Taipei Day Trips: Sun Moon Lake – Part 2

Sun Moon Lake is a must visit landmark in Taiwan that pulls in many visitors every year. The location is easy to access from Taipei and navigating your way round is made simple. Our Taiwan travel writer Vadim brings you the second part of his journey below.

You can find part one here

IMG_12729_ShuishalianAs my friend and I continued our bike trip around Sun Moon Lake we were mesmerized by the stunning beauty of the emerald colored water and dense foliage that blended flawlessly with the bright blue sky and green mountains. However, what happened next would briefly interrupt the calm serenity we were growing accustomed to.

The Crash

I said it before and it’s worth saying again, keep your eyes on the road – stop the bike and look at the views instead. As we left WenWu Temple we biked off the highway onto the designated bike path that hugged the edges of the lake.

I was riding in front and my friend riding close behind. We were casually riding and glancing at the lake when I suddenly hear a shout and a crash. I look back to see my friend laying on the ground with road burn on one arm, cuts and bruises on her knees, and a pair of bloody palms. Keep your eyes on the road.

Our next priority became finding a bathroom to wash off the blood and clean her cuts. We cleaned what we could at the time and continued riding towards the Sun Moon Lake Ropeway (gondola).

Sun Moon Lake Ropeway

The gondola at Sun Moon Lake connects the Formosan Aboriginal Cultural Village and the small town of Ita Thao.

During our search for a bathroom, we were pleasantly surprised by the number of first aid stations at most of the populated areas. There was an extremely kind auntie behind the service desk who jumped at the opportunity to help my friend.

She cleaned her wounds, wrapped her in bandages and my friend was limping out of there and onto the gondola in no time.

The gondola costs 300NT for a round-trip ticket and is the only means of transportation to the Aboriginal Cultural Village, which costs an additional 850NT. The ride is quite beautiful, however, if you don’t plan to go to the park I would skip the gondola, especially if you’re only in Sun Moon for one day.

Formosan Aboriginal Cultural Village

The park represents the nine Aboriginal tribes of Taiwan and has a few roller coasters, rides, and shows displaying the rich traditions of Taiwanese culture.

The park requires a few hours to complete and, unfortunately, with our limited time and sustained injuries, the park wasn’t a feasible option. We rode the gondola back down to Ita Thao (coincidentally with the same people we rode up with) and continued on our journey, road burn and all.

Ci’en Pagoda

Possibly one of the best views in all of Sun Moon Lake is from the top of Ci’en Pagoda. Located on top of one of the central mountains, it overlooks all of Sun Moon lake. On a nice day, the views from the top of the tower are nothing short of stunning.

The hike to the tower doesn’t take too long, but the stairs to the top are quite steep. The pagoda sits on the mountain top and the stairs inside bring you 46 meters higher than the already 950 meters.

From the top the major sites of WenWu Temple, Xiangshan Visitors Center, Shueishe Visitors Center, and the many boats moving back and forth in the lake.

Unfortunately, the pagoda was undergoing renovations when we arrived so we weren’t able to reach to go inside. The views outside of the pagoda are still stunning and the garden around it is a great place to rest for a while.

Sun Moon Lake Bikeway

We descended the Ci’en Pagoda and since it would be getting dark soon we quickly biked toward the Sun Moon Lake Bikeway – Moon Lake section. This section of the bikeway leads you through a heavily forested area with multiple rest stops to take in the view of the lake on one side of the mountain and the village below on the other. 

Parts of the section really feels like biking through a dense jungle and without many people crowding the paths the bike ride, however steep, was more relaxing.

The path flows out into a bikeway along the smaller “Moon lake” section of the lake. The path hugs the water for a few kilometers and brings you to the more heavily populated Xiangshan section of the bikeway.

This pedestrian and bike-friendly path will bring you to the large Xiangshan Visitors Center, where people will often relax and enjoy the modern wooden-concrete architecture of the building. There is also a small cafe and a museum inside.

We continued around the path and back to the Shueishe Visitors Center, where we had alighted from the bus and rented the bicycles. Although we returned the bikes 30 minutes later than the “required” time, the boss was very relaxed and told us that 5pm was the “suggested” return time. As long as we didn’t return the bikes too late it was all okay.

Departure

Most people leave the lake as it gets dark and the line for the departing busses was far too long for us to be bothered waiting.

We walked down the main street of the Shueishe Visitors Area and found one of the Taiwanese restaurants that are plentiful in that area. We ordered a set meal for the both of us that included numerous vegetarian dishes as well.

After we finished eating we waited for one of the last busses from the lake to Taichung, around 7:30-8. The bus ride back took a considerably longer amount of time because of the many stops.

Once we arrived in Taichung, since we weren’t in a rush to get home, went to the coach bus station and took a bus from Taichung Main Station to Taipei Main Station, roughly two and a half hours.

When we arrived home, despite the cuts, bruises, and sore muscles, we felt complete and accomplished. Sun Moon Lake can be done in one day. Let us know in the comments section below if you have had similar experiences with Sun Moon Lake. 

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