Sunrise at Sun Moon Lake
It was our fifth day in Taiwan and Qingjing/Cingjing Farm (a mountain town) was the next destination on our itinerary. Basil woke up early to watch the sun rise over the cascading mountains of Sun Moon Lake. I skipped sunrise for sleep and to conserve my energy for the travels of the day. Most tourism brochures are filled with visuals of a spectacular sunrise. I’d say: keep an open mind and take in the beauty of the rising sun. It looks beautiful even in the haze.
Cycling Around Sun Moon Lake
Route Map (Shuishe Pier – Toushe Dam)
Sun Moon Lake made it to the fifth spot of the 10 best cycling routes that’ll take your breath away on CNN travel. Honestly, I had never heard about Sun Moon Lake before our Taiwan trip. Sun Moon Lake is the largest waterbody in Taiwan and gets its name from the curved shape of the lake. We had explored one half of the lake (Shuishe Pier-Ita Thao Visitor Centre) by cable car, boat, and the tourism bus on the previous day.
We wanted to explore the other half (Shuishe Pier to Toushe Dam) before catching the bus to Cingjing Farm. There are many bike rentals near Shuishe Pier and most of them offer the same rate. We were short on time and we opted for an E-bike. The rental shop gives you a map, a number for assistance, and basic instructions.
TIP: The bike path is different from the road for cars and it’s best to stick to the colour-coded route on the map. The Google Map (above) gives a rough idea of the route and distance, but follows the route used by cars.
Finding the Bike Path
I’d have preferred to ride my own bike on this path and I struggled on the pillion. Signboards are pasted at regular intervals and it’s best to keep an eye out for them. In the morning, the bike path was deserted and perfect for a cycling tour.
Longfeng Temple is the first attraction on the way. We had visited too many temples and I wasn’t particularly keen on exploring another temple. Besides, the temple is located on the main road and you have to either carry your bike along or park it below. There’s a blind corner and it’s tricky avoiding incoming speeding cars.
The sun was rising higher in the sky, but it was still quite pleasant. The silence and the views were rewarding.
The bike path is very well maintained and perfect for cycling or walking. It alternates between the shade of tree cover and direct exposure to the sun.
We reached Shuishe Dam pretty quickly. I couldn’t believe how empty it was. Few cars zipped by and I could count the number of people walking along the bike path. I wanted to stay longer and I guess someone above heard me.
The battery of the E-Bike stopped charging suddenly and we had to call for assistance. We lost 20 minutes in waiting, but I didn’t care because the views was stunning.
TIP: Walk with your bike when you cross the dam or wooden bridges. Keep an eye out for instruction boards and always follow the rules.
The views just kept getting better as we cut through dense tree cover and escaped the main road. It’s not possible to stop at every location and I clicked pictures on my phone while Basil focussed on the path ahead.
The Next Bend
There are many lookout points along the way. These lookout points are perfect for a short break or to take in the tranquility of the lake. Direction boards are scattered at most intersections and it’s a good idea to check the time needed to the next destination.
The colour of the water changed as we approached Yongjie Bridge. It turned emerald green as it reflected the thick foliage around it.
Yongjie Bridge looked like a secret pathway in a hidden tropical paradise. I couldn’t believe our luck. We couldn’t have come at a better time of day. The only other visible traveller was covering the same distance on foot. Had the weather been cooler, it would have been a good idea to walk around the lake.
Observation Points at Tongxin Bridge
And then, the view changed from blue mountains to autumnal trees. The sun was out now and it was pretty hot. It was tempting to step down for a bit and just sit by the lake. I wish we had more time.
Xiangshan Visitor Centre
Xiangshan Visitor Centre looked like a UFO — parked on earth. The building design is smooth and futuristic. It looked deserted in the morning and we decided to carry on.
Towards Toushe Dam
Toushe Dam was the last point on our map and we were advised to turn around because the route isn’t meant for bikes. The bike path to the dam is downhill and I preferred to walk. It was scorching hot now. A family of four cyclists had made it here and decided to turn around. The cat (and her litter) stared at us as we tried to figure out the route.
Beyond the Bike Path
We didn’t find Toushe Dam and overshot the route on our map. We were lost at this point and it made sense to turn back. It was quiet and peaceful here. We were in the middle of nowhere.
Route to the Sky Footpath
We had chosen to follow the straight path on our way to Toushe Dam. On our way back, we chose to explore the route that cut through the dense forest. Temperatures dipped in these parts of the bike path.
At the Sky Footpath
The bike path opens into a scenic lookout point. It’s probably one of the best places to enjoy a panoramic view of Sun Moon Lake and the cascading mountains beyond. It was getting hotter and we couldn’t stay for long here.
Back to the Start
We passed many cycling tour groups on our way back. The bike path was now bustling with activity and I was glad we had started early in the morning.
Photography enthusiasts were exploring the lake at a very different pace. It was ideal for slow travel.
We reached the rental centre before time. We could have spent an entire day around Sun Moon Lake and explored its hidden nooks. But, we had to pack our bags and catch the intercity bus to Cingjing Farm. We were happy with what we had seen so far.