Taiwan Solo Travel: Cingjing Farm

Friday, December 09, 2016

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Ladies and gentlemen we have just landed at Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport; Cebu Pacific air welcomes you to Taipei, Taiwan…
I’m half-awake by the time the stewardess announces that we’re about to land in Taiwan. The dreamy aerial view of city light glitters before my eyes as my ears pops on both sides.  The airport seems quiet and huge. There is white in every nook and cranny, sparkling floors and walls filled with greens; poster’s that will hype anyone’s wanderlust, and gorgeous ceilings.  After a quick check up in the immigration, I proceed to get my luggage. My all white, 14-kilo suitcase now look rubbish, all tainted with dirt. It’s cold! My first impression - wrong choice of clothes. My black v-neck shirt and maong pants top with a green cardigan failed me; I should have wear thicker clothes. It's past midnight and all stores are closed even the food hall. So, I sat on the steel chair and as I look around, I saw a group of Japanese elders in their most fashionable spring attires all lined up before their tour guide, chattering and discussing about something I have no idea about (kawaii~), a couple which I assumed met after a long time kept on hugging and smiling in front me, a scene which I thought only happened in movies and people of every kind roaming around; looking for the perfect spot for a nap. Is this real? I can’t believe I’m finally here.

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First glimpse of Taiwan from above

01:20 AM. Thank God for the free charging kiosk and wifi! I sat on a steel chair in the arrival area for a temporary refuge; put on my thick coat, stretch my feet and place my backpack under my head, ready for a brief rest. I left my phone charging 5 meters away and was able to sleep somehow. After two hours and a half, I was awakened by a colder weather; the rain got stronger and finally gets into my senses. I walk through the kiosk and found my phone untouched. Cool.
Took a tour on comfort rooms for about three times and stroll around the airport like a lost child. I ended up on Basement 1 inside a Hi-life convenience store, figuring out the food labels and bought instant beef noodles and a bun, my first meal in Taiwan!

6:00 AM. Purchased a ticket to Taoyuan HSR for NT$30 and took the first ride. I gaze upon the surroundings and found rice field paddies from left to right, old ladies in their scooters, varieties of flowers, wide empty roads and a giant, vivid sun in a perfect circle. I arrived at Taoyuan HSR at around 6:25 AM and quickly proceed to the counters to exchange the voucher I bought earlier online. The train going to Taichung arrived at exactly 6:51 AM in the morning and I was assigned a window seat. The ride was about 35 to 40 minutes and the spacious leg room and comfortable seat made me sleepy again, but I tried hard not to close my eyes and stayed vigilant; at around 7:35 AM, I have already set foot at Taichung HSR.

Day 1: Cingjing Farm/ Qingjing Farm

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The fairy-tale-like entrance to Green Green Grassland

Warning: Pink post ahead!

Cingjing or Qingjing was described as the version of Switzerland in Taiwan by most travelers and locals. Situated at around 1,750 meters above sea level in Ren’ai Town, Nantou County, this place boasts a massive mountainous spot of spacious farms and green pastures perfect for those who enjoy fresh air, lush forests, acres of flowers, friendly farm animals and starry nights. There are no local trains or HSR services to get there. Many tourists would take the HSR to Taichung and then transfer to a bus to get to Cingjing. I bought a one-way ticket for NT$251 from Nantou Bus company as soon as I arrive at Taichung HSR. The journey is about 2 hours of winding roads with the view of the mountains and cherry blossoms along the way, passing through Puli town. Be sure to hold on to your seats for a semi-roller coaster jaunt! For those who don’t mind paying an extra for a hassle free and more comfortable ride, you can hire a taxi for around NT$2000 to NT$3000. You can check the Nantou bus schedules here.

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My first cherry blossom experience. Close-up photo of the pastel sakura's.

10:45 AM. I decided to check-in first at Julie's Garden- Skyhill Guesthouse. This is a great place for solo travelers since there are few cheap accommodations for backpacker’s around the area. However, the location is quite far from major attractions like Cingjing Farm, Green Green Grassland, Swiss Small Garden and other nearby attractions, around 5 to 10 minutes by car. I got a little help from Yan, a friend from Hong Kong whom I've met on the bus going to Cingjing. I told her where I'm heading and she immediately instructed the driver and translated everything for me, thanks Yan! If you’re going to take the Nantou Bus, tell the driver you’re off to Bowang Village – I think this is the last stop, from there just turn right and walk for 2 to 3 minutes until you see a cabin like building on your right with a beige rolling door.

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I must be dreaming. Please don't wake me up...

The guest house also provides free shuttle service (round-trip) for main attractions in Cingjing, the main reason why I chose the place. You can visit their website for the schedule, but during my stay, the staff gave me 30 minutes to rest and personally accompanied me to Cingjing Farm upon my request.

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12:30 PM. I have finally arrived at Green Green Grasslands. I quickly proceed to the entrance and bought a ticket for NT$200. The sun is high and the weather is fair, just a perfect time to start my day! I spent the next 5 hours walking around the grassy high plains, admiring the beauty of mountains and trees and flowers, playing along the free-roaming sheep, took a visit to a souvenir shop, ate some snacks, laughed with the people as we watch the Sheep Sheering Show in Chinese, witnessed a live aboriginal singing performance, entertaining horse show and just pause for a couple of times as I feel the cool breeze and gaze upon the clear blue skies.

I would love to live and grow old in this kind of place someday... For now, I'll let the pictures speaks for itself...

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Baaaaaaaaa~

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Watch the Sheep Sheering Show on Saturdays and Sundays at 09:30 and 14:30

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I don't need to learn the language to laugh with this people and enjoy the show.

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(Left) All I know is, this horse rider is from Mongolia. That's all. :D (Right) Get ready for the 499-steps trail!

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I call this "The Lonely Tree"...

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The aboriginal singers are always ready for a friendly pose

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pink-lanterns-cingjing-farmEven the lanterns are pink!

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7 Eleven, anyone? You'll find Carton King on the back and the Swiss Small Garden on the right.

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(Left) Selfie time! That's Yan behind me. (Right) Souvenir shop near carton king, you'll also find Cingjing stamps near this store for free!

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A different kind of cherry blossom in hot pink

7:00 PM. I got a minor problem heading back to the guesthouse from Cingjing Farm. I thought the staff and I agreed for a shuttle back at 7:00 PM so I waited patiently but an hour passed, and still, no car is visible. The bus services already stopped and I can't spot a taxi too. I stay calm amidst the situation, but I will not lie that I thought about walking or hitch hiking that time; both sounds a terrible idea, right? Good thing, I kept their contact details on my phone, now the problem is how to reach them? I found an information booth on the front of Starbucks, asked if I can use the phone and the man agreed unhesitantly. After 15 minutes, I noticed a familiar car and a man in 50's wave at me, beaming cheerfully like a father ready to pick up her child. I trust my instincts, and enter the car, buckled my seats and prepared for an uphill roller coaster ride. At around 8:25 PM, I was already at the front of the guest house, safe and sound.

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A lot of things happened in just a day. The endless walking and unexpected events make me feel like I've been traveling for 3 days. It was tad exhausting and exciting, but every time I muse on my misadventures, I can't help but laugh. Believe it or not, I never had the slightest of fear that night; I actually thank for what happened. The delay made me wander on streets and discover the lighted lanterns, and gave me a chance to talk, ask favors and trust people even strangers. But if there's one lesson I learned; never dare leave your windows unclosed or you'll be stuck on a bed, icy floor and freeze in cold. Till the next post...

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