While Matt was here, we took a day trip to Sun Moon Lake (so famous!). Fairly easy to get to we walked to the Nan-Tou bus station from the Taichung train station, hoped on a bus and voila, two hours later we were in Sun Moon Lake.
Sun Moon Lake is famous because it is the biggest lake in Taiwan. Every year, around the time of the Moon Festival, there is a 3 km swim across the lake that is becoming increasingly popular each year. There is also a biking bath around the lake that is about 30km long. Like most places in Taiwan it is well-known for its beauty, its aboriginal culture, and, its tea.
One of the great things about Taiwan is that it is not at all touristy. Sure there are the markets that all sell the same chintz-y crap, but no one ever tries to hustle you, usually. Sun Moon Lake must be the one exception. As soon as we stepped off the bus we were slapped in the face by a wave of 21st century tourism industry. We rejected every offer for a tour, boat,bus,taxi. The last thing we wanted was more public transportation overcrowded with Chinese tourists.
There are tons of short hiking trails near the lake as well as walking paths around the lake itself. We grabbed a map and started on the closest path around the lake. It was only about a 2km walk but we were able to see the lake up close and some interesting creatures.
Then we decided to head up an actual trail that we knew would be less crowded. If there is one thing Chinese tourists hate more than the sun, it’s exercise.
The Mt. Maolan trail starts near the visitor center (the one with the mall) and passes through the tea research center, ending at a weather station observatory.
It was a short 3 km hike, it started as a leisurely walk on a paved road at a gentle incline, until the tea research center. There, it turned into an actual trail and the uphill battle began. During the Japanese occupation, this section of Sun Moon Lake consisted of black tea plantations, that are still there today. On the way up to the research center are the dormitories where the tea plantation workers lived during the Japanese era.
Soon after we passed the dormitories we heard a rustling that indicated we were not alone on the trail.
At the tea research center, some workers were harvesting tea.
As soon as we passed the research center we came across a valley with these really cool red trees.
We saw lots more interesting animals on our way to the top.
One side of the lake is shaped like the sun and one side is shaped like the moon (aren’t they both circles?) hence the name Sun Moon Lake. In the middle is Liyu island.
And shortly, we were at the top of Mt. Maolan.
We planned on going to the other side of the lake to do another short hike before sunset, but a torrential downpour sent us back on the bus to Taichung. Sun Moon Lake is very beautiful, and if you can manage to get out of the tourism definitely worth a visit.