Travelogue: Sun Moon Lake

Together with Taroko Gorge and Kenting National park, Sun Moon Lake (日月潭) is one of the biggest tourist destinations in Taiwan, but it was among the last places I visited during my stay in Taiwan. Why? Because every time I wanted to go, it would rain. When I was staying in Taishan with relatives, it once rained nonstop for 15 days. I’m not sure if I’ve gone two weeks without seeing the sun before (this was a record for Taipei, too, 15 days of constant rain). But once that nasty weather finally cleared up, the weatherman predicted sunny weather, I finally set off for the Sun Moon Lake, hoping to see some great sights!
Sun Moon Lake - panorama scenery 5
Sun Moon Lake - panorama scenery 7

Sunny weather weather my ass. Immediately upon arriving at Sun Moon Lake, I encountered a thick blanket of fog, severely limiting visibility and shrouding the entire view in white:

Check out this photo – what you’re supposed to see at the Sun Moon Lake, vs what I saw that day. I was quite miffed, to say the least.
Sun Moon Lake - fog covered view

Thankfully, the next day the fog was quite a bit thinner, so I rented a bike from near Shuishe (水社) visitor center (遊客中心), and set off to bike the 28 kilometers around the entire lake.
Sun Moon Lake - panorama scenery 2Sun Moon Lake - panorama scenery 3

Thankfully, the fog slowly cleared up, and by the end of my ride, I had some better views of Sun Moon Lake:
Sun Moon Lake - scenery 8

Scenery photos of Alishan, with the fog clearing up:

Bamboo park. A lot of gardeners would kill for this great of a setup.
Sun Moon Lake - bamboo park

Wenwu Temple (文武廟): a large temple on the northern side of the lake. Nice views. Also, aboriginal music.

Right near Wenwu, which is up on a hill, there’s a path down to the shoreline – the Steps of the Year trail. 366 steps, one for every day of the year:

Sun Moon Lake - steps of the year trail down Sun Moon Lake - steps of the year trail up

Thankfully, December 31 is on the top of the hill, so I only had to go down a couple of steps to hit December 17:
Sun Moon Lake - steyps of the year birthday

There’s a cable car station, taking visitors to the Formosan Aboriginal Culture Village (九族文化村)- a theme park centered around indigenous culture. I considered visiting, but read that it was aimed more at small children.
Sun Moon Lake - cable car sation Sun Moon Lake - cable car

Xuanzang Temple (玄奘寺):
Sun Moon Lake - Xuanzang temple

Ita Thou (伊達邵) village: one of indigenous tribes of Taiwan, they settled right on Sun Moon Lake, and have prospered as the lake has become a gigantic tourist attraction (mostly visitors from mainland China). Lots of shops here, for food, aboriginal clothing, and other… trinkets.

Nice view from the Ita Thao pier:
Sun Moon Lake - Ita Thao harbor view 1 Sun Moon Lake - Ita Thao harbor view 2
Sun Moon Lake - panorama Ita Thao pier

I had lunch here – some kind of small rice (小米) mochi and rice ball:
Ita Thao tiny rice Ita Thao mochi

Ci-En Pagoda (慈恩塔): go to Ci-En Pagoda, the visitor center recommended.  Great views, they said.
Sun Moon Lake - Ci-en Pagoda sign

Xuanguang Temple (玄光寺): a temple very popular with the mainland Chinese tourists, I’m not entirely sure why. They lined up (very surprising) to take pictures with a stone tablet inscribed with the name of Sun Moon Lake.
Sun Moon Lake - Xuanguang temple tourists Sun Moon Lake - Xuanguang temple pier

Not sure why, since there’s a ton of other stone tablets around, and the mainland Chinese tourists don’t seem to be interested in any of those.

But in any case, the view from Xuanguang is pretty good. Most importantly, the sun finally came out as I came to Xuanguang. First time seeing the sun in two weeks. Glorious.
Sun Moon Lake - panorama Xuanguang temple

Towards the south of the lake, I rode along the Yetan bikeway – a trail through the forest. But annoyingly, many parts of the bikeway were quite steep, making it quite dangerous to bike on the moss-covered path.
Sun Moon Lake - Yetan bikeway 1 Sun Moon Lake - Yetan bikeway 2
Sun Moon Lake - panorama scenery 4 Sun Moon Lake - panorama scenery 6

The Xiangshan (向山) visitor center also offers a great view of Sun Moon Lake:
Sun Moon Lake - Xiangshan visitor center view Sun Moon Lake - Xiangshan visitor center portrait
Sun Moon Lake - panorama Shuishe visitor center

For some unknown reason, Xiangshan visitor center has a hot air balloon:
Sun Moon Lake - Xiangshan visitor center hot air balloon

Bits and Bobs:
– There are these floating gardens on the lake. These artificial islands are created by the locals, not only for extra gardening space, but also to create habitats for the fish:
Sun Moon Lake - floating garden 1 Sun Moon Lake - floating garden 2

– A statue of Chiang Kai-Shek, out in the middle of nowhere. He looks quite lonely.
Sun Moon Lake - Chiang Kai Shek statue

– Kayaking!
Sun Moon Lake - kayaking

– I’ve got no idea why, but there’s a random peacock zoo around the lake:
peacock zoo

– A floating home on the lake:
Sun Moon Lake - scenery floating home

– A spider web, glistening in the morning dew:
spider web glistening with dew

– The lake has a bunghole!  In case water levels rise too high, the excess goes down this hole:
Sun Moon Lake - bunghole

– The many indigenous tribes of Taiwan:
Ita Thao aboriginal tribes

– A tortuous path:
tortuous path

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