Thursday 6 June 2013

Taiwan: Cingjing

Our minsu in Cingjing (Mapleleave minsu, 清境農場楓葉山莊) was recommended to me by a friend and it was sooo lovely. A wooden cottage sitting on top of the mountain with a view to kill, if you book the room with a balcony that is. The room we booked was the most basic one but it was really spacious with a high ceiling. Needless to say, I fell in love with this place immediately. Youth card holders get NT100 off per night. Breakfast was also included, porridge with side dishes, bread, jam and coffee. We tried the mini hotpot at our minsu for NT180. It was so nice to have something hot and steamy on a cold night and they were pretty generous with the ingredients.

We booked a tour with our minsu to see the sunrise on He Huan Mountain (合歡山) for NT400. We had our fingers crossed since it had been raining quite a lot the past few days. Luckily it wasn't raining when we got up at 4am. It was pitch dark outside but the sky was exploded with stars, I have never seen so many stars before, it was so captivating. Finally our bus arrived, all red and English looking. After an hour or so up the winding road, we arrived at our destination. It wasn't the mountain top I think, but a place where we could see the sunrise clearly based on their experience? We were really fortunate because the sky was clear and according to the tour guides, this was the best sunrise they've seen recently. It was around 2 degrees up the mountains so they provided us each with a thick jacket. We stopped at 2-3 places to snap photos and enjoy the beautiful view. It was so so amazing, I didn't want to leave, my eyes just couldn't get enough!

We headed off to Qing Qing Cao Yuan/Cingjing Farm (青青草原) early to beat the crowd, entrance was NT80 for youth card holders. You can purchase sheep feed and the sheep will eat it off your hand. Very ticklish but fun experience! Definitely worth a try. There were lots of sheep just prancing around on the hills, so adorable. I particularly liked that one with its fur all over its eyes hehe. The farm was bigger than I thought, we spent a good 4 hours inside. It is a really good place to have a stroll, feel the breeze in your air, breathe in some fresh air and enjoy the tranquility of the mountains. I just want to roll around on the grass fields and make snow grass(?) angels. There's a sheep performance on weekends but we were there on a weekday.. so instead of sheep, we have a horse acrobat performance. At the end of the show you can go down and take photos with the performers and horses, and also buy some carrots to feed the horses.

Then we walked down hill to explore the place. Bought some local pastries from this shop called 福堂餅行, their 黄金酥饼 and 肚脐饼 were really really good! Continued down hill and reached Little Swiss Garden (小瑞士花园) , there were a few quaint shops outside the entrance selling notebooks, bookmarks, postcards, little things that girls like. Entrance fee into the garden was NT90 for students. We took around an hour to explore the place, it is REALLY SMALL. I don't think it's worth a visit honestly, I would rather buy a nice notebook. Our minsu also provides a free pickup service, the number of times depends on the number of nights you stay. Another good thing about the location of our minsu is that it is located above the main attractions, so we can walk down to the attractions and call for pickup back to the minsu.

We booked another tour to watch fireflies for NT400 because it was the fireflies season. Apparently they only come out during the month of May, and since I've never seen fireflies before, we decided to go for it. They were adorable! Tiny flashing flying light bulbs. Our driver/guide (the same one as the sunrise tour) caught one and released it, it looked as if he caught a star! Then he put one into my hand and the feeling of watching it fly away from your palm is magical. The tour fell short of my expectations because I thought we would be walking into a forest and be SURROUNDED by fireflies. Oh and there was supposed to be some constellation reading but it was too cloudy that night so we couldn't see any stars at all. It's too bad but Cingjing is really worth a visit!

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