I am not too sure what we were thinking but we only spent a short two hours in Sun Moon Lake so be prepared for an extremely condensed itinerary which includes:
Reaching Sun Moon Lake
Sun Moon Lake （日月潭） was a good two hours drive from Cingjing.
Our driver, Mr Lu, dropped us at a viewing point of the lake so that we can get our mandatory tourist shots next to the stone sign that marked the place.
Because we hired a driver, none of us bothered to research more on the places that we drove to.
As a result, I didn’t quite know what to expect of Sun Moon Lake.
It somehow never occurred to me that it was…just a water body.
I am sometimes amazed by how my brain works… *facepalm*
So well, we had a view of the pristine lake.
Mr Lu then whisked us off to get our ferry tickets to travel around the lake. We bought the tickets which would bring us from Shueishe (水社), to Syunguang Temple (玄光寺) then to Ito Thao (伊达邵) and Mr Lu would pick us up at Ito Thao.
The ferry operator told us that there was a ferry which was leaving the pier soon so we hurried over and hardly saw anything else in Shueishe.
The pier was mainly constructed with floating platforms so it was a tad rocky but fun to walk on. Our ferry was right at the end.
That oriental-styled ferry was a real standout.
We obviously didn’t ride on the funky one, so our ferry was pretty typical…
But it was great to be surrounded by the clear waters and lush mountains.
Our ride from Shueishe to Syunguang was extremely entertaining as we had a super humorous guide on board who shared with us the more prominent sights along the way. We didn’t have the luck to get back the same guide for our second leg from Syunguang to Ito Thao though.
Brief stop at Syunguang Pier
We alighted the ferry at Syunguang pier and found the entrance leading up to the Syunguang temple (玄光寺) swamped with people. The steps up to the temple looked too intimidating for us so we skipped it.
There was also music in the background of the most recognizable folk song, <阿里山的姑娘>. I seriously thought it was playing from a radio or something until I saw this:
It was sang live.
The guide on the ferry told us to try the famous Jin Pen Ah Mah Tea Eggs (金盆阿嬷的香菇茶叶蛋) which was just a few steps down. Despite the seemingly long queue, we got the the tea eggs almost immediately.
I didn’t managed to get a photo of the eggs because I was struggling to get rid of the eggshell.
And the verdict? Not worth the trouble.
It tasted just like a normal egg. My cousin lamented that hers was super salty, like salt-salty and we figured that they probably didn’t have time to let the tea aroma and seasoning seep into the egg thoroughly and evenly.
Ito Thao – A food paradise
Seeing that there was nothing else to see around here, we left for Ito Thao pier.
On the ride, we spotted the cable cars up to the Formosa Aboriginal Culture Village.
We got off the ferry and Mr Lu joined us.
Along the way, there was this amazing street performer who dressed up like a historical Chinese warrior…the statue of one and I’d have to say that there was incredible likeness.
We stopped to pose for a few photos and continued on into the streets, only to find ourselves flanked by food stalls.
Okay, that was our cue.
Glutton mode unleashed.
And by some unknown sorcery, we found ourselves in front of a grilled muah chee stall.
We could choose two ingredients to add on to the snack.
So I went for chocolate syrup and condensed milk.
I thought it was alright, but I didn’t quite like the sticky and dense texture. My cousin commented that the one sold in Ximending is notches better.
Next, we had this incredible chicken wing rice, 鸡翅饭饭 by 鹿司岸.
Instead of serving it like conventional rice on the plate with the chicken wing, we had the rice stuffed into the wing!
How is it that Taiwanese are so creative with their food?
The seasoning was super on point and the rice was the soft and sticky kind which I particularly favoured.
In short, it was divine.
My saliva glands are working more and more furiously as I type.
We continued on and found some fried yam cakes, something like the carrot cakes we have here in Singapore.
But if you think you are paying for a simple yam cake….you’re absolutely wrong.
There’s no such thing as simple food in Taiwan.
The stall owner first picked a piece of yam cake for us, then spread some brown glistening sauce over it.
He then added some spicy and savoury seasoning and sprinkled sesame seeds before cutting it into nine equal pieces.
So much effort for just a yam cake.
I am sorry to have taken a photo that’s so blurry and undeserving of the work that went into this yam cake.
Unsurprisingly, the yam cake was good. It being bite-sized helped too; we munched on it as we made our way through the crowds on the street.
Mr Lu sneaked off to buy us some good Assam tea from Shao Tribe Princess, 邵族小公主.
And the shop is operated by the princess of the Shao tribe.
For NT35, we had a gigantic cup of Assam tea that was really aromatic with no artificial sugary taste.
You might want to share the drink because I reckon it was about 700ml.
Mr Lu then led us to the shop behind which was tended by the sister of the princess.
The sister showed us to some rice wines they had which tasted pretty good by my standards.
To think I actually abhor alcohol.
But anyway, I was more interested in these:
The sister explained that these were cube concentrates that we could mix with 360cc of water for a healthy beverage. The blue ones contained sea bird nest, which is a form of vegetarian collagen and the ones in the red packets are part of their 养生 (healthy lifestyle?) series.
There’s a hawthorne flavour one for slimming.
Obviously, collagen and slimming are two sure-kill words for selling products to women. These were less than NT20 each anyway, which made for a legit excuse to buy more.
It was only later in the car, after we recovered from our momentary shopping craze, that it occurred to us that we’ve never heard of this dubious sea bird nest. So I did a quick google for it and found out that it is a type of seaweed that has ten times the amount of collagen in bird nest.
Honestly, I had the urge to turn back to get more.
It was a pity that I didn’t manage to find these anywhere else throughout my trip in Taiwan. These made for great, practical souvenirs for family and friends and there was only the ginger tea one on sale in Jiufen.
Here’s a photo of how the Chrysanthemum cube looks like when dissolving:
You can see bits of the chrysanthemum flower even!
Just opposite the shop was a makeshift fruit stall. The stall owners convinced us to buy this hybrid of apples and bananas which looked just like a banana with red skin. Didn’t get a photo of that but it tasted like an unripe banana with apple-ish tinge. Despite the novelty, we didn’t find the taste fantastic.
But they also gave us some fresh passion fruit to eat which I thought was amaaazing!
I’ve had my fair share of passion fruit flavoured drinks but I’ve never ate an actual passion fruit before. It was so refreshing!
Wen Wu Temple
From Ito Thao, Mr Lu drove us to Wenwu temple (文武廟) just a few minutes down the road. Awed by the majestic facade, we got down to view the temple.
As you might have already realised, we are not a fan of steps. But it would have been lame to not go into the temple, so we climbed up anyway.
And we’re glad we did.
The view was breathtaking.
The interior was equally majestic but it was horded by tour groups.
We walked around the temple a bit and scurried off after getting some souvenirs.
Next stop: Lavender Cottage at Xinshe!
A consequence of not doing proper research of Sun Moon Lake was that we missed out on quite a fair bit of places to visit, most notably the various trails in the area. Reading the travelogues of others online made me realised that we probably only touched a teeny bit of the place and I definitely want to visit the place again in the future.
You got to spend at least a full day at Sun Moon Lake!
- Ferry information at Sun Moon Lake
- 2D Itinerary at Sun Moon Lake by Foodie Baker
- Doris Home, a suggested accommodation at Sun Moon Lake by Mitsueki
- Getting to Sun Moon Lake from Taichung by public transport by Magic Travel Blog
- Getting to Sun Moon Lake from Cingjing by public transport by Alec Travel Guide