Rise and shine – it’s another day in Taichung, Taiwan! Woke up at 7 so we could depart early from our hostel near Fengjia Market…but not without getting some breakfast! Since we stayed near a university, street stalls were crowded with students grabbing snacks and a quick brekkie.
Two hour ride from Taichung to Sun Moon Lake – a popular tourist spot in central Taiwan. Greeted by the sight of red bananas!
Sun Moon Lake is the largest body of water in Taiwan and gets its name from its shape – apparently the east side resembles a sun while the west resembles a moon. I think it sounds romantic, like something out of a fairytale. :) In the middle of the lake sits a small island called Lalu, considered sacred to the aboriginal Thao tribe who live around the area. Of course, there are local legends: Thao hunters discovered the lake while chasing a white deer through the mountains. They found the place beautiful and abundant with fish, so they settled there. There is a marble statue of a deer on the island.
Since the lake is so large (about 8km2), there are several piers, which brings visitors to the attractions, such as the Ci En Pagoda, the Wen Wu temple and the Syuanguang Temple, where we were headed.
The temple and its grounds had a Shinto-esque feel: wooden shrines and archways, tall, overhanging bamboo plants and quiet, Zen-like paths. Easy to forget we were still in Taiwan and not some Buddhist temple in Kyoto.
Tried herbal tea eggs from a stall here which was packed with tourists. They came piping hot in a plastic baggie; the aroma of tea leaves and herbs wafting into the air along with steam. Tea eggs are very popular in Taiwan and you’ll find them everywhere, from street stalls to 7-11 kiosks and restaurants. Usually made in a big vat, piled atop each other, the eggs need to be peeled (they flake off easily though) and taste absolutely delicious. The egg white turns brown from absorbing tea and herb essence, while the yolk inside takes on a creamy consistency.
Path up to the temple. The weather was mild and perfect for a quiet stroll. There weren’t too many tourists during our visit. :)
At the top of the hill is Syuanguang Temple, dedicated to the Tang-dynasty Buddhist monk Xuanzang whose travels to India to seek Buddhist scriptures inspired the Chinese classic Journey to the West. Built in 1955, the building houses part of his remains in the form of bone fragments.
View from the top of the hill. In Chinese belief, this is perfect fengshui – water at the front, mountains at the back.
A group of devotees/tourists chanting prayers with a monk over a hotpot (?) of herbs and tea.
Took the boat to the next pier to grab lunch. That niche you see on the far side of the hill is a cable car leading to a theme park of sorts. We didn’t have enough time to check it out though.
As it is with tourist attractions, there were a lot of shops and vendors selling local delicacies. We wandered around and after looking at the overinflated prices at ‘proper’ restaurants, decided to get snacks instead.
The Taiwanese sweet sausage – you can’t escape it coz it’s literally sold everywhere, on every street corner and at every night market.
If you’re travelling from Taipei, board a High Speed Rail train to Taichung HSR station (about an hour’s journey). Transfer to Nantou Bus at the station, directly to Sun Moon Lake.
Useful schedule here