Taiwan Part 1: Sun Moon Lake, Nantou

It's been over 3 weeks since I've been back from Taiwan and I'm still dreaming about the extraordinary mountains and hot springs. Sifting through my photos makes me sigh and want to plan another trip! Taiwan was amazing. From the friendly people to the unexpected abundance of organic food, I fell in love with it the moment I was handed delicious food on the tour bus (Way to my heart is obviously through my stomach!)

My family and I travelled with Taiwan Holidays which organised everything from airfare, accommodation, insurance, admission fees etc on their "escorted tours" for a fairly good price. They have both Chinese and English speaking tour guides who were both lovely on our tours.

Our first day was probably the most tiring day because we arrived in Taiwan around 5-6am in the morning and our tour started immediately. I was exhausted since I didn't get any shut-eye on the plane but determined to make the most of the day.   

Our first meal was soy milk and a fan tuan (literal translation: rice ball) to have on the bus. As our schedule was quite packed, our tour guide arranged for a local shop to make warm fresh organic soy milk. This stuff tasted nothing like what we get from the supermarket and taste requires getting used to! It was made with organic soy beans and no added sugar, no preservatives. Nothing but soy beans and water.

This is a fan tuan after I've taken a big bite out of it. It's packed full of you tiao (Chinese doughnut), pork floss, picked vegetables and egg wrapped in rice. A little bit like a sushi. It's a popular breakfast or snack food in Taiwan and parts of China and is really a flavour and texture explosion in your mouth! The crunchy you tiao, fluffy pork floss and another type of crunch from the pickled vegetables paired lovely with the soft warm rice.

Our first stop was Sun Moon Lake (日月潭) in Yuchi, Nantou (Central Taiwan). This is the largest body of water in Taiwan and was so named because the east side is shaped like the sun and the west side shaped like the moon (though I could not see this...)  

Doesn't it just look breathtaking? The water was very very blue and sparkled under the sunlight. The mountains all around was a sight you can not see in Australia!

We walked around the lake for a little while then checked out some of the shops nearby. I don't know if it's just tourist areas but everywhere we went that had food, we could try before we buy! Our whole tour group pounced on a little fruit store selling the freshest looking fruit!

We bought some pink guava, star fruit and persimmons for a morning tea snack under the Taiwan sun. Taiwan fruit is amazing. Truly amazing. 

Look at how many varieties of banana there were!

 Our next stop was Wen Wu Temple (文武廟) which was also right by the lake. One distinguishing feature of almost all temples is how many steps they have! This is just the first set of steps! I think I got to the second set of steps and then collapsed onto some big marble chairs and waiting until everyone had regrouped.

If you have never visited a Chinese temple you really should, regardless of your religious beliefs. The architecture is amazing. Everything is hand carved and hand painted. The marble carvings tell stories and are so intricate you're left scratching your head as to how it is possible. It is definitely a feast for your eyes! This blogger has some more close up pictures. 

After the exhausting walks around the temple our tour guide got us each a Tea egg. This is such a popular snack in China as well as Taiwan that it's even sold in 7Eleven! It's made by cooking an egg in tea and various spices then cracking the shell (without peeling) and returning it to the water to seep in the flavour of the tea and spices. It may smell medicinal but it's amazing, trust me.   

It seems like we've been eating non stop but we were off to lunch next!

As we had such a big group in our tour a lot of the dining places were larger restaurants or hotel dining rooms. Our lunch that day was in the Einhan Resort dining room which had this amazing view of Sun Moon Lake. 

 Everyone was quite hungry, after not sitting down for a proper meal all day. I had a hard time trying to take photos as all the food was to be shared and I was a little embarrassed to stop people from eating so I could take a good photo! This is a local fresh fish and it was delicious!

Taiwanese food has a huge focus on fresh seafood caught in local areas by local fisherman and it definitely shows in the flavour of the food! 

After stuffing our tummies, we drove to another part of Sun Moon lake so that we could take the cable car to Formosa Aboriginal Culture Village.

The culture village is an amusement park combining both aboriginal culture in one area and an amusement park full of ride in another.

Our tour guide said the whole place was slowly built by one guy passionate about keeping the Aboriginal culture in Taiwan alive. He slowly bought pieces of land and employed mostly aboriginal people to run the place.

Look at the cable cars running from Sun Moon Lake to the village!

The view was breathtaking but I'm scared of heights.... I may have spent a lot of the (very long) ride screaming in fear but I'll save you guys the pictures of that.....  

My parents went to visit the culture village and spent time watching traditional song and dance and learning about the history while my siblings and I ran off to the rides so there isn't many pictures.

By night time I was extremely exhausted. I'd slept less than 2hours in 2 days and was ready to collapse! Dinner was first and I didn't even manage to notice the restaurant name!

More fish!

Dinner was a lovely selection of dishes but the highlight had to be this vegetable hot pot. I don't know how but Taiwan vegetables taste sweeter!

Since dinner refueled me, I managed to convince my mum to wander the streets with me after checking into the hotel. Sadly we took a wrong turn and didn't find the food section of the street markets and ended up clothes shopping instead.

It was an amazing first day introduction to Taiwan's beauty. 


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