6 Attractions In Kyoto You Must See (+ City Travel Tips!)

A couple of my friends were visiting Kyoto this summer and had asked for my advise on some attractions. As they have only two days to explore the city, I suggested that they make good use of their time carefully as it is impossible to cover all of Kyoto in just a few days. I know that because I was there personally for almost 8 days for leisure and I still feel it’s not enough 😀

Through our conversation, I realised that many people visit Kyoto as a side trip to their main trip in Tokyo or Osaka. So that means most of them spend only 1-3 days to explore the key attractions. Likewise for my friends, their time in Kyoto was limited so I thought compiling a short list of top attractions with city travel tips would be helpful.

Enjoy the read!

1. Nishiki Market

The place to be for sashimi and seafood lovers! Located near the famous Gion district, the Nishiki Market is a lively marketplace that peddles in all things food-related. From fresh seafood, poultry, sushi, local produce to Kyoto specialities like Japanese sweets, snacks and pickles, foodies are guaranteed to go on battle-mode here.

Great for: Foodies!

Travel Tip #1 – Try to arrive early in the morning if you are planning to buy or eat anything!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

2. Kyoto Imperial Palace

The residence of the Japan’s Imperial Family until 1868, the Kyoto Imperial Palace signifies the city’s important role in ancient Japanese history. Though the royal family no longer lives here, but the palace and palace grounds are well-maintained. Located within the Kyoto Imperial Park, this is a nice place to picnic and let your kids frolic under the sun.

If you are planning to visit, do take note of this important notice issued by the Imperial Household Agency.

Great for: Families with kids, Japanese culture and history enthusiasts.

Travel Tip #2 – If you intend to take the local city bus to get here, do take note that the distance between the entrance of the palace and the bus stop is rather long. Alternatively, you can rent a bicycle and cycle your way through the park.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

3. Kinkakuji (Golden Pavilion)

One of the most iconic architecture in Kyoto, Kinkakuji (also known as the Golden Pavilion) is a must-see for first time visitors and visitors who had very limited time in Kyoto and just want to see its top attractions.

A Zen Buddhism Temple, the two top floors of the structure are covered in gold leaf. Overlooking the pond, the structure shines magnificently under sunlight and is definitely one scene no photographer (amateur/professional) should miss.

Great for: Photography hobbyists and sightseers.

Travel Tip #3 – Don’t be in a hurry! Take your time to appreciate the structure from different angles and you’ll be surprised.

167923_497235324316_4038054_n

4. Kiyomizudera (Pure Water Temple)

Another well-photographed Kyoto temple, Kiyomizudera (also known as ‘Pure Water Temple’) is one of my favourite attraction. A UNESCO world heritage site, Kiyomizudera is best known for its stunning wooden balcony that is perched upon a cliff. Depending on the season, the scenic view of Kiyomizudera changes from cherry blossom pink to maple leave orange in the spring and autumn. Incidentally, these are also the best seasons to visit Kyoto.

What can you do here:

  • Visit the Jishu Shrine and find your way to love: Dedicated to the deity of love and matchmaking, the two ‘love’ stones here which are placed 18 meters apart are said to bring luck in love if you are able to find your way from one to the other with your eyes closed!
  • Drink from the Otowa Waterfall: Located at the base of the temple, drinking from either of the three streams of water are said to have different benefits, ranging from longevity, success at school, to a fortunate love life. But do refrain from drinking all three as it is considered greedy (plus, the locals will give you a weird look).

Great for: Photography hobbyists, sightseers, families with kids – everyone!

Travel Tip #4 – Take the best picture of the temple from the opposite cliff! Also, if you are a fan of traditional Japanese sweets like mochi and dango, there are many teahouses on the way up so do check them out.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

5. Nishi Honganji

One of the two largest temples in Kyoto city, Nishi Honganji (or the West Honganji) – together with its counterpart Higashi Honganji (East Honganji) located in the East of Kyoto – is the HQ of the Jodo-Shin Sect (True Pure Land Sect), one of Japan’s largest Buddhist sects. The temple is also a UNESC world heritage site and is also a good place to experience contemporary Japanese Buddhism.

Great for: Photography hobbyists, sightseers, fans of Zen Buddhism, Japanese culture and history.

Travel Tip #5 – Located near the Kyoto main station, you can get to this temple in 10-15 minutes by walking. You can also take a shuttle bus from the main station that take less than 10 minutes traveling time.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

6. Fushimi Inari

If you still have time after visiting all the essential sites in Kyoto city, why not take a half day trip to the Fushimi Inari shrine in Fushimi Inari-ku? Being the head shrine of Inari, a Japanese deity of foxes that governs fertility and agriculture, the Fushimi Inari is also the site of the film ‘Memoirs of a Geisha’.

Sitting at the base of the Inari mountain, the temple has an iconic mountain trail where over 10,000 Torii gates are placed along the way to the sacred mountain top. The mountain trail leads to many smaller shrines which spans over a few kilometres, so if you are planning to visit it all, be prepared to walk for at least 2-4 hours.

Great for: Photography hobbyists, sightseers, fans of Japanese culture, history and Memoirs of Geisha.

Travel Tip #6 – You can get to the Fushimi Inari Shrine by taking the JR Nara Line from Kyoto Station to JR Inari Station (Cost: 140 Yen). It’s just a two short stops away.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Oh, last but not least, also do try to find out if there is any interesting matsuri (festival) going on while you are there. I had the chance to experience the local New Year festival during the Setsubun in Winter but I heard there are similar activities during different seasons. The best way to know will be to ask any locals and they will happy to point out to you on the happening places to be!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

 

Advertisements

Ethihad Airways Unites VR Innovation With Hollywood Glamour

Editor’s Note: You can now watch the 360 degree video on YouTube above or via vr.etihad.com. There is also an updated version in stereoscopic sound since 17 June. To guarantee the full experience, viewers can view the film using a virtual reality headset, such as Oculus Rift or Google Cardboard.

What happens when you put together a great team of filmmakers, an Academy Award-winning actress and let them have free play with latest 360 video technology and Virtual Reality (VR) innovation? You get a stunning five-minute feature film that makes the brand associated with it setting a high bar in luxury travel and marketing.

Now, this is something you will want to see.

Created for Ethihad Airways to promote its new Airbus A380 fleet flying between New York and Abu Dhabi, the highly anticipated film “Reimagine” immerses its viewers in a fully experiential journey following Nicole Kidman through one of its new Airbus A380s   The 360-degree virtual reality film also marks the first time a Hollywood actor has starred in a fully immersive virtual reality movie.

etihad-airways-reimagine-vr-movie-making-of-1

The airline has used cutting-edge technology and multidisciplinary mediums in the feature to bring to life its acclaimed guest experience and hospitality story by engaging the consumer in various sensory interactions onboard the virtual flight. Each scene in the film takes on a theme intended to stimulate the senses of light, sound, motion, and conversation.

Nicole Kidman, Academy Award winning actress and Etihad Airways’ brand ambassador, said: “The film is a culmination of Etihad’s vision to tell the airline’s story in an extremely innovative way and a commitment to engaging with the public as has never been attempted by an airline before. It was a great challenge but one which has definitely paid off and it was great to be part of such an exciting project.”

etihad-airways-reimagine-nicole-kidman-vr

Throughout the experience, the viewer meets and engages with a number of characters including the actress herself, her film director, an opera singer and even an Emirati guest with a falcon in First Class. The journey also provides personal interactions with the Savoy-trained Butler in The Residence, the airline’s luxurious private three-room cabin; the inflight Chef in First Class; the Food and Beverage Manager in Business Class; and the Flying Nanny, trained by the Norland College in the United Kingdom.

Peter Baumgartner, Etihad Airways’ Chief Executive Officer, said: “We want to share Etihad’s story in a completely new way, using technology to make our consumers a part of the narrative and to experience an Etihad Airways A380 flight first-hand, from anywhere.

“The film demonstrates how, as an innovative brand, we continue to break down the barriers of convention and lead the way in intelligent communication and best practice not just within the aviation industry, but across the fields of marketing, communication and technology.”

etihad-airways-reimagine-vr-movie-scene-360

The adventure takes the viewer through the twin-decked aircraft and covers its luxurious interiors including Economy Class, Business Class, and First Class, before concluding with a focus on Nicole Kidman enjoying the unique features of The Residence.

Shane O’Hare, Etihad Airways’ Senior Vice President Marketing, said: “In December 2014, we completely reimagined the travel experience with the launch of our new A380 fleet, setting a new standard in innovative design, service and technology. This was followed in 2015 by a tremendously successful adverting campaign starring Nicole Kidman.

“This immersive VR film is a massive step-change in the way we present the Etihad Airways brand and product to the consumer using highly innovative new mediums. Based on the success of our recent campaign with Nicole, the decision to take this partnership to the next level was an obvious one.”

etihad-airways-reimagine-vr-movie-making-of-2

The film, filmed exclusively in Abu Dhabi, was created over a six-month period using state-of-the-art VR technology. An Etihad Airways A380 was fully customised prior to filming; overhead lockers, seats and other sections of the aircraft’s interior were removed to allow for the installation of cutting-edge Red Dragon cameras, which were used to perfectly capture the actress’ movement through the aircraft. Hundreds of individual lights were required to ensure smooth and uninterrupted shots.

Etihad Airways collaborated with the Barbarian Group, a subsidiary of Cheil Worldwide, and the creative digital production company MediaMonks to produce the film. The feature was directed by the renowned husband and wife directing duo Anthony Atanasio and Valerie Martinez. The film used pioneering filming techniques to ensure a seamless production with no warping or stitches, achieving unrivalled VR results.

Ola Björling, MediaMonks’ Global Director of VR, said: “As the most multidisciplinary medium there is, virtual reality relies more heavily on craft and execution than anything that has gone before it. We believe the display of artistry in every facet of this production is setting a new benchmark for live-action VR.”

The Bali Getaway: Exploring Ubud

Bali, the island of Gods – whenever this gem island of Indonesia is mentioned, many will immediately think of the famous party beach Kuta and the thrilling waves at Nusa Dua. But if you are a fan of Eat, Pray, Love like me, you will know that there is another side of Bali that is synonymous with peace and tranquility.

ST.IMG_9631

Welcome to Ubud. Also known as the ‘Soul of Bali’ by the locals, Ubud is located in the centre of Bali, about an hour to two (depending on traffic) drive from the ‎Ngurah Rai International Airport.

Getting to Ubud

Upon arrival, visitors might get overwhelmed with the numerous name plates that cluttered at the arrival gates, so if you have arranged for airport transfer with the hotel or home-stay, it will be good to have the necessary contacts with you on hand to locate your driver just in case you can’t find him in the crowd.

ST.IMG_9595
There was a local festival going on when I was there, so these religious structures/poles were seen everywhere along the streets. The locals displayed the poles outside their homes and businesses.

There are also plenty of taxis outside the airport, and many will try to tout from the moment you stepped out of the gates. To prevent the hassle of haggling with a local having just stepped out of the plane (which I’m sure most of us are too tired for it), your best bet will be to get a taxi from the taxi counter at the airport. The airport taxis are pre-paid but it’s generally safe and the rates are standard. For reference on taxi fares, check out this page here.

As I have arranged for a private airport transfer with my host, so the fare is slightly higher (250,000 rp), but I’m not complaining as the place I am staying is rather remote within Ubud, so it’s better to ride with someone who knows exactly where we are going. Besides, it allows me to talk to the host and get to know the neighborhood better. We also took a detour to grab lunch nearby (on his recommendation, we went to a nice local eatery) and he even brought me to a shop to get a prepaid SIM card for my phone. So I guess I’m paying extra for the convenience!

The Alang Alang House Ubud

The Alang Alang House Ubud
The Alang Alang House Ubud

Ever since I found out about Airbnb, I’ve always wanted to try it out. Why? For the experience of course! To me, the best way to explore a foreign city will be to stay with the locals and eat what they eat, because only then you can see the true spirit of the local cultures. After doing a good amount of research, I decided to go with a home stay in the Gentong village of Ubud called the Alang Alang House.

Entrance of the residence.
Entrance of the residence.

A traditional Balinese residence where cottages and stone buildings are contained within the compound, one can immediately feel the spirit of the Balinese culture here. Hand-craft stone arts, temple garden and straw cottages, the peacefulness delights me. Host by the village head of Gentong, the Alang Alang House is situated along the arts and craft street where wood and stone craft shops can be found.

AL.stonecra
Stone carving on the wall. All handmade!
AL.IMG_9656
An area in the residence is set aside for the family temple to worship the Balinese gods.
The altars.
The altars.
AL.IMG_9605
The common living area.
AL.IMG_9603
Staying here is like living in a garden.
AL.IMG_9600
Passing by the greenery on my way to the room.

When I finally saw my cottage house, I can’t help but to feel a little excited. A wooden structure supported by stilts, the Alang Alang straw cottage is everything I imagine it to be and better.

AL.IMG_9606
Hello, my temporary home.
AL.IMG_9661
I was greeted by this lovely view when I arrived. Nice!
AL.IMG_9613
Everything’s made of wood.
AL.IMG_9621
Wake up in the morning to a greenery view.
AL.IMG_9620
My reading corner.

Yep, I am very satisfied with my room. Oh, did I also mentioned that they have room service too? They can even arrange for in-room massages for you at pretty good rates.

The Yoga Barn

One of my key objectives during this relaxation trip is to do yoga. After spending some time researching about the yoga studios in Ubud, I came across the Yoga Barn. Judging from the way the locals reacted the moment I say ‘Yoga Barn’ (everyone I met had nodded enthusiastically to show that they know the place), my guess is that the studio is a popular one.

YB.IMG_9637
Entrance of Yoga Barn

And I was right. When I stepped into the reception, there were already several others inquiring about class schedules and rates.

Located at Ubud centre, the Yoga Barn is a place for yoga practice and Aryuvedic treatments. Yoga classes are available throughout the day, starting at as early as 7 am to the last class ending at 8.30 pm. You are free to choose the classes based on your interest and you don’t need to have extensive yoga experience to attend (though it is recommended that you join the level 1 classes if you are new to yoga). The classes are scheduled on a monthly basis, and for those who are keen, you can check out this page here.

Each lesson costs about 110,000 rp, but if you intend to attend more than 2 lessons, it might be worthwhile to sign up for packages of 3 or 5. The package is valid for 6 months, as I was told by the reception lady.

YB.IMG_9673
The back entrance of Yoga Barn.
Besides yoga classes, the studio is also involved in holistic living classes and seminars.
Besides yoga classes, the studio also conduct meditation classes, holistic treatments and wellness seminars.
The main yoga studio and reception area.
The main yoga studio and reception area. There is also small cafe within its premises.
Alright, lesson 1. My first lesson at Yoga Barn: Hatha Yoga
My first lesson at the Yoga Barn: Hatha Yoga
YB.IMG_9674
Basking under the morning sun and breathing in cool, crisp air – the best way to start the day.

Other than yoga, Ubud is also a place for Balinese massages. Most massage parlors are reasonably priced with pretty decent facilities. On one of the days, I did a two-hour massage+scrub session at a local spa for less than S$40! It was so worth it.

ST.IMG_9650
Check out the Jaens Spa if you are in Central Ubud and looking for a nice relaxation session. Featured on TripAdvisor, the place is clean and the service is good.

Now, who wants to get all sweaty and dirty by walking back to the hotel after a pampering session? If you want to stay fresh and clean (especially if you plan to take a nap right after 😉 , you can arrange for private transportation with the spa to take you back to the hotel.

Balinese Cuisine

Strongly flavoured with spices and herbs, Balinese cuisine is one that packs a deal. With its alluring aromas and colourful compositions, everyone has got to try at least one of these dishes below to complete your Bali travel experience!

Nasi Campur

FO.IMG_9680
This Nasi Campur in Central Ubud has white rice, chicken satay with peanut sauce, stir-fry spinach, fried egg, tempe and onion chicken salad.

A rice dish with various side dishes, Nasi Campur (or also known as Nasi Bali) is a local specialty. Comprising of meat, vegetable, soy and egg dishes, the Nasi Campur is a colourful dish. The Balinese version usually have grilled meat (i.e. satay), fried tofu, cucumber, spinach, tempe, beef cubes, vegetable curry and rice served on/wrapped in a banana leaf (if you are packing).

Nasi Goreng

FO.photo (7)
Homestyle Nasi Goreng prepared by my host at the homestay. It was one of the best Nasi Goreng I ever had.

Referred as the national dish of Indonesia, Nasi Goreng is a simple fried rice dish where pre-cooked rice is stir fried in small amount of cooking oil with sweet soy sauce, shallot, garlic, tamarind and chilli, accompanied by other ingredients such as vegetable, egg, chicken or prawns. They also have this in Singapore, but I definitely like the Balinese version better!

Mee Goreng

FO.IMG_9643

Another stir-fried dish, mee goreng is the noodle version of nasi goreng. Cooking methods and ingredients are almost the same, just that the staple used is noodles instead of rice. As I enjoy alternating between rice and noodles, this is also one of my all-time favourites! All gorengs (stir-fried dishes) are typically served with some Indonesia crackers as well. Yummy!

Of course, this is not all to the delicious Balinese cuisine. There are many more, but I just didn’t have enough time (or stomach space) to eat them all. I’ve heard that the Babi guling (roasted suckling pig) and Betutu (a heavily seasoned steamed/roasted poultry) are also some unique local specialtoes, so perhaps I will try that next time when I am there!

Having explored the cultural side of Bali this time, my next trip to this beautiful island will definitely be to the beach and party scene at Kuta. So stay tuned and watch out for my next entry on Bali!

reen 

Krabi: Where Sun, Sand & Sea Awaits

IMG_9102
Photo taken at Klong Muang beach.

Touted as the next ‘rising star’ of Thailand tourism, Krabi is home to some of the best beaches in Asia. As Krabi only recently opened up to international travelers, it is one of those few beach destinations that is not massively influenced by wide-spread commercialization and aggressive peddling such as Bali or Phuket.

Travelers to Krabi will appreciate its simple and laid-back lifestyle, where the locals are friendly and helpful. If you like outdoor sports like surfing, diving, rock climbing etc., then Krabi should definitely be on your bucket list!

When to go?

The best time to visit Krabi will be between late January to March. I made this travel in February, just slightly after Valentine’s Day and it was perfect – the waters were clear and low tide. Most of all, shops were open! I was there on another occasion in June and the weather conditions weren’t so great. It rained almost every other day; the waters were murky; tides were high, plus, many shops and makeshift stalls were also closed!

It wasn’t a joyful holiday at all, and only thereafter I learned from the locals that June-November is their off-season period due to prevalent rainfall and unfavorable sea conditions.

Accommodation

Depending on your budget and location preference, there is a wide array of hotels, resorts and apartments located in Ao Nang, Krabi Town and other districts in Krabi.

As I wanted to get away from the touristy crowd of Ao Nang and Krabi Town for some quiet and peaceful time, I found a studio apartment at At Sea Condominium , which is located near Klong Muang, away from the bustle of downtown.

IMG_9037
The living room area of the studio apartment. On the right is the bedroom.

The place is clean and well-equipped. The condo also has a small cafe / mini mart near the pool where you can have your meals, or buy daily necessities.

IMG_9036
The kitchenette is equipped with all the basic cooking utensils you need to make a simple meal. I was able to make a quick supper here when I was hungry.
IMG_9038
The apartment also has a small balcony facing the pool.

The location of the condo is strategic. Close to two white sandy beaches just 10 minutes away, I enjoyed bringing breakfast sandwiches to the beach and picnic under the lovely morning sun.

IMG_9045
Clear, turquoise waters at the beach!
IMG_9117
And the best thing was that it wasn’t even crowded at all! You can easily pick a spot anywhere and make it your own.
IMG_9114
At Klong Muang, there is a small isle located just a few hundred meters away from the beach, where you can literally walk over during low tides. I sat on a huge rock on this isle in the morning for a ‘seaview’ breakfast.

Looking for nice Thai food and restaurants nearby? Fret not, there are food places along the small roads of Klong Muang. From local Thai cuisines to European pizza and pasta, you will be able to find something suitable here.

How about massage parlors? Starting from an affordable 250 baht for a 60-min Thai massage at a local parlour or up to a 1,000 baht (or more!) at a luxurious hotel spa, visitors to Krabi have a variety of choices. Spa abd massage parlors are as common as eating places and can be found everywhere, some are even on beach itself.

IMG_9057
Can’t stop raving about the clear waters! And I didn’t even have to travel far from my condo – this is one thing I love about staying in Klong Muang, away from the hustle and bustle of Ao nang.
IMG_9043
The Sheraton Krabi is also located along this beach – where you can see many holidaymakers enjoying their time under the sun.
IMG_9054
The long-tail boat is the main mode of sea transportation in Krabi. You can see them docked along beaches everywhere.
IMG_9087
The bar at Sheraton Krabi Resort. I brought my book and notepad with me to enjoy a quiet, peaceful moment with a refreshing mojito.
IMG_9089
Opps, couldn’t resist a second drink. A melon mojito – must try!
IMG_9097
The sunset is just beautiful here.

Island Hopping! Hong Island

Island hopping is one of the must-do activities when visiting Krabi. Like in Phuket, visitors can travel to the famous Koh Phi Phi and the nearby islands on a day trip. But since we are in Krabi, why not explore the other lesser-known islands? Some of the noteworthy ones will be Hong Islands, Chicken Island and Railay.

IMG_9151
Hong Island

To go island hopping in Krabi, you can either pre-book a tour at one of the tour agencies located in Ao nang (or anywhere else) or simply walk up to any long-tail boat service stall at the beach. The pre-booked boat tour usually starts in the morning (with a schedule to follow) and takes you on a speedboat. For travelers who prefer a more local experience, the second option will be recommended as you will be taking the long-tail boat. Also, the amount of time you want to spend on each island is all yours to decide – without anyone whistling you to get off when time’s up.

IMG_9136
Setting off to the Hong Islands!
IMG_9122
Surprisingly, the ride was not as bumpy as I had expected.
IMG_9158
Being a popular island hopping spot, the Hong Island, also known as Koh Hong, was fairly crowded early afternoon.
IMG_9154
Then again, the clear, turquoise waters and white sandy beach are to die for! Complete with amazing limestone structures hovering above.
IMG_9156
The large lagoon that just pours into the island is just amazing…
IMG_9157
The waters are shallow and clear – perfect for snorkeling. Small school of fish can be seen swimming so close to the shore.

I didn’t get to go Railay and the other islands this time as I ran out of time by spending too much time here (opps), but since Krabi is such a lovely place, I am sure I will be back soon since I haven’t even try rock-climbing yet!

Top 10 activities you should do in Krabi:

1. Kayaking (Hong Island is a favourite spot)

2. Learn how to cook Thai dishes (there’s a Thai cooking school in Krabi)

3. Learn Muay Thai (Thai Boxing) – I did this on my second day, it was fun!

4. Or if you are a fan of Thai Boxing, watch a match at the nearby stadium.

5. Rock climbing at Railay (I am so doing this next time!)

6. Snorkeling & Diving (With clear waters like that, duh!)

7. Visit the Klong Thom hot springs

8. Go for a beach massage (Have your body relax while facing the open sea, awesome feeling).

9. Elephant ride (for that exotic riding experience)

10. Island-hopping (need I say more?!)

ps, If you have more activity ideas for Krabi, please let me know!

 

Taiwan: Sun Moon Lake

IMG_8213

Located in Nantou County, the Sun Moon Lake is the largest lake in Taiwan and is famous for its clear turquoise waters and scenic surroundings. A popular spot for couples to have their wedding photographs taken, the Sun Moon Lake is also a favorite getaway spot for the locals.

IMG_8098
The cycling trail around Sun Moon Lake was voted as one of most scenic route in the world by CNN Travel in 2012.

With a surface area of approximately 7.93 km2 (3.06 sq mi), the lake is said to be 27 m and 748 m above sea level. As the southern part of Lalu Island (which sits in the middle of the lake) is shaped like a new moon, and the northern part is shaped like a sun; and hence the name Sun Moon Lake. The lake and its surrounding countryside have also been designated as one of thirteen national scenic areas in Taiwan.

Getting to Sun Moon Lake

IMG_8112
It says ‘Sun Moon Lake’

The fastest way will be to take the high-speed rail to Taichung. From there, you can choose to take a bus or a taxi. For convenient sake, we have rented a van for the day so transportation is well taken care of. But you don’t mind making multiple transfers by bus, you can check out here for more details. However, my recommendation is definitely to rent a local van service with a driver if you are traveling in a group and would like to save the hassle of finding your way around the rural areas.

IMG_8108
Shueishe Pier

The best way to tour Sun Moon Lake would be a boat tour. Upon reaching the Shueishe Pier (either by taxi/bus/private transportation), you will be able to see lots of tourists gathering and locals peddling boat tickets. There are so many of them that you will have no lack of choices, but an adult ticket typically should not cost more than NT$300 (this is where having a hired driver will help you to bargain for the best possible deal with the seller… Be nice! 🙂 Within just half an hour, and the boat is ready to go!

IMG_8126

Places to see

Some notable attractions within the Sun Moon Lake area include the Wen Wu Temple (文武廟), Ci En Pagoda (慈恩塔), Xuanzang Temple (玄奘寺), Xuanguang Temple (玄光寺) and of course,  the famous Jin Men Ah Ma Cha Ye Dan (金门阿么茶叶蛋).

As the boat went around the lake, the tour guide on board gave us a brief background of Sun Moon Lake. From the story of Ci En Pagoda – built by the late President Chiang Kai-shek in memory of his mother, to the aboriginal history of Lalu island, the tour is informative to those who are interested in local history and culture.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
The Xuanguang Pier

After about 15-20 minutes, the boat docked at Xuan Guang Si pier. Besides visiting the famous Xuanguang Temple (玄光寺)here, you must also not forget to have a taste of the famous braised tea egg!

IMG_8139
Jin Men Ah Ma Cha Ye Dan (金门阿么茶叶蛋) – you can’t missed it. Upon reaching the pier, you will see a long queue of people at a small hut.

The guide told us that the ‘grandma’ selling the famous tea egg did so when she was in her thirties until now, she’s already in her sixties and still selling. But as she got so famous and rich selling tea eggs, she actually became a millionaire! It sounds a little exaggerated, so I’m not exactly sure how true is this rag-to-riches story.

IMG_8141
Finally got my hands on the famous braised tea egg! My nephew ate two of it at one go. Two!

After having warm, delicious tea eggs at the pier, we began our climb uphill to the Xuanguang Temple (玄光寺).

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
The Xuanguang Temple (玄光寺)

Xuanguang Temple (玄光寺), located 2.5 kilometers from the Xuanzang Temple, was built in 1955 where the relics of the famous Buddhist monk, Xuanzang, are enshrined here. A great contributor to the spread of Buddhism in China, Xuanzang was ordered by the Tang emperor to go India to seek for Buddhist scriptures. After having been away for more than a decade, he brought back more than 650 sutras and 1,335 scrolls to China.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
The crowd outside the temple.
IMG_8153
A scenic view of Sun Moon Lake from the temple hill.

It was a short boat tour, but nice to have a look around the lake. We didn’t stay longer because of our packed itinerary, but I think if you have time to spare, it will be nice to do a cycling tour too. As it was winter time, the surroundings were quite foggy and dim (even though it was midday!).

But if you are here in the morning, why not consider going to the nearby theme park in the afternoon? Also known as the Formosan Aboriginal Culture Village, this amusement park is definitely a delight for families with children and preteens!

reen