TAIPEI (Taiwan News)--I revisited Sun Mook Lake on January 7 after my first visit about 30 years ago. While my past memories of this Taiwan’s mega tourist attraction have blurred, one thing remains clear—the enchanting views of a vast body of clean, turquoise water surrounded by the blue and sometimes misty mountains remain unchanged.
I stayed at an inexpensive old-fashioned hotel in Shuili Township, Nantou County, about 30 minutes’ drive from Sun Moon Lake on the previous night to avoid getting ripped off by one of the lakeside hotels, which usually starts from NT$4,000 per night.
I took Provincial Highway No. 21 from Shuili to reach Xiangshan Visitor Center (向山遊客中心) after visiting Checheng, which is an old logging village in Shuili and also the last station of the JiJi Train Line. Checheng is a neat and beautiful place, but I think too few relics from the past and too much renovation has made it lackluster.
I arrived at Sun Moon Lake around noon and started my nostalgic visit from Xiangshan Visitor Center, which is a good place to start because the space is wide open, the parking lot is huge, and parking is free.
I went into the tourist information office and inquired about the round-the-lake bikeway. I was told that only about half of the 29-kilometer bikeway is actually located along the waterfront, where the lake views are wide open, whereas the rest of the bikeway goes mostly along the round-the-lake highway away from the lake, where lake views are either totally blocked or spotty.
So I decided to give only the lakefront section of the bike path a try because I only had about four to five hours to spend before I headed home. This lakeside section of the bikeway is located from Mingtan Tunnel (明潭隧道) to the lake shore in front of Wenwu Temple (文武廟). As a runner, I prefer jogging along the bikeway to riding a bike; however, I believe cycling around the largest and most beautiful alpine lake in Taiwan is just as enjoyable.
Cyclists can spare the trouble of bringing their own bikes along because there are a couple of bike rentals near Xiangshan and countless more around Shuishe Pear (水社碼頭), unless you are really particular about what kind of a bike you want to ride on. For this reason, Shuishe is also a good place to start a biking trip around the lake.
There were occasional showers during my jogging, but they didn’t diminish the fun I had running along the lakeside with an elated spirit and enjoying all the wonderful views to myself along the way. In fact the showers brought moisture to the surrounding mountains, creating a poetic environment.
At an evenly slow speed, I ran past Shuishe Dam; Shuishe Pier, where many restaurants, bike rentals, hotels and cruise ship operators congregate; and Zhaowu Pier to reach the lakeside in front of Wenwu Temple, which is situated high up on a hill overlooking the lake. I climbed a few flights of steps to revisit the place that had been tucked in my heart for 30 years like a precious jewel.
After visiting the temple, I slowly jogged back to Xiangshan and then continued to explore the other direction. After I jogged about 2.5 kilometers in this direction, I came to a place where the bike lane goes up into a dense hillside forest. I headed back from there and contentedly ended my half-day pilgrimage.
I missed Ita Thao Pier (伊達邵碼頭) and the attractions near the Sun Moon Lake Ropeway, such as the scenic Shuiwatou Trail (水蛙頭步道). Maybe I left out these places unconsciously so that I would have a reason to revisit Sun Moon Lake again some day.
I started driving back to Taipei from the lake when the night began to fall. The drive took a little more than three hours.