Nantou County is Taiwan’s second largest county. Located in the middle of the country, it is readily accessible by car from Taichung City. Here you will find the country’s largest lake, itself a major tourist attraction, as well as small hamlets and rural communities that thrive on agriculture and tea farming. The mountainous area is a popular tourist destination for city dwellers, and the roads are often busy with cars and tour buses on weekends and public holidays. On a recent roadtrip, we took a few days to explore the area.
The Paper Dome
Taomi Village, a rural community in Puli Township, is where the Paper Dome church is located. This structure was originally a temporary structure built by renowned Japanese architect Shigeru Ban as a temporary church after the Takatori Catholic Church was destroyed in the 1995 Kobe earthquake. It was afterwards donated and moved to Taiwan in 2006, in support of the rebuilding efforts after the Nantou 921 earthquake in 1999.
The church is made entirely of paper with paper tubes as structural elements and interior benches. The tubes are treated with a water resistant coating made locally in Puli Township.
Antique Assam Tea Farm
The mountainous areas of Nantou are well suited for tea agriculture, and while most of the area is famous for its Oolong varieties, this tea farm specializes in Indian Assam (black) tea. A few years ago the Sun Moon Lake Antique Assam Tea Farm was on the brink of closure before reinventing itself as all-organic artisan tea producer and tourist attraction. Here you can learn about tea farming, sample the different varieties, and tour the facilities.
Sun Moon Lake
Sun Moon Lake is Taiwan’s largest lake and the primary tourist attraction of Nantou County. It is so-named because the east side resembles the sun, while the west side resembles the moon. The lake and its surrounding countryside is one of thirteen dedicated national scenic areas in the country.
There is a bicycle path around the entire lake, and it is small enough that you can bike the loop in 3-4 hours. Due to time limitations we chose to stay on a 5-km section near the Shuishe Visitor Centre on the northwest side of the lake. The bike path is very popular with visitors.
While the route is touted as one of the worlds top 10 most beautiful bike rides, you can also tour the lake with sightseeing boats that crisscross between the various piers on the lake. Along the perimeter of the water are various temples and small communities.