SUN MOON LAKE (日月潭) - How to go, tips and tricks | Travel in Asia

SUN MOON LAKE (日月潭) - How to go, tips and tricks

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How to go to Sun Moon Lake

Sun Moon Lake is a very famous tourist destination in Taiwan and I have known friends who went to Nantou in Central Taiwan to see the eye-catching lake. Unfortunately, they were not able to maximize their stay due to poor planning and bad execution of their travel plan. This travel guide attempts to document and explain how to enjoy Sun Moon Lake, the Luo-Mu Jie way.

SUN MOON LAKE (日月潭) - How to go, tips and tricks

1. HOW TO GO TO SUN MOON LAKE

1.1 Where is Sun Moon Lake?

How to go to Sun Moon Lake

But where is Sun Moon Lake and why is it called “Sun Moon Lake”? The lake can be found in Central Taiwan in the province of Nantou and its present name was derived from the shape of the lake as you look above from it. The sun is the larger right portion with peninsulas protruding out of its waters. The moon part can be found on its left part and is elongated. It is very large and covers 9,000 hectares. The Taiwanese government have developed attractions around the lake without the need to swim in its waters.

How to go to Sun Moon Lake

1.2 by bus

How to go to Sun Moon Lake? You can take a direct bus from Taipei Bus Station. The ride will take 3 to 4 hours. Another option is to take a public transport by bus or local train to Taichung and then transfer to a Taiwan Tour Bus going to Sun Moon Lake. It will take the same amount of time in reaching the lake like in the Taipei-Sun Moon Lake direct bus and it will also cost you roughly the same price. But since it was a Friday, I chose the fastest way to reach Taichung.

1.3 by HSR then Taiwan Tour Bus

I boarded the Taiwan High Speed Rail (THSR) and paid only half of the ticket price. I'm a student in Taiwan and based on the 50% student discount train timetable and I can board the train at 7:18am on a Friday. I was a bit tensed in buying the ticket at Taipei Main Station. It was only 15 minutes before the train leaves when I queued at the ticket booth. I waited for 12 minutes until I got my turn to buy my discounted ticket. I presented my student ID and I was given the 50% discount. Two minutes before the train starts to run, I rushed to platform 2A where the bullet train going to Taichung was waiting.


How to go to Sun Moon Lake
My 50% discounted ticket in the Taiwan High Speed Rail
How to go to Sun Moon Lake
There were only a few passengers on a Friday morning.
How to go to Sun Moon Lake

How to go to Sun Moon Lake
The view as seen outside the windows of THSR

How to go to Sun Moon Lake
The inside of THSR looks like you are inside an airplane.
How to go to Sun Moon Lake
I went to Exit 5 and I immediately saw this booth.  The Sun Moon Lake Pass is available here and also the ticket for the Taichung-Sun Moon Lake Bus.
How to go to Sun Moon Lake

How to go to Sun Moon Lake

How to go to Sun Moon Lake

How to go to Sun Moon Lake


It was a calm morning and I was surprised that there were only a few passengers so I took the chance to take photos of myself while sitting inside the speeding Shinkansen 700T train. Upon reaching Taichung THSR, I went down to Exit 5 where I immediately saw a booth with a Taiwan Tour Bus photo. This booth sells a variety of Sun Moon Lake Pass. Prospective visitors to Sun Moon Lake should buy these passes if they want to save money. I chose the NTD 360 Sun Moon Lake which includes the round-lake bus ticket, cable-car ticket, ferry boat and one-way ride from Shuishe Visitor Center to Xiangshan Visitor Center. You can also upgrade the pass to include the roundtrip ticket of Taichung THSR- Sun Moon Lake bus for a price of NTD 680 NTD.

How to go to Sun Moon Lake
My bus ticket going to Sun Moon Lake
How to go to Sun Moon Lake
The Sun Moon Lake Taiwan Tour bus

I bought the NTD 360 pass since I plan to go back home by taking a direct bus to Taipei from Sun Moon Lake. The single journey ticket to Sun Moon Lake from Taichung THSR costs NTD 190. The Taiwan Tour Bus was a bit late but we arrived safely. I knew that the bus had arrived at Sun Moon Lake when my fellow passengers got excited upon seeing its blue waters.

How to go to Sun Moon Lake
Shuishe Visitor Center.  This is the final stop of the Sun Moon Lake Taiwan Tour Bus.

How to go to Sun Moon Lake

How to go to Sun Moon Lake
The Round-the-Lake bus also start its route at Shuishe Visitor Center.

How to go to Sun Moon Lake
I exchanged my ferry boat coupon to this lady for a ferry boat round-trip ticket.

The Shuishe Visitor Center was the final stop of the bus. As soon as I stepped out of the bus a woman suddenly grabbed my Sun Moon Lake Pass and attempted to get the ferry boat coupon attached to the pass. I was first hesitant to give my ferry boat coupon but since she was wearing a uniform and all the passengers willingly gave their coupons I gave her my Sun Moon Lake Pass She then exchanged my ferry boat coupon with a round-trip ferry boat ticket worth NTD 300.


How to go to Sun Moon Lake

How to go to Sun Moon Lake

How to go to Sun Moon Lake
warnings and prohibited acts in Sun Moon Lake
How to go to Sun Moon Lake


How to go to Sun Moon Lake

How to go to Sun Moon Lake

How to go to Sun Moon Lake

How to go to Sun Moon Lake

How to go to Sun Moon Lake

How to go to Sun Moon Lake

I immediately went down to Shuishe Pier and I was captivated by the waters of Sun Moon Lake. The lake was so relaxing with the mountains providing a good background for a great selfie. After taking photos of myself with the help of my tripod, I hurriedly went to my ferry boat. How did I know that it was the right one? I just looked into the photo in my ticket and I saw people getting inside a ferry. It was going to Xuanguang Pier. The engine had already started and the ferry boat was slowly moving away from Shuishe Pier. My adventure in Sun Moon Lake begins.

2. XUANGUANG PIER - XUAN GUANG TEMPLE - XUAN ZANG TEMPLE - CI EN PAGODA

A invisible straight line runs through Sun Moon Lake. It runs through the Xuanguang Peninsula to Sun Moon Lake's sacred island, Lalu Island. How is this possible? Only a magic hand can draw this line in Sun Moon Lake. Or Could it be done by a supernatural creature? As the ferry boat passes by Lalu Island, I imagine the island being a pearl in a deep blue sea. A dragon is said to engulf this pearl... The dragon might not appear in front of everyone but I'm sure I can find its heart in Xuanguang peninsula and trace the line that the naked eye cannot see.


Sun Moon Lake
Sun Moon Lake
My travel plan
Shuishe Pier

ferry boat ride from Shuishe Pier to Xuanguang Pier

Sun Moon Lake

arrival at Xuanguang Pier
Sun Moon Lake

Sun Moon Lake

Sun Moon Lake

Sun Moon Lake

Sun Moon Lake

Sun Moon Lake

Sun Moon Lake

Sun Moon Lake

Sun Moon Lake

Sun Moon Lake

Sun Moon Lake


Sun Moon Lake being composed of the Sun Lake and the Moon Lake has many peninsulas in the 'sun' portion and the Xuanguang Pier is one gateway to the numerous natural land forms giving the form of the sun's rays in the alpine lake. Temples were built that give a nice view from the blue sky above to the blue waters of the lake below. Xuan Guang Temple is no exception.

Sun Moon Lake

Sun Moon Lake

Sun Moon Lake


Sun Moon Lake

Sun Moon Lake

Sun Moon Lake

Sun Moon Lake

Sun Moon Lake

Sun Moon Lake

Sun Moon Lake

Xuan Guang Temple houses a Sakyamuni Buddha and also is the former home of the relics of Master Xuan Zang. I could not enjoy the scenery nor could I get quality photos due to the large number of tourists in the area. They must have come from Mainland China. I just explored the other areas of the temple until I found the entrance to the Qinglong Mountain Trail. The portal to the “Pilgrim's Way” had opened.

Sun Moon Lake

Sun Moon Lake


Sun Moon Lake

Sun Moon Lake

Sun Moon Lake

Sun Moon Lake

Sun Moon Lake

Sun Moon Lake

Sun Moon Lake

It is 850 meters long and has a concrete path for an easy walk. I made a leisurely stroll with my heavy bag on my back until I found a betel nut plantation. A warning sign explains that there is a guard dog in the area but it was tied up and there was no reason to panic if it barks. I didn't noticed any dog and I continued the hike until I found myself in a road with a big sign of the Xuan Zang Temple.

Sun Moon Lake


Sun Moon Lake

Sun Moon Lake

Sun Moon Lake

Sun Moon Lake

Sun Moon Lake
Sun Moon Lake

Sun Moon Lake

Sun Moon Lake

Sun Moon Lake

Sun Moon Lake

Sun Moon Lake

Sun Moon Lake

Sun Moon Lake

Sun Moon Lake


The positive energy emerging from the Tang dynasty style Xuan Zang Temple matches the view of the lake that one can see from the temple. I can easily see the betel nut trees. The green color of its leaves matches the blue waters of Sun Moon Lake. No wonder many tourists come to this place. I went inside the temple where I explored its three floors. I removed my shoes and place them on a shoe rack in order to see the upper floors.

Sun Moon Lake

Sun Moon Lake

Sun Moon Lake

Sun Moon Lake

Sun Moon Lake

Sun Moon Lake

Sun Moon Lake

Sun Moon Lake
Sun Moon Lake

Sun Moon Lake

Sun Moon Lake

Sun Moon Lake

Sun Moon Lake

Sun Moon Lake

Xuan Zang Temple was built in the 1960s. Guess who ordered its construction? It's Chiang Kai-Shek! Relics of Master Xuan Zang are in the third floor of the temple and he is a well known person in Buddhism. He was born in China and travelled to India to learn all about the Dharma. His remains in China were found by Japanese soldiers in which a portion was given to the ROC government. The eerie third-floor houses the relics of Master Xuan Zang that Taiwan received and the long walk in the “Pilgrim's Way” reminds the visitors of his brave travels in India and back to China amidst the danger and hunger.

Sun Moon Lake

Sun Moon Lake

Sun Moon Lake

Sun Moon Lake

Sun Moon Lake

Sun Moon Lake

Sun Moon Lake

Sun Moon Lake


Although a visit to Xuan Zang Temple will cleanse your soul it will not show you the starting point of the invisible line in Sun Moon Lake. The Ci En Pagoda which is 900 meters away from Xian Zang Temple holds the answer to my quest. I walked in Zhongshan Road and the 46 meters high tall structure suddenly appeared in front of me. Add its height to the elevation that it was built and it will be 1000 meters.

Sun Moon Lake

Sun Moon Lake

Sun Moon Lake

Sun Moon Lake

Sun Moon Lake

Sun Moon Lake

Sun Moon Lake

Sun Moon Lake

Sun Moon Lake

Sun Moon Lake

Sun Moon Lake

Sun Moon Lake

Sun Moon Lake

Sun Moon Lake

Sun Moon Lake

Sun Moon Lake

Sun Moon Lake

Sun Moon Lake

Sun Moon Lake

Sun Moon Lake

Sun Moon Lake

Sun Moon Lake

Sun Moon Lake

Sun Moon Lake

Sun Moon Lake

I climbed all the way to its highest floor and a nice view of Sun Moon Lake was my reward. Looking at the lake, a straight line can be formed from Ci En Pagoda to Xuan Zang Temple and then to Xuan Guang Temple and finally to Lalu Island. Xuan Guang peninsula looks like a dragon's head reaching for Lalu Island – which is the pearl. Ci En Pagoda is the heart of the dragon.


Sun Moon Lake

Sun Moon Lake

Sun Moon Lake

Sun Moon Lake

Sun Moon Lake

Sun Moon Lake


Sun Moon Lake

Sun Moon Lake
Sun Moon Lake

ferry boat ride from Xuan Guang Pier to Ita Thao Pier

Sun Moon Lake


Sun Moon Lake
Sun Moon Lake
Ita Thao Pier


Sun Moon Lake

Sun Moon Lake

Sun Moon Lake

Sun Moon Lake

Sun Moon Lake

Sun Moon Lake

Sun Moon Lake

Sun Moon Lake


Sun Moon Lake

Sun Moon Lake

Sun Moon Lake

Sun Moon Lake

ferry boat ride from Ita Thao Pier to Shuishe Pier

Sun Moon Lake

After exploring Ci En Pagoda, I went back to Xuan Guang Pier where I boarded a ferry going Ita Thao. The sun was getting ready to disappear in Sun Moon Lake when I reached Ita Thao Pier. I walked for 800 meters from the pier to reach the cable car station and I was suddenly surprised.

3. MAOLAN MOUNTAIN HIKING AND SUNRISE

The Sun Moon Lake Ropeway was already closed at 4:00pm. After taking sunset photos I decided to go back to Ita Thao pier to ride the ferry boat going to Shuishe Pier where my hostel is located. Darkness was slowly creeping in the lake and I didn't thought that this darkness will be my worst enemy in all of my travel adventures.


Sun Moon Lake Maolan Mountain hiking sunrise
Sun Moon Lake Maolan Mountain hiking sunrise

Only the first light rays coming from the sun can beat this darkness and I knew where to find it. At the top of Mt. Maolan is a weather observatory with nice platforms that I can see the sun coming out behind tall mountains. The hiking trail looks very easy in broad daylight but doing it very early when it was still dark was very challenging.

Sun Moon Lake Maolan Mountain hiking sunrise
at the entrance of the Maolan Maountain Trail
Sun Moon Lake Maolan Mountain hiking sunrise
The entrance of the Maolan Mountain Trail is just along Zhongshan Road of the Shuishe Pier area.

Sun Moon Lake Maolan Mountain hiking sunrise

At 4:30am, I was already at the entrance of the trail. I forgot to bring a flashlight and only the light coming out from the screen of my iPod Touch was my only source of light. I looked into the sky and I saw the moon with a few stars. They gazed upon me from the sky as if they were my guardians.



I bravely walked on the dark road. It was really pitch black until it became an abyss of total darkness. It was really scary. I imagine a large dog coming out of the forest and attacking me. Its fangs would pierced into my skin and inject venom. Worst, a monster might come out instead of a dog and slashed me with its pointed nails. Gory scenes were running in my mind as hiked all the way to the peak.

Sun Moon Lake Maolan Mountain hiking sunrise

Light coming from a lamp post in the Tea Research and Extension Station broke the silence of the night. One road was leading to the research complex and if allowed to enter will lead to a road which continues the trail. I walked on this road and a locked gated shocked me. How can I continue my hike? Climbing the cemented stairs was the other way but a warning was given to those who attempt to reached the top. There are bees and poisonous snakes that can bite you. I took the risk and climbed the stairs and a forest surprised me at the top.


I thought Maolan hiking trail is just an asphalted road and I didn't expect that there will be a forested path. Since it will be more dangerous to continue, I decided to go back to my hostel. More stars appeared in the sky as if the entire universe was helping me but their light wasn't enough. I already walked a few meters going back to the trail entrance when I saw a beam light on the far end of the road.

Sun Moon Lake Maolan Mountain hiking sunrise

The light was not steady and moving in many directions. Could it be that a UFO landed in Taiwan? Two humanoid shadows suddenly appeared and was walking toward my direction. I waved my iPod Touch to let them know of my presence. They walked forward to my direction until the beam of light was in front of me. They can see me but I could not see them. The brightness of the light prevented me from seeing them. A change in the direction of the light beam helped me recognized that I met two Taiwanese who are also going to see the sunrise. 

Sun Moon Lake Maolan Mountain hiking sunrise


Sun Moon Lake Maolan Mountain hiking sunrise

I joined them and I found out that they came from Tainan. The old man and woman were my guardian angels in a time of crisis. We climbed the cemented stairs and then continued the hike to the forested path. I was not really forested and was very short. It will just lead you to an asphalted road that continues the trail. Japanese cedar trees lined the trail with dangerous cliffs just waiting for careless night hikers.

Sun Moon Lake Maolan Mountain hiking sunrise

Sun Moon Lake Maolan Mountain hiking sunrise


Sun Moon Lake Maolan Mountain hiking sunrise







Sun Moon Lake Maolan Mountain hiking sunrise

Sun Moon Lake Maolan Mountain hiking sunrise

Sun Moon Lake Maolan Mountain hiking sunrise


We passed by different scenic platforms with explanations that this is a good site for watching the sunrise but we continued the walk until we saw the building of the Central Weather Bureau. We finally reached the top and two scenic platforms showed the mountains around Sun Moon Lake. The sun hasn't come out behind the mountains but I can observed Sun Moon Lake from below. It is covered in mist and just starting to show its beauty. More and more people arrived at 6am and we all climbed near the weather instruments to have a better view.

Sun Moon Lake Maolan Mountain hiking sunrise

Sun Moon Lake Maolan Mountain hiking sunrise

Sun Moon Lake Maolan Mountain hiking sunrise



Sun Moon Lake Maolan Mountain hiking sunrise

Sun Moon Lake Maolan Mountain hiking sunrise


Sun Moon Lake Maolan Mountain hiking sunrise

Sun Moon Lake Maolan Mountain hiking sunrise


Sun Moon Lake Maolan Mountain hiking sunrise

Sun Moon Lake Maolan Mountain hiking sunrise

Sun Moon Lake Maolan Mountain hiking sunrise

Sun Moon Lake Maolan Mountain hiking sunrise

Sun Moon Lake Maolan Mountain hiking sunrise


Sun Moon Lake Maolan Mountain hiking sunrise


Sun Moon Lake Maolan Mountain hiking sunrise

Sun Moon Lake Maolan Mountain hiking sunrise

Sun Moon Lake Maolan Mountain hiking sunrise

Sun Moon Lake Maolan Mountain hiking sunrise

Sun Moon Lake Maolan Mountain hiking sunrise

Sun Moon Lake Maolan Mountain hiking sunrise

Sun Moon Lake Maolan Mountain hiking sunrise

Sun Moon Lake Maolan Mountain hiking sunrise

Sun Moon Lake Maolan Mountain hiking sunrise

Sun Moon Lake Maolan Mountain hiking sunrise

Sun Moon Lake Maolan Mountain hiking sunrise

Sun Moon Lake Maolan Mountain hiking sunrise

Sun Moon Lake Maolan Mountain hiking sunrise

Sun Moon Lake Maolan Mountain hiking sunrise

Sun Moon Lake Maolan Mountain hiking sunrise

Sun Moon Lake Maolan Mountain hiking sunrise

Sun Moon Lake Maolan Mountain hiking sunrise

Sun Moon Lake Maolan Mountain hiking sunrise

Sun Moon Lake Maolan Mountain hiking sunrise

Sun Moon Lake Maolan Mountain hiking sunrise

Sun Moon Lake Maolan Mountain hiking sunrise

Sun Moon Lake Maolan Mountain hiking sunrise

Sun Moon Lake Maolan Mountain hiking sunrise

Sun Moon Lake Maolan Mountain hiking sunrise

Sun Moon Lake Maolan Mountain hiking sunrise

Sun Moon Lake Maolan Mountain hiking sunrise

Sun Moon Lake Maolan Mountain hiking sunrise

Sun Moon Lake Maolan Mountain hiking sunrise

Sun Moon Lake Maolan Mountain hiking sunrise
The Maolan Mountain Trail.  The "You are here" marks the Japanese Dormitory area.

Sun Moon Lake Maolan Mountain hiking sunrise


At around 6:30am, the sun eventually came out and defeated the darkness. Some visitors even said “Alishan, Alishan”, when they saw the sunrise. I saw tea plantations as I walked down the mountain and I took an nice photo. I also have nice shots with the Japanese cedar trees and also the with the scenic platforms that me and my guardian angels passed by when it was still dark.

Sun Moon Lake Maolan Mountain hiking sunrise

Sun Moon Lake Maolan Mountain hiking sunrise

Sun Moon Lake Maolan Mountain hiking sunrise

Sun Moon Lake Maolan Mountain hiking sunrise

Sun Moon Lake Maolan Mountain hiking sunrise

Sun Moon Lake Maolan Mountain hiking sunrise

Sun Moon Lake Maolan Mountain hiking sunrise

Sun Moon Lake Maolan Mountain hiking sunrise

Sun Moon Lake Maolan Mountain hiking sunrise

Sun Moon Lake Maolan Mountain hiking sunrise

Sun Moon Lake Maolan Mountain hiking sunrise

Shuishe Pier was already alive when I came back from my hike. I explored the pier first and then I boarded the Round-the-Lake bus to Ita Thao. It's time to fly!

4. SUN MOON LAKE ROPEWAY

If Taipei has the Maokong Gondola then Sun Moon Lake has the 'Sun Moon Lake Ropeway'. It was opened to the riding public in December 28, 2009 and connects the aboriginal town of Ita Thao to the famous Formosan Aboriginal Culture Village. It is 1877 meters long with 86 cabins in red, yellow and blue color and can transport 3000 passengers in 1 hour. Seeing the lake while riding the cable car is a totally different experience and I was so excited to ride this tourism gem of Taiwan.


Sun Moon Lake Ropeway
Sun Moon Lake Ropeway

Sun Moon Lake Ropeway

Sun Moon Lake Ropeway

Sun Moon Lake Ropeway


Sun Moon Lake Ropeway
There are lockers in the lobby of the Ita Thao station. Just insert a coin to release the key.

After alighting at Ita Thao stop from the Round-the-Lake Bus, I walked for 800 meters to reach the round-shaped roof of the cable car station. 800 meters then 500 meters... until I found myself walking on a wooden platform standing on top of the lake's shoreline.

Sun Moon Lake Ropeway

Regular tickets cost NTD 300 for a round-trip ticket which is expensive compared to Taipei's Maokong Gondola which would only cost you NTD 100 for a round-trip ride. My Sun Moon Lake Pass which costs NTD 360 already includes a stub for the round-trip ticket for the cable car so I highly recommend buying this pass to save a lot of money. Should I also say that my cable car ride is already free? The round-trip ferry boat ride I have through my Sun Moon Lake Pass in Taiwan Day 797 already costs NTD 300.

Sun Moon Lake Ropeway

The Sun Moon Lake Ropeway is only composed of two stations. The Ita Thao Station is characterized by its circular roof reminding visitors of the simple life of the Ita Thao people when Sun Moon Lake was still waiting to be discovered. The other station is the Formosan Aboriginal Culture Village (FACV). It's the gateway to the FACV amusement park in which you need to buy a separate ticket if you want to learn about the different aboriginal tribes of Taiwan and have fun in its various rides.


Sun Moon Lake Ropeway

Sun Moon Lake Ropeway

Sun Moon Lake Ropeway

Sun Moon Lake Ropeway

Sun Moon Lake Ropeway

I didn't enter FACV because it's not yet the right time to see this theme park. When is the best time? It's during the cherry blossom festival. The amusement park has a large number of cherry blossom trees which showers the color of pink in February so there is really no need to be in a hurry to explore FACV.

Sun Moon Lake Ropeway

Sun Moon Lake Ropeway

Sun Moon Lake Ropeway

Sun Moon Lake Ropeway

A souvenir shop can be found at the ground floor of the FACV station and I bought a cable car replica of the Sun Moon Lake Ropeway. It's one of the best souvenir one can buy at Sun Moon Lake and I was so happy to have this toy. It's another addition to my 'Taiwan collections'.

Sun Moon Lake Ropeway

Sun Moon Lake Ropeway

Sun Moon Lake Ropeway

Sun Moon Lake Ropeway

Sun Moon Lake Ropeway

Sun Moon Lake Ropeway

Sun Moon Lake Ropeway

Sun Moon Lake Ropeway

Sun Moon Lake Ropeway

Sun Moon Lake Ropeway

Sun Moon Lake Ropeway

Sun Moon Lake Ropeway

Sun Moon Lake Ropeway

Sun Moon Lake Ropeway

Sun Moon Lake Ropeway

Sun Moon Lake Ropeway

Sun Moon Lake Ropeway

Sun Moon Lake Ropeway

Sun Moon Lake Ropeway

Sun Moon Lake Ropeway

Sun Moon Lake Ropeway

The maximum number of passengers that a cable car of the Sun Moon Lake Ropeway can carry is 8 persons. Since I'm alone I was with five passengers who spoke of a language that sounds Filipino but the words were not really Filipino. I guessed that they are Indonesians. The cable car ascended and as ours ears were popping we saw Sun Moon Lake below. The sun portion of the lake is visibly seen from above and the one-way trip to FACV only lasted for about 10 minutes. I was alone inside the cable car for the return trip but it gave me the liberty to take photos and document my experience in the Sun Moon Lake Ropeway.

Sun Moon Lake Ropeway

It was lunch time when I alighted at Ita Thao Station. Guess what? My gastric juices were already starting a rebellion.

5. SUN MOON LAKE ITA THAO FOOD TRIP

A hungry stomach is a prerequisite for a gastronomic adventure in Ita Thao. The town's name means “We are the people” and a variety of local delicacies and night market food can be tasted here. Whatever that looks interesting grabbed my attention from a spiral barbeque, to rice cooked inside a bamboo to common bubble tea drinks to quench my thirst. Ita Thao is the place to be for those who love food. You need to try the foods here when you go to Sun Moon Lake. Your travel adventure would not be complete without an Ita Thao food trip.


Sun Moon Lake Ita Thao
Sun Moon Lake Ita Thao

Sun Moon Lake Ita Thao


Sun Moon Lake Ita Thao
Sun Moon Lake Ita Thao

Sun Moon Lake Ita Thao


Sausages are typical aboriginal food in Taiwan and it was the first food that I ate. A man selling grilled sausages at the end of the 800 meter trail from Sun Moon Lake Ropeway to Ita Thao village welcomed me and invited me try his specialty. Smoke coming out from the grill made me more hungry. My saliva thickened more inside my mouth as I smell the fumes and waited for my food. Aboriginal sausages are usually made of pork since hunting wild boars had been a way of life for the aboriginal people of Taiwan. Aside from sausages, there were also pork barbeque in other stalls.

Sun Moon Lake Ita Thao

Sun Moon Lake Ita Thao

Sun Moon Lake Ita Thao


Sun Moon Lake Ita Thao

Sun Moon Lake Ita Thao

Sun Moon Lake Ita Thao


Young and old tourists were holding a green stick in which a white glutinous rice looking thing was wrapped spirally. It's the Thao mochi and it's made from a type of grain called the fox-tail millet. People from East Asia usually eat this kind of food. Just think of it as another alternative to rice. I was really curious to try one. After my spiral Thao mochi was barbequed, I was asked which flavor I want and they gave it to me with a layer of barbeque sauce.

Sun Moon Lake Ita Thao

Sun Moon Lake Ita Thao

Sun Moon Lake Ita Thao
Sun Moon Lake Ita Thao

Sun Moon Lake Ita Thao

Sun Moon Lake Ita Thao

Another store sells Thao mochi but this time it's in a rectangular shape but I actually didn't know they were made from the same 'secret ingredient' as the spiral Thao mochi. My chat with a Taiwanese friend verified that the dried fox-tail millets that I saw hanging on the stall reminds the buyers that the food being cooked was made of it. I gave my payment to a lady wearing an aboriginal headdress who doesn't speak English but the language barrier didn't stop me from tasting the rectangular Thao mochi. It was made sweet by the lady by applying a coat of sugar.

Sun Moon Lake Ita Thao

Sun Moon Lake Ita Thao


Sun Moon Lake Ita Thao


Bamboo rice was another aboriginal food one can try in Ita Thao. Rice with pork or chicken is packed inside a soft bamboo just right to be held in a hand. It was placed on a steamer with ends covered by some sort of paper or clothing to preserve the freshness. You can have it crack open to eat immediately but I just have it inside a plastic bag. It was my dinner for this Taiwan Day 798.

Sun Moon Lake Ita Thao

Sun Moon Lake Ita Thao

Sun Moon Lake Ita Thao


Sun Moon Lake Ita Thao

Sun Moon Lake Ita Thao

Sun Moon Lake Ita Thao

Sun Moon Lake Ita Thao

Sun Moon Lake Ita Thao


Sun Moon Lake Ita Thao

Sun Moon Lake Ita Thao

Sun Moon Lake Ita Thao

Sun Moon Lake Ita Thao

Sun Moon Lake Ita Thao


Night market foods like the stuffed chicken are best sellers in Ita Thao. It's a simple food reinvented with creativity. Chicken is sliced and vegetables or other stuff like rice will be put inside. Voila! You already have your dinner or lunch. Guabao which I initially thought as 'siopao' is like a burger in a fluffy white bread which is cut open and stuffed with meat and vegetables. Just say jīròu, zhūròu or niúròu, if you want chicken, pork or beef respectively. If you're thirsty, bubble tea drinks are available in Ita Thao.


Sun Moon Lake Ita Thao


You will not just enjoy good food in Ita Thao. Sometimes you might see the Thao people performing a dance number at the Ita Thao Pier. 'Thao' actually means people but it is pronounced as 'tao' like in taoism. If my memory serves me right, the languages of the aboriginal people belong to the Austronesian language family in which 'Tagalog' and other dialects in the Philippines belong. 'Tao' [pronounced as ta-o] means human or people in the Philippines so the 'Thao' in Ita Thao should be pronounced as 'Tha-o' to be consistent with its meaning which is people. Ita Thao or Ita Tha-o, whatever it maybe. Taiwan will always be proud to have them. They are the real owners of Sun Moon Lake.

Sun Moon Lake Ita Thao

Sun Moon Lake Ita Thao

Sun Moon Lake Ita Thao

Sun Moon Lake Ita Thao

Sun Moon Lake Ita Thao

Sun Moon Lake Ita Thao

My Travel Buddy had already arrived in Sun Moon Lake and was calling me from time to time as I wander around Ita Thao. He waited for me patiently at Shuishe Pier and to meet him I boarded the ferry boat going to Shuishe Pier for NTD 100. I enjoyed the nice view of Sun Moon Lake while I ate my stuffed chicken. Little that I know that after this Ita Thao food trip my tripod will be gone missing.

6. JIJI LINE - CHECHENG STATION - JIJI STATION

Kiran (Indian) and I were already inside Bus 6671 when I sensed that something was missing. I have my paper bags containing my souvenirs that I bought from Ita Thao and the Sun Moon Lake Ropeway but I could not see my tripod. “Where could I have left it?”, I asked myself. But there was no more time left to go back to Shuishe Pier and look for my precious travel weapon. It was already afternoon and our bus was heading down from Sun Moon Lake to our destination. It was a good thing that we are going to a valley where memories of the past are treasured. I might remember there where I left my tripod. And if I can still ever find it...


Sun Moon Lake Jiji Line
Sun Moon Lake Jiji Line

Sun Moon Lake Jiji Line

Sun Moon Lake Jiji Line

Sun Moon Lake Jiji Line

Sun Moon Lake Jiji Line

We arrived there after almost 40 minutes of travel. The place looks picturesque even though there are a large number of tourists on a weekend in this town called Checheng. Metal and wood joined forces to build this town. It is located on a valley below Sun Moon Lake with a train line called the Jiji Line passing through different villages surrounded with betel nut trees. Jiji Line’s set of trains transport people from Checheng Station to Ershui Station in the west coast of Taiwan. It is one of branch lines of the Taiwan Railway Administration along with the Pingxi Line and the Neiwan Line which I have already visited before.

Sun Moon Lake Jiji Line
Sun Moon Lake Jiji Line

Sun Moon Lake Jiji Line

Sun Moon Lake Jiji Line

Sun Moon Lake Jiji Line


Japan built this branch line of the Taiwan Railway Administration (TRA) to facilitate the transport of construction materials for a hydroelectric power being constructed in Sun Moon Lake. A light rail was already existing until it was expanded into a full-fledged train line in 1922. The Japanese were really keen in maximizing the use of the resources of its colonies.

Sun Moon Lake Jiji Line

Sun Moon Lake Jiji Line

Sun Moon Lake Jiji Line

Sun Moon Lake Jiji Line

Sun Moon Lake Jiji Line
Sun Moon Lake Jiji Line

Sun Moon Lake Jiji Line

Sun Moon Lake Jiji Line

Sun Moon Lake Jiji Line

Checheng is a very interesting place. Aside from the trains permanently displayed on the old rail tracks one can also learn how big logs are processed near the train station. Logging had been central to the development of the town. Roam around and discover an ecological lake. It was not an original pond during heydays of Checheng. It's actually a storage pool for the logs collected in the forest. Beside the lake are tall wooden structures that stand like a gateway to a another universe. They are wood cranes and they were used before to lift the logs in the storage pool and transfer it to the locomotive trains waiting in the Japanese-style Checheng Station. There is also a dam beside the town and it’s the Mingtian Power Plant. A small town with its own train station and power plant. You can never find another place like this in Taiwan.

Sun Moon Lake Jiji Line

Sun Moon Lake Jiji Line

Sun Moon Lake Jiji Line

Sun Moon Lake Jiji Line

Sun Moon Lake Jiji Line

Sun Moon Lake Jiji Line

Sun Moon Lake Jiji Line

Sun Moon Lake Jiji Line

When the logging industry died down in Checheng, the life of the town was totally forgotten until it was revived as one of Taiwan's alluring tourism towns under the supervision of the Sun Moon Lake National Scenic Area Administration. Take a stroll at the Checheng Old Street and admire the beautiful roof structure of the Wood Industry Exhibition Center as seen from the street. Have a tea at the Cedar Tea House and try to get a photo of the Japanese Dormitory amidst the tall wooden fence guarding it.

Sun Moon Lake Jiji Line

Sun Moon Lake Jiji Line

Sun Moon Lake Jiji Line

Sun Moon Lake Jiji Line

Sun Moon Lake Jiji Line

Sun Moon Lake Jiji Line

Sun Moon Lake Jiji Line

Sun Moon Lake Jiji Line

Sun Moon Lake Jiji Line

Sun Moon Lake Jiji Line

Sun Moon Lake Jiji Line

Sun Moon Lake Jiji Line

Sun Moon Lake Jiji Line

Sun Moon Lake Jiji Line

Sun Moon Lake Jiji Line

Sun Moon Lake Jiji Line

Enter the exhibition area and learn about how large logs are processed before in Checheng. The building also houses a wooden model of the town as well as the different train stations of Taiwan in the past and present time. How many can you identify? The Baroque-style structures of the Taichung Station and Hsinchu Station are noticeable. How about the old Keelung Station? The Taipei Main Station stands grand inside its glass display. If only these wooden train station models were being sold, I will buy them all and take them home.

Sun Moon Lake Jiji Line

Sun Moon Lake Jiji Line

Sun Moon Lake Jiji Line

Sun Moon Lake Jiji Line

Sun Moon Lake Jiji Line
Sun Moon Lake Jiji Line

Sun Moon Lake Jiji Line

Sun Moon Lake Jiji Line

Sun Moon Lake Jiji Line

Sun Moon Lake Jiji Line

Sun Moon Lake Jiji Line

Sun Moon Lake Jiji Line

Sun Moon Lake Jiji Line

Sun Moon Lake Jiji Line

Sun Moon Lake Jiji Line

We also went to the town of Jiji. A 10-minute train ride from the CheCheng Station took us to a place where tourist abounds like a school of fishes in the sea. The Jiji Station like the Checheng Station was built in the Japanese area and this what makes it famous for tourists. Take a photo with a locomotive train model beside hundreds of photobombers in front of the train station. Even an old military tanker was not spared! Jiji Station is the worst place to take photos on a sunny weekend. haha!

My Travel Buddy and I wanted to see the Wucheng Temple but time wasn't enough. We still need to find our hostel in Yuchih town. We boarded Bus 6671 to get back to Shuishe Pier and then we transferred to a Taiwan Tour Bus for a short trip to Yuchih town. My body was so tired but I slept in my bed in the hostel with a smile. My tripod was at the Giant Bike Rental Shop and it was in good hands.

7. BIKING AT SUN MOON LAKE

Ferry boat ride, sunrise watching, hiking, cable car ride, food trip. What else can you do in Sun Moon Lake? Biking is the best answer. From my first documented biking in Taiwan Day 697&698 (T'was the Night with YouBike) to my nightly biking practice in the Academia Sinica campus I have developed a modest skill in this sport. I have always dreamed of doing a “Tour de Taipei” by visiting the famous places in Taipei while riding a bike but I never thought of having a “Tour de Sun Moon Lake”.


Sun Moon Lake biking
Sun Moon Lake biking

Sun Moon Lake biking

Sun Moon Lake biking

Sun Moon Lake biking

Sun Moon Lake biking

Sun Moon Lake biking


To start the biking adventure, Kiran and I went to the Sun Moon Lake Giant Bike Rental Shop at the basement of the Shuishe Visitor Information Center. We didn't just went there to rent a bike. I left my precious tripod there yesterday in Taiwan Day 798. We inquired about the bike rental and I didn't notice that I opened my tripod and placed it on the floor. I got so excited with the different bikes displayed inside the shop. After confirming our plan for Taiwan Day 799, I left the bike station holding only my paper bag full of souvenirs without remembering my non-living travel pal. If only my tripod could talk it would have shouted “Luo-Mu Jieeeeeeeeeee!”.

Sun Moon Lake biking

Sun Moon Lake biking

Sun Moon Lake biking

Although I became reunited with my tripod it will be a burden during the biking activity so I left my things inside the air-conditioned Giant bike station under the care of its kind staff. I was given a bike suitable for me but I really wanted to ride the electric bike. I didn't pass the height requirement and my legs couldn’t reach the pedals of the electric bike. haha! It would had been easier for me to bike uphill if I have rode that bike. We also met a guy from Poland who planned to bike around the lake. He presented his passport while me and Kiran presented our ARC.

Sun Moon Lake biking

Sun Moon Lake biking

Sun Moon Lake biking
The NTD 2000 bike

How much does it cost to rent a bike? It depends on what kind of bike you want. The most basic rent costs NTD 200 for the first hour and then NTD 200/hour for the succeeding hours. A professional bike would cost NTD 2000 for the first hour and then NTD 200/hour for the succeeding hours. There was a promo for foreigners since it was the biking and music fireworks festival season in Sun Moon Lake. Just present your passport and you will get a free two hour ride of the bike, accident insurance, one bottle of water and a souvenir tumbler. We presented our ARC since our passport numbers were written there.

Sun Moon Lake biking

Sun Moon Lake biking

Sun Moon Lake biking


Sun Moon Lake biking


Sun Moon Lake biking

Sun Moon Lake biking



Sun Moon Lake biking

Sun Moon Lake biking

Sun Moon Lake biking

Sun Moon Lake biking

Sun Moon Lake biking


With everything ready, I started my cycling adventure. I biked the beautiful Xiangshan biking lane from Shuishe Pier until I reached a unique concrete building. I have reached the Xiangshan Visitor Center and it was full of people. There would be a musical concert at night and a fireworks display so people were already saving their spots. It was hot outside and entering inside the tourist center relieved the people of the hot weather. I presented my souvenir my card inside the tourist center and they exchanged it with a free tumbler. Yehey!

Sun Moon Lake biking

Sun Moon Lake biking


Sun Moon Lake biking

Sun Moon Lake biking

Sun Moon Lake biking

I continued my cycling at the Yuetan Bike Path. It has a wooden path portion with no barriers at its edges making it dangerous for bikers. I walked and just pulled my bike for my safety. Fellow bikers also did the same thing. The place was picturesque and I stopped to take myself a photo. Yi..Er..San!






Sun Moon Lake biking

Sun Moon Lake biking

Sun Moon Lake biking



I made a U-turn upon reaching a steep inclined plane with a set stairs. This must be the end of Leisure Bikeway Route that the staff from Giant told me. I biked the 5 kilometer Yuetan Bikeway again, passed the Xiangshan Visitor and traversed the 3 kilometer Xiangshan Bikeway. Whoah! I made it! I returned the bike at the rental shop and gathered my bags and tripod. I just finished exploring the Moon lake part of the Sun Moon Lake. The Sun lake was my next target and it shined brightly for the epic finale of my Sun Moon Lake Special.

8. WENWU TEMPLE - SHUIWATOU TRAIL FROGS - PEACOCK GARDEN - SHUISHE PIER

Digicam, check! Tripod, check! Backpack, check! My travel paraphernalia were complete once again for the final hurrah of my Sun Moon Lake Special. Biking the Moon lake was just half of the experience one can have in touring around the serene alpine lake for one day. While my Travel Buddy Kiran was exerting great effort in cycling the Sun lake, I boarded the Taiwan Tour Bus to explore the “sunny side” of the lake. I sat on the bus like a king and with every stop that it made on the Sun Lake an imaginary red carpet was rolling on itself upon my arrival. The Sun lake knew that The “Master of Travel” has arrived.


Sun Moon Lake
Sun Moon Lake
Sun Moon Lake
Sun Moon Lake


Sun Moon Lake

Sun Moon Lake



Sun Moon Lake

Two gigantic red stone lion dogs welcomed me at Wenwu Temple. They stand like mighty guardians of the temple built in the Northern Palace Style. Majestic and grand, the Wenwu Temple was rebuilt after a strong earthquake in 1999. But even before it was rebuilt, it had already undergone various improvements starting from its origins as two separate temples. When the Japanese built a dam in Sun Moon Lake for a hydroelectric project, the water in lake rose forcing the relocation of the temples. Time passed by and the two temples were merged as one. Even Chiang Kai-Shek visited the temple many times during its transformation. Today, I stood here in front of this temple where great ceremonies had been made to pleased the gods.

Sun Moon Lake


Sun Moon Lake


Sun Moon Lake

Sun Moon Lake

Sun Moon Lake


Dragons with water and gas coming out of their mouth amazed me at back of the temple. If this is how they welcome me then I accept it. A set of stairs leads to a great view of the lake. It's autumn but the weather was like summer making Sun Moon Lake shimmer under the sun. It’s an illusion that can only turn into reality in the Sun lake. Golden wind chimes hang along the temple premises turning the place into a golden palace. The wind chimes extends outside of the temple where the Steps of the Year is located. Each day of the Year is represented by one step. People wrote their wishes on the chimes and hang it near the step corresponding to the day of their birth.

Sun Moon Lake

Sun Moon Lake

Sun Moon Lake



Sun Moon Lake
golden pheasant

The famous Peacock Garden is very near to Wenwu Temple. Chiang-Kai Shek decided to have a fowl appreciation area to add another tourist attraction in Sun Moon Lake. The best time to visit the Peacock Garden is during spring and summer time where peacocks show off their beautiful feathers to attract partners during the mating season. I enjoyed looking at the birds especially the albino peacock and the golden pheasant. The white color of the albino peacock teased my imagination on how it will attract its mate despite of its white color while the golden pheasant looks like a legendary bird that can lay golden eggs. There is no entrance fee to enter the park and the place is accessible by public transportation through the Round-the-Lake Taiwan Tour Bus.

Sun Moon Lake
Shuiwatou Trail


Sun Moon Lake


Sun Moon Lake

Sun Moon Lake

Various trails also surround the Sun lake and the Shuiwatou is one of them. It's a short trail but don't underestimate its beauty. Walk along its wooden path and discover on its end a set of stone frogs sitting on top of one another. They rise and disappear in Sun Moon Lake telling the visitors of the current sea level height of the lake. Due to the El Nino phenomenon, smaller frogs were already above the surface of Sun Moon Lake. If they were only real, they would have already jump in the water. I felt pity for them so I made a wish before I left the trail. I wished that a fairy arrives at Shuiwatou Trail and cast a magical spell upon them. They would turn into real frogs to swim in the lake at night but in the day they would return as stone sculptures to perform their duties as guardians of the Sun lake.

Sun Moon Lake

Sun Moon Lake

I returned to Shuishe Pier to enjoy the last moments of my Sun Moon Lake Special. As I walked around I noticed metal decorations in the shape of a circular sun and crescent moon. Images formed again in my mind and I can't stop myself from thinking that the sun and moon are really a married couple. They are separated in space but connected by time and the love they had for each other formed the Sun Moon Lake. Nah! My imagination is really strong!

Sun Moon Lake

Sun Moon Lake

I boarded Bus 1833 at Shuishe Pier to reach Taipei and I felt sadness upon my arrival at the city. Sun Moon Lake was gone and I’m here again in a bustling city with the chilling winter wind blowing on my face. Nevertheless, I made great stories on my 3-day travel adventure in Nantou: “Journey to the Lake”, “The Invisible Line That the Dragon Wrote”, “Dark Knight”, “Rope, Rope and Away”, “Food from the Thao”, “Hello Jiji, Goodbye Tripod”, “Ride Your Life” and “The Master's Sun”. Not only the whole world will know but the universe as well that the moon embraces the sun with my stories. They are immortal adventures and they all happened in a place where I saw the “Moon Embracing the Sun”.

THINGS TO DO IN TAICHUNG - CENTRAL TAIWAN



Sakura Series - Taiwan

Sakura Series - Taiwan


Sakura Series - Japan


Maple Series


Yehliu to Jiufen? Yehliu to Shifen? Cheaper than yellow taxis

The "Taipei kong mahal" (My beloved Taipei)


Other attractions in Taipei


New Taipei


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