Saturday, January 28, 2012

Evening and Morning at Sun Moon Lake

We arrived at our first night's tour hotel, Fleur de Chine, in the late afternoon. It was one of the most amazing hotels I have ever stayed at. Each room has a private scenic veranda and a natural hot spring bathtub.
The fountain in the hotel's driveway changes colors at night.

Our room.

The view from our balcony.
Sun Moon Lake below and another hotel in the distance.

After exploring our room, it was just in time to watch the sunset at the hotel's many lookouts.

A stationary binocular is available for guests at the lookout.

The next day, we got up at the crack of dawn to explore the trail just below the hotel that takes walkers around the lake. The flat trail of wooden planks made for an easy hike.

Just watch out for the dangerous looking spiders such as this one lurking in the trees.

There were some boats by the lake's edge and they look either abandoned or used for hauling.

After walking a mile or so, the trail leads to the water-level of the lake where you can actually touch the water. In the foreground, those appear to be little islands with trees jutting out in the middle of the lake.
In the distance, you can make out the silhouette of Cih-en Pagoda on the top-right of the first mountain range. Can you see it?

- Karen

Friday, January 27, 2012

Wen Wu Temple & Peacock Garden

One of the last two stops on the tour before heading to our hotel was Wen Wu Temple.
This is one of two lions standing guard over the temple and it was the first thing I noticed upon entering.

This is the entrance gate I passed through upon entering into the temple. You can see Sun Moon Lake in the background.

Incense is burnt in a huge urn inside the temple.

The 3-D relief artwork inside the temple is exquisite.

At the top of the temple, you have a great view of Sun Moon Lake during sunset.

A few miles away from the temple is the entrance to Peacock Garden where peacocks and other birds are reared.

Even the gate to the peacocks' habitat is created in the form of a peacock.

Have you seen so many peacocks?
There were even a few albino peacocks in the distance which I have never seen before.

Other than peacocks, the Formosan Blue Magpie, Taiwan's national bird, also lives at the garden.
It is part of the crow family and can only be found in the Taiwan area.

Next door to the magpie was the Golden Pheasant usually found in the mountainous regions of Western China. This is a male golden pheasant with its bright plumage to attract the female.

This is a golden pheasant as well, but I wonder if it is female because of its plainer colors.

- Karen

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Wordless Wednesday - All Aboard

To participate or visit other Wordless Wednesday posts, click here.

- Karen

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Cih-en Pagoda

Not far from Ita Thao, on the other side of Sun Moon Lake, is the Cih-en Pagoda. You can see it in the distance right before the hike up to its location. President Chiang Kai-Shek built it in 1971 in memory of his mother.

Even the lamp posts in the area have the sun and moon symbols.

From the bottom, it is approximately a 700 meters (1/2 mile) walk to the pagoda on the Cih-en Pagoda Trail.
It is a fairly easy hike on a paved road with greenery all around.

Depending on your pace, within 20 minutes, you will reach the 9-story pagoda plus 3 stories at the base.

There are no elevators, so you will have to take the staircase up 12-stories. Close to the top is a net in case of falls.

Also at the top is a bell visitors can ring for good fortunate. During our visit, a number of people struck the bell too hard and it became quite annoying.
Remember to strike it gently to save the eardrums of those visitors still inside the pagoda!

A view from the top to the base of the pagoda.

A view of Sun Moon Lake from the top of the pagoda's lookout.

- Karen

Friday, January 20, 2012

Ita Thao by Sun Moon Lake

After spending 2 full days in Taipei, our real tour of the country began.
We booked a "5-Day/4-night Around Taiwan Island Tour" through Edison Travel a few weeks before we left home.

Our 5 day covered approximately 1350 km (838 miles) as drawn on this map of the island by our tour guide.
The small circles drawn were our sightseeing and overnight stops.

Our first major destination was Ita Thao Village by the scenic Sun Moon Lake. The area was severely damaged during a 1999 earthquake, but has been restored to attract tourists and maintain the Thao tribe's livelihood and culture. The Thao people are one of the many aboriginal tribes in Taiwan.

This is the village's main commercial thoroughfare and most visited by tourists.
As narrow and crowded as the street is, cars still drive by every so often so one has to be watchful.

Another view of the main thoroughfare from a different angle.
The building on the left is a hotel/restaurant with big windows for a beautiful view of the lake.

Right outside of the hotel/restaurant is the pier that leads to Sun Moon Lake.
Why Sun Moon Lake? The east side of the lake resembles a sun while the west side resembles a moon, but in my opinion, I think you have to use your imagination to really see it.

At the end of the pier is this pavilion with the Sun Moon Lake name on the center post. Lots of tourists like to take their photos here with the lake in the background.

Opened in 2009, this ropeway consisting of 86 cars taking tourists up the mountain for a panoramic view of Sun Moon Lake and to the Formosan Aboriginal Culture Village at the other end. The cultural park features amusement rides, museums, and dance shows of various aboriginal tribes to serve both as entertainment and educational.

Various food booths on the main thoroughfare.

This vendor was very popular and always drew a crowd when I was there.
I believe she is mixing all the vegetarian ingredients that will be wrapped in dough and then deep fried.

I did try food from this vendor. The steamed white buns with spicy vegetables centered in the middle were delicious for this hungry tourist.

A mural depicts the Thao people at the entrance to the main street. As you can see, the lake and the owl are important to them.
Why an owl? Here is the story I found on a tourist information page... "According to Thao's legend, the owl is the incarnation of a Thao's girl, who was pregnant without being married. All Thao people, including her parents, could not forgive her. In a stormy night, she escaped into the mountain. After several days, a Thao's hunter found her dead body under a tree and an owl staying on the top of the tree. They believed the owl was her incarnation. Afterwards, an owl would fly over the house where a pregnant woman is living. The owl seems to tell Thao people that they have to take good care of the pregnant women.

I did not know this until I returned home to do some research of this store. Lin Yi-bei has a degree in interior design and worked in a design firm in Taipei. After getting tired of the fast-paced city, she wanted to slow down. One day she drove by Sun Moon Lake and saw a Formosan mountain scops owl and it was love. Gave up her job, studied about owls, opened this store and the rest is history.
You can read more about Lin Yi-bel here.

There's even an owl cafe, but it wasn't open when I was there.

- Karen

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Wordless Wednesday - Monarch Butterflies

Visit other Wordless Wednesday participants here.

- Karen

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Taipei City Tour - Part 2

Our tour guide took us to one of the oldest Taoist temples in the city.

The ornate and colorful icons on the roof are very intriguing.
Similar looking temples are seen all over the island.

An elaborate altar includes flowers, fruits, and burning incense.
I can't tell if the decorations are made of real gold or are gold-plated.

If they are made of real gold, perhaps that is why they are in need of donations.
Your name will be added to one of these figures for a small monetary gift.

Our last stop of the tour was the National Palace Museum.
I only have a picture of its exterior since no photography was allowed inside.
Our guide spent over an hour walking through the various exhibits and explaining their significance. Unfortunately, this was when my jet lag took over and my concentration level was waning fast.
The "100" symbol you see on the museum's exterior signifies the showing of 100 national treasure masterpieces to celebrate the 100 year anniversary of the establishment of the Republic of China aka Taiwan.

- Karen