Meihua Lake (梅花湖), or Plum Blossom Lake, doesn’t come anywhere close to Cuifeng Lake in terms of elevation, but it is set in an equally spectacular location that is bordered by luscious green hillsides on three sides. The lake also has the advantage of being much easier to get to by road or rail. It’s only about half an hour from Yilan compared to two hours for Cuifeng Lake.
The best place to view Meihua Lake is from the Sanqing Temple (道教總廟三清宮), which overlooks it from a perch on its southern slopes. Confusingly spelled as Sanchin/Sanching, the temple is the headquarters of Daoism in Taiwan and is dedicated to the three most important deities in the Daoist pantheon known collectively as the Three Pure Ones (三清; sānqīng) (1).
The temple’s architecture is a tad grandiose for my taste, but it has a lively atmosphere. Apparently, it attracts over ten thousand visitors a year thanks in large part to the reputed healing powers of its three deities, not to mention full calendar of events.
Meihua Lake is circled by a 4km-long path that provides the perfect setting for a peaceful amble past the luscious green vegetation covering the surrounding hillside. If you want to take things a little faster, an eclectic assortment of bikes are also available for hire.
There is a reasonable selection of restaurants and coffee shops near the lake. We opted for the Reading Bear, a popular haunt for taking selfies because of its whimsical decor. The food isn’t half-bad either. There are a number of B&Bs and a camping ground nearby if you’re interested in staying the night there.
(1) There is a huge difference between Daoism as a philosophy and a religion. The connections between the two are tenuous and tangled. The Three Pure Ones, also known as the Daoist Trinity, are: the Lord of Primordial Beginning (元始天尊/Yuánshǐ Tiānzūn), who is said to have created heaven and earth; the Lord of Numinous Treasure (靈寶天尊/Língbǎo Tiānzūn); and the “Lord of the Way and its Virtue” (道德天尊/Dàodé Tiānzūn), who is said to have manifested himself as Laozi (老子), the author of the Daodejing (道德經). Whether the Big Three, so to speak, ever existed is, of course, open to question.