For my 19th post for the Blogging A to Z Challenge, I have put together a photo essay about a day trip to Sun Moon Lake on 14 March 2015.
S is for Sun Moon Lake
A day at Sun Moon Lake, Nantou County, Taiwan
After we arrived at Taiwan, we found some brochures in our first homestay not far from Taoyuan Airport. I emailed one tour operator to enquire about day tours to places like Sun Moon Lake and Alishan Mountains. A reply was received within a day, and at last the tour agency confirmed that there was a day trip to Sun Moon Lake, so we signed up for it. On the morning of the day tour, it was like the Amazing Race. We did speed walking from our second homestay to the Dazhi MRT station (12 mins), took the MRT to Taipei Main Station, and ran to the HSR (high speed rail) station. We arrived 3 mins before the train departed for Taichung, where the tour bus would pick us up.
We arrived at Taichung on time, and waited outside the station. Meanwhile, the tour guide looked for us inside the station. Unable to locate us, the mini bus departed. I saw the licence plate number as it ambled by. Luckily, I located the tour guide’s mobile phone number in my email and found a public phone to call him. He picked up and said they were coming back to get us. My, were we relieved!
Taiwanese tour agencies were trusting, and we were only required to pay for our day trip upon boarding the bus. The rate was NTD1800 per pax, inclusive of tour bus and aborigine lunch. We discovered that foreign language guided tour in our case meant Japanese-speaking tour, because the majority of the group (7) were from Japan. They had just graduated from university and decided to go on holiday together. The remainder of the group were 2 pax from Hong Kong and 2 pax from Malaysia (my friend and I).
Sun Moon Lake got its special name from the unique terrain of the lake and surrounding areas. The lake looks like a sun on one side and a crescent moon on the other. Attracting over six million visitors every year, it is one of the 8 wonders of Taiwan, and a famous source of hydroelectric power. The present lake was created when a dam was built.
Taiwan was a Japanese colony for 50 years. During the era of Japanese Emperor Dai Sei, the Japanese decided to develop light industry in Taiwan, but they needed more power for that endeavour. In April, 1919, the Taiwan Power Company was formed and it built a dam on Sun Moon Lake for hydroelectric generation, using the Central Mountain Range’s Zhuoshui River as its water source and the natural Sun Moon Lake as a water-storage area. Sun Moon Lake was elevated to about 800 metres. A 320-metre drop in height was used to generate electricity, creating 100,000 kilowatts of electric power.
Our first stop was at Wenwu Temple. During the Japanese occupation period, there were two temples on the banks of the lake, Longfeng Temple in Shueishe Village and Yihua Hall in what is now Yitashao. However, when the hydroelectric power plant was built, the water level rose, and the temples had to be removed. The Japanese electric company paid compensation, and the temple managers decided to combine their resources to build a single new temple at Songboling on the northern shore of the lake. The result was today’s Wenwu Temple. The architecture of the temple has the palace style of northern China. A large and magnificent structure, it is comprised of three separate halls.
Before the round-the-lake road was built, the only way to get to Wenwu Temple was to take a boat to the pier below the temple and climb up a very steep flight of steps. These steps were popularly known as the ‘stairway to Heaven’.
Our second stop was at the Sun Moon Lake Ropeway. Sun Moon Lake Station lies to the southeast of Sun Moon Lake, the north of Ita Thao community, and the west of Youth Activity Center. The ride offers a bird’s eye view of the lake and the hilly forest adjacent to it.
After a sumptuous aborigine lunch, we went to the jetty nearby for our lake cruise. By that time, the mist had cleared sufficient for us to see the scenery.
The smallest island in Taiwan is in the middle of Sun Moon Lake. It was originally a mountain peak, but with the construction of the hydroelectric dam, the water level rose about 800 metres. The mountain became submerged, and only the peak is now visible.
Another interesting item to note are rafts planted with edible plants by the aborigines. The plants are harvest for food. The rafts in turn are positioned near jetties and other areas to block the waves caused by the cruise ships coming in too fast.