Saturday, May 20, 2017

The Sun Moon Lake

Our first viewing of the Sun Moon Lake

The Sun Moon Lake is the largest lake in Taiwan, a beautiful part of nature that is one of the most popular tourist sites in the country. The lake is a vivid blue-y green colour, and is surrounded by picturesque rolling green mountains, a serene and natural landscape. Well, hypothetically at least. The reality of visiting this area is that what may have once been a sacred and peaceful place, has now become a touristic and crowded sightseeing destination. However, if you can escape the crowds and find some quiet spots like we did, the natural beauty of this area is well worth visiting.

We spent three days at the Sun Moon Lake towards the end of April. We were treated with two beautiful days of weather, and then on our last day it rained pretty heavily. Apparently, the weather is quite good all year round at the Sun Moon Lake, although April is generally one of the rainiest months in Taiwan anyway.

 Accommodation prices at the lake are a little higher due to its popularity, although we managed to find a good deal at a slightly run down hotel, which was close to the pier, and suited our needs well. There aren't many restaurants in the town that we stayed at, which made it kind of hard to find dinners to eat, but there are plenty of 7/elevens! We ate a lot of 7/eleven sandwiches in Taiwan, and they weren't that bad, haha!

On our first afternoon at the Sun Moon Lake, we were taking a walk around the pier before lunch, when a woman said hello to us and started chatting to us. We talked to her for a bit, and found out that she was from Taichung, where we had just come from, and that she visited the Sun Moon Lake every month with her elderly father. We told her we were just about to go and get some lunch, and she suggested we all eat together. She recommended a restaurant in a hotel with beautiful views of the lake, and we ate a delicious multi course Aboriginal Taiwanese meal there all together (picture above). It was such a nice surprise to meet and eat lunch with a local person, and what made her gesture even more incredible and kind is that she paid for the whole lunch, and only wanted our company in return.

A walk after lunch

The very green trail around the lake

A lizard hanging out by the lake

A mossy bench along the trail

An abandoned rusting boat on the lake

After our wonderful lunch, we continued our walk along the lake, following the leafy green trail that runs almost the entire perimeter of the lake. It was such a nice day out and we saw so many lizards hanging out in the plants.

The mountains surrounding the lake

The view from the boat ride

At the pier on our first stop

Taking in the view

On the trail to the temple

So many stairs!!

A mural of the monk Xuangzang's travels
 On our second day at the lake, we decided to do a boat tour of the lake, which would take us to different stopping points. The first stop was to Syuentzang Temple, which was built in 1965 to worship a great monk named Xuangzang, who was sent on a long journey to India to bring back Buddhist scriptures. The temple gives you a great view of the lake, surrounded by palm trees and sub tropical forest. After Charlotte woke up from her nap, we sat down for a rest and another little boy and his grandmother sat near us, which made Charlotte very happy. She loves meeting other kids, and this boy was a similar age to her, which was nice. They held hands, and Charlotte giggled and over-enthusiastically tried to grab him 🙈
View from the temple

Syuentzang Temple

A large bell outside the temple

Inside the temple

Making friends with locals

This temple is not where you get the best view of the Sun Moon Lake, though! For that, you will have to climb even further up the mountain, up more stairs and through more forest, to Ci En Pagoda. The pagoda is nine stories high, and is on the top of a 954m high mountain, which makes it a pretty high viewing point, and definitely a stunning view. We stopped outside the pagoda and ate our lunch there under the shade of the trees.
The amazing trees in the forest

The view from the pagoda

The spiraling staircase from above
 It was well worth the climb up all those stairs to get a complete panoramic view of this stunning area. There were hardly any tourists up there either, which made it an extra special place to take in the peacefulness of the nature around us.
Ci En Pagoda

More trees in the forest on the way down

My little cutie

Daddy daughter moment
The silver clouds before the rain came
 The next stop on the hop on/ hop off boat ride was Ita Thao village, opposite from Yuchih town where we were staying. Here, we walked up the little streets with shops selling local wares, and stopped for a quick snack before getting the boat back to where we were staying.

A lizard lazing in the sun

Pictures from our walk along the walking/biking trail

Bamboo in the forest

The interesting architecture of the tourist information building
Our last day at the Sun Moon Lake was forecast-ed to be rainy, but we still wanted to walk further along the trail of the lake. When the sun was out though, it was very hot, but sure enough it did rain, and we ended up at one point huddling under an umbrella on a bench while I fed Charlottte, which was actually kind of cosy. We walked to the the Xiangshan Visitor Center building, a very modern and striking building with lovely views of the lake. There was a very pretty garden at the base of the building, and we even saw a young couple having their wedding photos taken there. This area is apparently a very popular place to have wedding photos done, and there is even a bridal dressing room at the Visitor Center.
After eating our lunch under a little pavilion to protect us from the rain, we decided to admit defeat and ended up spending the rest of the day in our hotel room. The rain was so heavy outside by evening, I think we ended up eating dinner from a bakery across the street! Not the healthiest of dinners, but Charlotte does love bread!

I hope you enjoyed this blog post, I'm sorry it's taken such a long time, but we have been packing so much into our days and we are so busy. Next up will be a post about Taipei, which was a really cool city!

Thanks for reading,
Hannah xx