Sun Moon Lake, Taiwan

Taiwan has been promoting their tourism industry, portraying itself as a shoppers’ paradise and a haven for nature lovers. For food lovers, Taiwan also has a wide variety of delicacies to challenge your taste buds. For most Singaporeans, Taiwan is even closer to our hearts given its cultural similarities and there is no language barrier. However, as a cycling destination, Taiwan has constantly been undermined by local riders as compared to other places like Australia, New Zealand, Europe or even the States. Blame it on the lack of publicity, but the fact is, Taiwan has plenty to offer for all cyclists. It has miles of undulating mountain ranges and endless coastal roads with breath taking sights. Add that to its geographical proximity to Singapore, it is really a premier cycling destination worth visiting.

Sun Moon Lake

I was lucky enough to visit Taiwan on a trip hosted by TAITRA (Taiwan) recently and have the opportunity to ride in one of the most beautiful places in Taiwan, the Sun Moon Lake. Sun Moon Lake is a scenic reserve located in the center part of Taiwan, west of the mountain ranges. It consists of a single water body separated by the Lalu Island in the middle. On one side, the diamond shaped portion is known as the Sun Lake while the crescent shaped portion is called the Moon Lake. I lap round the lake is about 35km and has decent escalation to challenge your lungs. More importantly, it is the cool morning breeze and breathtaking scenery that make the ride a truly memorable one. While I did not get the chance to venture to the trails during this trip, I gathered from our ride leaders that there are various trails in the surrounding mountains, within a short drive.

The Experience

When planning for a ride at Sun Moon Lake, you do not have to bring your bike along. There is a Giant Concept store at the town and you can rent the complete range of Giant bikes. When I say complete range, I really mean it. They have from simple commuters to electric bikes to top end Advance SL road and mountain bikes. This is great if you are not planning for a complete cycling trip, but would just like to ride for a day or two during your stay there.

Since there is only one road that surrounds the lake, you can start your ride right in front of your hotel and go clockwise around the lake. If you start from the town, the ride will start with about 6km of undulating terrain with tight turns along the way until you hit the cable car station. The elevation is kept within 50m or so, but the rolling terrain can still be a challenge if you are going fast. The path smooth out for a kilometer or so before meeting another long climb that stretches about 3km. After this climb, you will be at the highest point of this ride, enjoy the view.
After all the hard work, you will be rewarded with nice rolling down slopes with hair pin turns. During the descent you will pass by villages with incredible views. Follow the road until you hit the t-junction. Turn right at the junction and follow the road all the way up. This will last and the toughest climb throughout the route. After conquering this last up slope, road will next descent will bring you down to “lake level”, with the lake right beside the road. If you have time to spare, this would be a great place to take a break and enjoy the view. After all the start point is just another 5 minutes right away.

Things to take note

With the challenging terrain, it is tempting to go fast, diving into corners and enjoying the thrills. One word of caution though. The road condition is not ideal in some places and the road is littered with loose stones and sand, so please keep a lookout for those especially when going into corners. In addition, the road is nothing more than a narrow path with a single lane in each direction, at most parts. Lots of tour buses ply on the same route, so the best time to ride will be early in the morning. After 10am, many tour buses will start arriving in the area and it is not advisable to ride after that.

Other then the main road, there are also various cycling paths for the more adventurous looking to explore the area. The best bike for exploring these paths will be on a mountain bike, for obvious reasons.

Irrespective of the type of riding you like to do, there is definitely something for you in Sun Moon Lake or the areas surrounding the place. After the refreshing ride, there is nothing better than to take a Hot Spring bath facing the beautiful lake, and enjoying a sumptuous meal after that. That is what I call living!