Nantou – Cingjing Farm, Starry Minsu Review, Small Swiss Garden| Taiwan Day 7
Day 7 – Heading towards a Cingjing Minsu
This was the best day of our Taiwan trip as we were headed for Cingjing (清境) at Nantou (南投)! It’s going to be an image heavy post because the scenery was just too beautiful!
Travel from Taichung to Nantou (Cingjing)
Remember my luggage from Day 1 of the trip? The top handle broke after we arrived in Taiwan and collected the luggage at the airport.
Now, even the side handle had to forsake us! This happened when the taxi driver was lifting the luggage into the boot of his vehicle after we checked out of Tomato Rooms. I was left with just the retractable top handle and that’s it. Prayed so hard that it would last till the end of our trip. Sigh…
We took the cab from Tomato Rooms to Taichung HSR Station. It should be around NT$250 (≈S$11). At Taichung HSR Station, we purchased bus tickets to Cingjing Farm (清境農場). For NT$250 (≈S$11) per pax, we got the return bus tickets to Cingjing Farm and an entrance ticket to Green Green Grassland (青青草原). You can purchase the tickets at the Nantou bus (南投客運) counter as shown in image above.
This is the bus schedule for the trips to and fro Cingjing Farm. Plan your itinerary accordingly and try to be there early to queue for the bus. If the luggage compartment of the bus is full, you’ll have to wait for the next bus. The bus can get crowded so be at the front of the line in order to get a seat. You wouldn’t want to be standing for the entire journey; it’s a two hour bus ride! Also, please *ahem* clear your bladder before you board the bus. Don’t say I didn’t warn you. 😉
The view up the mountain to Cingjing was beautiful. However, the road was narrow and steep, making it challenging for a full loaded bus. There was this time when our bus was manoeuvring a narrow right turn uphill and suddenly, the bus e-brake as the driver didn’t (and couldn’t) see a truck in front right after the turn. The next thing we knew, the bus stalled and started to roll downhill! My heart jumped into my throat and the entire bus of passengers fell silent immediately as we were all completely shocked.
Fortunately, the driver was experienced and quick witted. He pulled the handbrake within a split second, waited for the vehicle behind to clear some space in between (in case we roll back again) before reigniting the engine. We managed to manoeuvre up the turn successfully this time round and I swear everyone heaved a sigh of relief. The bus was full and even the standing passengers were packed like sardines, so can you imagine how scary it was? I’m so thankful we’re all safe and sound.
Passed by the Margaret’s Garden Hazy Cafe (瑪格麗特花園 / 紫屋餐廳). The place is purple in colour all over and I really wanted to pay a visit but it was out of the way. If you’re travelling in a larger group of four and above, you can hire a driver and it will be more convenient for you to stop and visit places like this along the way.
We also passed by the Old England Manor and unfortunately, it was out of the way too. You can actually stay at the Old England Hotel which I believe would be a fantastic place with a fantastic price of course.
Finally arrived! It was about 1pm in the afternoon when we arrived and the weather was bright and sunny like Singapore. We alighted at Songgang (松崗) which is the terminal stop as we had arranged for someone from Cingjing Starry Minsu (觀星園) to pick us up so we could unload our luggages at the minsu before exploring Cingjing. I’ll leave the review of Starry Minsu till the last part, so please read on! 🙂
After leaving our luggages at Starry Minsu, the driver drove us to 7-11 to pick up a quick bite before dropping us off at Green Green Grassland. We used the entrance tickets included in the bus package.
The view was breathtaking. It was also very hot and sunny so please bring your sunglasses.
Every Sunday, there will be sheep shearing show at Cingjing Farm. We made it in time for the show at 2.30pm. We were lucky as we didn’t know about the show beforehand and happened to be there on a Sunday to catch it. Do be there early if you want to get seats, but you’ll be baking under the scorching sun though. You can also just sit on the grass!
The performer (shepherd) is a New Zealander who can speak Mandarin with a mix of Hokkien. I guess he has repeated the show countless times and hence, he spoke very fast (memorised lines) and was breathless most of the time, making it difficult for me to make out what he was saying.
Snapped a good shot of the sheepdog in action! The dog was smart and obedient. It herded the sheep around with ease and followed the shepherd’s whistling commands.
We were allowed to pick up the sheep’s fur as memento after the shearing show. Can you spot me? You can clean the fur by washing and then air drying it.
My 白马王子 (prince charming) and I haha. You can pay a small fee to ride on the horses but I didn’t. Just sneaked a picture for keepsake will do.
Marcus bought this bottle drink with a marble at the top that you have to pop before drinking. Apparently it’s our childhood thing? I have no memory of it and neither do I fancy fizzy drinks. Yes, I don’t consume carbonated drinks. Do you?
We took the path down to explore the other parts of Cingjing. There’s a lot of walking to do so please be in comfortable footwear. For those with infants, I would suggest leaving your pram behind as there are rocky steps here and there so it’s not pram friendly. The pram would end up being an additional baggage instead.
While on the path down, we also had to conquer almost 500 steps of stairs! Thank goodness we were descending! This is also why I encourage families to leave your prams behind, unless you’re hiring a driver to drive you from places to places and you won’t have to do this massive amount of walking.
Small Swiss Garden
After 40 minutes of walking, we finally arrived at Small Swiss Garden (小瑞士花園)! *Phew* We already walked faster than average and surpassed several groups because we wanted to finish exploring the area before the driver from Starry Minsu picked us up at 5.30pm.
I shall let the photos do the talking for now…
Small Swiss Garden is a quieter place than Cingjing Farm. The entrance fee is NT120 (≈S$5) per pax. With the Youth Travel Card I’ve mentioned previously, we paid only NT90 (≈S$4) per pax. YAY to more savings!
It should take you no more than an hour to finish touring the Small Swiss Garden. After this, we took a walk at Carton King as we still had some time.
The driver of Starry Minsu came to pick us up at 5.30pm. Actually, I think he’s the son of the minsu’s owner, Mr. Lee (李大哥).
Starry Minsu is apparently the highest minsu in Cingjing and naturally, the view is awesome. The short ride up to Starry Minsu was quite dangerous as well. The vehicle had to manoeuvre several sharp and steep turns up the hill, and we were just inches away from the edge. Not a very safe ride especially on a rainy day. I guess that’s the price you have to pay for the magnificent view?
We were allocated to Room 2, which is in an isolated container building a short walk away from the main building. Mrs. Lee commented that the room has the best view in the entire Starry Minsu, and I agree with her too! We opened up our door to cooling wind and oversaw the entire Cingjing area every morning!
There’s a bench outside our room where we could sit down and enjoy the weather and tranquility. At night, you can also sit there for star gazing.
The room is simple but cosy. It can get pretty cold at night (think 12°C), so it was really shiok to snuggle up in the heated bed. Turn on the heated bed a few hours before you tuck in to give it time to warm up.
Steamboat dinner is included for our stay at Starry Minsu. It is the best thing you can have for dinner in the chilly weather! Dinner is served punctually at 6pm every evening. Sliced meat is included. Such simple fare, yet it can be so fulfilling.
We paid NT1,980 (≈S$87) per night. Breakfast is also included. I think it’s a really good deal. The owners, Mr. and Mrs. Lee were very friendly and hospitable. We felt so welcomed! It felt like we were staying at their home (which is true) and were very comfortable in the warm and cosy environment. If you are looking for a review of a Cingjing minsu, I would strongly recommend Starry Minsu! *thumbs up* We made reservation for the room two months in advance, and I would encourage you to book early too to avoid disappointment. 😉
UPDATE (Nov 2013):
I’ve received several queries on how to book a room at Starry Minsu so here it is!
• Go to their website here: http://starry.nantou.com.tw/?ptype=hotel
• Choose the type of room that you want and click on “我要預約”. It will bring you to a booking form which you can complete and submit to Starry Minsu.
I have also received news that the free steamboat is no longer included. The steamboat is now chargeable and prices are stated here. Not to worry, complimentary breakfast is still provided. Hope this helps!
UPDATE (Dec 2014):
As I have had many requests for my itinerary, I’ve decided to create a download link for it below. Feel free to download and subscribe to receive updates! 🙂
Carin’s Taiwan Itinerary