In search of a nice cuppa at the tea farm, a giant bee makes a decision for us, and Lil does her best gnome impression. 

Day 227: Sun Moon Lake, Taiwan. We heard some loud voices coming from the room next door last night. As we walked down the hotel corridor we discovered why; through the open door we spotted the bickering couple from the bus the other day (thankfully packing their bags).

We headed out into a sunny morning and set off in search of some tea tastings. There are a few different tea farms in the local area. After a quick squizz online, we decided to visit the Antique Assam Tea Farm, which gets pretty good reviews.

The tea farm is only four or five kilometres outside town, however walking along a busy main road wasn’t an option, so we caught a Taichung-bound bus, and got off outside the entrance gates.

We were initially quite impressed as we walked up the avenue lined with tea plantations, to an old Japanese style building with ivy and wooden windows.

We walked around the back of the building to the front entrance (which sounds a little bit Irish), and entered a small quiet shop. We managed to get our paws on a couple of small tasting cups of ‘Tea No.18’ which is the top rated specialty tea here, but otherwise, the visit was a bit of a let down. The cafe and restaurant is closed to the public, unless you’re part of a tour group with 20+ people, and the little garden with chairs and tables was pretty much deserted. There were some fab views across the valley though.

We couldn’t find anything else to do, so we walked back down the avenue to the main road and caught a bus back to town, approximately 18 minutes after we got off the outgoing bus.

We caught another bus from town back to Ita Thou (Yidashao). There was one walking trail that we hadn’t done, so we decided to check it out. The entire trail is up a very large mountain, and takes about 7-8 hours to complete, so that wasn’t an option. However there’s a shorter trail that goes to a couple of viewpoints, that we thought should be doable.

We were in two minds about walking at all today – our legs and feet were aching from the long distances covered over the last couple of days. As we started to climb the many thousands of steps up to the viewpoints, we found ourselves totally mobbed by large mossies. We put on another layer of insect repellent, and continued the climb.

Still only half-keen on doing the walk, the decision on whether to keep going or not was made for us. One of the dreaded giant hornets appeared out of the bushes in front of us, and without any further discussion we both quickly turned and retraced our steps back down to the town.

We spent the rest of the afternoon wandering around Ita Thao. We’d already visited the town a couple of days ago but hadn’t spent much time walking the streets and poking our heads into shops.

On the edge of town there’s a small aboriginal settlement with some interesting historic prints on the sides of houses, depicting the lake’s original people.

We stopped for a coffee and spotted a new innovation – a Self-Heating Beef Hot Pot. We’ve no idea how it works, but given all the warnings about the need to read the warnings and stand well back while it’s doing its stuff, we probably wouldn’t be tempted to try it out. Even if we were happy to pay the near 15 dollar price for a jumped-up pot noodle.

We walked around the pier and past a bunch of arcade games. We were amused to spot one game where you test your skill to win a prize of a cardboard cup of milky tea. You might as well just pop into the local cafe and buy one there.

When we’d finished exploring we walked to the top of the town and waited on a very high bench for the next bus to arrive. Lil looked like a little gnome with her legs dangling off the seat.

As we waited, we saw a couple on a motorbike who were both reading their phones as they zoomed past. Scary stuff.

When we got back to town, we had a cold beer, then dinner at the same restaurant we’ve eaten at for three days in a row (which perhaps says something about the limited choice here).

And Christmas decorations are STILL in place on 10 January, so Jim had the opportunity to pose next to yet another Xmas tree.

Tomorrow we pack up and head to Puli, a town about 15km north, making way for the hordes who spend the weekend at Sun Moon Lake. Along with a brewery, a distillery and a paper factory, there’s also a bee farm in Puli. Hopefully we won’t find any giant Asian hornets though.

More then.