Taiwan’s Mystical Sun Moon Lake

Must have been excited because we both woke up before our alarm. Headed out to have a quick early breakfast at a nearby cafe. Returned to our hotel and checked out ready to wait for our pick up in the downstairs lobby. Just after the appointed time our driver arrived. We were in a six seater Toyota with a young couple from the USA. After a short drive we arrived at a designated hotel carpark where we joined the rest of our group, a total of 14 only, in a 38 seater air conditioned coach. There were 4 from the USA, 6 from Canada, 2 Brits and us. Our guide, Alan Chou was very pleased to welcome us. Apparently the corona virus situation meant he would be out of work the very next week. Even though we felt quite safe, as time went on we found that tourism was grinding to a halt here.

Anyway, we were soon on our way, travelling out of Taipei and through nearby satellite cities and down the north west coast of Taiwan. Some of the towns were quite industrial but once we turned inland the mountain scenery was spectacular.

By lunchtime we were having our first glimpses of Sun Moon Lake. Our guide Alan detailed to us some good food hawkers to buy lunch from, even showing us photos on the big screen in the bus. So when we stopped at Ita Thao we were well informed. That was a good thing as the information board was in Chinese with statues either side.It’s a small town set up for tourists, which apart from us were clearly lacking.At the end of the main street we continued walking onto the pier for a look at the lake and surrounds.Even though most of the boats were not out the ropeway still seemed to be operating.We headed back into town after taking a few snaps.The food stalls that our guide had recommended were easy to spot. First up I ordered one of the stuffed boneless chicken wings. Followed by this prawn and salad wrap.Karen was happy to try one of the local donut like desserts.All up lunch cost about $5 and was delicious.

Back on the bus we took a short windy drive further around the lake stopping at the bottom of a steep paved trail with steps leading up to Ci’en Pagoda.

At the top of the trail I was happy to catch my breath and take a few  photos of the pagoda. Ci’en Pagoda is a further 280 steps inside to reach the top. The bottom section is a bit of a give away that it isn’t that old, having been built in 1971. Excellent views were possible from the top although the sky was a bit hazy.After descending from the pagoda I spotted these spiders. This shot makes it look like they are attached to the pagoda but in actual fact they had woven a web between the trees.We made our way back down the trail. At the bottom we came to the Xuanzang Temple. Some steps led us up to main gateway.Alan showed us into the temple and around the surrounding gardens.Again we had great views to the lake below us.Another short drive around the lake brought us to Wen Wu Taoist Temple. The entry gates were most impressive. We also came upon another tourist bus for the first time that day.Once through the gates we were able to see at close hand the two giant lions either side.This is one of the three main halls.Not totally sure but I think these are prayers left by devotees.Donors have their names inscribed on donor walls. Clearly most are of them are locals but we noticed a few engraved in our alphabet.As we walked around we could see it was heavily decorated.These gates led through to gardens at the back.Our guide, Alan, took us up higher to a patio above the temple with fantastic views of the lake.We also had the chance to look at the detail on the figures on the rooves.On our way back down and through the grounds we took a closer look at the ornate decorations on the wall panels.Interestingly, between these scenes of bloody battles were these water fountains, a peaceful contrast.Probably the most richly decorated walls were these.Making our way back onto the coach we were soon at our hotel, the very grand Fleur de Chine. Before we exited the bus our temperature was taken, a sign of the covid-19 times. Our room was very spacious and came complete with spa tub. You could also make use of the larger spa pools and massage services at the hotel but we didn’t. After a long day we were happy to rest until heading into one of the dining rooms for dinner. Here is a view from our balcony. One would say we had ‘lake glimpses’ but we quite liked the fact you also had a view of the hills too.

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