Relaxing in lush scenery and swimming in natural pools with old and new friends sounds like a pretty decent way to spend a day.
Last weekend, I did exactly that, searching for a place I’ve previously heard of only a couple of times. A place of crystal-green waters in a valley slightly hidden away from the rest of the Hualien (花蓮) crowd .
Located on the lands of Taiwan’s indigenous Truku tribe, Meqmegi (later renamed by the Chinese as Tongmen, 銅門), the gorge was originally known as Tbsagan Mgmgi. To ease pronunciation difficulties, it is now popularly referred to as Mukumugi or Mugumuyu (慕谷慕魚). Whatever the name, its original Truku meaning has some impressive interpretations: Paradise of peace and happiness…Wonderland…A beautiful place…
If this doesn’t tickle most people’s fancy to attempt a visit, then perhaps the activities that could be done here would entice. A 45 minute or so hike through the village will lead you to the pristine aqua brooks of Qingshui River (清水), a natural river whose name literally means clear water. Here, you can swim, cliff jump, enjoy natural hydrotherapeutic spas from the babbling brook, and transform giant boulders into natural slip-and-slides.
Though overshadowed by its more famous sister, Taroko Gorge (太魯閣), Mukumugi is not such a secret anymore. It is becoming more popular, especially amongst locals. Despite this, it wasn’t crowded even on a weekend, and hardly anyone else dared to swim in the pools. As the officer in charge will tell you, you can jump in but exercise caution!
We jumped in without a moment’s hesitation.
Getting there: Best to drive or scooter. Provincial Highway 9 and signs reading 慕谷慕魚 will get you there. It will take you roughly 3.5-4 hours drive from Taipei, so if you could, spend some time around that region instead of taking a daytrip like we did. We managed, but it was tiring!
Applying for Entry Permits: Online applications (in Chinese only) must be made at least 7 days before scheduled date. Otherwise you can only do it in person at Tongmen Police Station. There are two sessions: mornings from 9am and afternoons from 12pm. A limit of 300 people per session per day may enter. But no need to worry, it doesn’t get that busy. There’s a car park a short walk away from the station. There’s no fee for the permit, but ID is required.
Pro-tip: Go where the locals go. Don’t stick to the first main pool you see. Swim beyond, clamber over those rocks, and you may catch a couple of admirable locals sliding down wet rocks with their bare skin.