Cycling at Sun Moon Lake

7 Jan 2016

 

Sun Moon Lake (日月潭) is reputed to have one of the top 10 best cycling trail in the world and cycling on this trail was one of the planned activity for our stay during this trip. Our minsu host told us the Merida shop (one of the recommended bicycle rental place) is located near the big car and bus park behind the minsu.

As we approached the carpark, we were approached by a staff from a bicycle rental shop so we stopped to check it out. The friendly lady staff quoted us 200 NT for 2 hours rental per bicycle which was what I had read and expected to be the rates. And we get to choose any bike that we fancy. The last time we cycled was a few years ago when we were at Banyan Tree Phuket where the resort provided free bicycles for us to move within its vast premises. So, we spent some time to try out a few bicycles and also to polish up our rusty skills before finalising the rental. The staff even suggested we take a doubles bike, seeing that one of us (ahem…wonder who) is not so steady but I have confidence that we can both cycle on our own. We selected a mountain bike for men and a smaller bike with a basket in front for women.

 
Selecting our bike in the shop, along with other customers as well. Business is good on a nice day like today

 

Sun Moon Lale Cycling Trail Map
Map given by the shop. Recommended cycling route is marked is light green colour. More experienced cyclists could cycle round the lake within a day but the mountain roads are narrow and curvy. Not a good idea for novices

Using a Sun Moon Lake cycling trail map, the staff briefed us on the recommended route. She told us it typically takes about 75 minutes to go to the end and back, non-stop but we figured we will take longer than that and 2 hours sounds right with stops along the way for photography.

Once the paperwork done, 400 NT paid, we set off on the trail which starts at the carpark. 50 metres along the trail, we saw the Merida bike rental shop.  So, we did not rent from Merida after all.

The trail from Shuishe Pier to the Shuishe Dam is relatively flat and easy. Some parts of the trail is on a boardwalk over the turquoise lake. All along the trail, nice views of the lake and mountains in the background can be seen. Thankfully, the weather was perfect for this activity, cloudy, cool, low humindity with some blue sky to be seen through the clouds. No sweat even with the exertion. Since this was a weekday, the trail was not congested with walkers and bikers. It was a pleasant and fast ride to the dam where we made a brief stop for photos.

Quite interesting to watch people enjoying themselves and taking selfies and group photos.

For safety reasons, there was a sign instructing bikers to dismount and walk across the dam. Some bikers just don’t understand this and put themselves and others to risks by cycling across the dam.

After the dam, the trail slopes a little and we soon came to 2 nice bridges. The white Tongxin Bridge‘s design is based on the 4-hand dipnet used by the Thao tribe for lake fishing. Similar to what I saw and photographed this morning. TongXin means “Together heart” and this bridge is a favorite location for shooting wedding photos.

 Sun Moon Lake bike trail
TongXin Bridge along the cycling trail
The 54m long and 3m wide steel curvy Yongjie Bridge.

There is a good rest area and flower garden just after the bridges.  This garden has some trees in autumn colours (but it is Winter in Taiwan!).

Nice romantic spot for couples

The XiangShan Visitor Centre(向山遊客中心) is just after this small park. The building has a nice architecture and is on higher ground, overlooking the lake. This is a nice place for a lunch break.  We started out at 10 AM and by the time we reached the XiangShan Visitor Centre, it was about noon.

XIangshan Visitor Center   Nice architecure and offers a few photo opportunities

 

Lunch time at the cafeteria - We chose to sit outdoor to enjoy the views and fresh air
Taking photo of the lake and TongXIn Bridge, next to the infinity pool at Xiangshan Visitor Center

The cafeteria is quite popular. It was relatively empty when we first arrived but soon got crowded as the lunch time approaches. Lunch was Taiwan beef noodle soup and special brew Sun Moon Lake coffee.

Taiwan Beed Noodle Soup Sun Moon Lake coffee

After lunch, our next stop was the Xiangshan Scenic Outlook. This was a detour off the main trail but it was worth the short ride to go see it.

Cantilever structure of the XIangshan Scenic Lookout Point

The lookout point is built on a steel cantilevered structure, hinged and supported by a cable. It actually moves a little with load, and makes you feel you are standing on a diving board over the lake. It offers 270 degree views of the lake, the Shuishe Dam and the Qinglong mountain with the Cien Pagoda and temples we visited yesterday.

After enjoying this engineering marvel, we backtracked to the Xiangshan Visitor Centre and continued on the trail. The trail at this stretch was more undulating and steeper. We had to get off our bikes for some steeper uphill stretches. It was actually not bad to get down to push the bikes as our butts were beginning to feel the effects of the saddle.

There were lesser bikers and walkers on this stretch of the trail. We made another stop at the Toushe Dam to enjoy the nice views and peacefulness of  the surroundings.

Resting by the trail at Toushe Dam. Shueshe Village can be seen in far distance

We soon came to the end of the recommended trail. By now, we have way overshot our 2 hour rental period but no worries…we are enjoying ourselves, so we are willing to pay more for the rental extension.

Saw some flowers that looked like Cherry or Plum Blossom on the way back. Hey, this is supposed to be seen in Spring in places like Korea and Japan. It is Winter here in Taiwan. 
The word on the road means SLOW in Chinese. It was slow going, pushing the bike up the slope

By the time we arrived back at the rental shop in Shuishe Pier, it was just after 3 PM. The nice friendly lady staff say something like “ you guys are really super riders huh..” in Chinese; half in jest and possibly half in relief to see us back safely. 3 hours late.  We returned the bikes to her, collected my deposit and part ways. She said goodbye to us and did not charge us a single cent more for the extension. So nice of her and her colleagues at the shop.

 

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A good way to relax after the cycling was to sit down in a pier-side restaurant to enjoy some desserts and hot tea…. and watch the hordes of tourists and daytrippers. Just then, the rain clouds rolled in and provided some intermittent rain. Thankfully, the rain soon stopped and we were able to spend some time browsing throught the few souvenir shops near the pier before walking back to our minsu to freshen up before dinner.

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