Ita Thao on the shores of Sun Moon Lake

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DAY 6

(Reading time: 4 minutes)

It was time to move on to the next destination, which was Sun Moon Lake, the largest lake in Taiwan nestled in the heart of the island amidst mountains.

Although we would have loved to, it’s not possible to get there solely by train. You need to choose one of the combinations of train, bus, or even boat (depending on which side of the lake you’re headed to). We opted for train->bus->bus:

– High-Speed Rail (HSR) to Taichung,

– Long-distance bus 6670 Nantou to the Sun Moon Lake area,

– Local shuttle bus 6669 to the town of Ita Thao.

Aah, those Asian high-speed trains, they’re something else! Comfortable travel without delays (in 99.99% of cases); it’s truly a pleasure. Tickets can be easily purchased from ticket machines at the station (we recommend doing it several days in advance as seats fill up quickly) or at the counter (not recommended – long lines + language barrier). In a machine, you enter departure and destination stations, in our case Taipei/Taichung, departure date, and you’ll be presented with a list of departure times. Some trains stop at multiple stations, therefore they seem to be slower. We wanted the shortest travel time and fastest option, so we chose a train with only two stops. You pay by card or cash and in return you get a ticket.

You’re surely familiar with the term “shinkansen”; know that HSR (High-Speed Rail) is its Taiwanese counterpart. It runs only along the western coast of the island and stops in the largest cities. Orientation on the platform is precise and therefore easy. On the ubiquitous light-up signs, you’ll find your platform based on the train number and departure time, and on the ground and/or additional signs, you’ll see markings for:

– Reserved and non-reserved seating cars

– Individual car numbers

– Direction signs for boarding and disembarking

– Seat numbers within each car

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Are you familiar with the chaos at some train platforms? No one knows exactly where the train will stop, where their car will be, if the car order has changed, disorganized masses of people pushing towards the nearest open doors against the flow of people trying to exit… none of that is a concern here. Furthermore, the seats inside are comfortable, with legroom and space for luggage, clean bathrooms, and (I emphasize this word) QUIET. You can read, sleep or admire the view and speed in peace.

Our pleasant journey was disrupted by transferring to the bus and lugging our suitcases to our seats because the storage space in the lower part remained closed to all passengers. We bitterly reminisced about buses in our country.

After several hours of travel, we successfully arrived in a less touristy area. It was particularly noticeable in the evening. In our town of Ita Thao, there were two streets offering street food, and most stalls closed at 7 PM, just as the bustling atmosphere at the markets in Taipei was starting.

Some vendors didn’t open at all. It could have been because November isn’t the peak tourist season and/or because we arrived during working days, but regardless, after 7 PM in the evening, it was quite dead everywhere. Nevertheless, we found something delicious to munch on – a scallion pancake filled with pork.

Alright then, time to eat, back to the room, read a few pages of the not-yet-opened book, watch a series, and indulge in a properly long sleep before a demanding day on wheels.

-endy-

DONKEY’S SPECIAL:

  • When paying by card, we often encountered situations where the machine threw error messages when attempting contactless payment (even though it was supposed to work), so we usually inserted the cards into the terminals.
  • In HSR (and in shinkansen), there’s a nice unwritten rule that you only take phone calls in a train corridor as far away from other passengers as possible.
  • HSR travels up to 300 km/h (the theoretical maximum is 345 km/h); you can cross the entire Taiwan from north to south in about 90 minutes.
  • Many times, due to misunderstanding the text on the signs, we incorrectly deduced how much we should pay for what; for example, in the last picture, at the bottom of the sign, “with meat” is priced at 60 and 100 TWD, from the process of preparation we (wrongly) deduced that the man sells a small and large pancake with meat, so we ordered two large ones, I handed over 200 TWD to the man to get back 100 TWD immediately, and from his gestures I understood that 60 TWD was the price for one and 100 TWD for two (quantity discount), this is one of many examples of their honesty (imagine if it worked like this in our country and now… keep dreaming, a confused tourist will be lucky if, in the first two encounters with a money changer and a taxi driver, only one of them robs him.)
  • In the evening, we were watching the series Derry Girls, a superb experience.

-mj-

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