No, Sun and Moon lake is in no way connected to Miss Saigon, although you can stage your own musical here with nature as your only audience. I sure did, and it was liberating. There is nothing more fun than having a go at Eric Carmen’s hits about how love is all that matters and being by yourself, in full volume, while on a mountain bike descending a slope at full speed. Come to think of it, I should have included Highway to Hell on that set list, except that this lake is really far from hell. Nor is it paradise but hey, the place is just perfect for nature lovers and health buffs alike, two categories under which I really do not fall but let us just pretend that I did. At first, I thought that nature might pelt me with stones or dead lake creatures because of our differences in musical taste, but she turned out to be just as tolerant and patiently listened to my impromptu concert, without caring that much whether I do not hit a note or be unable to sustain a vibrato for whatever chilling effect it might result in.
People might say that I just wasted my time here. I only spent three hours in here, rather short to call it something remarkable. On the contrary, this might have been the most interesting part of this Taiwan sequel. Perhaps because mounting a bike is far less strenuous (or so it seems) than hiking a gorge for hours, I was able to create an atmosphere for myself that was just conducive for meditation and reflection. I was cycling along the lake and taking photos during the first round, but the trip back was full of free time that afforded me some sort of a trance to reflect on timely personal issues, for which I really had no time to spare for the last few weeks. I was only able to traverse the west side of the lake, and by ‘west’ we strictly mean the west side of that area, if it were rectangular. The bike paths end there. Should you wish to explore the southern side, you have to do some trekking, which would have been feasible had I come earlier in the morning.
The bike rent was steep at TWD200 per hour. It was a good thing that I was able to complete the bike path in just two hours, otherwise the cost would have been as expensive as my bullet train trip later that day. As mentioned, the lake is huge, and there are service stations spread out on its banks where you could buy some food and ask for tourist related information. Some of them even have lockers. The bus trip from Taichung takes over an hour depending on the volume of traffic. A bus straight to Taipei is available but takes more than three hours.
The bike path is easy to follow and there are a few spots along the way cool enough for a photo opportunity. This description is only valid if you are on the west side going south. I never reached the other edges of the lake where there were supposed to be more interesting stuff to see, the more popular ones to be precise. Anyway, my side of the lake was not that bad, and as already said, it was the experience that mattered the most in this trip rather than the sites visited. Back to the temple, you would have to get off the bike path and into the main road, after which you would have to do some uphill climb which is just very short. I think the temple is called Longsheng or something. This is just one of the many temples around the lake that you could visit.
The water quality varies, but it is that area by the dam that is colored emerald green, which goes well with the also verdant greenery abundant in the place. It was also there where I saw two different couples in full costume posing for photos for their nuptials, not counting another couple I saw somewhere else. This place is just popular for couples about to wed as mentioned on the brochures. Seeing it happen first hand more than validates the fact, and provides a good diversion from the biking trance and camwhoring.
How about food? Well, let us just say that there is also a variety to be found here aside from the typical Taiwanese choices. I was craving for some Italian goodness that day and my feet brought me to Dolce Luna, which is just in front of the Shueishe Pier. The narrow road leading to it is lines up with cafes, small restaurants, inns, and souvenir stores. This Italian restaurant is on the second basement of a hotel, but as said it is directly facing the pier. The have super yummy ice cream and the lasagna was not bad at all. I wish I could have also tried their finger foods but there is only so much that I could keep in this small belly of mine. The trip should have ended here, but the bus’ departure at 4:15 meant I had more than half an hour to spare, so I just walked around and observed some more.
The pier is a lovely sight because of the yachts docked there. Yes, they look like yachts so they probably were, not the usual fisherman’s boats found on tourist attractions like this one. I did not inquire about the fees for using them to cross to another pier, which is an alternative to the bus system, but I think I saw at the tourist information center that they cost a hundred or more. If that is one way or whole day, I would not really know.
There are more to see here because the lake is rather huge, in fact, the biggest on the whole island. Just get a good map and spare at least one whole day if you want to maximize your trip. Mine was short but sweet and I loved it because of the reasons already mentioned. To each his own. There is also a theme park called the Formosan Aboriginal, which is only open until five so you better go there first if you want to see what is in there. I heard they have a roller coaster. Damn me and my unenviable skill for waking up late! You could ride a cable car from one of the service stations going up to this theme park. I think it is located at Ita Thao Pier. Do not quote me on that. When in doubt, consult a map.