Taiwan has got to be the most underrated tourist destination in the Far East. Mention the word “Taiwan” and most people would associate it with electronics, heavy industry and China’s “renegade province” rather than as a holiday destination. Rarely do I find it in most travelers’ Asian itineraries. And rarely is it mentioned by travel publications, except for scattered and brief features here and there. It may not have any jaw-dropping monuments or renowned white sand beaches like its other neighbors, but Taiwan offers a unique experience for those who are willing to take a closer look.
I have been to Taiwan 4 times. The longest I’ve stayed was the 6 weeks I spent some 11 years ago when I took a short course in Mandarin. Despite the multiple visits, frequent overcast weather and (slight) language barrier, I never tire of visiting the island. Taiwan is one of those feel-good places that I always feel like checking out once every few years.
For this visit, I decided to try out their farmstay which has been heavily promoted here in Singapore. Since the farm was high up in the mountains, I booked our transport in advance. 7AM was our departure time from Taipei Main Station. It was a 4.5 hour bus ride through some spectacular scenery through Taiwan’s central highlands. We reached Cingjing Farm just before noon, and the sun was shining just as I had hoped.
From the bus stop, it was a 4 kilometer trek to the farm’s main area. By this time, we were already some 1,800 meters above sea level. After 1 kilometer of walking through some steep trails, we gave up. I then decided to put my thumb to work and hitchhike instead. Fortunately, it didn’t take long for someone to actually stop. We reached the sheep grazing grasslands just a few minutes before the sun disappeared into the clouds and a fog came by in its place.
The scenery in this area was just spectacular. The grass was greener than I though it would be, and the visibility was still somewhat okay at this point. The mountains are situated just in front of the grasslands’ dramatic terrain, and it made for a great contrast.sheep grazingMost people come to Cingjing Farm to experience a taste of the New Zealand-type of farmstay. It’s a great change of pace, especially for most busy city folk who never get to experience life as such.
Unfortunately for me, the weather turned bad only a few minutes after I arrived. A fog enveloped the entire place by early afternoon, and I could barely see anything more than 200 meters. I didn’t visit at a good time.
In better days, there are loads more activities that can be done from Cingjing. Numerous hiking trails abound nearby. The rolling slopes of scenic Hehuanshan is less than an hour’s drive from the farm. I had planned to go there during my second day, but alas the fog just wouldn’t go away.
Quick tip: To avoid having the same fate as I, the best time to visit is from May to August, when the grass is at its greenest and the sky would be blue with nary a cloud in the sky.
How to get there: There are several ways to get to Cingjing. The easiest (though not the quickest) is to go via direct bus from Taipei. E-go Bus Company has daily departures from Taipei Main Station to Cingjing at 7 in the morning. Rates range from TWD 1,200 to 1,400 return (TWD 750 to 850 one way). Visitors wishing to go by this option have to reserve in advance. They may be reached via phone at +886 2 27965696.
Where to stay: We stayed at the government-run lodging which at about US$80 (for a triple) is not the most appealing place to stay in Cingjing. Numerous charming B&B’s abound, including those with European and/or boutique concepts. There is a discussion in tripadvisor about the best places to stay there. Link here.