Yuchi, Taiwan

Photo: Mark 高維隆 via flickr

The best part of the day isn’t sunrise when you watch the lake awaken from the top of Maolan Mountain. It isn’t later in the morning when you bike around the loop road to visit the temples or the middle of the day when you ride the Ropeway to take in the panoramic view or the afternoon when you board one of the last ferries. It isn’t even sunset when you stand on the terrace of your hotel to watch the color fade from the sky. No, your favorite time at Sun Moon Lake comes after that.

Sun Moon Lake is the largest lake in Taiwan. The National Scenic Area sits in the foothills of the Central Mountain Range. Its sparkling blue water is surrounded by Chinese firs, Dong Ding tea plantations, and historic temples. Lalu Island, holy ground to the Thao people, lies in the middle of the lake. While ferries, a cablecar, paragliding wings, hiking trails, and bike paths allow you to see the lake from every possible angle.

Given its undeniable beauty, the lake is a popular destination. Weekenders descend from Taipei. Honeymooners venture from the rest of the island. Plus tourists, mostly from the Chinese mainland, add the lake to longer sightseeing tours. So Sun Moon Lake gets packed—at least during the day.

Hotel: The Lalu Hotel

Once the sun goes down, the lake immediately becomes calm and quiet. The crowds depart. Selfie sticks disappear. Long lines and rude elbows do, too. Overnight guests return to their hotels. A soft murmur floats from their restaurants. While the sky is dotted with millions of stars. No wonder the evening is your favorite part of the day here.

Your own hotel was named after the small island in the middle of the lake. The Lalu sits on a hillside on the north shore. A little wooden cabin was first built on this spot in 1901. It was enlarged to become the Japanese crown prince’s official residence in 1923, and then the Chinese president’s summer getaway in 1949. The historic property was eventually put up for sale in 1998. An award-winning architect spent five years reimagining the space. He kept the beams, the columns, and the floors. Everything else was constructed with nature and the view in mind. The Lalu is now one of the best hotels in Taiwan.

Of course, you wanted to stay here. You wanted to drive up to the hotel that blends into the hillside. You wanted to spend the morning staring at the lake from the long infinity pool. You wanted to slip into the semi-outdoor hot spring. You wanted to sip oolong tea steps from where it was cultivated. And you wanted to feel cozy in your large suite, which includes a remote-controlled fireplace and a big tub. Now all you want to do is gaze at the inky water from the daybed on your balcony for the evening. Sun Moon Lake is all yours for the rest of the night.

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