Sun Moon Lake
After picking up two cups of hot coffee from the convenient shop for our hour long ride on the train, we settled down comfortably in our allocated seats and had our breakfast.
On the menu, pineapple tarts which, at that point of consumption, sat in my trusty travel backpack for at least 3 days. It was purchased on the day I arrived in Taipei and I never did had any opportunity to eat.
Of course, like all decent breakfast menu, I had an overnight glutinous rice roll. Still good, albeit being cold. Gave me all the carbs (energy) I need.
I enjoy traveling via trains. It is a comfortable form of transportation and I love looking at the scenery outside as we zoomed by. Oh and the trains are so punctual too.
From Taichung, we switched to a bus towards Sun Moon Lake.
Bought a ticket from the station, boarded the bus and we went on our merry way towards our destination. When we arrived at Shuishe Visitor Centre, we gave our tickets to the bus driver and alighted.
Our first course of action was to drop off a small part of our luggage in our accommodation for the night. It was about 11am when we were finally ready to start exploring Sun Moon Lake.
Sun Moon Lake Day 1
We decided it would be fun to do some cycling, on the designated cycling path along the lake, so we walked into one of the many bicycle rental shops, trying to get a ride for the day.
Initially, my idea was to rent a tandem electric bicycle so we could simply cruise along, effortlessly and comfortably, and savor the sights and sounds of Sun Moon Lake. Of course, things seldom go my way. I was haggling with the shop attendant when Constant Companion RR suddenly stepped in and decided (for both of us) that we should rent traditional, individual bicycles which are powered solely by our legs.
Half way through our ride, it was proven to be one of Constant Companion RR‘s impressive long line of bad decisions. However I cannot blame Constant Companion RR. Like how birds instinctively fly southwards, Constant Companion RR poor decision making skill is an act of nature. Whenever it happens and I do not stand my ground, I only have myself to blame.
It was a beautiful ride. Air was fresh and cool. The path was generally smooth, but whenever there was a climb (and there were several) in our cycling route, Constant Companion RR and I were painfully reminded that a tandem electric bicycle was the right choice.
Almost to the end of the designated cycling track, we came upon Xiangshan Visitor Centre. The architecture looks really futuristic. We parked our bicycles and popped in for a quick look and some much needed refreshment (especially for Constant Companion RR, my morning glutinous rice roll was still fueling me).
Well rested, we continued towards Toushe Dam which is somewhere at the end of the designated cycling track.
This last bit of our little cycling adventure was not at all rewarding as we did not manage to arrive at our intended destination.
To make everything worse, we had to conquer the steepest slope yet. That means slowly ascending and quickly descending, and within 5 minutes after that we came upon this “dead end” (pictured on the left) and decided to make a U-turn back.
That means we had to scale where we descended moments ago. On the last stretch of the climb, Constant Companion RR had to dismount from her bicycle and pushed, grumbling that we should have rented the electric bicycle. Yes. Yes we should.
It seemed that the ride back was a lot faster. In no time, we returned back to “civilization”. By this point, we were both famished and exhausted from cycling, food was our top priority. We went back to the bike rental shop, thinking we can leave our bicycles there as we look for a eatery to fill out stomachs.
Oddly enough, the lady shop attendant was a bit reluctant to look after our bicycles (their property), told us that we can ride the bicycles and park them outside wherever we are dining at. We rode off for a bit and decided it was much easier to walk and besides, we did not have any locks to secure the bicycles so we went back and told the lady we did not want to lose her bicycles and it would be great if we can leave them temporary in the shop. This time, the lady took the rented bicycles off our hands and we went off for lunch.
I do not know what was going on in the lady’s mind, but I feel that this situation can easily be an opportunity to scam tourists who do not know any better. For example, if we leave the bicycles unattended and unlocked in a crowded town center, and someone were to come and remove them, I am sure we will have to pay for the bicycles we lost. Then again, it could just be me being all paranoid and skeptical. Yet, it pays to be cautious.
For lunch, we walked into the first eatery we saw along the road. There was a big crowd of tourists right at the front of the establishment (also where they prepare the food) giving the shop an impression of a typical tourist trap. However, being really hungry and we did not want to travel any further, we went in without any expectation. We found ourselves an empty table in the basement and Constant Companion RR took it upon herself to order our food.
To be honest, the food they served was decent enough; better than what I deemed as tourist trap cuisine. The meal consisted of braised food item with 2 different forms of noodles, a plate of greens (potato leaf, if I am not wrong) and a cup of papaya milk. Overall, I was satisfied.
With our bellies filled, we went back to the Bicycle Rental Shop to retrieve our bicycles. Since we have visited one-fifth of the entire lake, anti-clockwise, starting from the Bicycle Rental Shop, we thought we will try going clockwise. Bicycle Rental Shop Lady was up to no good again and tried to dissuade us from doing so, as while we are allowed to do so, we will be cycling on actual road with motor vehicles and if the bicycles happen to break down, they will not be sending us any help to retrieve the bicycles.
Being in a state of “food coma”, we were easily dissuaded. Thus we officially returned our rented bicycles and went for a walk around town.
Behind the eatery where we had lunch, there was bustling street with shops on both sides and crowds of people. From here, you have access to Shuishe Pier where you can hop on to ferries to travel to the other side of the lake or simply experience Sun Moon Lake on one of the many boat tours.
Let me sidetrack a bit. While we do get approached by people on the street (this is a tourist spot after all), asking if we would like to join boat tours or rent bicycles, I noticed that these people were never too pushy to hawker their good/ services nor were they impolite and rude when you reject them. Very nice.
Rolled Pieces of Metal with Imprints
We causally strolled down the busy street and noted down mentally the restaurants which we would like to have dinner in that night. Saw two “vending machines” outside a souvenir shop which offered “rolled pieces of copper with imprints” (I do not know the actual term for this product) which we can keep as a keepsake of our trip. I do not know when exactly we started collecting these “rolled pieces of metal with imprints“, but these two are definitely not the first. The last two “rolled pieces of metal with imprints” we got, was obtained during our visit to Shakespeare’s birthplace in Stratford-upon-Avon, England. Here in Sun Moon Lake, Taiwan, I chose the imprints of a stack of frogs and Constant Companion RR picked one with a scene of the lake.
After wandering around with nothing much going on, we decided to retire back to our accommodation for a little nap. Waking up early in addition with the physical activity on bicycles totally left us spent. On the way back though, a lady hollered “Ice cream!” at us and because I am not one who passes up ice cream easily, I took a detour into her shop to look are her wares. Browsing through her “ice cream with alcohol” selection, I was introduced their unique “Taro with Kaoliang Wine” flavoured ice cream. Not bad at all. Very similar to “Rum and Raisin” (another of my favourite), sans the raisins, and you get a sweet, pleasant taro aroma after the stronger taste of alcohol cleared.
Retreating back to the hotel was an extremely good idea. We washed away the day’s grime and took it easy for the remaining of that afternoon. Normally, I do not take naps nor do I ever spend my afternoons, lazing around in front of the television; I feel that that it is a huge waste of time. Nevertheless, frittering away that afternoon was strangely, one of the highlights of my trip.
The sun was just setting over the when we ventured out again, a pair of hungry (but relaxed and well-rested) creatures looking for food.
We headed back to the small town center and after walking up and down that same street a few times, comparing restaurants (their appearance and menu), we decided on one and scurried in for dinner. Constant Companion RR, as usual, took a bit of time to explain the menu to me. We ordered four local dishes. Most notable is the “Shacha Pork” which Constant Companion RR wanted me to try. All of the dishes were savory and just a little oily, which went perfectly with steamed white rice.
Wanted to have the “Hey Song Sarsaparilla” soda (featured in my “Good Time, Great Taste: Tainan” post) but the restaurant only had that in a single family-sized bottle, so that night, to accompany my dinner, I picked a fine “Apple Sidra”.
Fresh from nap, sitting in a corner table of a cosy family-style restaurant while having light conversation over hot food, it was a simple and delightful affair.
Not much else happened after dinner, the town center was just too small. I took the opportunity to get some souvenirs for friends back home and right after that, we went back to our hotel and called it a day.
Sun Moon Lake Day 2
We made it a point to wake up early to catch the sunrise. In our mind, we imagined a classic picturesque scene with a bright orange orb slowly appearing on the horizon, cool mysterious mist on the lake.
Pulling our jackets close to our bodies to fend off the morning’s chilly air, we walked out of the hotel and looked in the general direction where we thought was East, and prepare to welcome the arrival of the sun…
After a good couple of minutes, I took a glance behind us and there was the sunrise we were waiting for.
Sort of. With a mountain in the way.
Far from what I had in mind, nevertheless, I took the chance to enjoy some fresh morning air and admired the “sunrise” as it is. We do not always get what we want in life, but sometimes all you need are acceptance and appreciation to make the best out of it. After snapping a few photos, we returned back to the hotel to get a bit more sleep.
Right after we checked out from the hotel, we grabbed the same bus back to Taichung HSR Station. Even managed to board the bus driven by the same gentleman who ferried us here the day before.
Sun Moon Lake Conclusion
Charming place, but you will need a more reliable mode of transportation to have access to some of the places closer to nature. A friend of mine once told me that he had rented a moped bike and toured the entire of the lake. To me, that sounds like a good time. I wanted to do that, but all I managed to do was covered only about 1/6 around the lake on a designated cycling track on a rented bicycle.
I have seen the map and there are still many places we did not visit. This was mostly due to we did not spend enough time researching and preparing beforehand.
Regardless, I considered this 2D1N trip a good getaway and introduction to Sun Moon Lake. I would love to be back and next time, I will rent a moped bike and explore Sun Moon Lake properly.
In my next post, I will talk about a visit to Taichung’s “2nd Market” and the fine arts museum!