Taiwan 2011 – Alishan, Cingjing Farm (Day 7)
Date: Thur 31 Mar 2011
Stay: Sunshine Villa, Cingjing Farm 见晴山莊，清境农场
Luckily we did not plan for a sunrise viewing – the day started foggy and the drizzle grew heavier in the morning.
After a hearty breakfast, we took a stroll at the backyard of the Minsu, with umbrellas nevertheless. It’s a nice uphill forest trail. We didn’t go far as the muddy trail made it hard for aunt and mum to trek. I suspect there could be more to see behind the tall trees. The owner was constructing a third building and this one will have a fantastic view no doubt as it’s situated higher up.
Anson informed us that it’d be good to go to Alishan National Park early before the throngs of tourists arrive at the park. Most tour buses would have departed early morning from Taichung and other nearby areas before ascending the mountain and they usually reach the park around noon. Although there are hotels up next to the park, there are limited rooms and quality of stay in these old hotels is merely acceptable for the price you pay. I was glad that we stayed comfortably in our loft room last night.
Along the way down (we have to go round down and then up the mountain again to get to the park), we saw amazing sea of clouds floating amidst the mountain tops. At that height, we were literally above the clouds. There are also beautiful terraced tea plantations – Alishan is known for its high mountain tea.
Strangely once we went down below the clouds, the sky cleared and it had turned out to be a warmer and dry weather at the park. Parking is horrendous here due to limited spots. We could see tour buses and cars parked several kilometres down the road leading to the park. Luckily we were early and Anson had his way to get into the carpark nearer to the entrance. Entrance to the park is NT100 each.
Anson warned us of the long walk ahead – he has walked around the park countless times. The highlight of this season is the cherry blossoms. We could see several photography enthusiasts toting their equipment and snapping intently at various plants and trees. The famous Alishan railway train could be seen shuttling between two stations in the park.
There are a few key spots to admire the blossoms such as near the park centre. However the blossoms seemed scarce and not as intense as those I had seen in Tokyo during its blossom period. We suspect the past few days of rain could have shaken off many of the blossoms.
Anson brought us on a route lined with ancient trees and those turned out to be more interesting than the blossoms. Some of the trees were more than 2000 years old! And many of them belong to the precious species of cypress. According to Anson, many of these cypress trees were felled by the Japanese during its occupation of Taiwan. The wood was highly prized by the Japanese for its hardy and lasting quality. It is now a protected species in Taiwan.
As we strolled along, we noticed bigger groups of tourists, mostly Chinese, invading the park. They talked rather loudly and were not a pleasant crowd to be next to as they tend to push around, smoke and shout amongst themselves. I was glad that we were near the end of our two-hour tour.
We decided to have a quick lunch at the tourist centre just outside the park before embarking on our two-hour drive to our next destination. There were a few eateries and we settled for one that Anson is familiar with. The hotpot lunch was just nice for a cool weather. After lunch, we could see the fog descending. We hurried on our way down the mountain road.
The road to Cingjing was rather straightforward as we took the expressway. It was faster and also because we had already taken the scenic route earlier on our way to Alishan. Nearing Cingjing, we had to go through another round of mountain roads up again. However, it was much shorter than the way to Alishan.
Cingjing Farm is a favourite holiday spot for the locals as well. It is known for the European designed hotels and homestays that dotted the mountain. History has it that mainland China minorities from Yunnan area who had fought against the Communists at the Thai-Cambodia borders were later resettled at this mountain. Although it is not clear why the European architecture predominates, the historical background of the inhabitants is apparent in the Yunnan-Cambodia fusion cuisine found in the area.
Tired from the long walk in the park and long drive, we decided to have dinner at our Minsu, Sunshine villa. They served a good meal of the Yunnan fusion cuisine. Our room and the restaurant have good vantage points for mountain views.
There is even a 7-11 right next to the Minsu. Unlike the earlier two accomodations, this one felt more commercialised. Nearby, we could see the famous Tudor-styled The Old England hotel which is touted as the most expensive hotel in the area. Room stays are NT15,000 onwards for one night!
I was eager to explore the area the next day.