Visiting Sun Moon Lake in Taiwan

We couldn’t have asked for a nicer day to explore  Sun Moon Lake and the area surrounding it.

We arrived around 11am and stopped for awhile to admire the boats on the water near the harbor.

Sun Moon Lake is nestled amongst mountains and I can easily understand why it is such a popular tourist destination in Taiwan. We were especially surprised that there was no admission charge to the lake. We had been told to expect one. In fact, our day at Sun Moon Lake was the cheapest day of our whole journey. We were admitted to all sightseeing attractions free of charge. I was mightily impressed.

Kuanghua Island, now known as Lalu Island is in the center of Sun Moon Lake.

It was nice to get off the bike and stretch our legs a bit, but we were soon surrounded by a group of people all asking about the bike and inquiring about our travels. So we hopped back on the bike. It took us about an hour to travel the road around Sun Moon Lake, a manmade lake that was built in 1964. There used to be two lakes, the Sun and the Moon, before the Japanese built a hydro-electric dam and raised the water level.

We drove around to the other side of the lake and stopped at Hsuangchang Temple to look out across the lake. In particular, we were looking for Lalu Island, which is located in the center of the lake.  Lalu Island is a rather unique place that isn’t open to the public. It is a sacred place to the Shao, the aboriginal tribe that once flourished in the area and made their home on the island.  Lalu Island was once a large island, but when the water was raised, the island disappeared under the water and sadly, the Shao were forced to move from their sacred homeland. Today, only the tip of this once mystical place is visible.

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Once inside the temple grounds, I noticed a group of carved animal stools. I quickly made the connection and located all twelve of them, one for each animal of the Chinese zodiac. I made sure that we had our pictures taken on our representative animals. (I’m a tiger and John is a rooster.) We also made sure we had our pictures taken on the pig as well. It is the Year of the Pig, after all. We spent about forty minutes here, but I wish we’d had more time to spend here as the temple grounds are immaculately kept. Apparently, the temple holds some of Asia’s most sacred Buddhist relics.  This temple was named after a Chinese Buddhist scholar by the name of, you guessed it, Hsuan Tsang.

The Pagoda of Filial Virtue was a must-see on our list of things to do at Sun Moon Lake.

It was built by Chiang Kai-Shek in memory of his mother. The pagoda is on Mt. Sabalan, which is 954 meters in height.  The pagoda itself was built 46 meters high in order to meet an elevation of 1000 meters. We really wanted to see the lake from the highest viewpoint available. Tsen Pagoda provided the perfect viewpoint. We were able to drive the bike up most of the way, but we had to climb the last 570 meters on foot to get to the pagoda. The trail leading up to the pagoda was cool and shaded, which was nice because it was a bit of a climb. It’s gorgeous, though. There are lots of trees, flowers and ferns on the way up and it’s very quiet and green. When we got to the top, the entire area was covered in blinding white pebbles. The pagoda seems larger than 46 meters and the white pebbles made all the colors jump out.

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Looking way down

The giant bell at the top of the staircase can be rung by visitors who have climbed to the top of the pagoda.

An interesting view of the netted staircase in the pagoda.  I also noticed this netting in a couple of places in Toroko Gorge as well. 

My lovely lion guardians again!  I’m always pleased to these mythical creatures. This one and its mate stand guard over Wenwu Temple. They are the largest in Taiwan. 

Wenwu Temple is a Taoist temple dedicated to Confucious and Kuan Kung, the red-faced god of war.  It’s a temple of martial and literary arts.

This beautiful historical stairway is located across from the entrance to Wen Wu Temple. Originally, visitors had to take a boat and climb 366 stairs to make the pilgrimage to Wenwu Temple. If you look closely, you can see that these bells are hung on wrought-iron ladders. Each ladder represents a year of birth.

You can buy a set of these blessing wind bells in Wen wu Temple. Write your prayer on the wind catching paper and then hang your bell on the approprate age ladder. The wind will send your prayers to the saints and gods of the temple.

Prayers on the wind.

I’m a little sad that we only had the day to explore Sun Moon Lake. We only just got our toes wet on this trip. We had a chance to take in the sights, but we really didn’t have enough time to properly explore as much as I would have liked to. I can’t complain though because John has already promised to come back with me.

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I’ve got something to look forward to next year.

Links to The Motorcycle Diaries

  1. Tainan to Baolai Hot Springs
  2. Yushan National Park and the Kindness of Strangers
  3. A Walk In The Clouds
  4. Ching Jing
  5. Sun Moon Lake
  6. Freakin’ Peacocks At Sun Moon Lake
  7. The Perfect Way To End A Day
  8. Taiwan’s Central Cross Island Highway
  9. I’ve Walked The Central Cross Island Highway
  10. Taroko Gorge National Park
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Post Author: Carrie Kellenberger

I'm a chronically ill Canadian expat who has been living abroad in Asia since 2003. I moved from China to Taiwan in 2006. My husband and I have owned our own business in Taiwan since 2012. In addition to my own work, I've been writing professionally about Asia, travel and health advocacy since 2007, providing regular content to several publishing companies and travel publications in Asia and North America. Follow Carrie on on Twitter @globetrotteri or on Instagram at https://www.instagram.com/carriekellenberger/.

11 thoughts on “Visiting Sun Moon Lake in Taiwan

    range

    (February 26, 2007 - 5:48 pm)

    Looks incredible, can’t wait to see that myself!

    Blue Athena

    (February 26, 2007 - 11:25 pm)

    Fascinating to see Sun Moon Lake pictures again. Great shots. I was there in 1989 when my Beijing plans were turned upside down during the Tienanmen incident. It was definitely a highlight of my time in Taiwan.

    I remember stairs all over Taiwan with that netting. I wondered if it was a law or followed on some liability case? It seemed a strange precaution to take in a place where fire exists and stair cases were regularly locked, but I guess each country has it’s own particular worries for safety.

    globetrotteri

    (February 26, 2007 - 11:45 pm)

    BA,
    Thanks for your kind comments. Wow, Tiananmen in 1989. I can’t even begin to imagine what that was like!

    I admit, I wondered the same thing myself when I saw this netting. Seems a little strange, especially when I saw the same netting in The Grand Formosa in Toroko Gorge for three flights of stairs. Better safe than sorry I guess.

    Jennifer

    (February 27, 2007 - 3:34 pm)

    Thanks for the comment … you’ve got some nice shots as well. I haven’t been to Sun Moon Lake as of yet … it’s on my list of things to do this summer … looks amazing. I will keep tabs of your site also … see what exciting places you get into!

    Take care … jennifer

    Taiwan Travel Photo Journal - The Jewel of Taiwan’s National Park System: Taroko Gorge ???: Tàil?gé « My Several Worlds

    (March 14, 2007 - 12:01 am)

    […] Part 3 :  Sun Moon Lake […]

    Speedlinking : Taroko Gorge Photography Links and Useful Information « My Several Worlds

    (March 27, 2007 - 12:01 am)

    […] Part 3 :  Sun Moon Lake […]

    CreditSage

    (July 17, 2007 - 4:16 pm)

    breathtaking pictures! And the text was of a good deal of interest to me…

    shirleen

    (July 23, 2007 - 10:30 pm)

    how far is sun moon lake from taipei? thanx..

    Lorna

    (February 21, 2008 - 7:21 am)

    Hello!From Antler Hill, Red Deer County, Alberta Canada. Found your site through a google search of Sun Moon Lake…because my brother recently married in Taiwan. My sense of wonder at the beauty that you have captured makes me feel like going their one day. thanks for the inclusivity.
    Lorna

    Yukii

    (July 28, 2009 - 6:43 am)

    Hi,

    I am going to Taiwan in Sept. Sun Moon Lake is one of our destinations, but we do not know what we can do there – Can we go to all the places like the temples, Pagoda of Filial Virtue, the mountain lake by foot (all in 1 day)? Are they all near one another or do we need to take some form of transport to reach?

    TIA!!

      Carrie

      (July 31, 2009 - 2:40 pm)

      Hi Yukii,

      I’m sorry for my late response. Sure, you could do it in one day, but it would be a whirlwind trip. It’s possible to hike around the lake, but you can also rent bicycles to get around. I’d spread things out of two days so that you have some time to sit and enjoy these places. They’re really really beautiful and shouldn’t be rushed. Have fun!

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