magical mukumugi

Mukumugi (2 of 5)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, ), 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.

Though the indigenous Truku tribe were the first to inhabit this area, Meqemegi became known as Tongmen when copper reserves were discovered. Tong  = Copper … Men = Gate
Mukumugi (5 of 5)
Copper is no longer mined here but an active power plant stands.
We passed many laid-back cafes, some serving traditional Truku food.
Mukumugi (4 of 5)
Dragonflies dart back and forth quite frequently but if you’re lucky, you might just find tadpoles swimming about in the small watery crevices of the rocks.
Mukumugi (1 of 5)
We’re here! And it’s glorious!
Don’t let the first pool completely rapture you. Swim across, clamber over some rocks, you will find more pools. Though smaller, you’ll have it to yourself. Further along there is a giant boulder if you dare to slip and slide. Photo courtesy of Jon Webster.
At the smaller pools. Photo credit of Jon Webster.
Mukumugi (3 of 5)
Photo thanks to Guang-Hui Chuan.

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.


2 thoughts on “magical mukumugi

  1. This is such a sweet, lovely place. When I lived in Hualien (1989-96) it was my favorite place to go mountain biking and swim/picnic. No one went there except locals hunting and farming. The police at the entrance were always very surprised that you were (1) a foreigner, and (2) just up there to muck around, but never gave us any problems with access to the area.

    There used to be an aboriginal blacksmith guy who made the short machetes (開山刀)that they carried, out of car leaf springs.
    I would usually stop and help him for an hour or two, and goof around making small stuff on his power hammer. He had no apprentice or successor, and the family talked a bit about having me take over the business, until they realized it would just be too weird if a foreigner were to do it. Super nice people.

    It’s hard to imagine this place as a popular tourist destination, but it certainly is worthy. Thanks for the beautiful post.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Cary.

      That’s so wonderful you had the chance to experience it before the tourist boom! I imagine it would’ve been an even more peaceful spot, and you are lucky to get to know the locals! I admit I didn’t notice any blacksmith when I was there but I’m hoping they’re doing OK too. Perhaps you should come back to take over!

      I heard that Mukumugi has now closed to the public for awhile. It was damaged during the last big typhoon in July/August and is in need of some time off from visitors to restore too. I hope its always r magic never dies and it will remain pristine and quiet.


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