I’ll give credit where credit is due: Sun Moon Lake is quite beautiful.
But my overall experience was, unfortunately, subpar. I’m disappointed not with the lake itself, but rather the experience of getting there.
A normal journey from Taichung to Sun Moon Lake should take about 2 hours. I also understand that this is a tour and there’ll be a number of stop-overs so it’ll take a little longer than that, which is fine if there are enough interesting stop-overs keep the momentum going. What we didn’t expect is that it would take almost the entire day because we had to stop at the following places… some good, some not so good:
- DIY bubble tea was fun.
- Xitou Monster Village & Nature Education Area was not bad, but it could be better.
- We proceeded to Jiji Township to visit Taiwan’s oldest railway station—it probably has lots of historical importance, which unfortunately doesn’t translate for foreigners. And unlike the railways at the colourful Shifen, this one is not photogenic at all. Nonetheless, if you’re interested, you can book a day trip to Jiji Township here.
- And then there’s Checheng Old Street—the most unnecessary tour stop ever, in which the best it has to offer is some boring dam where water from Sun Moon Lake flows down to.
The whole day had been rather low key and it had gotten progressively more mundane, so when we finally reached Sun Moon Lake at almost 6 pm and learned that our rooms don’t even have a view of the lake, there’s a lot of redeeming that Sun Moon Lake had to do.
Here’s a tip: Book a no-frill trip to Sun Moon Lake without all the unnecessary stops. You’ll enjoy it so much more when you actually reach.
Beautiful sunset, which would’ve been flawless if it didn’t feel like we spent 9 hours on the road just to see it. In comparison, you can reach Lake Toba (the world’s largest volcanic lake, which I personally to be more scenic) can be reached within 3 hours from a nearby major city in Indonesia.
Speaking of which, Sun Moon Lake feels precisely like a mini-Lake Toba. Not only the view, but also the natives’ traditional music, handicraft works, facial features and even a few common linguistic words. We learned that, apparently, the Thao ethnic has close genetic and cultural ties to the native Indonesians; hence all the similarities with Indonesia’s Batak culture.
Except for their obsessions with owls.
Owls dominate all the gift shops in Sun Moon Lake. It’s one of the two sacred animals for the Thao tribe.
Legend has it that once there was a young woman who became pregnant with a child, though she didn’t know how. The poor woman was treated badly and she ran away to the mountains, where she passed away and were found to have reincarnated as an owl. Ever since then, the coming of an owl to the house of a Thao woman is greeted as a good omen, as it is believed that the owl has foreknowledge of pregnancy and it hoots to tell the woman to take good care of herself.
The next morning, we departed for a leisure cruise on the lake…
Right at the middle of the lake is Lalu Island, which used to be bigger and separated the lake into a part shaped like crescent moon and another shaped like round sun. There’s a marble statue of white deer (the other sacred animal) on the island.
Legend has it that once there was a group of hunters who spotted a white deer. The deer led them to this area before jumping into the lake, whom the hunters discovered to be an area with abundant supply of edible fishes. The hunters brought their village people into this area and became the first generation of Thao tribes after an oath with the deer spirit that resides in Lalu Island.
Overall, the Sun Moon Lake isn’t that bad. It’s a good break from the busy atmosphere of Taiwan cities. Just don’t repeat my mistake and avoid all the unnecessary stop-overs, then you’ll be able to have enough time to enjoy this lake fully. 🙂
Have you ever been to Sun Moon Lake? Share your stories with us.
Next post: A short visit to Wenwu Temple before transferring to Chiayi to embark on a high-speed bullet train ride.
Also, traveling can be quite a nightmare without internet, so make sure you book a 4G WiFi to be picked up at Taiwan airport now.