Photo By: Elin Chow
Address: No. 599 Zhongshan Rd, Yuchih Township, Nantou Country 555, Taiwan 555 南投县鱼池乡中山路599号
Leaving Puli Brewery 埔里酒厂, we set off once again to visit the Sun Moon Lake 日月潭, one of the top tourist destination in Taiwan.
Sun Moon Lake
Situated in Yuchih Township, Nantou country, the Sun Moon Lake is the largest freshwater lake in Taiwan. Divided by the tiny island Lalu island (which sits in the middle of the lake); the eastern part of the lake is round like a sun with its western part shaped like a crescent. Thus it is named "Sun Moon Lake".
How To Get There
The fastest way will be to take High Speed Rail (HSR) to Taichung. From there. you will have to choose to take either a bus or taxi since there are no trains that will go directly to Sun Moon Lake. Direct buses to the lake are however, available from Taichung and Taipei. You might want to check out wikitravel guide for more details.
However, if you are travelling in a group (especially with small children or elderly), I will highly recommend you to engage the service of a local driver just to save yourself some time and hassle of finding your way around the rural areas.
We arrived at Shueishe Village, which is the main drop off point for all tourists visiting the Sun Moon Lake. Numerous hotels, restaurants, souvenir and bike rentals stores lined up along the streets in the village, offering plenty of convenience for visitors.
There are several ways to explore Sun Moon Lake. You could get around the lake by bus, car, scooter, bike or boat. The best way to tour and see Sun Moon Lake would be a boat tour.
Boat services generally runs from 9 am to 5 pm daily, but may vary according to season. You might want to check out the boat schedule before you visit Sun Moon Lake.
Tickets can be purchased at public ticket booths at Shuishe, Syunguang or Ita Thao pier, or at any authorized ticket booth with shuttle boat sign shown on its booth. To protect you rights, please avoid buying from ticket scalpers.
All boats will take either forward or reverse route and dock at three different piers - Shuishe Pier 水社码头, Syuanguang Pier 玄光码头 and Ita Thao Pier 伊达邵码头. Most of the boat operators will allow you to stop at each place as long as you desire. Simply hop back on the boat once you are done with the attraction.
As we make our way down to the boarding area, we came upon a stone with the Chinese character "Sun Moon Lake" inscribed on it. The iconic monument is one of the famous landmark in Sun Moon Lake and never fails to draw crowds of Chinese tourists, who are always eager to snap some keepsake pictures of their trip.
So, just like any other tourists with a camera, we could not resist having our photos taken at this popular tourist spot.
The beauty of Sun Moon Lake is the calm and turquoise water complemented by lush green mountains that surrounds the lake. Truly, the scenery is breath-taking. No wonder Sun Moon Lake is one of the popular wedding photography and honeymoon destination in Taiwan.
Unfortunately, the beauty and tranquility of the lake is spoil by heavy land and water traffic. Without the mass tourism, I believe the view will be so much more spectacular.
Even so, the view of the lake is still very picturesque with plenty of photo opportunities around.
Within minutes, we were on board a boat and set off from Shueishe Pier.
The boat ride was relaxing, supplemented by an entertaining and informative commentary in Mandarin. As we make our way around, the tour guide on board told us more about the origins and history the lake.
Wen Wan Resort Sun Moon Lake 日月行馆
The Wen Wan Resort Sun Moon Lake is renowned for being the accommodation for Mr Chiang Kai-Shek. However, due to the 921 earthquake, the actual Chiang Kai-Shek Guesthouse was completely destroyed. With a 2 million investment, Wen Wan Resort Sun Moon Lake was built on the original location of Chiang Kai-Shek Guesthouse.
Lalu Island 拉鲁岛
In the middle of the lake, our boat passed by a tiny island named as Lalu island, a place of ancestral worship of the Thao aboriginal tribe, who were the original inhabitants.
The island used to be bigger, separating the Sun and Moon lake. People used to live on the island in the past. Today, the size of the island has shrunk considerably due to two events that has happened over the years. The first is the construction of a dam in the 1930s, which resulted in a rapid rise in water level that led to an over-flooding on the entire island. In 1999, the 921 earthquake (also known as Jiji earthquake) sunk a majority of the island, causing its size to shrunk again. Today, the tiny island that we passed by is what is left of Lalu island after floods and earthquake.
Regarded as home to the spirits of Thao ancestors. Lalu island is a sacred place among the Thao people. Unfortunately, the island is off-limits to tourists as it is in a danger of collapsing. Thus, taking a leisurely boat ride around it is the best way to see the island.
Syuanguang Pier 玄关码头
After a 15 to 20 minutes ride, our boat docked at Syuanguang Pier.
Once you are at the entrance of Syuanguang Temple Pier, do not forget to try out the Jin Men Grandma's Tea Egg 金盆阿嫲香菇茶叶蛋. The eggs are flavored with Assam tea leaves, mushroom and spices. Of course, we will not leave the place without trying these famous eggs.
Despite the seemingly long queue, we did not wait for too long to get our tea eggs. I am not sure how the eggs taste like since I did not eat any. But accordingly to my husband and his family, the eggs were quite tasty and definitely worth a try.
While enjoying our tea leaves eggs. we were attracted to a group of Thao aboriginal singing some of the popular Taiwanese and Chinese songs. The Thao people are the first aboriginal tribe to participate in tourism activities at Sun Moon Lake, sharing their unique culture with both local and foreign visitors.
Unfortunately, this attraction is not peaceful at all. In fact, we were feeling really annoyed to find the entire place overrun by noisy disruptive Mainland China tourists.
So, if you wish to avoid the crowds and enjoy some tranquility, do visit early in the morning or late around dusk time.
Be prepared to climb over a hundred steps up the hill to Xuanguang Temple 玄关寺. Please note that Syunguang Pier is not wheelchair or stroller friendly. So. it might be almost impossible for people with disabilities to visit the temple at the top.
The lake is best admire from afar, up above or when it is not overwhelmed with tourists from all over the world. Perhaps the best time to visit Sun Moon Lake would be early in the morning or late around dusk time.
From the top of the hill, we get to enjoy a spectacular panoramic view of the lake with the lush mountains in the background. Sitting in the middle of the lake is the Lalu island.
Xuangzang Temple was built around 1955 where a fragment of the Chinese Buddhist monk, Xuanzang's bone was enshrined. Xuanzang was a famous Tang Dynasty Buddhist monk and a great contributor of Buddhism who was sent to India by the Tang Emperor to seek scriptures.
He returned and brought back more than 650 sutras with him after seventeen years. With the help of his disciples, he translated 75 of these. Xuanzang was famous for his seventeen years journey to India, which provided the inspiration for one of the greatest classical novels of Chinese literature - Journey to the west.
However, there was nothing particularly remarkable about the temple. We left right away after taking a few quick photos.
It was not a surprise to see lots of tourists, mostly from Mainland China, queuing up to take photo with another stone inscribed with the Chinese name of the lake. Although there are another four or five similar inscribed stones in the scenic area, the one that stands in front of Syuanguang Temple remains the most popular photo-taking spot among the Chinese tourists.
I believe this is the only place where you will have to queue in order to take a photo with a stone. The purpose of this is to maintain order around the area after tourists fought over photo-opportunities. However, we did not join the queue just to take a photo with a inscribed stone. It was totally not worth our time to do that at all.
Although crowded, Sun Moon Lake is still worth a visit. But still, it might be one of the too commercialized and over-rated tourist attraction to visit. It was disappointing that the natural beauty of the lake has ruined by mass tourism. Without the intense crowds, I would definitely have enjoy and love this attraction more.
We made our way down to the boarding area once we were done with the various attractions at the Syuanguang Pier and boarded the next available ferry to Ita Thao Pier.
Ita Thao Pier 伊达邵码头
We alighted from the ferry and meet up with Mr Tsai, who has spent the past hour waiting for us.
Ita Thao, formerly known as Dehua Village, is the last residence of the Thao people at Sun Moon Lake.
The members of Ita Thao tribe are currently concentrated in two village - Ita Thao Village located along the bank of Sun Moon Lake in Yuchih township and Damaopu and Dapinglin Villages in nearby Shuili township of Nantou country.
The lakeside pavilion is a great place to relax with panoramic view of the Sun Moon Lake.
Following the path, we arrived at Ita Thao Visitor Centre and were really surprised it was not crowded with tourists.
Ita Thao Village is a vibrant and simple small town with a vast majority of hotels, restaurants, souvenir stores lined neatly along the narrow streets. We enjoyed strolling down the streets as it was not packed with tourists. The walk was very relaxing, without any noise from vehicles or people passing by.
There were many delicious and interesting local delicacies for one to try. Do not forget to grab some snacks as you strolled down the streets so that you could enjoy them along the way.
Crowned as one of the 13 national scenic areas in Taiwan, Sun Moon Lake is one of the renowned tourist destination in the country, attracting more than 6 million visits each year. A day trip is definitely not enough for one to explore and see the beauty of Sun Moon Lake. Although highly commercialized, this is still a great place to escape from the hustle and bustle of the city. I would suggest you to stay at least a night in order to experience the true beauty of the lake.
If you are interested to know more about our trip, you may want to check out our 11D10N round island tour itinerary for the list of attractions that we had visited during our 11 days in Taiwan. Be sure to follow me on Facebook or Twitter for the latest updates on my 11 days adventures in Taiwan!