Taiwan: Sun Moon Lake & Formosan Aboriginal Culture Village

Travel Period : 30th Oct – 6th Nov 2012

{ Previous Post:  Taiwan: Alishan Tea Garden Morning }

Day 2 Itinerary :

  • Alishan Tea Garden Home-stay 茶香花園民宿 –>>
  • Sun Moon Lake 日月潭 –>>
  • Doris Home 朵麗絲的家 –>>
  • Shueishe Wharf 水社碼頭 –>>
  • Ita Thao 伊達邵 –>>
  • Formosan Aboriginal Culture Village 九族文化村 –>>
  • Doris Home 朵麗絲的家
How To Get There :
Cab to Sun Moon Lake and Doris Home // Walk to Shueishe Wharf// Ferry to Ita Thao // Ropeway to Formosa Aboriginal Culture Village // Bus to Doris Home

[ On the Road ]

Chiayi to Nantou County

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On our way to Sun Moon Lake, we passed through a small district and got some drinks from 7-Eleven (known as ‘Seven’ in Taiwan). It was so big that it even had restrooms inside for us to take a toilet break. The driver also told us a little about betel nuts (檳榔) plants (We were behind a truck carrying it). As we neared Sun Moon Lake, the Jiji (集集) Train passed us by. It came from the Jiji Railway Station which is a very old station for more than 70 years. Though we liked to explore train-related places, we did not stop to go to there as we really needed to reach Sun Moon Lake so we could have more time to go to our destination, the Formosan Aboriginal Culture Village.

Sun Moon Lake

<<Visited>> Shueishe Wharf 水社碼頭 > Ita Thao 伊達邵 > Formosan Aboriginal Culture Village 九族文化村 > Doris Home 朵麗絲的家

#1: Shueishe Wharf 水社碼頭

201210_Day2_SunMoonLake1We arrived at Doris Home in a drizzle and were glad we had hired a cab driver to bring us right to the doorstep. We could not imagine how we would end up if we had to carry all our luggage from the bus stop at the Visitor Centre (where coaches usually stop at) to the homestay in that wet weather.

After settling ourselves and getting directions from Greg, one of the owners of Doris Home, we set off towards Shueishe Wharf to catch our ferry to Ita Thao. When we bought the ferry tickets from Greg (at NT$100 instead of the normal price of NT$300), he had told us to look for the staff donned in blue. It didn’t take us too long to find them, who asked us to wait for a while before their next ferry was to depart.

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After about 10 minutes or so, one of the staff informed us to head towards their spacious ferry and there was only another couple on board besides us. The ferry soon departed for Ita Thao and we enjoyed the ride while enjoying the scenery. Dar was also very excited since that was the first time he is on a yacht and to prevent him from getting seasick, we occupied ourselves with sweets and some snacks along the way.

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#2: Ita Thao

When we arrived at Ita Thao, the rain got heavier and we quickly headed into the Visitor Centre, holding our umbrellas. While preparing to wear the raincoats which we had brought along, we also remembered to find the ink rubber stamp in the center with Ita Thao written on it. We had brought along a little booklet specially for this purpose (bought before the trip). From what we had read, most of the places of interest /railway stations in Taiwan would have such rubber stamp counters for visitors.

201210_Day2_SunMoonLake4VisitorCentre 201210_StampingThroughTaiwan1For more of our stamps through our entire Taiwan Trip, view here

Donned in our raincoats, we started walking onto the streets of Ita Thao, where food stalls were lined up on both sides. Unfortunately, quite a number of stalls were closed and we wondered if it was because of the rain, time of the day (was around noon time then) or was it due to the off-peak weekday.

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Anyway, we found ourselves some delicious snacks from a stall. Though they were fried stuff and not good for our throats, the food tasted great and we enjoyed the short break under a shelter (read our ‘food‘ post), before continuing on towards the ropeway station (cable car), which was a 15-minute walk from the wharf.

We pushed Dar in his stroller as the rain became smaller and was glad that the route towards the station, a boardwalk, was stroller-friendly. We also got to walk along the coast of the scenic lake; it would have been a much more enjoyable walk if it wasn’t because of the rain and we weren’t rushing for time.

Since we already bought our tickets for the ropeway and the Formosan Aboriginal Culture Village (they are usually sold together) from Doris Home at a discounted rate earlier (NT$650 instead of NT$780), we simply had to present them to the staff at the station and got onto the ropeway. Dar rode for free.

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Inside the ropeway, we first ascended uphill till we reach the top of a hill, before crossing a valley towards the hill on the other end (the ride is probably not suitable for those who have a phobia for heights). During the ride, we got to look down at the picturesque scenery overlooking Sun Moon Lake and its surroundings. The 10-minute ride then ended with a descent down the hill and towards the entrance of the cultural village.

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It’s So Beautiful Up There!
 
#3: Formosan Aboriginal Culture Village

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The Formosan Aboriginal Culture Village consists mainly of two sections — the cultural village and the theme park. Due to our very limited time (we arrived at nearly 3pm and the place closes at 5pm on weekdays), we gave ourselves only two main objectives — (1) to watch the tribal performances at the Naruwan Theater and (2) to get to the European Garden (歐洲宮廷花園) at the theme park area to ride the little train (水沙連小火車), which we believed Dar would love dearly.

The performance at Naruwan Theater was scheduled to start at 2.55pm but when we arrived at the location 10 minutes before time, the place was void of visitors and staff. We started wondering if we had gone to the wrong place or if the performance been canceled due to bad weather.

Fortunately, while we were thinking what was our next step, a large group of school children arrived at the theatre. This was one of the few times that I appreciate a noisy crowd, as we thought we were the only visitors interested in the performance. We then found some seats and sat down, while more visitors started to flow in.

The performance then started with several men and women donned in a generic tribal costume (which is probably a mixture of the various tribes’ costumes) appearing on the stage and they began performing dances and songs, while trying to portray the characteristics of the different tribes in Taiwan.

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However, since their costumes remained unchanged throughout the performance, we found it harder to appreciate the distinctiveness of each of the nine tribes. Still, it was an entertaining show for us since we don’t get it see this locally. As for Dar, he was more interested in the park map which he was holding in his hand, nudging me and pointing at the train ride. I bet he couldn’t wait for the show to end.

When the show ended, it was already 3.45pm, leaving us with only a meagre 90 minutes left to explore the rest of the park before it closes for the day. Fortunately, the rain was getting much smaller so we had an easier time as we headed towards the European Gardens.

Cat was interested in learning more about the various tribes so we made sure to pass by the cultural village where mock houses of the various tribes were erected. It was interesting to see the different structures and experience the lives of these tribes through the wax statues. There were signs with detailed english and chinese information on them telling us what the exhibits were about.

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The interior of the hut was dark and we were a bit apprehensive in entering it at first. In one hut, it was dark but the lights came on automatically when we walked in focusing on a group of wax men. It surprised us totally! The huts showed the living conditions and areas where they cooked and slept. In one particularly memorable hut that we went in, we learnt that the people actually buried their deceased parents right under their beds, as they believed that no matter life or death, they are still one family. It was rather spooky.

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We also noticed that most of these huts had low ceilings, meaning that these tribal people were most likely much smaller in size than us (later we learned that they were only around 150cm in height for men). Dar was probably the only one who didn’t find the need to bend his head down as he entered and exited the houses. He was also not afraid of the wax figurines at all and thought it was fun to go in and out of the houses. The house below was actually a tribal gathering house for young adults so it was even lower.

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In the midst of our exploration, a red balloon suddenly came down from nowhere and landed right in front of Dar, like a gift from the skies! What’s interesting was that the balloon was just floating in the air in a height within Dar’s grip; it looked like the balloon was just waiting to be picked up by the chosen him.

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That reminded me of that floating house in the Up animation. Dar immediately fell in love with the balloon and kept holding on and playing with it as we continued to make our way towards the theme park area.




On the way, we came across a souvenir shop which showcases handicrafts by one of the tribes. A bag attracted Cat’s attention and we set foot into the shop, and had a nice conversation with the friendly lady manning the place.

Meanwhile, Dar was playing with the balloon in the shop when he lost his grip of it. The balloon floated out of the shop and just when I was about to grab it and return to him, a mysterious wind blew from nowhere and the balloon started flying off! I quickly ran after it, leaping over obstacles along the way. The balloon refused to stop and flew into a forested area.

As I was watching the moving balloon and contemplating whether to give up my balloon hunt, it suddenly landed in a small patch of empty ground, quite deep into the forested area. The scene is still fresh in my mind and it did send some shivers up my spine then, since I was the only person in the vicinity (I already ran quite a distance chasing after the balloon) and the skies was cloudy and surroundings actually somewhat dark then.

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Thinking how disappointed Dar would be if I were to return empty-handed, I braced up my courage and leapt over some bushes to land onto the damp undergrowth. As I walked towards the balloon under the shelter of the trees, I prayed that the balloon would not fly off again all of a sudden. Fortunately, it didn’t and I managed to retrieve it and quickly returned the way that I came from.

Come to think of it now, the plot sounded like some adventure stories/movies, where some hidden treasure (or hidden corpse??) was buried under where the balloon landed at? Even the initial appearance of this red balloon before us earlier was covered in a shroud of mystery…

Anyway, seeing the smile on Dar’ face when he saw the return of his runaway balloon made my 100-metre sprint and forest trekking worth the effort definitely.

After getting a sling bag and a decoration depicting the different tribes, we left the shop and continued our journey towards the theme park area. We soon realised the enormous size of the park as it took us another 15 to 20 minutes of brisk walking before we could reach there. Luckily, we had our stroller with us and we could stroll Dar on it so we wouldn’t need to slow down and wait for him. Despite our tired feet, we persevered on while checking our watches and map constantly to make sure we could still make it to the train ride in time and had gotten our directions correct.

Just when our legs were giving way, we spotted the entrance to the Theme Park and hurried on towards it. It was late and we could only glance wistfully at the beautiful entrances with their rides before rushing towards another part of the park to ‘European Garden’.

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At first glance, the garden was pretty impressive and big with interesting landscapes and structures. Our destination, the Garden Train Station, was still somewhere quite far and we started rushing towards it again. Our hearts were in our mouth and we kept hoping the train would not just suddenly start moving and leave us behind. So near yet so far!

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By the time we finally arrived at the train station in the ‘European Garden’, it was already 4.40pm and according to the train operator, it was his last train ride for the day! Phew! We were glad and thankful that we had managed to make it in time, or we would really be very upset since we knew Dar had been looking forward to ride on it ever since he read about it from the park’s website before our trip.

We sat in the frontmost carriage (after strong demand request from Dar) and could see and smell the steam coming out of the funnel in front — it doesn’t smell great of course but was an invaluable experience, especially for Dar, who had been watching videos (real-life and animated) of steam engines back home.

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The ride along the perimeter of the beautiful garden was interesting, with lever crossings along the way which moved down to restrict the access of the pedestrian crossings as our train was passing through. We also got up close to the colonial-style building (now being used as an administrative complex for the park?) and went through a bridge before completing one round which lasted for about 10 minutes.

Dar was satisfied with the ride and fortunately did not ask for one more, else we might have to *persuade/bribe/threaten (*delete where applicable) the train operator to let us have another go at it.

Although the rest of the theme park looked very interesting and tempting, with some One Piece (a famous Japanese anime) themed rides and shows, we simply didn’t have the luxury of time to tour them. Making use of whatever time we had left before the park was to close, we decided to stay within the garden’s premises and had a fun (and somewhat unconventional) photo shoot by the fountain after we chased each other down the long pathway. There weren’t many visitors around so we had a great time just goofing around and enjoying our time together.

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(Cat: After I came back from the trip, I still keep laughing whenever I look at them again. I will think twice before I take a posed photo next time. It’s never as fun! The trick is to snap only after the person had jumped up and is about to come back to the ground. Found out after several tries.)

So here’s what we took:

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#1 Travel Tip: Don’t Forget to Laugh

As the bell tower in the garden began to chime, we knew it was time for us to leave and we headed out towards the main entrance which was a short walk from the garden. We were informed by Greg that a bus service is available daily at 5.25pm which would bring us straight back to Shueishe.

We found the bus stop situated just outside the entrance without difficulty and sat down in it, waiting patiently for the bus to arrive. It was very cold as it got darker and darker.

The other entrance
The other entrance
It was sooo chilly....
It was sooo chilly….

Even at 5.35pm however, our bus had not arrived and we began to feel uneasy, since there were only two other people besides us and the place was quite deserted with only occasional vehicles leaving the park. We were approached by a cab driver earlier when we first left the park but rejected him as we were confident the bus would arrive.

At that time, another bus by the same company but going onto another route arrived at the bus stop. We quickly checked with the driver’s female assistant about the bus to Shueishe that we were waiting for. She replied she had never heard about the bus (!!) and advised us to board their bus instead. They would then drop us at Yuchih (魚池), a town in the vicinity. From there, according to her, we would be able to find transport to bring us to Shueishe.

We trusted her and took her advice, paid the fares (about NT$50 for two adults) and boarded the bus. Along the way, I noticed a bus going past us and overheard the lady whispering to the driver that the bus could be one we were waiting for! Since we were already on the ‘pirate ship’, I decided to say nothing more and see how things unfolded.

As agreed earlier, they dropped us in Yuchih and instructed us to wait at a designated location across the road, before driving off and leaving us stranded in an unfamiliar town. We saw a bus stop sign at the spot we were directed to but none of the bus timings was anywhere near. Feeling skeptical about what the lady said, we tried to look for cabs to flag down but none was in sight. In fact, we hardly saw any vehicle or people in this sleepy town, which added to our unease.

Just a pole with board to indicate bustop
Just a pole with board to indicate bus stop

We waited for the next 10 minutes to no avail and decided to call Greg to see if he could help us. Just when I was trying to explain our situation, I spotted a bus heading towards our direction and flagged it down. I then told Greg that we were fine after checking with the driver that the bus was indeed traveling towards Shueishe. In fact, this was the same bus that we spotted heading towards Formosan Aboriginal Culture Village earlier! Looks like they had arrived at that place late, or the timetable we had wasn’t updated.

Anyway, we were glad to get onto the right track again and arrived safely back at Doris Home soon after.

[  STAY . SLEEP  ]

Doris Home 朵麗絲的家

More Experiences on Accommodation Details here : Travel Taiwan – Accommodation

Greg was concerned about us and ensured that we were alright. We then had a quick wash up before going to the Sun Moon Restaurant next door for our dinner.

While waiting for our food to arrive, we forgot something and I went back to Doris Home to pick them up (fortunately the restaurant was just a stone’s throw away). Outside the entrance, I noticed three Caucasians discussing if they should be dining in this restaurant. Having read the rave reviews from TripAdvisor about their food (although I haven’t tasted them myself at that time yet), I recommended them the place and they opted for it. Maybe the restaurant’s owners should be giving me some referral rewards in return? ^^|

After our meal, we were considering whether to take a walk along the streets while the shops were still open. However, Cat was not feeling well after the chilly ordeal so we retreated back to our room. After our shower, Dar and I went upstairs to chit-chat with the friendly homestay owners and playing with their two cats while Cat rested in the room.

I just want to look at you
I just want to look at you

The two cats were shy so Dar had a busy time looking for them after they scurried into their hiding places every now and then. The owners also asked about our itinerary and journey so far, while I learnt about how they ventured into the homestay industry from their initial pharmacy business.

[ RECAPS ]

Time it takes from Shueishe Pier to Ita Thao: Boat ride of 23 mins
Time it takes from Ita Thao to Ropeway: 15 mins walk
Ropeway to Entrance of Formosan Aboriginal Culture Village: 15-20mins
Time We Spent in the Theme Park: Slightly more than 2 hr (Closes at 5pm)
Overall experience (Cat):
If you are interested in learning a little about the minority tribes of Taiwan, this place provides lots of information in information boards and wax exhibits of the nine different tribes. The entire place was so huge that we did not have the time to thoroughly explore it. There were many themed areas and to explore all of them would need an entire day. One could easily spend a few hours on the rides.

I enjoyed learning about the culture and exploring the huge European Garden. It was well-maintained with lovely flowers and European style architecture. Again, it was so huge that we need to walk for sometime from one end to another. Of all the theme parks in Taiwan, I chose this one because I felt it offered more than ‘just a theme park’.

ALTERNATE ROUTE: Take the hired cab directly to the other entrance of the theme park. First stop would be the European Gardens, then the One Piece Theme Park Rides. After that, take the internal ropeway to the top to explore the Tribal Village and get on the ropeway back to Ita Thao at 4pm.

That way, we might have more time to explore. I guess we were tired of sitting in a cab again and wanted to enjoy a cruise in Sun Moon Lake. Also we wanted to view the scenery over Sun Moon Lake when it’s still in the day. If we had taken it at 4.30pm, the skies would have been quite dark and not great for photography. We might also miss out on the walking and eating in Ita Thao since we planned to have dinner in a nice restaurant. The food was quite interesting and delicious. Check out the ‘food post’ here.

{ Next Post : [Food] Ita Thao / Sun Moon Lake }

  1. Goh Ee Hui January 7, 2015 at 5:48 pm

    Hi, amazing trip planning for taiwan! Would it be possible for you to share the itinerary? 😀

  2. Elisha November 17, 2015 at 11:19 am

    Hi…
    I know it has been a while since your last trip to Sun Moon Lake.
    I am just wondering what time did you start the ferry to Ita Thao?

    Thanks

    1. Vin November 18, 2015 at 4:56 pm

      Hi Elisha,

      We took the ferry at 1pm and it took us around 20 minutes to reach Ita Thao.

  3. Pheobe December 29, 2015 at 10:17 am

    Hi. I will visit taichung next week.
    U said 650 NTD go to Formosan Aboriginal Culture Village. It including Cable car, ticket entrance ( Theme park and the cultural village ), right?
    Thanks

    1. Vin December 29, 2015 at 4:44 pm

      Hi Pheobe,

      Yes, the price is inclusive of those you mentioned.

      Do note that this was the price for 2013 though, so prices may have increased by now.

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