Sun Moon Lake - A Month in Taiwan - CycleBlaze

January 3, 2019

Sun Moon Lake

We have a fairly long ride ahead of us today, and a climb.  We’re heading for Sun Moon Lake, a famous tourist destination buried low in the central mountains but still a couple thousand feet above us.  We are down to breakfast early and roll out of the hotel before ten, just as last night’s showers come to an end.

Rachael is more than ready to leave Taichung.  Partly of course it’s because she’s antsy to be on the road again, but mostly it’s the cycling conditions.  As we slowly work our way southwest out of the city, dodging oncoming scooters and waiting for one long light after another (and cycling past what looks like the scene of another scooter accident), Rachael says it feels like the most dangerous place we have ever biked.  It doesn’t feel like that to me, and several places quickly come to mind that in my memory at least felt far worse - but it was certainly stressful enough.  Almost exactly ten miles later we finally come to the end of the suburbs, cross the broad but shallow Wu River, and suddenly find ourselves back in the country again.

Rachael REALLY doesn’t want to ride through Taichung again.
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After only ten miles, we finally cross the Wu River and leave the last of Taichung’s suburbs behind.
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For nearly the rest of the ride we are either alone in the forest, cycling through cultivated flatlands that appear to grow every crop imaginable, or are cycling on the shoulder of Route 14, the four lane highway that is the primary access to Sun Moon Lake.  I was worried about Route 14, which I’ve seen described as an unpleasant biking experience - crowded with tour buses, bad surface, uninteresting or worse.  It was just fine though, including the three tunnels we encountered on it.  There’s a good shoulder most of the way, and traffic is surprisingly light today.  I wonder if we aren’t coming at about the best possible time, immediately after the long holiday weekend.

We’re only on busy 14 for perhaps a third of the way though.  Most of the ride is spent on ultraquiet 147 and 131, both outstanding single lane roads through bamboo and banana forest.  Wonderful miles, splendid cycling.  On 147 we face a long 1300’ climb that is annoyingly parabolic - starting out at a very modest gradient but then steadily steepening as we near the crest.  From the top, we drop steeply for a few miles and then climb another 800 before arriving at our hotel a bit after 4.

The riding was great, but the weather did its part too.  For most of the day we enjoyed a mild tailwind, and the skies grew steadily brighter as the day wore on.  Overall, a great day in the saddle and much better than I had expected when we set out, even including the ride out of Taichung.  Let’s all take a look, starting with a video preview.

Elephant and lion gate
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Is it just me, or does the fat guy look just a bit sinister, beckoning us to come a bit closer?
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Jen Grumby"Come hither my little 2-wheeled friends ... It's ok ... Come a little closer!"
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2 weeks ago
This is so much more like it, after the past several days of biking in Taichung.
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Now this guy looks much more trustworthy. I’d take a piece of candy from him.
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Keeping those little egrets happy.
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The rice has grown quite a bit since we arrived here.
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Don’t you like really steep climbs with a really sharp V half way up? Rachael couldn’t make the turn without stopping, and then couldn’t start biking again because it was too steep. She had to bike downhill a bit to a flatter spot in order to start up again.
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I’m not sure why I took a picture of this house in a village we biked through. Maybe I just liked the bike.
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The channel is dry now, but it looks to me like this old mill still goes for a spin when the water is flowing. Getting to see it and share it with you was almost worth the ride up this dead end road we took to get here.
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The Wu River again, about ten miles further upstream.
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Strawberry harvest
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Feeling nostalgic for some reason, Rachael decides to reenact one of our favorite memories from France. “Scott! Help! I’m locked in the outhouse!”. Coming, dear.
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At the summit, Rachael picks up a companion.
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I don’t think I’ve properly discussed Taiwan’s dogs. Taiwan has a LOT of dogs. We’ve probably biked past a thousand of them. The ones that are chained up are often aggressive and startling, but of course harmless. Most of the others just seem bored. We haven’t had a significant dog incident on the whole tour.
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Teapot selfie
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Sun Moon Lake has a bit of a reputation.  Like Venice, people either love it or hate it.  The main complaint is that it is spoiled by tourists and overridden by tour groups.  It feels very quiet when we arrive though, and very appealing.  Its first impression is much better than I’d expected.  We probably set the stage for ourselves well by spending the last five days in a megalopolis.  Spending two nights in a small lakeside village feels heavenly.

For dinner, we eat at a small cafe across from our hotel.  It’s fine, but nothing to write home about; so I won’t.  After dinner though, we walk up a dark lane to a five star hotel up on the hill to check out its menu, which Rachael had read about in her meal research.  When we arrive I’m in a bit of an odd state.  My left leg and shoe are very wet, from stepping into a six inch reflecting pool that I misassessed and thought was just part of the walkway.  Easy to do in the dark, and mostly I was relieved to have not fallen over into it or drowned the camera.  It’s no fun walking into the elegant restaurant with my shoe audibly squishing, but in the end well worth it for the entertainment it provided Rachael.  She kept laughing about it all the way back to our hotel, saying it’s the best laugh she’s had in weeks.  

The restaurant, by the way, has an excellent menu.  It looks like a splurge but well worth it.  We made a reservation, and hopefully we can report back tomorrow with some appealing food photos to help Dottie along in her post-surgery recovery.

In Laurel Villa, another bike-friendly spot we highly recommend. This is the dining area. We put our bikes on the back deck during the day, and our hosts brought them inside for the night later.
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Sun Moon Lake at night is rather different than Taichung. Very quiet, and dark enough so you can see the stars.
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This is obviously a reflecting pool, right? Obvious from this angle anyway. From the side though, it just looks like a dark slab. Anyone might step in it, really. I’m sure it happens all the time.
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Jen GrumbyI might step in it on purpose .. just so I could exclaim loudly, "Whoopsidaisies!!"

.. because it's a fun word to say.

Glad your whoopsidaisy moment resulted in just a wet shoe and no injury .. and that it gave Rachael a good laugh!
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2 weeks ago
Rachael AndersonTo Jen GrumbyDarn, I wish Scott had said “Whoopsidaisies” bu it still was hilarious. It’s lucky he doesn’t mind being laughed at!
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2 weeks ago
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Ride stats today: 45 miles, 2,700’

Today's ride: 45 miles (72 km)
Total: 407 miles (655 km)

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Steve Miller/GrampiesI look forward to the food photos tomorrow. Thanks for thinking of me. Dodie
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2 weeks ago
Jen GrumbyGlad that you have a couple days away from the urban congestion of Taichung.
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2 weeks ago