approximately 1-2 kilometres.

There is evidence of geothermal activity of one kind or another throughout most of Taiwan. From great depths beneath the Earth's crust, we see it heat spring-fed waters to the boiling point or great pools of mud into a roiling, bubbling mass stewing in the tropical heat. Another marvel of this type can be witnessed just a short drive by car or motorcycle east of Hengchun town in Pingtung County.

Take country route 200 east out of Hengchun, and a mere kilometer beyond the old city walls you can observe what is known as Flame Wonders or Gas Fire. This modest tourist site (north side of route 200) is home to an unusual natural phenomenon. In a field surrounded by low hills and a stream sits a tiny enclosure where a natural gasses seep out from underground vents, creating a cluster of small flames and glowing embers.

This site is preserved and marked as "ecological fact/natural scenery" on an English map published by the Pingtung County Government called 'Pingtung Images'. They call it "Flame Wonders". While another map titled 'Hengchun Peninsula Easy Go' (also in English) and published by the Dapeng Bay Tourism Bureau lists the site under a category titled "Natural Landscape". They mark the site as "Gas Fire".

Either way, it is remarkable when you consider the fun to be had if you bring along a meal to cook out in the natural and open pit. You can also buy these goods from any number of vendors situated along the road, ready to sell you tinfoil-wrapped popcorn, potatoes and meat. They even have a variety of fireworks for sale. On any given weekend you will find a local selling such items on site, and sharing with you (in Chinese only) the local stories and tales of superstition surrounding the phenomenon known as Flame Wonders/Gas Fire.


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