Sun Moon Lake and Taiwan

Guest Post By: Senior studying Information Systems and Marketing at the Foster School of Business, Samantha Chung. This Fall, Samantha studied abroad with the Foster Exchange Program with the National Chengchi University in Taiwan. 

  • Day trip to Yehliu Geopark and Keelung


With COVID-19, Taiwan had barred incoming foreign travelers on entering Taiwan. Therefore, traveling outside the country was not an option for us as exchange students, as we would not be allowed back into the country if we left. Despite this interruption on our travel plans, it granted us time to focus on exploring Taiwan itself, as there was so much to see here. One weekend, my exchange friends and I decided to take a day trip to the northern shores of Taiwan and visit Yehliu Geopark and Keelung City.


The park is famous for the “Queen’s Head,” a rock formation weathered by sea wind into the shape of its said name. While the rock formations were actually quite small and underwhelming, I highly enjoyed the short hike in the cliff park behind it. The hike extended into the high hills that overlooked the clear waters. While it was super hot that day, in the mid-80 degrees to 90 degrees Fahrenheit, the beauty of the waters and winds surrounding us at the peak were worth it.


Afterwards, we also stopped by Keelung, the harbor city of Taiwan’s north shore. While there were not many things to do there, we got food at the famous night market and observed Keelung’s city sign that closely resembles our Hollywood sign landmark.


  • Differences between Taiwan and home

While back home in the U.S.A., everyone is under stay-at-home orders. However, in Taiwan, we were able to still go around outside freely and attend classes in person. This is because the government was able to take strict action on people’s movements and control the virus situation. For instance, they required everyone coming from a foreign country to register their name and number upon arrival at immigration, and quarantined those who showed signs of symptoms for 14 days. At one point, they quarantined everyone who arrived from a foreign country for 14 days. Everyone was required to wear a face mask in public places and on public transport, else they would be fined. Our dormitory and university campus would check our temperature everyday upon entrance. Our university locked our campus entrances, and only let students or registered visitors enter from 3 places, with temperature check at each location. There were some of these checkpoints in the MRT stations as well that would automatically scan the people who would enter the station for their temperature. Anyone who showed signs of symptoms or wanted to be checked for the virus could at the hospital at a low cost. Overall, I felt very safe in Taiwan and am grateful that I was able to have a relatively enjoyable exchange experience despite the strange situation happening in the world.

Another difference I wanted to mention between Taiwan and back home is the trash collection. There is a garbage truck that goes around at certain times of the day that would play a loud tune that is audible for everyone in the area. This indicates to the people in the neighborhood to come out with their sorted trash and throw it into the truck. This is very different because it is the people coming out and throwing away their trash themselves, rather than leaving it in a trash bin for the garage truck people to collect. It’s quite interesting to look at as you see groups of people standing next to the street with bags of trash in their hands.


While there are still many differences between Taiwan and home, I will just write about one more. I loved the riverside in Taipei. We had one right next to our campus, NCCU, that I would walk or bike along quite frequently. The people here use the riverside as a place to exercise, hang out, fish, and transit. There are parks and courts for sport use, a sidewalk that leads throughout the city, and a great place to chill with friends and drink (you can drink out in the open in Taiwan). The sunset is particularly beautiful there and the beauty of nature so close to the city is something that I’ll miss when I return home.


  • Temples and Beauty at Sun Moon Lake


My friends and I did a weekend trip to Sun Moon Lake in Nantou County, Taiwan. We took a 4 hours bus trip to the lake and a short boat ride across the lake to reach our hostel. While our location was a bit inconvenient, there was a night market full of food next to our place and the locations we visited were beautiful.


I particularly loved the temples we visited. The most famous one is Wenwu Temple. The  Confucius temple extends up a hill with many stairs and layers until it reaches the top, at which you can view a magnificent gate overlooking the lake. We also visited Xuanzang Temple, a temple commemorating Sino-Japanese Buddhism. The last temple we visited was Longfeng Temple, known for its deities of love and marriage.


We also took a little hike up a hill to reach Ci’en Pagoda, a Chinese style tower that overlooks all of Sun Moon Lake. While the hike in the hot sun was a lot, it was definitely worth it for the view. There was a ropeway (like a gondola) we also took up to the Formosan Aboriginal Culture Village, but we did not go in. I would say if you do go to Sun Moon Lake, visit Ci’en Pagoda, Wenwu Temple, and go kayaking on the lake at the least. 

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