Day 226: Sun Moon Lake, Taiwan. We headed out this morning for another long walk – this time around the west and south sides of Sun Moon Lake.
It was another glorious day; sunny and warm with a forecast high of 22C, making it a perfect walking weather day.
Occasionally we passed other people walking and cycling around the lake on a mix of bicycles and e-bikes. Some looked like they hadn’t been on bikes since they were kids (or perhaps ever) as they wobbled along, desperately trying not to crash into people or things.
One elderly lady was having the time of her life, going at full speed on her e-bike while pedestrians (including us) plastered themselves against the railing for fear of getting flattened as she sailed past in a not-so-straight line.
The walk was fabulous, around 10km on the lake’s edge with even more spectacular views.
We had to walk along the main road for a bit, though thankfully there was hardly any traffic. Lil glanced at a road sign and commented that it was a bit odd the sign showed the same place twice. But as Jim pointed out, on closer inspection they’re not the same places at all. Oh the joys of Chinese language.
We had lunch by Xuanguang pier, one of the places where boats ferry people back and forth to the other towns around the lake. The area was busy for a weekday, with a pretty loud band playing, called Fun Full.
From the wharf we followed the pilgrim trail up to the next temple, passing a tree which had been adorned with prayers.
And finally we climbed our way up to Ci-En Pagoda, which is located on Sha Ba Lan Mountain. The pagoda was built in 1971 by Chiang Kai-Shek in memory of his mother. Construction was tricky as all the materials had to be shipped across the lake and hoiked up the mountain.
The hexagonal building is 46 metres high, with 12 floors. We walked up the spiral steps to the top viewing platform, where there are sensational views across the lake and surrounding mountains.
We walked back down to the courtyard, which has a thick layer of tiny white stone pebbles, presumably intended to look a little like show. A huge ornamental drum is housed under a roof and of course we had to take turns to stand on the concrete platform to try the drum out, which was pretty impressive (the drum that is, not our drumming).
When we’d finished walking around the pagoda grounds, we made our way back down the mountain to catch a bus home. We were an hour early for the day’s last tourist shuttle, so we walked along the road in search of coffee. We found a shop and cafe open just opposite another temple, with wooden benches and seats alongside a window offering great views of the sun setting across the mountains.
The owner of the shop was lovely, giving us Taiwanese cookies and oranges while we drank our coffee. She asked where we were from, but couldn’t understand our reply despite us repeating ‘Australia’ several times. So Jim took to going ‘boing boing’ and hopping around her shop like a demented kangaroo. While a little mad, it worked – after half a dozen hops, she shouted “Ahhh, Australia!!”
Meanwhile the owner’s dog strutted around the shop, dressed up in a pink tutu dress, while her son pedalled away furiously on an exercise bike behind the counter (presumably the only place the bike would fit). He had a selection of workout music on in the background. At one point Kylie Minogue’s “I Should be so Lucky” played and the poor dog started yapping her head off. Clearly not a huge Kylie fan.
The shop sells lots of aboriginal products from the local Ita Thao people. We tasted a couple of different millet and taro wines, which are famous locally produced drinks, and bought a bottle of millet wine to take away.
Then we caught the tourist shuttle bus back to town, sharing the bus with only a few people (ah the joys of travelling in low season).
Tomorrow we’ll search out some local tea tastings, and maybe climb part of a mountain. Though our walking legs may insist a rest is in order, after all the pathways, mountains and steps covered over the last couple of days.