Tuesday, 25 July 2017

a stay in puli; a day trip to sun moon lake

Views of Sun Moon Lake (日月潭).

After traversing the east coast and southwest coast of Taiwan, it was time to head to central Taiwan. The main draw there is the famous Sun Moon Lake in Nantou County, of course, and we decided to stay in the nearby Puli Township as a base for our sightseeing.

Dumplings from an unknown shop in Puli, Nantou ( 埔里鎮,南投縣).

We spent two days and three nights here, and we would spend our days outside of Puli - the first day visiting Sun Moon Lake, which I'll get to in a moment, and the second day exploring the Jiji Railway Line, a wonderfully charming escapade that I look forward to sharing with you in my next post.

Our nights are spent in Puli, and every night, without fail, we would get bubble tea from Mr. Wish. The drinks are delectable, and the staff there are so friendly. I don't think they get foreigners at their shop very often, as they seemed quite enthusiastic about Simon's presence.

We loved getting drinks from the Mr. Wish bubble tea shop in Puli.

It goes without saying that we visited the night market in Puli. It is here that we got a glimpse of a totally unexpected scene in these backwaters of Taiwan.

You get charming sights, such as children playing the magnetic rubber duck fishing game. Cute, tame, and innocent so far, right?

Innocent fun and games at Puli night market (埔里夜市).

And then... we couldn't believe our eyes when we saw this. I can only describe it as some kind of strange, medieval cruelty.

So, you know those claw machines where you put in a coin and try to grab a toy and drop it down a chute? Well, this is similar, but instead of a claw, players control a disk, which they use to try to scoop up an actual live fish from the water in the claustrophobic tank and plonk into the chute, thereby winning themselves a prize. The poor tormented fish are clearly distressed and I feel so bad for them - this is next level insane and disturbing stuff.

Last I heard, the Taiwanese media found out about this fishy arcade game and have reported it on the news with an appropriately disapproving tone. I can't find any further updates in regards to whether it has since been shut down or not, but you'd hope so! Or if they could covert the setup so that it uses fake toy fish instead, that would turn it from a horrible game to an agreeable one.

Catching live fish arcade game (撈活魚遊戲機).

But I do want to say that while this is an awful thing, it doesn't define Puli. There are many nice things about this town, and other than this crazy atrocity, the rest of the night market was perfectly pleasant, and we did our usual thing of walking around and purchasing whatever took our fancy.

A stall selling deep-fried mushrooms and tofu.

I've mentioned before that the Taiwanese love their deep-fried food, and here's another example of how they're very adept in this arena. That's a graceful little cluster of deep-fried mushrooms!

I think these are deep-fried golden oyster mushrooms / pleurotus citrinopileatus (珊瑚菇).

The deep-fried tofu is also fantastic. These are appetizing snacks for vegetarians and non-vegetarians alike, that's for sure!

Delicious deep-fried tofu.

And for the main course, sizzling noodles with steak and egg on a hot plate. So hearty, so satisfying.

Sizzling steak and egg and noodles.

For dessert, I stopped by this stall that sells douhua (soft tofu in sweet syrup) and tangyuan (glutinous rice balls in sweet syrup). It also offers aiyu jelly, tapioca pearls, red bean soup, and green bean soup.

Dessert stall. Yeah!

I opted for the sweet potato tangyuan, and it was really lovely. The tangyuan had a bouncy chewy texture and sweet gentle flavour. I liked it a lot.

A simple yet exquisite cold dessert of sweet potato tangyuan (冰地瓜湯圓) with beans, 35 NTD.

For one of the nights, we did the rare thing of venturing outside of the night market for dinner. We stumbled upon this steamboat or hotpot restaurant (called O God in English, though their website address is oldgod.com.tw), and figured we'd give it a go.

It was an enjoyable hands-on experience as we each get our own little pots to cook our selected menu items at our table.

This is the seafood hotpot, I think, though as you can see, other than the fish, clams and prawns on the side, it has other bits and bobs in it as well.

Hotpot exhibit one, from O God spicy hotpot restaurant (老先覺麻辣窯燒鍋).

And this, if I recall correctly, is the pork hotpot.

O God hotpot exhibit two.

And that's all for our time in Puli. Now we move on to our visit to Sun Moon Lake!

You can take the bus from Puli to Sun Moon Lake; it takes about 40 minutes to get there. Not too shabby!

The scenery here is indeed pretty.

The loveliness of Sun Moon Lake in full force here.

I will say that not all parts of Sun Moon Lake is as tranquil as it might appear in my photos. The fact is, this is a popular tourist destination, and you get tour buses offloading what can be overwhelming buckets of tourists at various points in the area.

However, all you have to do is take some initiative to get off the beaten track, and it's not too difficult to get away from the crowds at all if you want to.

A quiet aboriginal village in the Sun Moon Lake precinct.

We found our peaceful place in this sweet and sleepy little aboriginal village.

An older man relaxing outside his home.

And the best thing was, this adorable dog came up to us while we were taking a break on a bench in the village, so obviously we lavished him (her?) with loving attention and yeah, we gave a bit of our food as well. Look at that cute face! You just can't say no to a face like that. It's impossible.

How can you resist this doglet?

I can't remember where we saw this winsome cat sign, but anyway, I'm sharing it here.

Careful! Cat comes and goes. (小心! 貓出沒).

We eventually made our way back to a busier part of Sun Moon Lake, the street market area.

Thao's/Shao's Authentic Grilled Wild Boar Skewers  (邵族正宗烤山豬肉串), 1 stick for 35 NTD, 3 for 100 NTD.

When I saw this stall selling grilled wild boar skewers, I knew it was something I had to get. I have had wild boar only a few times in my life, it really is a treat. Here, the wild boar meat had been marinated in a sweet-savoury sauce, and the end result is a very tasty skewer.

A grilled wild boar kabob.

Sun Moon Lake is a picturesque attraction for sure. It didn't quite knock our socks off, but admittedly we didn't get there in time for sunrise, and we didn't stay for sunset, either. Moreover, while we hopped on the shuttle boat, we didn't take the cable car ride, which probably would have been quite awesome. It's also supposed to be good for cycling and hiking. Thus, there is definitely a lot of potential here that we didn't completely seize. So, for those of you who are curious about Sun Moon Lake, perhaps when you go, you can try out some of the activities we neglected - and I'd love to hear you report back on your experience!

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