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May 29, 2017

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Sun Moon Lake has it all for tourists

Set like a jewel among the green hills and mountains of central Taiwan, Sun Moon Lake (日月潭) is glorious. On a sunny day the lake surface dances and sparkles in the light, and when the mist rolls in from the surrounding peaks, the area's dazzling beauty melts away into something more alluringly mysterious. In any weather, and at whatever time of day, if you take time to gaze at the scenery from one of the many vantage points around the lake, you will feel truly enchanted.

Sun Moon Lake has it all: Chinese and aboriginal culture, fantastic scenery, and a collection of great hiking trails. Whatever you come for, and however you like to travel, this tourist hotspot will both accommodate and entertain you.

There is an excellent camping ground situated right next to the lake. The site is large and well-equipped with hot showers and toilets, all of which are kept clean. Be warned, though, that it can be a difficult place to find, so look out for the 6.5 km marker on the road going round the lake—the turnoff for the campsite is very nearby.

If the idea of sleeping outside doesn't grab you, there is also an excellent range hotels, from budget accommodation right up to Taiwan's most expensive, The Lalu (涵碧樓). Many of these have spa facilities and views across the lake, and, if you were so inclined, you could easily spend your entire time relaxing within the confines of your hotel. The only problem with that, though, is that you wouldn't get to see the rest of what the area has to offer.

Probably the most imposing of Sun Moon Lake's attractions is Wen Wu Temple (文武廟). As you approach Wen Wu, the first thing you notice is its immense size. This isn't really just one temple, but rather a whole complex of shrines, courtyards and pagodas.

Guarding the entrance are Asia's largest stone lions, and behind them lie the various shrines that honor both the pen of scholarly learning and the sword of military might. The Temple's main gate, elaborate carvings and sloping tiled roofs are attractions in their own rights, and it is here at the temple that you'll be able to take some of your best and most artistic photos of Sun Moon Lake itself.

Though Wen Wu might be the grandest place you'll visit, there's no doubt that the Tsen Pagoda (慈恩塔) is the loftiest. Built by Chiang Kai-shek to commemorate his mother, the nine-floored Tsen Pagoda, or Pagoda of Filial Virtue, is a wonderfully serene site.

The tower sits in the middle of a large open square, covered with white gravel. On sunny days these little stones are dazzlingly bright, and the whole place looks as if it might be covered in snow. The pagoda is lit up at night, and though few venture up there after the sun has gone down, the landmark is at its most stunning then.

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