I never really paid much attention in science class (or any other class for that matter) at school, but one thing I definitely learned from my poor, long suffering teachers (I know how it was for all of you now, and you may be pleased to know that I’m undergoing the pain I put you thorough!!!) is that fire and water are incompatible elements – only one can rule in a given place at a given time. Too much water – flames get snuffed out. Too many flames – water evaporates. They simply cannot co-exist.
So, when I discovered that Taiwan has a place where this seemingly solid law of nature is flouted and the impossible exists, I had to see it. Which brought me to a small town called Guanziling, in Baihe district, Tainan county, southern Taiwan.
Taiwan is riddled with fault lines. One such, called the Liuchong River fault, runs through this area. This fault allows small bubbles of methane gas to escape and surface in the same place as spring water. The escaping methane gas has lit a flame among rocks that the water runs through.
According to the local history, this place was found by a wandering monk in 1701. The flames were said to be much higher before, reaching around 3m. Much smaller now, this is still a fantastic sight. If the history is true, then the flame has been burning continuously for over 300 years!!!
Fire in water – BOOM – mind blown:
This is the closest you can get to the fire – unless of course you want to break all laws of propriety and legality by wading into the pool to get closer (but you might get dirty looks from others).
I’d guess-timate the distance to be around 20 feet or so. The heat coming from the flame was enough to be felt, even at this distance. Not searing, by any means, but enough to let you know that there’s a fire about somewhere. Then I got picture happy because I was delighted to see something I’d never thought possible:
It’s not easy to see in these pics from my crappy camera, but the flames start at the boundary between rock and water and climb up the rock while water seeps out and pours down the rock. It literally looks like the water is on fire. So cool!
I tried to get a closer shot of the bubbles of methane coming up, and ended up with this:
Not ideal, but if you squint real hard, you can kind of see the gas bubbling up.
Once you get into the Baihe district and find Guanziling town, there are a number of signs that will point you to the water-fire cave. It’s well known, and the entrance looks like this:
Here’s where you can find Guanziling: