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Day 5 of our Eastern Taiwan Tour would be an adventurous one filled right to the brim with activities ranging from chasing waterfalls at Wufengchi and Yuemeikeng, to visiting museum, eating seafood caught fresh from the fishing harbor and more.
Join me as we explore attractions around Yilan and Luodong of Eastern Taiwan and see how we got lost in some.
Renting a Car in Eastern Taiwan
Remember how we struggled in the rain riding our cute little scooter in Taroko National Park? Well, no more of that as we’d been upgraded to a sheltered vehicle, otherwise known as a car.
Over the next two days, our nice sedan car would bring us to various attractions such as Wufengchi Waterfalls, Yuemeikeng Falls, Lanyang Museum, Teapot Mountain and even as far as Shifen Waterfall.
Our rationale for having a car during this leg of the journey was not so much due to rain but for our own road safety. As long distance would be covered on highways, it would be safer to be wrapped around by metal rather than the other way round (our flesh and bones wrapping a scooter).
See, we do take calculated risks!
How much does it cost to rent a Car in Taiwan?
The car rental bookings were made back in Singapore and cost about NTD2000 per day. This was made from a car rental company located near Luodong Train Station – DoubleMoto (達伯聯合租車羅東店).
For those who want to self-drive too, this google map shows its location and reviews. We’d arranged for our car to be collected and returned in Luodong, our base for the next few days.
Our miscellaneous car expenses for two days came up to NTD900, which included petrol cost of NTD700 and tolls/parking fees of about NTD200.
TIP: I’ve since revisited Taiwan again in 2019. In this trip, we booked a car online at a cheaper rate of just S$65 a day. Collection was so easy and took less than 20 minutes with the car delivered right at the doorstep of the arrival hall. It was so convenient! Read my latest car rental review here.
How about getting a Chauffeured driver in Taiwan?
If you prefer not to drive in a foreign land or are traveling with kids and elderly, you can engage a driver instead. It would be more expensive (about NTD4000 depending on itinerary) and typically comes with just 8 to 10 hours of service instead of 24-hour. The plus point, however, is that these drivers can double-up as local guides, and every member of the family can steal a nap during transit.
If you know our style by now, you’ll know why we prefer to self-drive. We’ve always loved the freedom to explore places on our own terms and at our own pace. This may involve getting lost in the process or meeting unexpected challenges. To us, it’s the quickest way to learn about a country, sometimes through the hard way but we are sure to remember all of our experiences – probably very unique ones as compared to others (because of all the mishaps…Haha!).
How many times have you struggled to remember a place that you went to on a guided tour? I couldn’t remember much of Macau or the name of her attractions – that was the only group tour I’d joined.
Typical Hotel Breakfast in Taiwan
Choose a Hotel with Breakfast or Without?
The perks of staying in a hotel as compared to an Airbnb is that hotel often comes with free breakfast. While I do appreciate the convenience of an on-site breakfast, there are times when I find it a hassle having to get up early and be ‘forced’ to take in a lot of food (buffet, right?) when I wasn’t even hungry yet.
Free hotel breakfast is good for relaxing tours, but not one that’s packed to the brim. Nowadays, I would choose “without breakfast” options from hotel booking sites when I knew my trip would be one with packed itineraries. And many times, I would end up booking Airbnb apartments, which by the way tend to be more spacious and cheaper.
In fact, I’ve booked 7 days out of 8 through Airbnb for my next trip to Okinawa. So I hope you do give Airbnb a try! I’m not sponsored here and am saying this for my readers’ benefits.
Lower your expectation on Hotel Breakfast in Taiwan
I’ve been to Taiwan a couple of times and based on my limited experience staying in budget and mid-range hotels, breakfast can be overly-simple. Many would only provide Chinese/Taiwanese option. Some hotels may also throw in very basic western selections such as bread, ham and eggs. So it’s always nice to adjust our expectations not to anticipate a wide buffet spread so as to avoid disappointment.
Here’s my buffet breakfast at Sun Sweet (Shanshui) Hotel. It comprised mainly Chinese dishes and I almost thought I was having a vegetarian meal.
It didn’t exactly suit my palette because I’ve always preferred American Breakfast (Yes, give me the sunny side up, bacon and all!). Thankfully, the milk tea was pretty awesome! Yeah, you should never miss having tea in Taiwan. It’s one of their most internationally known specialty, especially bubble milk tea.
Okay, stomach filled! Time for our first destination of the day!
Wufengchi Waterfalls can be easily conquered!
Wufengchi Waterfalls (五峰旗瀑布) was about 30 minutes drive north of Luodong. The entrance to the waterfalls was easily visible from the carpark at Wufeng Road.
There were three waterfalls at Wufengchi with the first two levels just 10 minutes’ walk from the car park. After ascending a few flights of stairs, we reached the lowest tier (Level 3).
Level 3 of Wufengchi Waterfall
To be honest, we’d walked past Wufengchi Level 3 Waterfall without knowing it was considered as one. So, these photos you see below were taken after I retraced back from higher tiers.
Err, Wufengchi Level 3 waterfall looked more like a rapid and we were thinking “What a joke!”. Quite mean, huh? I’m sorry. But I’ll have to be honest with you about my actual thoughts then!
Level 2 of Wufengchi Waterfall
Level 2 of Wufengchi Waterfalls was about three stories tall and was so powerful we were sprayed with water even from a distance. There were a few elderly locals sitting around and enjoying the view and the cool mist.
Sadly, this Level 2 Wufengchi waterfall wasn’t one that we could jump into and interact with. It was for viewing only. The strong water spray in the chilly morning also meant we couldn’t stay for long as we were getting damp and cold. It was quite a touch and go waterfall experience for us.
Level 1 of Wufengchi Waterfall
Continuing our journey, we reached the entrance to the highest tier (Level 1). Weren’t we getting used to being shut out of hiking trails by now?
A barricade displayed at the entrance told us to back off due to falling rocks. We contemplated slipping through just like how we did when we sneaked into Wenshan Hot Spring but decided against it for fear of our safety.
The ferocious blood-red signboard with huge fonts definitely succeeded in chasing us away!
Location of Wufengchi Waterfalls
If you drive, the carpark is at Wufeng Road, located vertically between Wufengchi Waterfall and Dezikou River Dam (View Google Map).
Catholic Church of the Sacred Heart
Turning back from Wufengchi Level 1, we descended back towards the path we came from. At the junction just before reaching Level 3, we turned out to embark on Mariam Hiking Trail – a scenic nature trail surrounded by rich green foliage.
The gravel trail meant no messy or muddy shoes to worry about! Just a peaceful uphill hike with an abundance of fresh forest air. We only saw two other hikers along this trail.
The hike stopped when a unique circular structure stood before us. The first reaction was to whip out my camera and snap countless photos of the small but striking Catholic Church of the Sacred Heart (五峰旗聖母朝聖地).
From this vantage point, we could also take in the view of Wufengchi Level 1 from a distance – yes, the one that shut us out earlier. Unfortunately, the sight of Wufengchi Level 1 waterfall was far from being impressive from where we stood (too far, maybe?).
If you love hiking, you can ascend further to reach Shengmu Peak. That would take another 2 hours (one-way). We skipped it as we had other plans in mind.
I’m still very confused with the naming of the waterfalls. Why didn’t they name the lowest tier as Level 1? I kept making mistake when writing this post. LOL.
The Elusive Yuemeikeng Falls
The next waterfall that we wanted to chase wasn’t as easy to reach or find. Yuemeikeng Falls (月眉坑瀑布) was probably out of the tourist map and most would need to join a day tour to get to it or risk getting lost!
How to enter Yuemeikeng Hiking Trail?
The entrance to Yuemeikeng Falls hiking trail wasn’t obvious at all. After retracing our way from Wufengchi Waterfalls back to the carpark, we continued walking towards Dezikou River Dam and crossed it via a bridge formed by blocks of cement bricks.
Soon, we came face to face with the jungle wall.
“Where’s the trail entrance?”
Not knowing exactly which part of the jungle to enter, we trespassed a building by squeezing ourselves sneakily through a small opening of a a wired fence. “Nah, that’s not the way!”. It was only after we exited that we realized the gate wasn’t even locked at all. Silly burglar at work!
Eventually, we did see a trail and it didn’t require trespassing anything. We must have over analyzed things!
Yuemeikeng trail was rugged, deserted and unmarked. Expect to walk through unbeaten path with overgrown bushes! Some parts of the trail was so narrow only one could walk through at a time. And please be prepared to get your feet wet and dirty. This was nature untainted by tourism (yet), and I suggest that you keep your expensive track shoes at home and wear a hiking sandals instead. You would eventually need to wade through water, that is, if you can find your way to Yuemeikeng Falls.
Recommended Attire when hiking Yuemeikeng Trail
Here are things I recommend wearing when hiking Yuemeikeng trail. A waterproof bag and water shoes is essential. It’s best to wear your swim suit underneath your hiking clothes so that you can easily get into swim gear when you arrive at the waterfall.
Heading further into the unmarked Yuemeikeng Trail
The first significant milestone was the sight of a shrine that didn’t seem to be regularly-maintained. I’d read that it was the shrine for the Earth God (土地公). Beside the shrine was a tree well-decorated with colorful tapes. Does anyone know the significance of the tapes? Are they markers or charms?
Continuing the hike, we arrived at an iron footbridge that stretched across a river. What followed next was a narrow trail that inclined upwards while tracing the edge of a hill. A misstep could meant plunging to the floor of the jungle.
Pandas would love this part of the trail because it was flanked by rows of beautiful bamboos.
Soon, we came to a halt where the sound of the river was so loud it was beckoning us to climb down a steep slope. A fast-flowing river that appeared more like a rapid welcomed us. Oh no! We were supposed to wade upstream for 10 minutes through this fierce water to reach Yuemeikeng waterfall. It’s probably not obvious by the photo below, but it was darn fierce.
We attempted and mounted perilously over a few boulders and rocks which were so slippery it was getting dangerous even by our adventurous spirit. Even the river bed was ultra-slippery such that every step we took felt like us walking on butter.
The water was not a gentle stream as per online research, and it sure wasn’t just knee-deep. The shallowest point was waist deep and the current was so strong I had to hold onto thick tree branches by the river edge or hug some boulders if I didn’t want to get swept away. If we continued wading, we would definitely get totally submerged, almost right away.
At this point, we wondered if we were lost as Yuemeikeng trail wasn’t supposed to be this dangerous. We were simply not equipped with river tracing equipment and safety gear to continue this hike. With no one in sight, we knew we had to stop.
And so we retraced back to the shrine to find the right path, but there wasn’t any. We must have gone back and forth between the shrine and river at least 3 round trips before giving up. There was not a single soul during this 1.5-hour hike that we could seek advice from.
I had all along thought we had gotten lost until I started writing this post and doing further research. I believe we were on the right path. Due to the post-typhoon situation, coupled with continuous rainfall, the gentle river had transformed into a fierce rapid. No wonder locals were not there. Ahh!
Quite a pity that the hike at Yuemeikeng didn’t come to a fruitful end. No regrets though as the hike was rustically beautiful – it was definitely more enjoyable than Wufengchi which was a little too easy to get to.
Location of Yuemeikeng Falls
View google map location here. Good luck searching for it!
Okay, I’ll take a break and continue in my next post our journey to other attractions in Eastern Taiwan. Stay tuned as I’ll also be sharing a place where you can eat fresh seafood right at the harbor! If you like to get notified of my new posts, you can click the button below to subscribe. See you there!
- Day 1 (pt 1): How to get from Taipei to Hualien!
- Day 1 (pt 2): How to rent a scooter in Hualien?
- Day 1 (pt 3): Hualien Dongdamen Night Market on a rainy day!
- Day 2 (pt 1): Taroko Gorge on a Rainy Day
- Day 2 (pt 2): Exploring Shakadang Trail and Chisingtan Beach
- Day 3 (pt 1): Best hike of Taroko Gorge was at Lushui Trail!
- Day 3 (pt 2): Explore Wenshan Hot Spring and Qingshui Cliff
- Day 4: Goodbye, Hualien. Hello, Luodong!
- Day 5 (pt 1): Chasing waterfalls at Wufengchi and Yuemeikeng
- Day 5 (pt 2): Around Yilan – Jiaoxi, Daxi Fishing Harbor, Lanyang Museum, Mr Brown Castle & Jimmy Park
- Day 6 (pt 1): Hiking Teapot Mountain in Taiwan, plus Nanya and Yin Yang Sea
- Day 6 (pt 2): Not in Awe with Shifen Old Street – but Shifen Waterfall deserves a visit
- Day 7: Last day in Taiwan: Explored Luodong and Taipei in one day (Day 7)