Thursday, October 12, 2017

The Shimmering Waters of Liyu Lake

Taiwan has very few natural lakes of significance. Zengwen Reservoir in Chiayi County and Nanhua Reservoir in the foothills of Tainan are inland bodies of water which resulted from dam construction. Sun Moon Lake owes its current size and shape to human intervention. In east Taiwan, the largest natural body of freshwater is Liyu Lake (鯉魚潭, above and below). The Chinese name means "Carp Lake" and this version of the name often appears on English-language signs and web pages.
If the weather is good, like it was on my most recent visit, the lake is magnificent. The building on the right is not, sadly, a hotel here one can stay, but part of Yu-Shan Theological College and Seminary, a religious institute set up in 1946 to, 'educate pastors and church workers for participation in the work of God's kingdom in the churches and communities of Taiwan's indigenous peoples... combining theology with an intimate understanding of their languages, culture, and society.'
If you'd rather get out onto the water instead of going around it, there are pedalos for hire. Our wheels came from Shan-Hu (, 'mountain and lake'), open from 8 in the morning until dusk. The owners say that, because they rise very early each morning to do exercise, anyone who wants to rent a bicycle as early as 5.30 can do so by calling them at (038) 641-562. If you're driving or riding from Hualien, go past the km16 marker on Highway 9C (9 on road signs) and you'll find it on your right after several other businesses.
You may want to jump in the water to cool off. It isn't allowed, unfortunately.

Our tour was  100% dry-land, on a four-seater like this. An hour's use will set you back NTD600. Be warned: These machines lack gears. It's a good thing the round-the-lake bike trail has no serious or long gradients. A regular bike starts at NTD100 per day. There are also electric mini-bikes for those who don't want to pedal.

The lake's surface area is 104 hectares; this doesn't change much from season to season.
There are plenty of bilingual signposts. Even without them it would be hard to get lost; the lake is always there as a reference point.
At both Liyu Lake and Luoshan, you'll find oBikes (like the one pictured above) available for renting via your smartphone near the Visitor Information Center, and likely in a few other locations as well. The app can be downloaded here.
At its northern end, the lake narrows to the width of a stream:
There aren't many places to stay right beside the water, but one option is Lake-House (Chinese-only website here) which offers accommodation in conventional rooms as well as a range of caravans and cabins. I've never stayed overnight near the lake, but I can imagine the area is very peaceful after the day-trippers have gone home. 

Historically, Liyu Lake was within Amis tribal lands. These days, you won't hear much Amis spoken, but you can learn a few Amis phrases if you drop by Musuya DIY Workshop, beside and affiliated with Treehouse Restaurant (樹屋餐廳) at the southern end of the lake:
One of the best dishes we had in that restaurant was chicken cooked with sweet potato and goji berries.

This visit and blog post were sponsored by the East Rift Valley National Scenic Area Administration.