Taiwan is a place full of adventure. Having lived there for almost 6 years, I definitely have a few favorite places-- probably enough to fill this blog. So let's just get started with one of the basics and one of my favorite in Taiwan vacations: Sun Moon Lake (日月潭 RiYueTan)
Sun Moon Lake is in the heart of Taiwan, a couple hours from Taichung in Nantou. Getting there is relatively easy. From the train station in Taichung, you can take a bus to Nantou (I think it takes about an hour and half, one way) and most people will be able to guess where you're going and give you hand. Staying there is also relatively easy and most places will be around 1600 NT for four people. You can find cheaper places and you can find more expensive places (much more) but 1600 is pretty fair. It's about 50 dollars U.S. (total) for a two bed room.
When you get there, there are a couple of transport options: you can rent a bike, you can take the shuttle bus, you can take taxis, you can drive (if you came by car) or you can rent an electric scooter. I would opt for the last option as it gives you a lot more freedom than the shuttle (which stops running at 5) and is relatively easy (charging stations all around the lake).
When we went, there were four of us girls and we had two scooters. There were times when we just couldn't muster the power and practically crawled up the hills, but we made it. I think for an adult male, it would be a pretty tight fit to get two people on those things. They're not real scooters-- more like electric mopeds.
On a side story note, during one of those difficult climbs, the belt on our scooter snapped and I ended up having to push the thing a couple of kilometers to the next station. Three of us climbed on the other scooter and very slowly made our way there. At least it was partly downhill... a very small part. Let's go with, "at least it was a good workout," instead.
The cost is just over 20 dollars for a full 24 hours-- a pretty good deal if you ask me. Especially since, you'll be able to get around in the evening.
We hadn't planned at all when we went, and arrived pretty late in the day. The shuttle had stopped running and the visitor center was closing. But we still managed to get a hotel nearby and rent two of those electric scooters. None of us were really the type to miss out on adventure so we decided to explore while we still had the fading daylight.
A few minutes from the visitor center, we found a small road down to a dock. It was that view that made the whole trip worth it.
We parked our scooters and walked out onto the floating dock. There were a couple of other people who must've been scared of the dark or something, because they ran away as soon as the sun began to set.
We, however, sat down to enjoy it. The mist of the water. The swirling blue light. The mountains in the distance. Really, it was one of the most beautiful things I had ever scene. We basked in the blue-ish glow until the light disappeared completely. And after a few minutes of scooting around, we decided to get dinner.
Now, I was traveling with Mongolians, and for the most part, Mongolians don't like seafood. This is not some random stereotype, it just simply has to do with the fact that they don't eat seafood much in Mongolia. It's just not that available or sought after. And, unfortunately, most of the restaurants in the area specialize in seafood. So we ended doing a very typical Taiwanese thing: eating at 7-11. The rain had begun as well, so we gathered our cups of ramen noodles and headed back to our hotel. It was pretty delightful.
The next day, we set out to explore the lake. There are a few temples that you can see and a few fun little hikes. We decided not to do the tram for the sake of money and time, but I've heard good things about it.
One thing I recommend is taking a boat across the lake. You can buy a few ticket options, and we opted for a roundish trip. With the boat stops, you can see all of the lake's most famous places.
There are a lot of scenic stops. One of the more pleasant surprises was a pretty awesome peacock area. It had numerous (huge) white peacocks as well as regular ones.
The lake itself is also famous for the aboriginal tribe that lives there. It's a great chance to see some uniquely Taiwanese things, help the local economy and indigenous peoples.
Sun Moon Lake is NOT for swimming. It's not allowed and no one does it. So don't go expecting a fun by the lake, water enjoying kind of day. It's more for looks and walking around than being inside of it. That being said, there is one day of the year when you can swim in the lake. Actually, it's one weekend.
If you're there at the right time, you can sign up for a float across the lake. Most people use noodles and it's a pretty lazy, full day affair.
The Sun Moon Lake website provides a lot of information on events and how to get to and around the lake.