I’m not kidding anyone. This blog post is about Sun Moon Lake – only, through the eyes of someone who never saw its appeal until recently.
Usually when I hear of someone basing their travel plans around Sun Moon Lake, I would try my best to not scrunch up my nose and judge. It’s been done to death. Why put up with the crowds, and the horrible long-weekend traffic that can transform a one and a half hour stretch of highway into three, when there’s so much quiet beauty Taiwan has elsewhere?
My relationship with the Lake extended to a few road trips where visiting friends and family have asked me to make the pilgrimage with them, only to quickly be disenchanted, because of everything else that taints its charm.
It’s not as good as I thought it would be – is the usual reaction.
And I used to agree. But my last road trip around Taiwan, led me to its banks almost by accident, and it was then I realised that Sun Moon Lake has not been completely jarred by tourism. There are still pockets of that serenity and beauty which prospective visitors get drawn to when they first lay eyes on it in glossy photos for tourism promos. I needed the right timing and type of accommodation to get me to be a believer again.
Out on a Limb
It wasn’t my intention to camp right at Sun Moon Lake’s waterfront. I was on my way to another campsite but a tree blocked the only path. And, after what felt like hours of trying to move the tree out of the way only to resort to reversing the car back down the mountain road (in the middle of the night… with no lights…except the green eyes of an unknown beast in the bushes), I had little patience to drive around and find another site. So, as I wanted a good view, I went straight to the source, and set up camp at a grassy patch of land head on to the lake.
Go Jump in a Lake
There’s no sign to say you can’t camp there, but as the grumpy security officer who affronted my partner and I in the morning spat, if the sign doesn’t explicitly say not to kill people, would you go around murdering?
Though I didn’t appreciate the dramatic onslaught, and subsequent filming of us breaking camp, the man has a point. Whoever maintains that grassy piece of paradise did not predict having some foreigners set up base right by the lake’s waterfront. And no one wants holes in their nice patch of lawn. Perhaps I was naive to take a sign that has every possible activity in or around the lake prohibited except to camp as literal gospel, but I maintain that the decision to do so was warranted.
In hindsight, it is not an ideal place to camp. The area borders with a road, and the grass slopes towards the water, so sleeping overnight meant waking up to some major blood-pooling. Add to that, being accosted by security in dire need of morning coffee, and what could possibly be, a video of us floating around the interweb…
But! I’m not sorry for choosing to stay there.
The Early Bird Gets the Worm
We managed a whole night by the lake with no interruptions; woke up to panoramic views of a rising sun and morning mist over the water at our feet. We watched birds swoop for food; heard whispers of nature in the trees; and felt the stillness of dawn.
Basically, a cinematic experience of Taiwan’s most famous body of water, in all its serene glory.
Photos 2,3,5 credit of fellow camper Guang-Hui Chuan