When we decided to visit Taipei again, my girlfriends and I made up our mind to do something different on this trip. We have been picking up leisure cycling again and all of us agreed that adding a day of biking in Taiwan will allow us to inject a little adventure and excitement into our holiday.
Taiwan is probably one of the first few countries in Asia that adopt cycling as a lifestyle sports. It has a good cycling culture and it is amazing how the Taiwanese embrace this wholeheartedly. Riding a bicycle at 20km/hour also allows you to immerse yourself in the natural beauty of Taiwan and enjoy both the sights and smell.
Eventually, we settled for a round-the-lake biking around Sun Moon Lake in Taichung. It can be done in a day and usually it can be covered between 3 to 7 hours depending on how fast you go and how many breaks you want to take. We have also been assured the route will be easy and achievable for leisure riders like us. And so we excitedly prepared for the vacation with some pre-trip shopping – as usual. We believe it is important to look good for pictures even when we are getting active outdoors. Don’t you think so?
Sun Moon Lake（日月潭） is the largest lake in Taiwan and has been ranked as one of the top 10 most beautiful biking routes in the world. Although it is approximately 33 km around the lake, the bike ride is considered challenging because it covers long stretches of up slopes and down slopes in a few intersections. To add on to the challenge, we only found out about the challenging roads when we started the journey! Our biking host positively reaffirmed the route is do-able for leisure cyclists like us. Anyway since we were already there, we gamely took on the challenge and told ourselves it is important to enjoy the journey and not let it be overcome by worry. Boy oh boy, this has got to be one of the most enjoyable decision we have ever made.
It did took us a while to get use to the biking journey mainly because we have to cycle on the right side of the road (Singapore’s drive & ride on the left side of the road). We also had to get familiar with the bicycle and constantly coax ourselves to love the uphill slopes. After about 8 km into the ring route and having gained momentum, we enjoyed the rest of the fun and rewarding ride.
The first vantage point of Sun Moon Lake is from Wenwu Temple (文武庙). We were blessed with good weather that day even though a typhoon just swept passed Taiwan a week ago.
Then we continued on and gotten incredibly fast – much to the amazement of our Biking Host, when we were told the next stop will be our lunch stop in Ita Thao Village. This area around the lake is also the home to the Ita Thao tribe of aboriginals (伊逹邵). During cycling, bikers are encouraged to eat light and in small portions. This is to avoid stomach upset as you ride. And drink more plain water throughout ride.
One of the must-eat food that you can find in the village is the red tea jelly desserts. Ita Thao Village has one of the best red tea plantations in Taiwan.
By now, we have gotten accustomed to the riding journey and we made 1 final stop at Xuanzang Temple (玄奘寺) before the toughest stretch of the entire route. The remains of monk Xuanzang is housed in the temple for worshipping. If you are familiar with Journey to the West story (西游记), you will know who this eminent Tang dynasty monk is.
This is also the last vantage point where you can have a bird's eye view of Sun Moon Lake.
As you approached the undulating road, you have to concentrate on climbing the slope and it is always pleasant to receive a boost of encouragement from motorists. Drivers will wind down their window and shout Jia You (加油) as they drove pass us.
And finally, we made a celebratory F & B stop in Xiangshan Visitor Centre to enjoy a cold glass of ice coffee.
The last stretch of the ride was through the inner roads near to the edge of the lake and off limits to cars. Hence we became more relaxed and made even more stops to take pictures. We also saw more cyclists and tourists walking around here, so instead of keeping a look out for vehicles, we have to watch out for other cyclists and people.
The trip will not be made possible without our Biking Host and Support Master who keeps a lookout for us during the ride as well as helping to take our photographs and video along the way (hence the make up). The presence of the support vehicle also means help is always around whenever needed and cyclists can jump onboard if the journey is taking a toll on them.
We covered the entire ring road in 5 hours. Not too bad a feat even though it is our first time attempting a rolling road in such great distance. It is definitely not as easy as it sounds but we will do it again to challenge ourselves further. I am sure it will be a case of the more the merrier when we have a larger group.
Care to join us the next time ?