What would be this blog without at least one good, real, tourist article? Since we spent a few days in Nantou County this is the perfect occasion to tell you all about our stay there, and let you discover-if you don’t know it already, some of the attractions there! Also, a good article after the new year holiday, and before we come back to more serious topics. 恭喜發財 to all of you! Happy New Year!
A while ago, as we thought about Chinese New Year holiday with NienHua, we wanted to go very far… but tickets were expensive, I was really tired from a lot of work and needed rest, and Nienhua had always dreamed to walk through all Taiwan (an optimistic plan for a 4 days trip). So we finally decided to be more reasonable and replace walking by renting a car-even if we did a lot of walking!- and go to Nantou County, a region I had never been to (except Sun Moon Lake), and where the big earthquake called 921 hit the most around 10 years ago. It has been a big shock for many people, many buildings destroyed, and the epicenter has left huge damage in the Taichung and Nantou Counties. Actually after 10 years, there were little signs left from this big catastrophe, apart from a few ruins left for memory.
But as we started to inform our Taiwanese friends about our decision, they all felt it was pretty weird to go on holiday in what, in their mind, seems to be such an unattractive place! I understand that Taiwan being small, many have been already there in the past – but I hope also these few pictures will give to this great place the credit it deserves!
First, we went to Puli. It is a great place, because very central. All the County stretches on merely 100km from North to South, and thus being in the middle and having a car is useful. Puli is also interesting because… it looks like it has been visited by Aliens. On the day of our arrival, we went to the “center of Taiwan”, a point designated as such by the Japanese on top of a hill with a great view on the surroundings. As all the public buildings there, the retro look and strange shapes used for the monuments let me an alien after taste. Beyond what you can see from this hill, in the distance, a lot of bizarre giant buddhas and temples, including the giant alien Temple, some kind of pyramid with a huge 12 star ray that relentless moves from the ground to the heaven, while the tallest building of Puli faces this spectacle, a HUGE tower with all kind of triangles built on it, flashing non-stop in the night…
We stayed at hotel ChengPao, looks old from outside, but clean, outstanding service and good price for value, and visited a traditional night market, the Alien Temple (we went there during the night AND during the day, it made a great impression on me and I will write a separate article about it), a few rice fields. For some reasons, the Lonely Planet doesn’t really recommend to stay in Puli, but don’t hesitate if you have a car!
around SUN MOON LAKE
On the second day, we drove to the South of the County, made a brief stop at the AoTami Eco-Village (an absolutely useless place, I will write a specific article about it as well) before reaching, almost by chance, Sun Moon Lake. We were lucky to be there on a nice sunny day, with not too many tourists. The big question for me was there: why is Sun Moon Lake so famous? I understand it is the largest body of fresh water in Taiwan, but on the other side, one of its border is a large concrete wall… having noticed that I discover that the Japanese had some major work done there in 1931, and thus I am curious to know how the lake looked like in the past century, and if it was that big… This being said, it is really nice, water is beautiful, and it is very suitable for meditation. We observed also the surroundings of the lake, visited a tea plantation, and saw some relics of old boats-because the lake is in the mountains, it produces a weird effect to see a boat abandonned on the flank of a mountain…
For the rest of the day, we went to 3 small cities, Wuchang and its huge night market plus destroyed temple, Lugu and its surroundings, famous for tea plantations, and Shuili, a place where we had a romantic dinner on a bridge, eating a traditional steak on hot plate on small chairs while watching the -many- new year fireworks, an excellent memory after all! Lugu was nice as well, such a tiny place almost at the end of the world, lost on the mountain, that we reached at dawn only. There was a small lake around there, very suitable for a stroll and in a peaceful atmosphere.
The second day was similar, we moved towards the North this time, and went to another attractive location lost in the mountains, Aowanda, famous for its red maple leaves in autumn (and winter), and bird watching trails. While the leaves where not so red and the birds were already aslept, I liked the very dramatic landscape, was thrilled on the long and too unstable for me suspended bridge, and especially enjoyed the 20km mountain road that led there, full of curves and nice landscapes, with aboriginals on the side of the road selling some delicious moutain pork sausage, and a very special feeling of nature and immensity, rare in Taiwan!
For the two next days we stayed in a very simple old style pension with no heater and simple furniture, but nice view and delicious vegetarian buddhist breakfast. Again, we had to make reservation a bit far from the touristic spot, but gained in tranquillity and interesting views. We enjoyed the CingJing farm views and sheep show along with probably thousands of other tourists, a very strange mix of high altitude piece and crazy crown, there was a long traffic jam to go to the top and even just parking was difficult. Meeting the sheeps was nice, I found them quite clever actually, and they really acted like superstars, which they were indeed-there are not many sheeps in Taiwan (even in the Taipei zoo!). Off the main track, we could also see a beautiful sunset and some very quiet, peaceful “real” altitude farms. The last day we went along some mountain roads but left early Nantou county to move to the adjacent Taichung County, which isn’t the topic here.