Sun Moon Lake, Part I

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

So I had heard practically from the get-go, that Sun Moon Lake was THE tourist destination in Taiwan, and I guess my Australian friends were saving the best for last. This might be the last trip I take for a long time, since I have seen many of the major spots in Taiwan.

To get to Sun Moon Lake from Taipei, we took the High Speed Rail for about 50 minutes to Taichung (which should actually be spelled "Taizhong," and thus threw me completely off until I understood that they were one and the same), where we took an approximately 1.5-hour bus ride to Sun Moon Lake, passing through a lot of pretty scenic spots, including a beautiful college campus dotted with cherry blossom trees.

We arrived at Sun Moon Lake just before 6, but the sun had already set, so we had a really tasty Taiwanese dinner at one of the many (many) restaurants there and then took a walk around. We walked down to the docks, where there was a mini-Bellagio fountain dancing to music.

The last time I complained to my mother about the scenery in Taiwan being unimpressive, she told me that her biggest quip with the tourist attractions in Taiwan was that the Taiwanese seemed to like to install unnatural structures or architecture into completely natural settings. Like the red bridge in Hualien, for example.

I have noticed that even extremely remote tourist sites will have the obligatory 7-11, and if it's actually too remote to house a 7-11, the streets are lined with individual vendors greeting you as you walk by in an attempt to buy their goods.

The next morning, we set out to do a tour of the entire Sun Moon Lake area, which is actually quite large. There is a shuttle bus that takes you around the area, and the first stop was Wenwu Temple. I recognized the giant lion/dragon statute outside almost immediately. Apparently when I was a youngster (I'm talkin' about 2.5 years old), I had visited the area and taking loads of photos. One of these photos was outside the Wenwu Temple ... and later, outside the Cien Pagoda, also around Sun Moon Lake.

These were carved from what looked like stone

If I understood correctly, this temple (or maybe it's every temple) is famous for granting wishes. You can buy one of these (paper) bells from the temple and write your wish on it and then pray (or bai-bai). There were thousands upon thousands (maybe millions) of these bells hanging around the temple, including down a stairway that leads to the lake, which I think they call "the Stairway to Heaven."

Next, we took the shuttle bus to catch the gondola (or skyway or skycap or skyhub or tram ... or any of the various English words for it) across to the Formosa Aboriginal Culture Village. I think this was my favorite part of the trip to Sun Moon Lake.

The air up there was just so misty, and the stillness so pure ... it felt otherworldly, like I had escaped not just the noise, but the stresses of NYC and Taipei. Ten minutes of serenity.

Part II to come tomorrow ...

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