Aerial view of the lake

Sun Moon Lake: Vacationing Taiwanese Style

Oct 22, 2014 - Carlos

From Taiwan’s most popular national park – Alishan – we headed to Taiwan’s number one vacation spot – Sun Moon Lake (日月潭). The largest lake in Taiwan, the east side of Sun Moon Lake is shaped like the sun, while the west is shaped like the moon. We bought a Sun Moon Lake coupon set which includes all the activities on the lake, from bus to boat to cable car.

Boat Tour

We started the day by taking a boat ride across the lake, from Shueishe Pier where the Visitor Center is located to the Ita Thao Pier on the other side of the lake. The boat ride was very short (only 10 minutes), but the view was spectacular. The sight of the crystal blue water in the foreground with other boats passing by, the mountainous background, and the lush green of the nearby tiny Lalu island made coming to Sun Moon Lake worth it. The cool breeze from the lake was a bonus.

Boat ride at Sun Moon Lake
Boat ride at Sun Moon Lake

Ita Thao

The Ita Thao is an indigenous tribe of Taiwan that inhabits the Sun Moon Lake area. Nowadays, they have been reduced in numbers and pretty much live in the nearby aboriginal village. After a quick lunch, we walked along the Ita Thao Lakeside Trail for some more views of the lake and the floating fisherman houses.

Floating houses at Ita Thao
Floating houses at Ita Thao

At this point our itinerary was interrupted, as the motion sickness medicine that Julie had taken for the bus ride to Sun Moon Lake finally kicked in and she was literally falling asleep while walking. She went to take a nap while I went for a walk.

Bike Trails

Sun Moon Lake has one of the most scenic bike paths that goes all along the lake and provides beautiful views of the water and the surrounding mountains. I started by the Shueishe Pier and walked towards the Xiangshan village at the lake, passing by a few overlooking pavilions, floating gardens and a dam along the way.

Bike path at Sun Moon Lake
Bike path at Sun Moon Lake

The walk was very relaxing. Without any noise from passing vehicles or people, it was just the sound of the wind in the trees and birds singing. Different parts of the lake were in view from time to time. The walk back to the was equally nice but accompanied by the sunset on the mountains behind the lake.

Sunset on the mountains at Sun Moon Lake
Sunset on the mountains at Sun Moon Lake

For dinner, we experienced an Ita Thao style meal. There were several small dishes – rice, dried shrimp, pork stew and vegetables – and the arrangement was very unique with wooden carved bowls in a basket.

Ita Thao style meal
Ita Thao style meal

Sun Moon Lake Ropeway

The next day, we took a bus around the lake to the Sun Moon Lake Ropeway, a cable car that connects the lake to the Formosan Aboriginal Culture Village. The ride was not as scenic as the Ngong Ping Cable Car or the Maokong Gondola, but it was nice to have an aerial view of the lake and appreciate once again how beautiful it was.

Aerial view of the lake
Aerial view of the lake

Formosan Aboriginal Culture Village

Besides being an aboriginal village, it doubles as an amusement park. Most rides were pretty ordinary, common to most most amusement parks I’ve been to, except here we had the bonus of no lines for any of them!

Amusement park at the Aboriginal Village
Amusement park at the Aboriginal Village

One ride worth mentioning was the “Mayan Adventure,” a flying-type roller coaster with multiple loops and deep dives. No big deal. I’ve been on rides like this before and I’m not particularly scared of it. The problem started when I tried to sit my seat – I realized that my shoulders were too wide for the lap bar to lock into my seat the way it’s supposed to. That bar is the only thing keeping you in the seat while you are upside down. Damn Asian sizes! One of the operators tried to lock it a few more times without any luck. All they could do was buckle the bar to the seat via a small seatbelt, smile and wish me good luck. I was pretty skeptical of that solution, but before I could do anything, the ride took off. I must admit that I’ve never held on so tight to anything in my entire life as I was being spun and tossed around. Fortunately everything was fine and I survived the ride, only with painful wrists for the next few days.

Statues at the Ita Thao Aboriginal Village
Statues at the Ita Thao Aboriginal Village

After a few more rides, we headed towards the aboriginal village, stopping along the way to observe the life of locals. It didn’t take long until we were interrupted by heavy rain and we were forced back to the cable cars, as they would close due to the storm that was coming. We were pretty disappointed that we didn’t get to watch any of the performances by the local tribes, but it was our first time riding a cable car in the rain.

Rock with Sun Moon Lake inscribed on it
Rock with Sun Moon Lake inscribed on it

Although we missed a few things in Sun Moon Lake, it was a pretty relaxing and nice experience. It is not hard to see why it is the number one vacationing spot in Taiwan. Not only does it have a beautiful landscape with a laid back atmosphere, there are tons of entertaining activities for vacationers to enjoy.

For more pictures from Sun Moon Lake, please visit the gallery!