left taipei on a 10am high speed rail train with my cousin eric's family to taichung in central taiwan. this was my last weekend in taiwan and i would've preferred just staying in taipei, but agreed to the trip without thinking and was now reluctant to cancel. the train ride was an hour long endurance challenge as i somehow found myself crammed next to their son by the window seat since we only bought 3 tickets for 4 people. once we arrived in taichung, we rented a car, a compact mitsubishi colt. i sat in the front seat. my cousin drove in the same way he rides his scooter, weaving in and out of traffic at speed, tailgating scooters, and narrowing dodging collisions by mere inches. i had to use all my power not to scream as i clutches the overhead handgrip and even had to close my eyes a few times, certain we'd crash. we went to nantou to have lunch with jaxing's (cousin's wife) slightly estranged father (her parents divorced when she was young). he brought us to a japanese restaurant but the food was mostly taiwanese, including a mushroom i'd never had before cooked in some chinese medicine broth. afterwards we stayed a bit at her father's house, where he tried to give them a stack of cash but they refused, said they were doing well. her father arranged to have dinner with us again tomorrow night in the city (taichung), sushi this time. it was around 2pm when we finally left.
we drove around, not really sure where we wanted to go, and just stopped by a spot that looked interesting, some sort of monkey bridge. turns out it was a suspension bridge built across a jungle ravine with a view of the city between the valleys. the bridge was securely constructed but i overheard people saying how scary it was. trust me, driving in taiwan is 100x scarier. the price of seeing the bridge (besides general admission) was having to go through a gauntlet of vendors, probably 40-60, selling everything from local fruits, to specialty drinks, to souvenirs. in hindsight, it wasn't worth the time or money. we left by 3:30pm.
next stop was sun moon lake, which was something like 40km away which seemed like a lot but it's only 25 miles. there was a slight hiccup as the GPS took us in the wrong direction (actually, my cousin selected the wrong location, sun moon elementary school instead of sun moon scenic destination). i didn't mind, the drive was scenic enough provided i could get over the occasional close calls.
sun moon lake gets its name because the shape of the lake is like a combined round sun and crescent moon. but when i saw it on a map, it just looked like a big blob. its natural appeal weren't lost to early settlers, as aborigines used to live in area that's also ringed by picturesque green jungle mountains. the lake is surrounded by a boardwalk and we saw many people riding bikes, which seemed to be the thing to do there. (as a side note, where do people in the city learn to ride bikes? i never learned as a kid growing up in taipei but of course we didn't have a bike either. i didn't finally learn until i was 10 years old and living in an american suburb). we stopped briefly at the side of the road so i could take a few snapshots of the lake. the sky was overcast all day but my cousin the cloud whisperer said they weren't rain clouds. but it looked ominously dark, and sure enough, it began to rain, heavy drops at first, then sudden torrential downpour. i felt a little bad for all those cyclists, especially for the racing bikers that seemed to be having some sort of event ascending the highway road up to the lake.
due to the rain, we decided to forgo any additional time at sun moon lake, but instead try to find a good restaurant to have dinner.