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Day 3: boat tour around Sun Moon Lake -> ride to 清静农场->观星园@清静农场

Since we have a full length window at 明月湖hotel, we woke up at 5.15am with the intention to catch the sunrise. Sadly, due to the thick fog, we were not able to even catch a glimpse of the sun until mid morning. It was however quite bright at around 5.30am.

view of the pier from our room(you can still see the reflection of our room lights!)
View from our room at 5.30am

We went for a short stroll around the pier at 7am.
view at 7am of the pier +boats

The lake water is very calm and we can hear birds chirping. There's even a lady sitting on the floating platform singing traditional songs. That's how relax and tranquil it was on an early morning at Sun Moon Lake! In the afternoon, there's more ships cruising in the lake, there might be turbulent waves at times due to the motor vibration from the ships.

After the usual cleaning up, we went down a level for our buffet breakfast (in the package).My family was the earliest but halfway through, there were more lodgers that came down for breakfast. Its variety is definitely not comparable to hotel buffets, but the variety and amount provided is sufficient for a simple yet nutritional meal to start the day with. There were scrambled eggs (yummy!), vegetables, preserved cucumber, fake abalone, lamb/pork meat. A total of 6 dishes + peanuts + pork floss. At the level two reception area, there's also bread/porridge served and tea/coffee.Its sweet potato porridge. Everything there is self-service: toasting/applying of butter/jam to the bread and brewing of tea.
breakfast coupon 
 We then departed at 9 on a boat using the coupons given by our hotel. Its best to hold ur tickets and wait at the Ita Thao visitor centre. 'Leaders' of the various boat companies will gather people with tickets of their boat company together. By holding your ticket in your hand, i believe this will facilitate smoother movement.

boat ride tickets X4
 As our boat ride only stops at 玄庄寺(most boats stop at there only), once departure it head straight for that destination. We reached 玄庄寺 in 15 minutes. The boat captain cum our 'tour guide' provided us with insightful information about the various landmarks around Sun Moon lake.

boat captain cum tour guide
view on the boat ride + temple 

 The flight of stairs continues and the whole journey(climbing of stairs) can take about 5/10 minutes or so. Along the way we saw a couple of devotees practicising/promoting Fa Lun Gong which is ban in Singapore.

people practicing Fa Lun Gong
And we finally reach  玄庄寺 !

玄庄寺 main entrance!
 Theres a statue of 民族宗师who is also the 唐三藏whom we know from Journey to the West.

From the top which is the main building, we were able to see a bird eye view of sun moon lake.

view from top of 玄庄寺  building

The island which the right most building (hotel) is was known to us by our tour guide that it was previously not open to the public as the island was owned by 台湾第一任总统(蒋家)。

so many tourists queuing for a second of fame with the memorial rock!
 Back at the pier entrance, theres this famous 茶叶蛋store that has been selling herbal tea eggs for decades and earning thick wad of cash everyday. We were told that it sell the best 茶叶蛋 in Taiwan and decided to give it a try at NT10 per egg. However we feel that its too salty. There wasnt any herbal smell as we passed by the store in which we would normally smell when we passed by a good herbal tea egg store. I am not quite sure if morning is the reason, but they dont seem to brew the eggs there but rather the ready-to-sell eggs were driven by a van from elsewhere. And they are warm, not piping hot. A vast difference from a good herbal tea egg in Singapore.

ship ahoy!
on the boat back to Ita Thao - nice silhouette 
 Do you know, every year around Autumn (September) contestants from all over the world come here and swim across from 水杜马头to Ita Thao Pier, which spans about 7.5km!
After reaching Ita Thao Pier, we head back to our hotel and check out at 11am. As our arranged driver,廖先生 will only come at 12pm, we lazed outside the chairs at our hotel.

On a side note, 明月湖does not just offer lodging but is also a restaurant itself. Prices as per below, but may have changes. Best to contact the restaurant!

Menu + Price list
 While we waited for our cabby under the shade, those two ferry assistants(in fluorescent orange) were out in the sun calling out to potential tourists to buy Sun moon Lake ferry tickets.On our first day here at our hotel, the same people were there too! Though they have shifts, but look at the lady carrying her child in front of her, it must have been hard on the baby to survive such sunny weather!

Initially we planned to take the public transport : Taking nantou bus to Puli for 45 mins then transfer to Nantou bus @ puli to Cingjing松岗站 for another 1 hr 10mins. However it appears to be very time consuming and we are not too sure of the bus venue, thus we decided last minute a day before to hire a cab instead. 明月湖 gave us 2 different cab companies namecard and we found the most affordable @ NT1800 廖先生.

Our hired cabby, 廖先生came and pick us up at 12pm sharp. As he told us his car plate number over the phone earlier, we were able to spot his cab instantly.

廖先生 and his cab!
He has a vast social connection. He knows most of the minsu owners @ Cing Jing (清静农场), including our minsu owner 李大哥@观星园! We reached Cing Jing in about 1 hour time. But thats the 'mountain base', our homestay is at the top of the mountain. As we are too early to check in, he kindly suggested driving us to our homestay to deposit our luggages and drive us down to mid mountain -国民宾馆/小瑞士花园 at no extra cost! We agreed with it as there's shops including 7eleven there at  国民宾馆/小瑞士花园 where we can settle our lunch or do some shopping. Along the way to our  观星园 homestay, he drove us to 'the old England Manor 老英格蘭民宿'. It boast a magnificient palace-like infrastructure and its the most expensive hotel/accomodation at Cingjing! The cheapest rate is more than NT10k and the most atas one can go up to NT30k for a night!

The old England Manor
A nicer view of the Old England Manor @ Cingjing

It provides a very breathtaking view + Ang mo-ish kind of infrastructure. Nice!

One important thing to note, people prone to motion sickness should get ready sour plum/medicated oil as the route to the top can be quite uncomfortable with its multiple turnings along the mountainous roads.

In a couple of minutes - 15 mins, and we finally reach the top of Cing Jing @ our homestay (Starry minsu)星园!

观星园(Starry Minsu)!

The winding and treacherous road leading to our minsu!

李大哥(李学縝)and his wife wasn't at home, hence we couldn't ask for early check in. In-house at that time were only 2 Indonesian maids that they hired. We later realised that they are able to speak chinese!
廖先生 then drove us to 国民宾馆/小瑞士花园 area for us to do our shopping after depositing our luggages. From there, we ended our trip with him. There were quite a few taxi drivers waiting at the open carpark at 国民宾馆/小瑞士花园 for tourists to hire their services.廖先生 has been quite helpful to us and his fee is one of the cheapest we saw. Most that we find on the net cost NT2k and above. He says he dont publicise on the internet, but mainly through word of mouth of his customers.


He is worth considering if you intend to go the places mentioned above in his namecard!

小瑞士花园is directly opposite 国民宾馆. We headed for the 7eleven outside 小瑞士花园. The 7eleven there is very different from Singapore whereby they sell a variety of food even bento sets and they have seats within 7eleven. Just like their Taiwan convenience store - Family Mart.

The variety of food at 7eleven @ Cing jing
Our lunch of Sushi handroll from 7eleven!
We bought 3 pork floss and 1 smoked chicken flavour Sushi handroll @ an offer of 4 for NT69! It's very tasty and its made on the same day as we bought it! We also bought 2 packet of chips (Seaweed and chicken flavour) at an offer of NT 39 total! However, we conclude that the seaweed chip flavour is nicer. Its size is about 3/4 size of a big packet of Ruffles. The food at 7 eleven is very worth buying if you were to buy them at an offer price.

Entrance fee for Small Swiss Garden
There's a shop selling bee products at the second level, and after entering that we enter the Carton King restaurant. It's special in a way all of its furniture is make of cardboard! Even its decorative statues! Dont belittle them, they are very sturdy!

chairs and tables made out of cardboard
Yes! no kidding, you sit on the cardboard chair and your food will be place on the cardboard table! But sadly, we didnt went in for a meal as we just had our sushi handroll.

Decorative objects made out of cardboard
We didnt visit Small Swiss Garden as it doesnt seem to be attractive and it might be even a smaller scale than the European Palace Garden at Formosa Aboriginal Culture Village. Furthermore, there's an admission fee of NT 120/pax and its near the closing time hence not quite worth.

We crossed the road and came to this hotel which was opened by the Taiwan government unlike the other minsu/hotels in Cingjing run privately. Our cabby,廖先生told us theres about a total of 198 homestays in Cingjing!
国民宾馆 menu
There's nothing much at its lobby except for a few souvenir shops and a fish pond, we then went to 清静农场晨特产办手礼中心 at the back of Guo Min Bin Guan, but slightly visible from the front of the hotel.

The souvenirs there are slightly cheaper like a sheep soft toy cost NT120, but at other places in Cing jing, it can cost NT150. As we make a move back 小瑞士花园 open carpark to wait for 李大哥to drive us back to Starry Minsu, we passed by this small vegetable cum souvenir store beside the road. The vegetables and fruits seems very fresh! We bought 雪梨 and its very sweet!

Taiwan 高丽菜!
We called 李大哥at 3.30pm, however as he was out at Puli, he can only reached at 4pm. So we idled around and eventually met him at 4 pm in his 9 seater volkswagen car. He is very friendly and we learnt that houses/minsu at Cingjing have a height limit, in which they cannot build more than a certain height due to its instable base (being on a mountain).

And here we come, Starry Minsu!
View from our balcony
our room! - room 3
There are only a total of 9 rooms only, with rooms at level 2(highest) having balcony.

The nice bed + heater
Yes, you hear me right, heater. No aircon! For the first time, we were so grateful for not having the aircon but the heater!

the door leads to the balcony
They have a dog called Doo bi, who is 5 years old already! He/She is very demure and responds well to her/his owner's commands.He will get all excited when he sense his owner (李大哥/李大嫂)coming back.

Doo bi!
We all love Doo bi very much!
We went around the minsu till its 5.30pm, whereby we enter the main guestroom for steamboat dinner. We can have a choice of inside of outside at the main yard, but we decided to have it inside as we are still not used to the cold temperature of (15 degree Celsius nearing night).
李大哥told us that Starry minsu once snowed(heavily) a couple of years ago!

photos of the snow a couple of years ago!

flowers that we saw at their yard - fertilisers and gardening all done by 李大哥/李大嫂
We tucked in to our widespread of ingredients for our steamboat! They highlighted that the soup was personally brewed by them and no MSG added. The 酸菜 in the soup also marinated by them and the help of the 2 maids.反正,全部都是亲力亲为啦!

soup base

The portion that they gave is quite a lot, especially the ingredients. We almost couldnt finish them. The chili is nice too. Very unique and different from Singapore, but quite spicy!

As there's not much of night activity we headed back to our room after a small chat with 李大哥.

Temperature check: 15 degree celsius + frequent wind  

Oh and we asked 李大哥, he said if weather is fine, we might even have a chance to see the sunrise/stars.

Starry Minsu (观星园)gives a very homely feel due to its renowned hospitality. The wall at the guestroom is filled with testimonials/letters from past visitors mainly from Singapore. We even see students from Singapore staying at this minsu for their graduation trip! The price for the four of us is NT2880 for Friday and NT3240 for Saturday. It include breakfast and dinner too and take cares of your transport. oh and such a picturesque setting. whats there more to ask?


Shops near Ita Thao Pier

During our morning stroll, we passed by this shop and was shocked to see left over 阿桑姆红茶/barley drink at the store. I wonder if the store owner is going to resell them when he/she starts the day at the store. Talk about how fresh it is! But perhaps, this is just a black sheep. But honestly, in my family's opinion, 阿桑姆红茶 doesnt seems very unique. In fact its quite sweet and we dont see an unique taste in it despite being a 'must try' at Sun moon Lake.


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