Sun Moon Lake is the largest lake in Taiwan located in Nantou District. When viewed from bird’s eye view, the view looks like the sun and the moon, and hence the name – really quite a romantic name but my unimaginative mind didn’t seem to see the resemblance. We had a luxury of a minivan when we went to Sun Moon Lake which made travelling much easier. We were in Nantou District, moved about a few places, eventually going to Sun Moon Lake.
Jiji Train Station (集集火车站)
Our first stop was the Jiji Train Station. “Ji” literally means “to gather”. Jiji was the place where the Chinese and the aboriginals gathered to trade for merchandises. The original railway station was built by the Japanese to facilitate the transportation of wood and the style has a Japanese vibe to it. The one that we see today is a rebuilt, still following the original design as the original one was destroyed during the 921 earthquake in 1999.
Sour plum lovers you may relish with joy because Nantou is the place where many plum plantations flourish. There was a myriad of sour plums – tea plums, powdered plums, crispy plums, chewy plums and more. We tried quite a few varieties of plums at this store before deciding which ones to buy.
Ask for a sample of this green mango pickles – fancifully termed as “Lovers’ Fruit”. It’s mango pickles I know. The flavor is very different from the Malaysian ones with a distinguished yet pleasant sourness followed by a note of sweetness; just like love – a journey of up and down and hence the name (corny I know….).
Another unique item to try would be the five-spiced, dried, konnyaku. It’s basically like jelly with a much lower water content. What makes it such a wonderful snack because konnyaku has 0 calories. Despite me telling Gary that you don’t get this kind of things in Malaysia and how little calories it has, he was not a big fan of it.
The ice creams the store carried had pretty unique flavors – dried longan + glutinous rice and shaoxing wine + glutinous rice.
The souvenir store next to the station has plenty of things to savor too – iron eggs (), sakura prawns with anchovies, century chicken eggs (instead of duck eggs), ducky crackers and more. So before we even got to Sun Moon Lake, our stomachs were already filled up at Jiji Train Station !
We had the minivan, but the guide thought it would be fun for us to take the train from Jiji to the next stop, Checheng Train Station.
Checheng Train Station (车程火车站)
The Checheng Train Station, like Jiji Station was also built by the Japanese and rebuilt again after the 921 earthquake. The vintage station set at the foot of the mountains is considered one of Taiwan’s most beautiful train stations.
Checheng Wood Museum (车程木业展示馆)
The Checheng Wood Museum transformed from a former wood processing factory is just about a 100 meters walk from Checheng Station.
The museum showcases various woods that are indigenous to Taiwan and the process of wood logging.
During the old days, architectures were typically built with wood. Some didn’t require any nails at all, relying on wood joints to hold the building together. Below are a few types of wood joints.
Wood logging is a highly regulated process now in Taiwan but you can still get smaller pieces of souvenirs made into chairs, baskets or just plain wood pieces. Some of the woods generate natural perfumes and they could be used as deodorizers in your wardrobe.
When we came out from the museum, there was a pond with plenty of koi fish swimming in. The pond wasn’t a koi pond back then; it was a lumber pond where wooden logs were kept as storage.
Sun Moon Lake
Sun Moon Lake is the largest body of water in Taiwan and the vicinity is the home of the Thao aboriginal people. If you are interested in the aboriginal tribes, visit Formosa Cultural Village which combines theme park and showcasing the cultures of 9 aboriginal tribes of Taiwan.
We boarded the cruise at Shuise Pier, which took us around the lake and to Ita Thao Pier / Village. Our guide actually told us just to stay put on the cruise because apparently according to him there’s not much at the pier and we’ll have to wait for one hour for the next ferry. I could more or less imagine what’s at the village – lots of roadside stalls selling food and souvenirs, typical of may popular tourist attractions in Taiwan, but I still wouldn’t have minded to get down to take a walk. I think the guide was rushing for time himself. The other pier you could go to is Syuanguang Pier, where the Syuanguang Temple is located. The routes are run by different companies so you’ll have to buy separate tickets to get to different piers.
Our lunch was at Songhe Restaurant (松鹤饭店) where we had flavorful 3 cups chicken, steamed fish, vegetables and linzhi soup. I was not a big fan of the soup though – it had a herbal but flat taste.
More info on Sun Moon Lake :
Sun Moon Lake Official Website
Typically, people would visit Wenwu Temple when they visit Sun Moon Lake. We didn’t visit the temple this time as we all agreed that we have seen enough temples in Malaysia so we went to Puli Brewery instead. Here are a few pictures of Wenwu Temple from few years ago when I visited Sun Moon Lake with my family.
The temple is on a vast compound with a short hiking trail at the back of the temple with 365 flights of steps, each step represents one day of the year, with corresponding famous people born on that particular day. My birthday is on the 7th of July, and I share the same birthday as Pierre Cardin and Mahler (Austrian musician) !
Puli Brewery Museum
After Taiwan’s independence, the Puli Brewery started off with brewing low quality alcohol that was mainly for local consumption in the Nantou region. Later on, the brewery focused on quality, using the water from Ailan Spring, the best spring in the area, to produce the renowned Shaoxing wine. Shaoxing Wine was a national favorite, pride of the country; even during Chiang Kai Shek and Chiang Jing Kuo’s era, Shaoxing wine was the default wine served in national banquets. When Taiwan opened up its doors for liquor import, Shaoxing wine lost its monopoly and competitiveness.
To gain back its competitiveness, Puli Brewery started to incorporate tourism and also produceda bigger variety of wines, such as “Nu Er Hong” – 16 year old wines that were used as gifts when a daughter turns 16, and “Zhung Yuan Hong” is the same equivalent for a son.
The museum exhibits Puli Brewery’s history and the process of wine making.
These wine jars are antiques; some are more than a hundred years old and award winning even !
The below picture is the classic packaging with red labels for Shaoxing wine.
Some are in fancier bottles.
There’s even a room built with slanting floors for you to experience the feeling of being drunk – but I think most of us would already know what that feels like.
And at the end of the tour, as usual, consumerism always goes together with tourism, there’s a hall full of stalls, selling Shaoxing wine, or shaoxing-infused food items – chicken feet, sausages, ice cream, meat floss, etc, etc. You name it, they have it!
More Info on Puli Brewery
Puli Brewery Official Website
Other Attractions near Sun Moon Lake / Nantou
If you have one or two extra days in Nantou, here are a few other attractions you can consider:
Aowanda National Forest Recreation Area
Formosan Aboriginal Cultural Village
Lushan Hot Spring
Sun Moon Lake Cable Car;
and also check out Nantou County’s official Website.