Brandon and I recently escaped for a weekend whirl at Sun Moon Lake. We went with no plans or expectations and ended our trip feeling completely elated because it went so well.
Taking off mid-day Saturday, we took a few train rides along the beautiful countryside. Who wouldn't be tempted to take a picture of themselves on the train ride? We certainly did. But we always enjoy how the Taiwanese are willing to set up their tripods, even when there are capable photographers amongst them.
After the train ride to Shueili, we were then to take a shuttle up to Sun Moon Lake. After finding the cashier (below) at the shuttle station fast asleep, we learned from a local that we missed the shuttle and the next wouldn't arrive for another 2 hours.
Lack of an itinerary allows for spontaneity. For the 2 hour wait, we were able to soak up some rays by a large river eating juicy watermelon and reading our books.
Well, we didn't arrive in Sun Moon Lake till late and we didn't know what was in store for us. After finding the bike shops closed and the camp grounds overcrowded, we decided to venture off on foot and find our own area to set up camp.
After walking around the windy mountain roads for maybe 30-40 minutes searching for a trail to lead us somewhere, we were stopped by a Taiwanese woman in her car. We interpreted her frenzied Chinese to mean that it was dangerous for us to continue walking in the dark . She relentlessly refused that we leave her presence unless she took us to our destination. OUR DESTINATION? We didn't have one. Soon enough, Brandon was pointing to a random trailhead on the map he was carrying.
Our saving grace (aka. Tiffany- of whom doesn't like her English name because it resembles 'expensive') drove us for merely 15-20 minutes in the opposite direction we were originally headed. She understood our intentions to camp and we were impressed with her willingness to drop us off at this trailhead when the signs posted NO CAMPING.
The long trail (it was really a long staircase) led down to the water with a small outlook platform and a lighthouse. Only being disrupted once by a group of people (who might have been on to us with their many questions) Brandon and I had each other, the many spiders, toads and the beautiful lake to ourselves for the evening.
We set up camp and were never discovered...at least we don't think so (we heard someone fishing or doing something close to us in the middle of the night). In the morning, we may or may not have 'fallen' into the water. It's ILLEGAL to swim at Sun Moon except for one national day a year.
Since a 2 hour cycling workout was on our triathlon training schedule anyway, we found it appropriate to bike entirely around the massive lake. Windy hills and roads with picture taking and hiking up to temples ended up being more like a 4 hour bike ride.
So, we ended up only riding on a few paths where they posted NO BIKES ALLOWED. And dipping into the lake water again only seemed like the most logical thing to do when there's always a chance of heat exhaustion from cycling in the hot sun.
We finished our adventure Sunday night at Sun Moon Lake's nominated best Chinese restaurant (people were being turned down left and right but we're lucky enough to squeeze our way in). We watched the sunset through the fog and then headed home.
Thank you Sun Moon for letting us bend your rules and get away with it all!