COMPASS MAGAZINE, November 2006.

LiSong Hot Springs

--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 around.

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.


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