Taipei Day Trips: Sun Moon Lake
Sun Moon Lake is easily accessible from Taipei, despite people saying that it just isn’t feasible. People will tell you that it will be too rushed, you will be too tired, and it just won’t be worth it. Well, if you’re willing to spend a little bit more money and wake up early, it’s completely possible.
With a skeleton of a plan, some money in our pockets, and a 7:00AM start, my friend and are I were able to enjoy a bright Southern Taiwan day in one of Taiwan’s most serene destinations. These few tips will make your trip to Sun Moon Lake plausible, smooth, and relatively hassle free.
As I mentioned earlier, my friend and I didn’t really have a plan. We only knew that we needed to go to Taichung and then take a bus to Sun Moon Lake. With this knowledge in hand, we took the metro (the MRT) to Taipei Main Station, the transportation hub of Taipei. Almost anywhere you want to go in Taiwan is accessible through Taipei Main, as the locals call it.
Once we arrived we had two options, the HSR (High-Speed Rail) or the TRA (Taiwan Railway Administration, basically the normal, slower trains). Since we preferred to arrive earlier and enjoy our time at the lake we decided to take the more expensive HSR.
A one-way ticket costs 700NT, but only takes one hour – not surprising, seeing that the train races to speeds of 300km/h (186mph).
We took the 7:45am train and arrived at Taichung HSR station at 8:45am (Taichung Train Station and HSR station are in two different locations). Once we got off, the train arrows and signs (in English and Chinese) pointed toward buses for Sun Moon Lake.
We promptly got on a bus for the lake (120NT one way) and were there within an hour, the fastest I have heard of anyone getting to Sun Moon Lake from Taichung HSR station.
Traversing the Lake
We arrived at Sun Moon Lake at 10am, ready to start our day. Once we got off the bus we immediately rented a pair of Giant bikes from a stall directly across from the bus stop. The bikes were 300nt each for an all day rental, which lasts until about 6pm (they tell you 5pm, but you can be a little later).
You can circle around the entire lake by bike, although some parts are quite difficult because of the steep inclines. If you can finish the entire trip around the lake you will have biked approximately 25 kilometers.
The designated bike path around the lake has been regarded as one of the world’s top ten most breathtaking bike trails by CNNgo.
The trail takes you over quaint wooden bridges, densely covered forests, lakeside swimming spots (you can’t actually swim in the lake…although I did anyway), and past richly adorned temples and pagodas. Without any stops the round trip should take around three hours depending on your biking ability.
We stopped numerous times to enjoy the views and the trip took us from about 10:30am – 5:30pm. Not only did we stop numerous times to enjoy the amazing sites and scenery, we also had a few mishaps that demanded more of our time…
One very important fact to remember when cycling around the lake: Keep your eyes on the road.
This sounds like an obvious statement; however, once you start biking around the lake and the breathtaking views start to catch your eye, you’ll have trouble looking away.
As we cycled along the bike path we were led to the Steps of the Year – twelve sets of stairs each with thirty-one steps. Since the bike path abruptly ended in the middle of these stairs we were required to lift our bikes, which were quite light, and walk up 186 steps. Sounds worse than it was…well, actually, it was still pretty exhausting
At the top of the temple, we met our first major stop, WenWu Temple, quite close to our starting point. The temple has access to high points that provide amazing views of the lake and surrounding mountains.
From first sight, the temple seems unassuming. Not very large or different from most other temples in Taiwan. It’s not until you enter the temple that you realize its real size and the beauty of the carvings and structures inside.
The most amazing part of the sights around the lake are that they all provide a unique perspective and vantage point – each different from the last.
Be sure to check in for the next addition to the article, in which you’ll find out why these views can have dangerous consequences!
Have you ever been to Sun Moon Lake? Did you do it in record breaking time or did you take it more leisurely? Let us know about your experiences in the comments section below.