We took a day trip to Sun Moon Lake, which we booked through Klook for about S$81 per person. The tour package included lunch, round-trip transportation from Taichung to Sun Moon Lake, boat ride tickets, and a Mandarin-speaking tour guide. While the itinerary we followed differed from the one currently listed on Klook’s website, the actual route taken during the tour depended on the tour guide, who may or may not adhere to the original plan.
We were expecting a minibus to pick us up from the hotel, however, it was the tour guide who arrived in his 6-seater SUV instead. He then drove to another location to pick up another group of Vietnamese tourists. It turned out to be a private tour with a small group, which was great.
Our new Vietnamese companions mentioned that they hadn’t eaten breakfast so our guide took us to a local eatery called Daye Yonghe Soy Milk (大業永和豆漿). It serves a variety of Taiwanese breakfast items such as soy milk, shao bing, dan bing, fan tuan, and steamed buns, along with Western-style foods like pastries, sandwiches, and burgers.
I was amused by the shop name because it appeared that there were numerous variations of “Yonghe Soy Milk” in Taiwan.
We got the Pork Chop Burger (豬排漢堡) and French Toast Sandwich (法國土司) to go, so we could eat while driving to Sun Moon Lake. Both were tasty! The pork chop was well-seasoned and tender, while the sandwich contained corn, ham, and a sweeter version of “hae bee hiam.” The portions were generous, considering the price.
After driving for approximately an hour, we finally arrived at Sun Moon Lake.
Sun Moon Lake 日月潭
Sun Moon Lake is a beautiful mountain lake located in Nantou County’s Yuchi Township. The lake’s eastern side is round like the sun, while the western side is crescent-shaped like the moon, hence its name “Sun Moon Lake.”
Aside from its breathtaking scenery, Sun Moon Lake is also known for its cultural significance. The area is home to the Thao tribe, an indigenous group that has lived in the region for centuries.
Sun Moon Lake is also a popular destination for outdoor activities, such as hiking, cycling, and boating. Visitors can take a leisurely cruise around the lake or rent a bike to ride on the scenic cycling trail.
Our tour guide brought us to the Xiangshan Visitor Center, which was our first stop.
Xiangshan Visitor Center 向山行政暨遊客中心
The Xiangshan Visitor Center is an architectural masterpiece located in the beautiful area of Sun Moon Lake. Designed by Dan Norihiko (團紀彥), the same architect who created the Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport’s Terminal One, this modern and eco-friendly building is an excellent example of sustainable design.
The building consists of two curved wings that resemble human arms embracing the earth, as well as two enormous canopies that integrate seamlessly into its natural surroundings.
As we stood beneath one of the canopies, we were pleasantly surprised by how cool and breezy it felt, despite the hot and humid summer weather. The space’s design generated a zen-like atmosphere, evoking a sense of tranquility and calmness. It was an ideal spot for meditation.
The Xiangshan Visitor Center is a multifunctional facility that serves as an information center, a resting spot for visitors, and a viewing platform. Tourists can acquire information about the area, such as maps, brochures, and other useful information at the information desk.
The center’s real attraction is the viewing deck, which offers visitors a panoramic view of the lake and surrounding mountain ranges. From this vantage point, we can relish the stunning views of Sun Moon Lake, the lush green forests that envelop it surrounding it, and the majestic mountains that form the backdrop.
Sun Moon Lake Wenwu Temple 日月潭文武廟
Wenwu Temple is situated on the northern side of the lake and was constructed in 1938 to honor Confucius, as well as the gods of literature and war.
The temple’s stunning architecture merges both traditional Chinese and contemporary styles. It is characterised by a striking combination of red and gold hues, and the intricate carvings, elaborate rooflines, and ornate decorations are awe-inspiring.
The temple comprises three distinct halls. The front hall is a shrine dedicated to the First Ancestor Kaiji and the God of Literature. The central hall is dedicated to Guan Gong, the God of War, and the warrior-god Yue Fei.
The rear hall is dedicated to Confucius, and statues of his followers, Mengzi and Zengzi, are also present.
Apart from the primary halls, Wenwu Temple boasts a stunningly landscaped garden where tourists can unwind and enjoy the serene environment.
We had a delectable aboriginal Thao-style meal for lunch at Ma Fei Guan (碼啡館), which is situated in the Sun Moon Lake Apollo Resort Hotel. Although there was only one menu, we were allowed to choose between boar meat, pig’s knuckle, or basil wild chicken leg as the primary dish. We picked the first two options.
The food was beautifully presented and looked very tempting. There were many side dishes, all of which were well prepared. Additionally, we were served a wooden carved mug filled with refreshing black tea, along with a tea jelly that had tapioca balls. It was an extremely satisfying meal!
Following our meal, the guide distributed boat ride tickets and informed us that we could explore the surroundings and use the boat shuttle to reach Xuanguang Wharf and Ita Thao Shopping District.
Based on my prior research on the Klook website, I had anticipated a picturesque boat journey across Sun Moon Lake. However, the actual experience was more akin to a shuttle service that transported us between different locations. While the views during the boat ride were undoubtedly breathtaking, it wasn’t exactly what I had envisioned.
Xuanguang Wharf 玄光碼頭
We boarded a boat at Shuishe Wharf and embarked on a 20-minute journey to Xuanguang Wharf. As soon as we arrived, we were immediately captivated by the vibrant ambience. Various activities were taking place including street performances, live aboriginal music, and singing.
We noticed that many people were snacking on tea eggs, prompting us to purchase two tea eggs from Ah Ma Tea Leaf Eggs 金盆阿嬤的香菇茶葉蛋. The eggs had a subtle tea fragrance that complemented the savoury flavor.
We walked to the nearby Xuanguang Temple, a temple dedicated to the Buddhist monk Xuanzang, who travelled to India in search of Buddhist scriptures.
We also had the opportunity to relish panoramic views of the lake and its encompassing mountains from the observation deck near the wharf.
Ita Thao Shopping District 伊達邵商店街
Subsequently, we boarded the shuttle boat and travelled to Ita Thao Pier, which is the location of the bustling Ita Thao Shopping District.
The area is known for its vibrant atmosphere, traditional architecture, and diverse establishments like shops, eateries, and street vendors that offer an array of local snacks, souvenirs, and crafts. Some of the popular items to buy from here include handmade soap, wooden carvings, and embroidered bags.
Afterward, we met up with our tour guide and proceeded towards the final destination of our tour, Ci’en Pagoda.
Ci’en Pagoda is a towering pagoda situated on a hill overlooking the Sun Moon Lake. It was built in 1971 in memory of Chiang Kai-shek’s mother, and the name “Ci’en” means “kindness and grace” in honour of her.
The pagoda stands at 46 meters tall, offering visitors spectacular views of Sun Moon Lake and the surrounding mountains.
To be honest, I was a bit let down by the tour since Sun Moon Lake was the primary reason for our visit to Taichung, and the cost didn’t seem worth it. The description of a “scenic boat ride” or “boat cruise” on the listing wasn’t quite accurate. Instead, it was more of a shuttle boat transfer that transported us from one pier to another on the lake. Despite the stunning and tranquil lake, it was enveloped in a hazy fog that added to its dreamlike atmosphere, but we learned from the guide that it was caused by air pollution from the Taichung Power Plant, which dampened the experience.
Nonetheless, the guide was the only saving grace of the trip, a knowledgeable and affable gentleman who shared intriguing facts about the sites we visited. The aboriginal lunch was also excellent, and the hotel pickup and drop-off was very convenient. We skipped the hiking trails mentioned in the itinerary but no loss since we would only be inhaling polluted air outdoors. However, it would have been great if we had more time to spend in the Ita Thao Shopping District.