Day 224: Chiayi & Sun Moon Lake, Taiwan We walked across to Chiayi train station for the last time today, to catch two trains then a bus to Sun Moon Lake.
We assumed Christmas decorations would have been taken down by now, but surprisingly, they’re still going strong. We’re now a little curious to know how long they’ll be in place for – perhaps locals follow the Queen’s lead to leave decorations in place until at least 6 February every year, or perhaps they come down just before or after Chinese New Year. Let’s see.
We sat in the train station waiting room for a bit (we were pretty early again, surprise!) A guy was sitting just to our left in the front row of seats, fast asleep. His phone rang 5 times while we were sitting there, but his deep sleep state meant he didn’t hear it ringing.
Lil got more anxious every time the phone rang, imagining that it was his work calling him to know where he was, or friends or family calling to find out why he hadn’t shown up somewhere, or or or… She was close to going and shaking him awake, but Jim convinced her it was probably better to leave him be. He was still fast asleep when we headed to the station platform, and who knows, he may still be there right now.
We caught the first train to Ershui, then switched to a train to Shuili. We had 20 minutes in between trains. Lil decided to run to the loo, causing havoc as she needed to get through the station barriers without tapping off with her travel card. A lovely station guard let her through, then showed her where the bathroom was, and before she disappeared into the ladies, urged her to ‘beware of time!’.
While we waited for the train to depart, we pulled apart a Kinder Egg that Lil had bought earlier, scoffed the chocolate and put the toy together – a Star Wars bracelet that Lil wore until it fell apart later in the day. Big kids that we are.
The train to Shuili was very cool – old carriages with arches, and old style curtains. The driver was sitting at the front of our carriage, in a small curtained cubicle. And we could see out the front window down the track ahead, making we feel like co-pilots (or co-train drivers, which admittedly doesn’t sound quite so cool).
The journey was fabulous – we wound our way through forests and farms growing all kinds of fruits and a series of awesome little train stations. We only realised half way through the journey that the route we were on is now a popular tourist route called the Jiji line.
Then we caught a bus from Shuili to Sun Moon Lake, an easy 30 minute journey. There were only a handful of people on the bus (and thankfully no bickering couples today). The driver managed to steer us around windy mountain roads and up to Sun Moon Lake with one hand, while slurping a large drink through a straw with the other. Impressive, if a little alarming.
We arrived at Sun Moon Lake early afternoon, had a quick coffee, then popped into the nearby visitor centre. Lil already had one tourist flyer for the local area and wanted to see if there were some more detailed maps. Language difficulties resulted in us walking out with a second copy of the same map. Oh well.
We walked to our accommodation, a two minute walk away, and the lovely manager served us hot plum tea while we checked in. We also tried some cherry tomatoes with fruit jelly which were pretty unusual, but delicious.
And to top everything off, she gave us a third copy of the map we already had.
We got settled into our room, then headed out for a walk by the lake. Sun Moon Lake is a tourist hot spot in Taiwan – we’re lucky to be visiting in low season, and to be here midweek when it’s far less busy. Also by the time we arrived the tourist buses were leaving, so we had a nice quiet afternoon.
Sun Moon Lake is Taiwan’s largest freshwater lake, named because (with a fair stretch of the imagination) the east side looks like the sun and the west like the moon. There’s a 29km path that runs the entire way around the lake, which we’ll cycle around over the next few days.
This afternoon we had an easy walk around to a larger visitor centre, where we caused mayhem by walking across a drained ornamental lake, which was being cleaned. Then back to town for pre-dinner beers, then dinner.
And our selfies are still rubbish, as this pic at a heart shaped pergola shows
On the way back we passed a slightly potty dog which was tied to a fence, but doing some mad dance moves on its hind legs.
Tomorrow we’ll either rent bikes and pedal around the lake, or we’ll do some shorter walking trails. And with three copies of the local map between us, we should be well prepared.