“You can’t visit Taiwan without seeing Sun Moon Lake…” – Everyone
As I’ve rightfully credited them, everyone was telling us to visit Sun Moon Lake for at least the day. “The sight is great”, they said. “The rolling of the mist too, oh, and the water – my gosh, the water” they excitedly muttered or yelled in our direction.
During December of 2012 both mine & Franca’s ears swelled a rosy-red as more people urged us to take a tour with a group, book a scooter rental, get bused along on public buses, or, to stick out a thumb and hitch our way there.
Fortunately enough for us, our Couchsurfing host in Taichung CIty – located about 125km away – with whom we’d spent the past few days discussing the changing thoughts & lives of Taiwanese people, offered to take us, another two Couchsurfers being hosted alongside of us & another friend out in his car for a drive around Sun Moon Lake’s enormous 33km circumference.
Throughout the day we drove around the lake taking in a number of temples, smaller villages & other off-shoot adventures like a former Japanese occupational-government tea plantation (which deserves a photo essay of it’s own) which has been revitalised & returned to the hard working hands of the local Taiwanese villagers themselves.
Though the Taiwanese lake & surrounding villages are together a spectacular sight and utterly worthwhile for the passers by in their cars and many cycling groups we encountered that lined the route all the way around (paddling in the water can be quite cooling too), by far the most exciting aspect for me was ouir arrival at the marriage of beauty & architecture we found at the Norihiko Dan and Associates designed Sun Moon Lake Administration Office of Tourism Bureau – or – Xiangshan Visitor Centre
Replacing Green With Green (and grey)
Completed in Feburary 2011, this competition winning entry is a wondrous merging of necessity & beauty, taking great care to not spoil the landscape, rather adding to it.
Built with the purpose of helping the local community build upon it’s growing tourism prospects as more is done to preserve the area & it’s still growing reverence for the aboriginal Thao tribe which finds itself further recognised after years of persecution & neglect.
With preservation on the mind of the developers & architects, the idea suggested as part of the ‘Landform’ competition was that whilst building was necessary, destruction of Sun Moon Lake & the surrounding area which they were trying to preserve would be wholly circumstance.
Raindrops, Grass & Group Tours
On arriving we scurried in out of the few minutes rain that came & went throughout the day passing alongside numerous other groups & tours who’d obviously considered the same protection. Unfortunately, due to the increased rain over the days prior to our visit we couldn’t walk along the grass roof as our CouchHost mentioned to me as quite an experience.
Outside – you can really see how the architect has tried to limited the damage caused to the landscape, trying to make the building almost appear flat & at the same level of the rolling of the hills around, the grass helping it the effort to complete the illusion.
Inside – the high roof relieves you from the feeling of crowdedness that one might come to expect from a visitors centre, in place allowing the wind to whip along the water & roll up the hillside where the centre is place. If fact, even as more people clustered together with their packed lunches of rice dishes & noodles out of the drizzling rain, there was plenty enough room to roam around & see the facilities at the building, and of course, the view.
View – in an effort to stick to the principles of merging with the landscape, the view overlooking the lake is presented at the edge of an Infinity Pool-like water piece which threads itself along the whole length of the building, and at one part pooling out when a aboriginal Thao canoe sits still on the inches-deep water stirring romantic images of times long past when people would fish around the lake & Lalu Island.
Looking Over My Shoulder
Having taken my time to enjoy the view I left Franca and my new friends at the waters edge whilst I took some shots of one of my newly decided favourite structures in Taiwan, typically, I took my shots in my unique ddangles fashion, looking for the less common & artfully inspiring.
How To Find –
Unfortunately, the only real option for making your way to the centre is to drive, rent a scooter, or hire a taxi for the day.
Whilst alternatives such as a number of buses from Taipei or nearby Taichung are available & the alternate and greener option of cycling your way around the full 33km is a solid choice too, it will take someone with stronger determination than us that day to accomplish all that it available.
That beloved budget backpackers word – FREE
Value For Money –
Who’s going to argue with the opportunity to see well thought out architecture & free access to a stunning panoramic view?
Location Address & Map –
View ‘Sun Moon Lake Administration Office of Tourism Bureau – Xiangshan Visitor Center’ in a larger map
Don’t travel all the way to Sun Moon Lake without stopping by, even if it’s only for five minutes to grab that shot.
Whilst the view is nice, the architecture – as I may have mentioned : o) – is well done, after taking those shots, visiting the shops & facilitating the facilities, there’s very little else to do here before you pop back onto your saddle or into the drivers seat to carry on the journey till its end, so don’t fill that three hour gap on your Sun Moon Lake ‘Things To Do’ list.
Architecture + Landscape =