Taiwan – Sun Moon Lake
Our third destination in Taiwan was Sun Moon Lake. The lake is the largest body of water in Taiwan as well as a very popular local tourist attraction and it looked like an ideal place for us to spend a few days walking and riding bikes around the lake.
First, however, we needed to get there from Hualien City. A lot of people opt for a train back to Taipei and then another down the west coast, then a bus up to the lake from the train station. We had also read that it was possible to take a local bus but this would get us short of our goal and was supposedly 11 hours or so and then would require another bus or a taxi to Sun Moon Lake.
I had a different plan. It turns out that Tiffany, our Taroko Gorge taxi tour guide, also offers a one way trip from Hualien to Sun Moon Lake with a few stops at the scenic spots. We pre-booked both days with her service but her partner was the actual driver and he was super professional. Even though he didn’t speak English we got the gist of the communications. Also Tiffany called frequently to make sure we were on track and updating us on the road conditions and planned stops. (The heavy rains caused 3 different landslides that had to be cleared as we made our progress on the Central Cross-Island Highway towards Sun Moon Lake.)
Due to the road delays we ended up spending about 8 hours crossing from one side of Taiwan to the other but neither of us was bothered as the sun was out the whole time and there were plenty of stops, plus the delays as they cleared the road. Also, Taroko National Park is stunning!
The first stop on our cross island road trip was for lunch and some photos of Bilu Sacred Tree. The Bilu Sacred Tree is 3,200 years old! Pretty cool to see such an old living thing. Mr. He, our driver, made sure to usher me into the restaurant and made sure I got my order in and he even delivered it to us when it was ready. The guy went out of his way to take care of us and was always quick to snap a photo of us at the interesting spots.
Our stops as we crossed the central mountains included the Wuling summit at 3,275 meters. It was very cold at the summit and we weren’t adequately prepared for the biting wind that was whipping around as we tried to get some good photos. The next stop was Kunyang viewpoint at 3,070 meters and we were able to look down into the east side of Taiwan now.
As we descended, our final stop was near the famed CingJing Farm. We opted to not visit the farm as it was completely packed and instead got some snacks from 7-11 and pondered the virtues of buying Hello Kitty wine. We did not end up buying the wine.
And then we were in Sun Moon Lake. Our B & B was conveniently located in the center part of town very near the Shueishe Visitor Center and a lot of the shops and restaurants. We were very near the lake as well and had a partial view.
The biggest problem we faced at Sun Moon Lake was the lack of a night market! We had the choice of one fast food burger place, two 7-11s or Shani rolling the dice at one of the small restaurants in town. We walked up and down the place searching out our options and then we did it again! I think we did three loops during our search. We briefly considered the in-house restaurants of some of the fancy hotels but in the end we took a chance with one of the restaurateurs that had offered us an English menu the first time we walked by.
And boy were we glad that we did! While he didn’t speak much English his teenage daughter did and with her help we ordered a couple things for take away and were quickly headed back to our hotel for dinner. We did pop into 7-11 to grab a sausage just to hedge our bet and make sure Shani had something to eat if the take away didn’t seem gluten free!
It all worked out, though. There was a ton of food, it was super tasty and really cheap. We were psyched on the little place and went back the following night. With the daughters help again we had success!
One of the things Sun Moon Lake is known for is it’s wonderful bike/walking trail that goes around the lake. The breakfast part of our B & B was at the burger joint and after that gourmet treat we set off walking on the trail headed towards WenWu Temple.
WenWu was actually two separate temples on the lake but had to be moved and they combined them and rebuilt this temple. The temple consists of three halls, the first devoted to the First Ancestor Kaiji and the God of Literature, the second is for the God of War and the third hall is dedicated to Confucius.
The temple grounds at WenWu are beautiful and the setting couldn’t be better, high above Sun Moon Lake. We took our time and explored each part of the complex and took turns tossing coins into the fountain for good luck and making some wishes. So far this is the only temple I’ve been in that sells beer so I’d say that was a wish come true!
On our second morning on Sun Moon Lake we got an early start and rented bikes and took a ride in the opposite direction on the bike path. It was good that we got out early ahead of the crowds. Coming back on the trail was a bit chaotic and by the looks of it, there were plenty of people that probably could have used some training wheels!
We had decided on heading back to Taipei that afternoon for more sight seeing and so we took the bus from Sun Moon Lake to the high speed rail station in Taichung. All of that was pretty simple and easy and we were back in Taipei in about two and a half hours give or take.
And that was our visit to Sun Moon Lake. If you’d like to know more about our time in Sun Moon Lake or our trip to Taiwan just drop us a line or leave a comment and we’ll get back to you. If you’d like the exact itinerary or more info on the places we stayed or tours and drivers we used just let us know.