Discover Sun Moon Lake Taiwan

Just 64km away from Taichung (2 hours by bus) lies the unique and dramatic Sun Moon Lake.

The largest body water in Taiwan is also home to the Thao tribe, an aboriginal taiwanese tribe, and a tourist hotspot, mostly during Chinese New Year.

This area offers some accommodations for those who want to spend some days discovering this enormous lake and its surroundings. In our case, we spent a whole day enjoying this majestic place before coming back to Taichung.

First thing we did after getting off the bus that drove us to the lake, was to take a plan of the area at the tourism information office and to check which activities we could enjoy.

Following you can find some information about Sun Moon Lake attractions:

What to do in Sun Moon Lake

Sun Moon Lake Circular Walk

After grabbing a coffee at a local cafeteria we decided to explore one of the walking trails at Shueishe Pier (the main pier of the lake). We figured out that we could have a nice walk among nature and take some nice pictures of the clear turquoise waters.

On our way we found some local fishermen and a couple of adventurous who, like us, were enjoying an early morning walk.

 

Sun Moon Lake Shuttle Boat

The quickest way to discover this beautiful lake and its green mountains is to take one of the various ferries that you will find at the Shueishe pier.

Since there are many different ferry companies I recommend you to take a look at this website “Taiwan Sun Moon Lake Boats“. Here you can find all the information related to the different boat operators, their prices and schedules.

If you decide to take a boat tour you will be able to see and visit the following places:

Shueishe Pier

Although Shueishe is the most tourist-oriented part of the lake, it is also a great area to have a nice walk, to enjoy nature and to visit some traditional places such as Longfeld Temple.

Ita Thao Pier

You can get off the boat at Ita Thai Pier and discover the old village of Thao tribe, the aboriginal taiwanese tribe. Here you can get lost among the narrow, colorful street and their food markets. If you want to try some traditional food and buy some souvenirs, this is a nice place to do it.

From the wharf you can enjoy an amazing view to the sun moon lake cable car.

Xuanguang Pier

From my point of view this is, by far, the most interesting spot in Sun Moon Lake.

Once you get off the boat you can enjoy a nice, an maybe crowded, walk until you reach Xuanguang Temple. This beautiful taiwanese temple was built to honor Xauanzang,  a prestigious monk who devoted his whole life to promote Buddhist teachings and it is still one of must-go places for many visitors to Sun Moon Lake.

However, this is not the only temple created to honor Xuanzang. At the top of the mountain, visitors can discover one of the most magnificent temples I have ever seen: Master Xuanzang Memorial Hall.

To be honest, you can reach the temple either by walk or by bus/Car.

I highly recommend you to discover the trail on the mountain, surrounded by nature and wild animals (Do not worry, they are afraid of people, so they tend to hide when you make noise).

We decided to invest some time at Xuanguang and to walk up the mountain until Xuanzang Memorial Hall. Surrounded by nature, we did not find any other tourist on the way – which was a huge surprise for us.

The first image that comes to my mind when I think about the temple is the dramatic views that the visitor can enjoy from its esplanade.

The temple is also really special. On the first floor, it is easy to find solo monks praying on silence. On the second and third floor, the visitor can learn more about Xuanzang story and the importance of this monk  who brought back the original Buddhist sacred texts to translate them himself.  This journey took him twenty years and, since then, his contributions to the Buddhist community were innumerable.

Lalu Island

Located in the middle of the lake, this tiny island was inhabited by Thao people. It is too small and fragile for tourists since it has been half disintegrated due to the building of a dam around 1930, as well as due to the 921-earthquake in 1999. However, you can have a great view of it from the boat.

You can dock the boat at either Shueishe, Xuanguang or Ita Thao Pier and get back when you are done with visiting each part of the lake.

Sun Moon Lake Bikepaths

At the very beginning I talked to you about the Circular Walk. If you prefer to ride a bike instead of having a walk, I recommend you to do not miss out this amazing bikeway that covers half of the lake and allows the visitor to enjoy great views as well as to take beautiful pictures.

Sun Moon Lake Ropeway

Sun Moon Lake Ropeway, with around 1.877 meters length, runs between Ita Thao Pier and Formosan Aboriginal Culture Village. The cable car travels over two mountains with altitudes around 1000 meters.

This ropeway is used as a public transport by locals, as well as a touristic attraction by foreigners ready to enjoy a dramatic view of the lake. The cable cars are designed with three different colors: red, yellow and blue, which represent the sun, the moon and the lake.

Your turn!

Have you ever been to Sun Moon Lake?

This lake is a beautiful area with a lot to offer. Cycling, having a nice walk around the lake, getting ourselves lost among the streets markets and discovering dramatic temples is a unique opportunity you should not miss. This place is stunning!

Enjoy your time at Sun Moon Lake and feel free to send me a photo via IG or Twitter. Share this post or comment below if you want to share your experience with us.

Next time we will travel to the colorful city of Kaohsiung. See you there!

Visit Bilbao & Eat Pintxos

Last year Bilbao celebrated the 20th anniversary of the Guggenheim museum, a building that supposed an urban relaunch in which the industrial past of this city was overlaid with green areas and modern architecture.

Most of art lovers around the world started to look at this city as “the next place to visit”, almost all Spaniards got rid of their prejudices and the most relevant travel experts placed Bilbao (finally) on the map. Thankfully, the old Basque traditions still remain intact. Despite the constant growth in visitors’ number, Basque people still maintain their ancient soul. Eating pintxos and supporting Athletic de Bilbao are still part of their lifestyle.

Bilbao is a great city for people interested in food, architecture, history and even music (Bilbao yearly hosts different music festivals, the most popular one is the BBK Live, maybe you have already heard about it).

Although the vast majority of visitors come to Bilbao attracted by the Guggenheim Museum, most of them go back home having discovered an unique place full of charm. And that is what I would like to show you with this post, a living city opened to embrace visitors and to share their culture with them.

What to visit in Bilbao

Casco Viejo

A good way to start discovering Bilbao is to visit the core of the city, the place where it all started: “Siete Calles” (Seven Streets), the old town of Bilbao.

Bilbao, as we all know it, started as a seven streets village located in the middle of two mountain ranges which gained importance in Spain due to its port activity. Nowadays, the old town looks much different as before. Its ancient narrow streets are closed to traffic allowing the visitor to get lost among renamed places such as the 14th century Santiago Cathedral, the Unamuno square (which honors the Spanish writer with the same name), Plaza Nueva (the most important square of the old town reconverted, nowadays, into a “place to be” for all pintxo lovers), Mercado de la Ribiera (the ancient Bilbao´s market, nowadays reconverted into a modern one. Check it here: http://www.lariberabilbao.com/en/ ) and Teatro Arriaga (the historical theater of Bilbao)

The neighboring area of Bilbao La Vieja has a similar history and vibe but it has started to attract artists and gallery owners, after years of controversy. This renovated part of the city is becoming popular among young and middle age people who like to try new, modern restaurants.

Museums

Leaving the old town and walking along the river side we start our way to the two main museums of the city: the Museo de Bellas Artes (Bilbao Fine Arts Museum) and the Guggenheim.

Although the Guggenheim take most of the credit, Bilbao´s ancient museum always organizes a great program of temporary exhibitions. Both museums complement themselves.  On the one hand, the Museo de Bellas Artes, which is part of the city landscape since 1914, has one of the best collections of paintings made by many great Spanish masters like El Greco, Velazquez, Zurbarán or Goya. The Guggenheim museum, on the other hand, has one of the most renowned modern art collections of the world. Its temporary exhibitions as well as the permanent collection are in line with the groundbreaking architecture of the building. Two of the most popular outdoor artworks are the Puppy, a terrier carpeted in bedding plants created by Jeff Koons, and Maman, a tribute to  Louise Bourgeois´ mother created in form of a spider.

Downtown

After this cultural visit I would recommend you to enjoy some refreshment before exploring. A good street to recharge your energy  is Pozas, a traditional meeting point for locals.

Following I will show you three different ways to walk from the Guggenheim until Pozas (do not forget the name of this place 😉 )

River path

Leaving the Guggenheim and walking along the river side we start our river path. As you may already know, Bilbao experienced an architectural transformation the last 20 years which meant a radical change not only on its image to the outside world but also on its economy.

Walking along the Nervión (Bilbao´s river) is a good way to understand and to discover this transformation. Next to the Guggenheim we can find two modern university libraries (one belonging to the private and the other one to the public university) located just in front of one of the most ancient buildings of Bilbao: the renowned University of Deusto.

If we continue our way, we will find the highest building of the city: La torre Iberdrola, a modern office  building. Straight forward we reach Doña Casilda park (better known as the ducks´ park) from where we can observe the modern Palacio Euskalduna, a theater and conference hall.

Just walk a couple of steps more to reach Plaza Circular (Circular Square) in Gran Vía, the commercial and financial centre of the city, and the new San Mames football stadium.

At this point we should remember that Bilbainos (people of Bilbao) are really pride of their football team. Why? Since more than 100 years ago, heritage and tradition are hugely important to Athletic de Bilbao Club. In a football world ruled by money and globalization, Athletic has a complete reliance on their cantera (youth basque players playing for Athletic Club in youth league). This non-written policy implies that every player who pulls on the famous red and white shirt is drawn from the Basque Country. This special non-written rule is the soul of Athletic Club that attracts fans not only from Bilbao but from all around the world. If you are one of those who think that this policy could create an inferiority between Athletic and other Spanish teams, let me surprise you by telling you that Athletic is one of the three clubs never relegated from “La Liga” (the others are Real Madrid and Barca).

Starting from this point, just a couple of meters away from San Mames,  perpendicular to Gran Vía, we arrive to Pozas.

City path

Leaving Puppy behind our backs we will start this path which will lead us to Pozas.

Streets such as Mazarredo, Elcano, Iparraguirre or Alameda Rekalde make up the modern “art district”. Among them it is easy to find art galleries, modern pintxos bars as well as gift and antique stores. At the end of this area we will reach Gran Vía, the financial centre of Bilbao, a 1.5 kilometers street long between Plaza Circular and Plaza del Sagrado Corazón. The halfway point is Plaza Moyua (Moyua square), home to the Carlton Hotel and to the shopping area of the city.

Although Moyua contains historical, dramatic buildings, one of the most interesting monuments of this square are the subway entrances.

Designed by Norman Foster, Bilbao´s subway stations are station-caverns made of stainless steel and glass. Inside, the stations are a large basilica-style gallery with two platforms. Outside, at the street level, the entrances are circular canyons made of glass. The renowned architect changed Bilbao´s landscape with this perfect example of engineering and architecture combination. You can find subway stations almost all around the city. It is well worth visiting them.

To reach our destination we just need to walk through Alameda Recalde until Pozas or to enjoy a ride in the subway 😉

Image found on Google Image from the blog Arquitectura en Red

 

Parque de los patos path

Although its real name is “Parque de Doña Casilda” this beautiful park located in the middle of Bilbao is popular known as ‘”Parque de los patos” (Ducks´ park) due to its lake usually crowded by lovely ducks and swans.

At the entrance of this city´s little green lung, appears the previously mentioned Museo de Bellas Artes, whose outdoor exhibition welcomes the visitors of the park. Walking through Doña Casilda Park we can discover a huge variety of trees and plants until we reach Indautxu, a centric area of Bilbao which offers a wide range of stores and businesses, although it is particularly noted for its many pintxos bars and ancient constructions.

Where to eat: The tradition of Pintxos

Pintxos are skewered and bite-sized foods, traditionally pierced with a cocktail stick to attach them to a piece of bread. They range from traditional pintxos to mini haute cuisine experiments such as grilled foie with a cream of blackberry and warm flavoured cheese. When going to have some pintxos, it is important to know that there is no need to order them, you can directly take them from the bar counter. Do not forget to don´t throw away the toothpick attached to it, you will need them to show the barman how many pintxos you ate, so that he can charge you accordingly.

Locals usually eat one or two pintxos with a glass Txakoli (traditional Basque white wine) or Zurito (a small glass of beer) before moving on to the next bar. Resist to sample every pintxo in a single bar, there is always another bar around the corner with more amazing pintxos waiting for you! 😉

But, where can I find Pintxos in Bilbao?

Let me show you the best streets to enjoy this tasty bite-sized foods.

Pozas

The famous Pozas Street is back on the post! Yes, if you remember we came walking from the Guggenheim until Pozas to have some refreshment after our cultural visit to the dramatic Frank Gehry´s building.

Here there are traditional bars such as Restaurante Sotera, Zaharra or Restaurante Serantes. From Pozas, you can follow your gastronomical route in Calle Maestro Garcia Rivero (best pintxo bar of the street: Gozatu) or in Plaza Campuzano (traditional Pintxo bar: Bar el Estoril, highly recommended).

Plaza Nueva

Years ago Plaza Nueva looked different, nowadays it is the new Bilbao´s pintxos area. Reconverted in “the place to be”, many new bars are opening their doors in this part of the old town. The best ones? I would like to recommend you: Bar Sorginzulo, Bar Zuga and Bar Gure Toki. All of them have a great pintxos variety.

Diputación

Classics never die.

Diputación is a small square located in the downtown, nearby the council office (ES: Diputación), full of traditional Bilbao bars. I recommend you to try at least one pintxo in each bar:

  • Bar el Globo: Most popular pintxo – Pintxo de Txangurro
  • Café la Vina: Do not forget to eat jamón there. They have the best one in the entire city
  • Bar Zurekin: Try one Pintxo de Bacalao
  • Bar la Olla: Really tasty Tortilla de Patata

What else to visit in Bilbao

Before leaving this beautiful basque city I would like to recommend you a couple of places more to visit:

Artxanda

You can take a cable car in Plaza del Funicular, a couple of meters away from the city hall, up to the hill to see a fantastic view of Bilbao from above. It is worthy!

Basílica de Begoña

Built on the site where the Virgin appeared in the early sixteenth century, this Gothic Basilica is the sanctuary to venerate the Virgin of Begoña, patron saint of Bizkaia. Thousands of tourists and pilgrims (the Way of Saint James pass through its main arcade) visit this one of the greatest symbols of the city.

Getxo

Ready to drive to the coast? Just take the modern city subway and go to Las Arenas. Have a walk around, visit Puente Colgante and walk along the river side until you reach the beach. Fantastic views!

If you travel in summer you can also go to Larrabasterra or Plentzia to enjoy the beautiful, wild basque beaches.

Did you like the post? Do you want to recommend us another spot? Do you have any question regarding this city? Just leave your comments below or via social networks: FB, IG, Twitter

Have a nice trip!

 

10 amazing spots in Vienna you should not miss

Vienna, known as the City of Music, is the capital and the largest city of Austria.

Going to Vienna, one must make a list of places to visit, so might this list of 10 amazing spots in Vienna help you out to enjoy your trip to this dramatic place (UNESCO World Heritage Site).

#10. Stephansplatz

Let´s start with one of the most well-known squares in the world: The Stephansplatz, named after its most prominent building, the Stephansdom.

This ancient building is not only the cathedral of Vienna, but also one of the tallest churches in the world. If you are interested in architecture I suggest you to have a walk around this dramatic place and to discover the magnificent of this construction. Entrance to the cathedral is free for visitors.

Stephansplatz is located in the ancient downtown of  Vienna, at the end of the Känrtner Straße, the shopping street, and the Graben*, one of the first residential streets in this area of the city.

*Graben = Ditch. This elegant shopping street began life as a ditch dug built up by the Romans to protect Vinodoba until Leopold V filled it in.

#9. Hotel Sacher

In the number 9 we can find another historical building of Vienna: The Hotel Sacher, mostly known as the house of the delicious Sacher Torte.

The hotel, built on the place where Antonio Vivaldi once lived,  was founded in 1876 by Eduard, the son of the creator of the Sacher Torte, though it is best remembered for the period when it was managed by his widow Anna. Those days the hotel reached its glory days becoming a veritable institution, as well as the Sacher Torte.

The origins of this cake are dated to 1832 when Franz Sacher, an apprentice chef, came up with this delicious dessert.

Since the beginning the hotel has been an important meeting point for the Viennese high society, where aristocrats, artists and politicians conversed while enjoying the sublime Sacher Torte. Nowadays, the hotel is still a meeting place for businessmen, artists, politicians and royals, like the Queen Elizabeth II.

#8. Schönbrunn

The imperial summer palace of Maria Theresa, built around 1712,  is one of the most impressive palaces of the world (only comparable to Versailles, I would say).

The place is composed of more than 1.000 rooms and an immense garden which offers a lot of attractions for its visitors.

In the following link “Schönbrunn.at”  you can find more information about the tickets to visit the imperial summer residence of Sisi.

#7. Belvedere

Belvedere dates from the 17th century, after the Prince Eugene purchased a plot of land on the south of Vienna and decided to build his summer residence there.

This historical part of the city consists of two baroque palaces (Lower and Upper Belvedere) and a dramatic baroque-style garden. During the French Revolution both palaces served as home to French royals who left their country, in fact, the French embassy is yet located  in a beautiful imperial building not far away from of Belvedere.

#6. Manner Store

In the number 6 of this list we come back to Stepahnsplatz (#10).

Located at one corner of the square you will find the original Manner Store.

Wait a second, do you know what Manner is? If so, maybe you want to discover now the spot number 5, although it is not so tasty as this one ;). If not, keep reading to find out more about this unique place in the world.

In 1889 Mr. Josef Manner I opened a confectionery store next to Stepahnsdom. Nine years later, in 1898, he invented, in honor of the golden jubilee of Emperor Franz Josef, the Neapolitan wafer, a composition of crispy wafers filled with hazelnut cream.

Although the Manner Neapolitans’ original receipt is still being produced, the Manner company has already introduced many other different wafer flavors as tasty and delicious as the original one. Millions of Manner wafer lovers around the world visit this store every year to find out new flavors and to buy tons of the original wafer.

To keep the tradition and the quality standards for all the products, the entire Manner production takes places in the factory in Vienna in the 17th district. Take a look at Manner´s website (manner.com) to get more insights about this unique product.

#5. MuseumsQuartier

In the middle of the list we find MuseumsQuartier, a 60.000 square meters of exhibition space, situated in the former Messpalast, or convention center, which served the Empire for the imperial stables.

Three major museums are part of MQ (MuseumsQuartier); the MUMOK (Museum der Modernen Kunst – (en) Museum of Modern Art); the Leopold Museum for Classic Modern Art (the one I liked the most); and the Kunsthalle, for changing exhibitions.

MQ is a meeting place for young people and families not only in summer, when different festivals are organized on the square, but also in winter since more than a dozen smaller institutions such as the Zoom Kinder Museum are also part of MQ.

Tip: If you are hungry do not miss the chance to enjoy a great meal at the terrace of the restaurant Glacis Beisl .

#4. Rathaus

One of my favourite buildings of the city. Rather than its official status (it is the Vienna´s Town Hall as well as the seat of the government for the State of Vienna) what really attracts me from this 1880s construction is the way its Gothic facade stands there “staring” at the city of Vienna and taking part in its most important moments, such as christmas or the Life Ball.

In fact, the Rathaus is a nice meeting point. In christmas its square (Rathausplatz) holds one of the most magical christmas market of the city and during the months of spring and summer many exhibitions and festivals are also organized in this part of the city.

#3. Hundertwasserhaus

The concept of the Hundertwasserhaus was developed by Friedensreich Hundertwasser, an Austrian artist, around 1984. Each of the 53 apartments that belong to this building has a different colour, as well as the facade, which is painted in bright colorful patches.

The desire of the designer, Mr. Hundertwasser, was to bring nature closer to the city and its citizens. The accomplishment of his desire is noticeable in the use of curves and in the landscaping of the terraces with trees and ivy.

Press here to get more information about opening hours and admission

#2. Karlskirche

A dramatic baroque church located in Karlsplatz dedicated to Saint Charles Borromeo. Located beside the Spitaler Gottesacker, where Carlo Vivari was buried, this beautiful construction became popular among austrians and tourits due to its unique dome and its two flanking columns.

If you are a fan of classical music do not miss the opportunity to buy some tickets and to enjoy a live concert of classical music. Press here to find out more information about this and other music concerts which take part in churches (listening “The Four Seasons” of Vivaldi at Karlskirche is an incredible mix of feelings, I highly recommend it).

#1. Anker Clock

The Anker Clock is my favourite hidden gem in Vienna.

Located at the Hoher Markt square, the Anchor Clock was built around 1917.

The clock forms a bridge between two parts of an insurance company’s building and it is adorned with mosaic ornaments. In the course of 12 hours, around twelve figures move across the bridge. Some of these figures represent renowned people such as Haydn, Empress Maria Theresa and Eugene of Savoy.

Although at the very beginning I talked about 10 amazing spots in Vienna, I have a final suggestion:

# Extra Spot – Wiener Zentralfriedhof

This extra spot is my last personal recommendation if you ever decide to visit Vienna.

Wiene Zentralfriedhof is the largest cemetery of Austria (and the second of Europe), and it is known for being the place where notable persons such as Beethoven, Strauss or Schubert were laid to rest.  If you ever decide to come to Vienna and to visit something different do not miss the chance to come to this place.

Some may find this sight a bit macabre, however, I can assure you that it is a unique place in the world.