To make the most of our day, we booked a day trip to Sun Moon Lake through Klook. The package is priced at around S$81 per person. It included lunch, round-trip transportation from Taichung to Sun Moon Lake, boat ride tickets, and a Mandarin-speaking tour guide. Note that the itinerary may differ from what’s on Klook’s website due to the tour guide’s discretion.
Expecting a minibus or coach, we were pleasantly surprised when our tour guide arrived in a 6-seater SUV. We then made a quick stop to pick up a small group of Vietnamese tourists. It was like having our own private adventure or VIP tour!
As we embarked on our journey, our Vietnamese companions mentioned they hadn’t had breakfast. Our guide took us to a local gem called Daye Yonghe Soy Milk (大業永和豆漿). This place served an array of Taiwanese breakfast delights, from soy milk to shao bing, dan bing, fan tuan, and steamed buns. They even had Western-style treats like pastries, sandwiches, and burgers.
I couldn’t help but chuckle at the shop’s name, Daye Yonghe Soy Milk. It seemed like there were Yonghe Soy Milk variations all over Taiwan.
We decided to grab the Pork Chop Burger (豬排漢堡) and French Toast Sandwich (法國土司) to enjoy on our drive 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 – A Stunning Wonder
Sun Moon Lake, nestled in Nantou County’s Yuchi Township, is a sight to behold. The lake’s eastern side resembles the radiant sun, while the western side forms a graceful crescent moon, giving it the name “Sun Moon Lake.” Prepare to be blown away by its natural beauty and breathtaking scenery.
Beyond its scenic allure, Sun Moon Lake holds significant cultural importance. The area is home to the Thao tribe, an indigenous group that has inhabited these lands for centuries. Exploring the lake means delving into the rich heritage and traditions of this fascinating tribe.
Sun Moon Lake offers a playground for outdoor enthusiasts. Hiking, cycling, and boating are just a few of the thrilling activities available. You can opt for a leisurely cruise around the lake, taking in the serene surroundings, or rent a bike and pedal your way along the scenic cycling trail. The choice is yours!
Our tour guide led us to our first stop, the magnificent Xiangshan Visitor Center.
Xiangshan Visitor Center 向山行政暨遊客中心
Designed by the talented architect Dan Norihiko, the creative mind behind Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport’s Terminal One, this architectural gem is a sight to behold. Set against the backdrop of Sun Moon Lake’s beauty, the Xiangshan Visitor Center is a modern and eco-friendly masterpiece. Designed with sustainability in mind, it showcases the perfect blend of aesthetics and functionality.
The building has two curved wings that resemble arms embracing the earth. It also features two massive canopies that blend perfectly with the 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 centre, 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 boasts a vibrant atmosphere and a diverse range of establishments. Shops, eateries, and street vendors offer a plethora 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 as a tribute to Chiang Kai-shek’s mother. The name “Ci’en” was chosen to honour her, as it represents “kindness and grace.”
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. The lake, although stunning and serene, was covered in a hazy fog that enhanced its dreamy ambience. However, our guide informed us that it was due to air pollution from the nearby Taichung Power Plant, which unfortunately dampened our 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.