Going outdoors has always been synonymous with going to the mall for me. Which is why cycling around an entire island and living to tell the tale is an achievement in itself. And not a tiny island mind you, but 33 kilometers around Sun Moon Lake (日月潭) in Nantou County.
The trip had started off innocently enough. Cycling around the island is one of the best ways to explore Sun Moon Lake and we were all raring to go.
“It should take around 3.5 hours”, the owner of the bicycle rental store said airily, “Just remember to be back by sundown.”
Ha! That sounds easy enough, I thought as I gamely mounted my bicycle.
And it was, for the first 45 minutes or so. We cycled smoothly along the road shoulder, admiring the scenery whizzing past us and stopping to take pictures along the way.
But every hill we had to climb sapped our energy, and by the 2-hour mark we were all exhausted and still nowhere near our hostel, the mid-point of the journey. Every gasp of breath sounded like a cry for help from my aching thighs and there were many times when I had to dismount and push my bike up the incline.
I watched with envy as cars sped past and I considered abandoning the boys and hitching a ride to our destination. With a sigh, I gave up that thought. “Missing girl, 22, found stuffed in car boot” wasn’t exactly the way I wanted to make headlines.
Finally, after nearly 3 hours, we reached the Sun Moon Lake Youth Activity Center where we were to stay for the night. We checked in and in a catatonic state, collapsed on the sofa.
It took all the willpower we had to drag ourselves up and continue with our journey. Amid our complaints and Andy’s reassurances that the second half of the journey would be less tiring, we set off yet again.
He was wrong.
I had never looked forward so much to things going downhill until that afternoon. Granted, the inclines were steeper but there were also longer stretches of road where we could cruise downhill. My other consolation was this gorgeous park we passed on the last leg of the journey.
Five hours after we first started off, we made it back to the bicycle store, our triumphant smiles masking the quivering of our legs.
Exploring Sun Moon Lake on a bicycle had been so intense that our activities the next day seemed almost boring in comparison. We took a leisurely trip on the cable car followed by a boat ride around the island to places we had already seen the previous day.
Nevertheless, I’d recommend getting the package we got. For NTD 680, the package included the boat ride and cable car admission ticket, a two-way trip from Taichung to Sun Moon Lake, a round the island bus tour and discount coupons for various food and souvenir outlets! You can get it at the basement of the Taichung HSR station, just in front of the bus terminal.
Our log cabin at the Sun Moon Lake Youth Activity Center was also hands down the best accommodation I’ve had so far.
Pardon me while I gush about how beautiful the hostel is. Everything from the quaint log cabins, to the towering pine trees to the view of the cable cars overhead reminded me of a resort in the Swiss Alps. Ricola could film their next advertisement here and consumers would be none the wiser. Only NTD 3000 a night (a cabin for three) and you’ve your own Swiss getaway!
Sun Moon Lake Youth Activity Center
No.101, ZhongZheng Road, RiYue Village, YuChi Township, Nantou County, Taiwan (R.O.C.)
Take the High Speed Rail and alight at Taichung. Transfer to a bus bound for Sun Moon Lake. Either cycle around the island or take the public bus. The Sun Moon Lake Activity Center is right across from the Sun Moon Lake Ropeway.