Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Cycling Taiwan 2017 Day 6: Cycling In Sun Moon Lake

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Cycling Taiwan 2017 Day 6: Cycling Sun Moon Lake
Taiwan Day 6: Thursday, 19th October - Cycling Sun Moon Lake
This is part of cycling tour around Taiwan, this is a loop around Sun Moon Lake (日月潭):
Shuishe Pier (水社碼頭)>Wenwu Temple (文武廟)>Chun-hua Restaurant (尚好小吃部)>Xuanzang Temple (玄奘寺)>Yuchi Township (魚池鄉>Crescent Bay Monument (南投)>Scenic Observation Deck Scenic (向山懸臂式觀景台)>Shuishe Dam (水社壩)>Shuishe Pier.
Cycling Distance - 31.94 km.     Level: Medium (except for one hard hilly stretch that veered away from the lake at Yuchi Township (魚池鄉)).
Cycling Time : 11:00am to 5:30pm.
Time Taken :  6hrs 30mins. (inclusive of stops to visit temples, at scenic areas, lunch, and many, many photo opps).

This is page 5 of a 19-page blog, Click Here To Go To Title Page.
Go to D5 Taichung        |        Go to Other Days  |  Go to D7 Aborigines Village >

Route Recommendations :
1. Traffic Directions!
     The Taiwan (台湾) is left-hand drive, so cycle on the right. Same thing applies when crossing the road, take note of the direction in which traffic is approaching from!

2. Route & Traffic Conditions  
     The route is fairly flat except for a couple short steep stretches near the temples and a hilly stretch that veered away from the lake at Yuchi Township. There are many bends after Xuanzang Temple and a few are sharp hair-pin turns, so do cycle with care as the road slopes down steeply too.The cycling path and roads around the Sun Moon Lake is quite shady. Click here to download a PDF guide on Cycling Around Taiwan.

3. Weather
    The weather at Sun Moon Lake was partly cloudy and temperatures averaged at 27°C during the day and 23°C at night. Wind speed was moderate, averaging at 16kph with gusts up to 25kph.
    It is always prudent to check the weather for the next day so as to know what to expect and be prepared for it. Useful weather forecast sites for the Taiwan are the Taiwan Central Weather Bureau and AccuWeather. For more detailed weather, including cloud cover and wind speed, use Weatherspark and Ventusky.

4. Places of Interest
- scenic Sun Moon Lake (日月潭) lake-side cycling paths.
Yuetan Bike Path (南投 月牙灣), start point at GPS: 23.8340, 120.9123.
Wenwu Temple (文武廟) (GPS: 23.86996, 120.92755).
Wenwu Steps of The Year (GPS:23.86949, 120.92699 ).
Songbailun Natural Park (GPS: 23.86996, 120.92755).
Xuanzang Temple (玄奘寺) (GPS: 23.84765, 120.91678).
- Crescent Bay Monument (南投(GPS: 23.84451, 120.90209).
Scenic Observation Deck Scenic (向山懸臂式觀景台) (GPS: 23.85493, 120.90548).
Tongxin Cycling Bridge (同心桥) (GPS: 23.85364, 120.90191).
Yongjie Cycling Bridge (GPS: 23.85466, 120.90207).
- Shuishe Dam (水社壩) (GPS: 23.86226, 120.90178).

5. Food
- Breakfast: minced-pork rice set at 阿文小麵店 food shop (GPS: 24.13999, 120.68543) in Taichung.
- Lunch: Chinese dishes with white rice at Chun-hua Restaurant (尚好小吃部) (GPS: ) in Yuchi Township.
- Dinner: Chinese dishes with white rice at restaurant next to hotel.

6. Accommodations
Tan Hui Modern Hotel (GPS: ) at 3,000NTD for 6 pax room per night for two nights.
Address: 112, Mingsheng Street, Yuchi Township, Nantou County, Taiwan 555. 
Tel: +8864-9285-55560.

6. Bringing Bikes Onto Buses
    We found that our folded bikes could be brought onto the intercity buses, but should be bagged and put into the passenger hold. We did not take local buses as we were uncertain whether bagged bikes were allowed on board. Click here to see a forum discussion on bringing bikes onto buses.
    We took the Nantau Shuttle Bus from Taichung (臺中) to Sun Moon Lake.
    Tickets can be bought at their Gancheng Station ticketing office (GPS: 24.14195, 120.6856) which is a shop lot located at 35-8, Sec. 1, Shuangshi Road, Taichung City.
    The fare is 190NTD per pax and there is not extra charges for bagged bicycles. Boarding was at the road in front of the Gancheng Station.

8. Communicating with Each Other
   When travelling in a group it's important to be able to communicate with each other, especially if one got lost from the rest.
    At Taipei Taoyuan Airport Terminal One, just after exiting the into the arrival hall, there are several booths on the left selling pre-paid phone SIM cards. We got pre-paid 4G prepaid SIM cards from Chung Hwa as they had good coverage even in remote areas. These cost NTD1,000 for a 30-day plan that includes unlimited data and NTD$430 credit for texts or calls. These can also be booked on line.
    Those without sim card could try using free Wifi that are sometimes available at the airport, some bigger train stations or hotels; do note that these free wifi may not be stable and registration could be required.

9. Communicating with Locals
    Most Taiwanese (台湾人) speaks Mandarin (官话) and Hokkien (福建話), and very few speak English. So it would be good to have a person in the team who can converse in Mandarin or Hokkien.
    When communicating with locals is a problem, this could be partly overcome by using translation apps like Google Translate. Do install this app into your phone and before you leave on your tour do some basic translation as it will be saved onto a list of recent translations.
    Look out for the tourist information booths at airports, railway stations or bus stations, the guides manning the booths speak good English and do give good tips on where to visit, directions, train and bus schedules.

10. Service Your Bicycles & Carry Tools and Spares
    Before leaving on your tour, it will be good to service your bike and bring along some spares like tubes, puncture patches, brake pads and the relevant tools.
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PRELUDE

The day before we had had a good cycling tour of Taichung (臺中), visiting a colorful rainbow village, a heritage mansion and garden, and more. So far cycling in Taiwan has been a pleasure and today will mark a milestone in our tour - we will be visiting one of the country's favorite destination, the Sun Moon Lake. The lake is known to be scenic and there is a 29km. bike-way that circles the lake, a route with lovely lake and mountain scenery. This has prompted CNNGo to list it among one of the top ten world's most beautiful bike-way. So one can understand our excitement.

7:30am - We are at Nantou's Gamcheng Station in Taichung (臺中) this is the first point on their shuttle bus route to Sun Moon Lake (click here for the bus schedule and route). It is not a proper bus station per se, their ticketing office is located in one of the shop-houses facing Shuangshi Road, and their buses are parked just at the road side. So don't be looking for a large, proper station (click here for a street view of the ticketing office). Anyway we are starting from this station so that we will have more time to load our bagged bikes, or so we thought.
Having got our tickets for the 8:20am bus, we rode a short distance over to the 阿文小麵店 food shop for a nice minced-pork rice breakfast. This came with a side dish of tofu which we found to be very good.


The meal was so thoroughly enjoyable that we got back to the bus station just five minutes prior to the bus departure! Hurriedly we bagged and loaded our bikes under the watchful eye on an impatient driver. We did it in less than five minutes, a record time for us!


THE RIDE


Cycling route: Shuishe Pier (水社碼頭)>Wenwu Temple (文武廟)>Chun-hua Restaurant (尚好小吃部)>Xuanzang Temple (玄奘寺)>Yuchi Township (魚池鄉>Crescent Bay Monuement (南投)>Scenic Observation Deck Scenic (向山懸臂式觀景台)>Shuishe Dam (水社壩)>Shuishe Pier.
The route goes around Sun Moon Lake with a section veering inwards at Yuchi Township, it is mostly a shady route that passes through a couple of temples and several scenic viewpoints. Sections of it are on lake-side bike paths while those near the temples and those away from the lake are quite steep with sharp bends including hair-pin turns.
(Note: zoom out to view location of the Nantou's Gamcheng Station and our breakfast place, the 阿文小麵店 shop, both in Taichung (臺中).

11:00am - The bus journery from Taichung took two hours and after checking in to our hotel, we were eager to go stretch our itchy cycling legs. But where do we start riding from? We could not find a ramp down to the lake side and so just carried down our bikes down some steps located next to the Harbor Resort Hotel on the opposite side of the road.

The bike-way is indeed a pleasure to ride on, the starting stretch was a shared tar-paved path and soon we rode by Zhaowu Pier. Hey! What's Robert doing there, stopping at that viewpoint?

This was what he saw. The torquise blue lake with misty hills in the back-ground and bright green floating hedges nearby.

After a short while we found the cycle path to be closed for maintenance and had to head out to the roads. Our next destination was the Wen Wu Temple, there was some climbing of steep slopes as the temple is situated on a hillock.
This temple is more than a century old and initially consisted of two temples located much lower down, nearer the lake's shore. In 1919, a dam was constructed to generate hydroelectric power, causing the lake's water level to rise. The two temples were subsequently torn down and consolidated at the temple's present location in 1938. Wen Wu Temple was rebuilt again in 1969, increasing its size and constructing it in the Chinese palace style.

I like this red lion, it's one of two large statues that fiercely guard the temple from any spiritual intruders. Click here for a street view of the temple showing both lions.

The temple's main pavilion is located high up, to reach it we climbed two sets of steps passing by two large temple compounds. From here there is a good panoramic view of the lake.

At the roadside opposite the temple's entrance arch, steep steps lead down to the lakeside. Previously there was no round the lake road and visitors had to come by boat to a pier located at the bottom of these stairs and climb up. This stairway is called the Steps of The Year as there are 366 steps signifying days of the leap year, each step is carved with the name of a historical personage. The steps also incorporate the 24 periods of the Chinese Year.
Visitors can hang prayer bells onto the two sides of the stairs, just ask a temple official how to do this.

We glided downhill reaching the Songbailun Natural Park. Why not take a short detour into the park? There are concrete slabs to cycle part way, after which are gravel paths. It's a very green shaded park, a nice cooling place to enjoy. We just cycled down partway and did not reach the bottom where there is a lookout point.

It's back onto cycling pathways again, climbing up slightly. My bike Goofy, also like the scenic lake views very much.

Good pathways to cycle on, and shady too.

Back on the road, we went cruising down a slope, other cyclists were having a tough time climbing that slope. And we waved at them "Stay cool!. The climb will end soon." They shouted back, "Thanks. There were more climbs were we came from!" Oh..... Oh...

Suddenly overhead we saw a gondola zooming pass. This cable car of the Sun Moon Lake Ropeway (日月潭纜車) which leads to the Formosan Aboriginal Culture Village which we will be visiting the next day.

The cable car ride goes upwards and affords an even better view of the lake.

1:00pm - Stomachs are growling, and a good place to have lunch at Sun Moon Lake is at Chun-hua Restaurant (尚好小吃部) located about halfway round the lake. The food here is quite good and they have some local delicacies like these deep-fried shrimps; delicious broiled chicken shiningly glazed with oil and good steamed fishes too.

Ahead the route was shady as we did a short climb to head for our next destination ...

..... the Xuanzang Temple (玄奘寺). This is another large temple sited on a hillock too. A large mural sitting at the foot of the temple entrance dwarfs my friends.

The temple is dedicated to Xuanzang a monk who devoted his whole life to promoting Buddhist teachings. He is the renown monk and his journey is documented in the tale of The Journey to the West, an arduous trek to bring back the original sacred Buddhist texts and translate them. He spent twenty years to complete this journey and his contributions to the Buddhist community were innumerable. The carved mural on the outer wall an depicts the journey. His seventeen-year overland journey to India (including Nalanda), is recorded in detail in the classic Chinese text Great Tang Records on the Western Regions. This records provided the inspiration for the novel Journey to the West written by Wu Cheng'en during the Ming dynasty, around nine centuries after Xuanzang's death.


The route after this was still on public roads and goes steeply down hill with many bends, a couple of these are very sharp hairpin turns, so do cycle with care.

Somewhere at the bottom of the slope are colorful sculptures of Arapaima fishes. These fishes are indigenous to South America, out of that continent most are bred as pets although they are ferocious carnivores.

Somewhere near a tunnel we missed a the right turn off that led to the Yuetan Bike Path (南投 月牙灣). A left turn took us inland away from the lake and through the outskirts of Yuchi Township. The place is lightly populated and a major industry here is the planting of Areca Palms (Pinang) and the Betel Leaf Vines (Piper betle). The nut and leaves are consumed together with slaked lime paste, an addictive and euphoria-inducing formulation called Paan. which is consumed by some locals. Paan is also commonly consumed in some South Asian and South-east Asian countries.

The inland route led us uphill where there was a scenic view of the areca plantations below.

The road kept on getting steeper and steeper. After a sharp bend near the Nantou County Police Bureau it became too steep to cycle, so it's pushing time then.

We pushed and we pushed and we pushed... is there no end to this pushing. Finally a "light at the end of the tunnel" in the form of a yellow crescent moon sculpture with a huge bicycle within. This bright, conspicuous monument is called the (南投 月牙灣), a signboard indicated that it leads to the Yuetan Bike Path (南投 月牙灣). On hindsight, this inland route forms part of the Sun Moon Lake Bike-way, the areca plantations are at a section called the Toushe  Bikeway.

The route takes a right here and led to a tunnel. But do beware it's a narrow tunnel which is often used by tour buses coming up from the lake; as we were about to enter, buses started roaring through, we counted about a dozen zooming by. The buses takes up almost the whole width of the tunnel, so being prudent we let them pass through first.

Furthermore, the tunnel is not lit up. Taking a peep inside to ensure there was no more oncoming buses, we hopped onto our bikes, and with our headlights switched on, quickly rode through the tunnel. Quite an adrenaline pumping experience, not from the cycling but from the fear of oncoming buses.

Happy at the viewing deck; no bikes allowed here and there is a weight limitation of thirty persons.
All is well as we rode down slope and reconnected back to the Yuetan Bike Path (南投 月牙灣) that led us to the Sun Moon Lake Visitors Centre further down. From this center, we cycled on a narrow pathway that led to an elevated platform that overhangs the lake. This is the Sun Moon Lake Scenic View Deck (向山懸臂式觀景台) which has one of the best view of the lake.

And here's a panoramic photo, may not be the best as it was taken with my phone.

Back on the bikeway, a couple of interesting cycling/pedestrian bridges. The first is the Tongxin Cycling Bridge; it's an arch cable suspension bridge.

The next is the Yongjie Cycling Bridge; a beautifully curved bridge with geometrical ribs supporting it from below.

Our final stretch was on a board walk across the Shuishe Dam (水社壩). For safety reasons, there are signboards here stating that cycling is not allowed on this boardwalk; but many seems oblivious to the fact.

The Sun Moon Lake Bike-way is indeed a beautiful place to cycle on - nice, shady with beautiful scenic views and also some challenging slopes.
We ended our ride celebrating with a small dinner and good Taiwan Beer.

干杯!
(That's "Gānbēi!", cheers in Mandarin)

(For more photos of the Day 6, Click Here)
This is page 5 of a 19-page blog, Click Here To Go To Title Page.
Go to D5 Taichung        |        Go to Other Days  |  Go to D7 Aborigines Village >

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