--Text & Photos by
Richard Matheson Translated by Annie Liu
Some consider LiSong Hot Springs, nestled
by the mineral-stained cliffs of the Sinwulu River,
to be one of Taiwan's most beautiful. While many hot
springs aficionados have heard of this place (sometimes
called Motian Hot Springs), most people have not. It
is deceptively remote, but well worth the hike.
Near kilometer marker 169 on the Southern
Cross-Island Highway, there is a rough 2.5-kilometer-long
side road that ends in a cabbage farm. There you might
have to pay a NT$200 parking fee, if the landowner is
At the farm, walk straight through the
fields to find the trailhead. The trail is very steep,
plunging from around 1,300 meters above sea level down
through old-growth forest to about 1,050 meters, where
it hits the river. Allow an hour for the descent. You'll
see wild orchids, pines and walnut trees.
It is said that these clear hot spring
waters are especially therapeutic for women and sore
joints. The springs are a little upriver from the end
of the path; the final section of the hike will take
you across the river twice and have you scrambling along
the cliff walls of the gorge. Coming here at the height
of the wet season is very difficult and certainly unadvisable.
The hot mineral water cascading down
the richly colored eastern face of the gorge, together
with the clouds of steam rising back up to the leafy
trees high above the river, make this spring especially
beautiful. The walls are encrusted with bright green
and white crystallized minerals; there are also oranges,
yellows and browns. The water is 45 to 65 degrees Celsius
in some of the shallow pools.
Food and lodgings are available in
the nearby aboriginal village of Lidao. If you don't
have a car, take a public bus between Lidao and Taidong,
and get off at Motian.