The second and third days of my trip have been amazing, just like the first, only I’m less jet-lagged now! This makes for more enjoyable days of walking around temples and crowded marketplaces, both of which Taiwan seems to have an endless supply of. The temples and markets here are incredible and so interesting you could spend all day just wandering around!
On Day 2, we visited one of the largest Buddhist monasteries in Taiwan, known as Chung Tai Chan Monastery. It was a beautiful day and we were able to walk around the temple and the surrounding gardens, still strung up with lanterns for the New Year.
From there we bussed it over to the Formosa Aboriginal Culture Village, a replica village of the indigenous people of Taiwan, and after watching a cultural dance performed by true indigenous actors we took a cable car over the mountains and down to Sun Moon Lake Scenic Area.
The lake and surrounding area is stunning; the mountains are shrouded in mist (as much of the island is) and they seem to rise up and disappear into the sky. The cable car ride was fantastic, but not recommended for people with a fear of heights as you are in a 360 degree glass box suspended over the beautiful landscape.
Another fabulous way to see the lake is by boat. We toured the lake in a small speed boat and were able to see the countless temples and hotels nestled into the mountainsides, not to mention the wonderful greenery (still covered in mist in the late afternoon) that is simply everywhere in Taiwan. The mist hardly detracts from the view at all, in fact it seems to enhance it in a way because it is what it is, a rainforest.
In the middle of the lake is a little island which started out small enough but was shrank even further during the devastating earthquake of 1999. There is only room for two trees, a few plants, and 2 flags; the flag of Taiwan and the aboriginal people’s flag.
On the 18th, our group was informed by our tour guide, a fantastically energetic Taiwanese woman named Teresa, that we were in for something very unique on this particular morning. I thought, How could it be any more unique! Taiwan is an amazing place and considering how many different groups have ruled it, there’s reason enough right there for it to be extremely special.
But anyway, the tiny island was not the only thing destroyed in the earthquake…far from it, in fact. There was a Buddhist temple just outside the Sun Moon Lake region that completely collapsed but instead of tearing it down, they started rebuilding a new temple right next door. Okay, big deal, 2 temples right next to each other. Here’s the funny thing: while the new temple is being built, there is a third “temporary” temple right on the same property so that people can still worship at that temple! The lengths they have gone to is extraordinary and very inspiring.