Monday, December 29, 2014

Sun Moon Lake


Happy Holidays Bunnies!

Husband and I had some British bunnies visiting this month. After they traveled from Taipei to spend a day with us in Kaohsiung, we had hoped to see them again before the end of their vacation. Luckily, between work and holiday commitments, we were able to manage a day trip to Sun Moon Lake. This was our first day trip in Taiwan since our relocation to Kaohsiung back in August. We've been a bit lethargic from the heat so we needed an excuse, like visiting friends, to get us out of our rut.

Sun Moon Lake is an ambitious day trip from Kaohsiung when using public transportation, especially when taking the slow train for part of the journey. The slow train takes nearly 3 hours from Kaohsiung to Taichung but is only NT$482pp. High speed rail takes just less than an hour but costs a premium at NT$860pp. 

To save money, we opted for the 6:00am slow train from Fengshan station in Kaohsiung to Taichung Main station. We arrived in Taichung at 8:51am where we promptly got lost searching for the bus that would take us to our final destination. After a lot of aimless wandering, we finally returned to the train station to receive guidance from the Visitor's Centre. Now armed with precise directions, we walked the 15 minutes to Ganchen Station where we caught the 9:50am bus to Sun Moon Lake.

Some notes for this section:
  1. There is no food trolley nor car nor vending machines on the slow train. Bring your own food.
  2. If in doubt, always stop at the Visitor's Centre before venturing further.
Ita Thao
The Nantou Bus to Sun Moon Lake is NT$340pp (return) and the schedule says it's a nearly 2 hour ride. For us, it took a bit longer than that. Had we arrived on time, we could've caught the 12:00pm round-the-lake bus (NT$80pp, one-day ticket). Instead, we had to wait nearly 30 minutes for the 12:40pm.

Our friends were staying across the lake, in Ita Thao. A cab from the bus station costs a flat fee of NT$500. Again, to save money, we opted to wait for the bus. It's a nice system but, like most buses outside Taipei, there aren't nearly enough of them. One bus every 40 minutes seems a bit inadequate.

Upon meeting up with our friends, we promptly headed to the Sun Moon Lake Ropeway (NT$300pp). This cable car was a great experience. The price is a bit high, especially when Taipei's gondola to Maokong is only NT$100, but it provides a lovely view of the area and is a quick and easy way to get to the Formosa Aboriginal Cultural Village theme park. The theme park's admission is NT$780pp. We didn't go.

After the gondola ride, we ventured back to Ita Thao for a late lunch / early dinner. After searching for a bit, and salivating at all the street food options, we ended up dining at a Mann Gay Dann indigenous village where we enjoyed a meal of wild boar hotpot and a short performance of indigenous music and dance.

Our plan for the day was derailed at the end when the fog rolled in. We had hoped to catch the ferry back to the bus station but, due to low visibility, the ferries were all cancelled. We then tried to catch one of the last round-the-lake buses. Unfortunately, when we got to the stop, there was a very long line for a very full bus. With limited time to catch the last bus back to Taichung, we grabbed a cab. Fortunately, we found the coolest cab driver in all of Taiwan. 

Neil Zeng is the owner of Yellow Tuna Cab, a private touring company providing taxi tours for all of Taiwan. Neil is incredibly knowledgeable about all things Taiwan and it was an absolute joy to have met him. Even after the disappointment of missing out on a boat ride across the lake, Neil made our taxi ride from Ita Thao to the bus station one of the highlights of our day trip to Sun Moon Lake. 太棒了!

HOT TIP: Don't pay NT$300 for the all-day boat ticket at the ticket booth. Hotels will sell them to you for only NT$100. Boom! You're welcome.

For our return trip, we opted for the higher price but faster speeds of the high speed rail. All told, we traveled for approximately 7 hours for only about 5 quality hours at Sun Moon Lake but, overall, the day was fairly relaxing. The food, amusements, and scenery at Sun Moon Lake made the experience very enjoyable. Even the bad weather was picturesque. And, because we had friends visiting, it was most definitely worth the effort.

For more pictures, please visit my Facebook album.

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