This weekend I went to Sun Moon Lake, one of the most beautiful places in Taiwan. I actually did not plan to go there but a couple of days before the weekend I found out that a friend of mine called Vis is going there and I asked him whether is was possible to join. It was indeed possible because nearly a dozen of of people was going there and they booked a big house near the lake. So I only had to pay 1000 NT dollars to reserve a space in that house. The reasons these guys were going to Sun Moon Lake was the traditional Taiwanese sports event тАУ swimming 3km across Sun Moon Lake. Of course I also wanted to participate, but the registration has closed a long time ago, and also a plastic bar was a mandatory component of the swimming. I thought that swimming with a plastic board is a bit of cheating because that simplifies your task a lot.
Getting to Sun Moon Lake was not that easy. Because I am staying in the hotel at the Institute I had to get to the train station in Hsinchu which is approximately 10km away. So on Saturday early in the morning I biked to VisтАЩ apartment which is located near the train station and left my bike over there. I have not written it yet that I bought a bike. I am so busy with taking jacuzzi baths that I donтАЩt have much time left for blogging.
But anyway, after we got to the train station we boarded the local train to Taichung, a city on the west coast of Taiwan, located in the middle in the north-south direction. I was surprised that the train was very clean and so were the people тАУ polite and respectful. I need to say that Taiwanese rail roads are quite comfortable even for a foreign traveler, for example ticket vending machines are using English along with Chinese.
When we arrived to Taichung I noticed that it was a lot warmer than in Hsinchu. Indeed, the weather in north and south of the country is often very different. In Taichung we got on a bus going to Puli, a town near Sun Moon Lake. After we arrived there we found out that the remaining guys had just arrived to Taichung, thus we had to hang around for a couple of hours waiting for them. Puli is a nice town with mountains around it. But it was quite hot, so we spent a fair amount of time in a cafe with air conditioning.
After the guys have arrived we went to rent our scooters. I mentioned it earlier that scooters is the main means of transportation. Local people donтАЩt even need to know how to drive, they only have to take a written test to get a scooter license. The only thing that bothers me is that scooter is not eco-friendly, especially when the whole population of Taiwan rides on them.
After getting the scooters we drove to the house that the guys have rented. It was a bed and breakfast kind of house (with no breakfast provided though), and I thought it represented a traditional Taiwanese living style. For example, you have to take off the shoes before you enter the house. But then I was told that that house was a lot like Western-style house.
Anyway, we left our belongings in the house and drove to Sun Moon Lake immediately. It was such an exciting ride! I liked riding on a scooter so much, especially on a mountain road when beautiful nature surrounds you. It is a breath-taking experience! And it costs very little тАУ I think Taiwanese people know how to have fun outdoors!
We wanted to ride on the rope way, but it turned out that a couple of guys were missing so we could not use our group ticket. Quite frustrated, we spent several minutes thinking what to do next. Then we decided to visit a big church (dome) that we saw on our way to Sun Moon Lake. So we went there. I was so impressed with the beauty of this church тАУ its statues, decorations, and paintings. I think that there are lots of similarities between this church and old Russian architecture, especially that of 14-15 centuries which was of course heavily influenced after Mongol conquest of Russia during that period. It is very likely that our cultures have a lot in common.
I have taken a few sequences of images and build panoramas. In fact, there are three buildings in this dome, as well as a gate.
I bought a few souvenirs during that day. Later in the evening we went to a recreational area named Paper Dome, as well as a to night market. Overall, it was a very busy day and I got lots of impressions. However, Sunday was even more exciting because of the amazing swimming event. I will describe that in the next blog post.