Perhaps not quite as well known as the capital city of Taipei, Taichung has in recent years claimed its place on the “where to go in Taiwan” list. Inviting urban parks and several well-respected museums, including one devoted to the massive earthquake of 1999, provide counterpoint to the city’s industrial vibe. Food lovers are drawn to the multicultural cuisine offered by street vendors at Feng Chia Night Market. Situated on the island nation’s west coast, Taichung is also a convenient gateway to the natural wonders of Taiwan’s interior, including Sun Moon Lake. We enjoyed an outstanding barbeque meat dinner at Kazama in downtown Taichung the evening we docked in the harbor a few miles outside of town in the Port of Taichung (a major container port for the country).
On our full day in Taichung, we joined a group via a chartered bus to explore Taiwan’s largest and, what many would agree, most beautiful natural lake. Situated at the very heart of the country at an elevation of nearly 2500 feet / 750 meters, Sun Moon Lake is named for Lalu Island at the center of the lake —shaped like the sun on one side and a crescent moon on the other. To reach the lake was about a 90-minute scenic drive inland towards the Central Mountains region, a popular honeymoon spot. Additionally, we were informed that the road that encircles the lake is often cited as one of the world’s most beautiful bike rides.
We began our day at Sun Moon Lake with a tour of Wen-Wu Temple, its orange-red tile rooftops a local landmark since 1938. “Previously, two temples were located on the coast of Sun Moon Lake. In 1919, the Japanese colonial government constructed a dam to generate hydroelectric power, causing the lake’s water level to rise. The two temples were subsequently torn down and consolidated at the temple’s present location in 1938. After the Japanese handed over Taiwan to the Republic of China in 1945, the government invested in developing tourism around the lake. Wen Wu temple was rebuilt again in 1969, increasing its size and constructing it in the Chinese palace style. The temple consists of three halls. The first hall, located on the second floor of the front hall, is a shrine devoted to the First Ancestor Kaiji and the God of Literature. The central hall is devoted to Guan Gong, the God of War, and the warrior-God Yue Fei. The rear hall is dedicated to Confucius. Chinese guardian lions are located in front of the temple, one male and one female.” — Wikipedia
Following our time at the Temple and its fabulous views of the Lake, we had a superb Chinese banquet-style luncheon at the elegant Jade Luminous Restaurant inside the five-star Fleur de Chine Hotel, on a hillside on the edge of the lake with excellent views. After lunch we drove to Ita Thao aboriginal village where we saw an indigenous cultural performance (no photographs) and had a chance to explore the lakeside shops and food stalls.
Our last stop was at the Hugosum big-leaf black tea farm on the hillsides of Sun Moon Lake. Originally established in the early 1900s by the Japanese (who occupied Taiwan Island — then called Formosa Island — from the late 1800s through 1945), the tea farm is today operated by second generation Taiwan Chinese family owners. Their goal is to both educate customers in black tea and to promote local culture and Taiwan black tea culture. The farm produces six exceptional varieties of black tea. Our favorite in the tasting was Jade Black Tea, so special that some people call it “Taiwan Fragrance” (the fragrance is of natural cinnamon and mint).