Farm-hopping adventure in Taiwan
By Karen Bong
UNDER the blue sky with hectares upon hectares of rolling meadow, fruit orchards, tea bushes and gardens full of blossoms, Taiwan’s leisure farms provide the perfect escape from the hustle and bustle of everyday life.
A group of Sabah and Sarawak travel agents as well as journalists and bloggers went on a farm-hopping adventure recently at the invitation of Taiwan Leisure Farms Development Association in collaboration with Air Asia.
In a short five-day excursion from down south to up north of Taiwan, we explored nearly 10 farms and discovered the extraordinary tastes of Taiwan — the spectacular geographical environment, the beauty of country living and wonders of Nature.
Besides traditional homestay experience and participating in do-it-yourself (DIY) farm activities, another highlight of leisure farms is the availability of fresh local food.
Savour delicious country cooking where all dishes are prepared with fresh ingredients from the farms, all of which to promote locally grown or raised animals, vegetables, herbs and fruits.
Even though on a tight schedule, we immersed ourselves in a uniquely Taiwan experience that combined charmingly warm hospitality, leaving us with a deep and indelible impression of the enchanting island.
Taiwan’s tourist or leisure farms started in the 1970s when the regular farms were going through a difficult time.
To help the farmers, a number of these farms were transformed into leisure farms, combining accommodation, authentic farming experience, country living and natural ecology, which have drawn not only local roamers but also foreign leisure travellers.
We had flown in from Kota Kinabalu early in the morning and upon arrival, boarded a chartered bus and headed to Miaoli County for lunch.
Leisure Farm in Miaoli County
About two hours’ bus ride from Taoyuan International Airport, Hua Lu Herbs and Flowers Leisure Farm provides a relaxing and soothing atmosphere where visitors are surrounded by a varied mixture of scents and colours.
Gardens such as Hua Lu provide a relaxing stopover and allow vacationers to truly unwind with the ultimate aroma therapy experience.There is also a restaurant in the Garden, serving delicious cuisine prepared with edible flowers, fruits, vegetables and many other fresh ingredients.
After a big healthy feast for both eyes and palate, we were shown around the Garden. A farm guide introduced us to some of the popular herbs and flowers, including rosemary, tea tree, roses and jasmine, some of which the farm used to develop into pure essential oils.
We were also taught about the various types of flowers and herbs that can be turned into essential oils for different uses.
By the way, check out the male restroom while you’re there, it’s sure to make an interesting conversation topic when you get home:
Before leaving Hua Lu, remember to check out their collection of herbal wellness products sold at its gallery and gift store.
For more information about Hua Lu, visit its website at http://www.flowerhome.com.tw or contact +886425898565 or +88625898545.
Da Keng Leisure Farm
It was drizzling when we arrived at Da Keng Leisure Farm just in time for dinner and were greeted by Mama and Papa Tsai and Ruby, their daughter.
Ruby, the second of three sisters, is a young chef who — at the age of just 21 — rose to culinary fame by preparing a banquet for some 200 people.
We settled down to two tables and had the chance to savour Ruby’s cooking, including the farm’s three gourmet treasures of sweet potatoes, pineapples and bamboo shoots as well as the native chicken the farm is famous for.
Da Keng started as a regular farm and a ranch where grandma and grandpa Tsai grew bamboo, fruits and vegetables and bred native chicken on the hilly land.Thereafter, Mama and Papa Tsai took over and operated a native chicken restaurant that became popular in South Taiwan. Now, their three daughters — the other two named Eva and Roro — are helping to run and manage the farm.
After dinner, we headed up to Eluba Boat House, a southeastern Pacific-style coffeehouse, and enjoyed coffee as well as other beverages.
This recreational farm covers about 10 hectares with a herb garden, a European wooden sauna house, an outdoor spa, equipped with six-meter-high waterfall, a swimming pool as well as a 10,000 tonne rock landscape.
Next morning, we got up around five for the not-to-be-missed sunrise at the Erliao lookout point in Tainan’s Caoshan Moon World located a short 10-minute drive from Da Keng.
Everyone was awe-inspired when the sun slowly peeked through from behind the clouds, surrounded by a thick curtain of mist, and rose over a sea of clouds.
Papa Tsai said this is the most popular spot for photographers who flocked to snap a masterpiece of the breaking dawn. Here, you can also see the Central Mountains and Dagang Mountain in the distance.
Back at the farm, after a hearty breakfast, we trekked up a hiking trail to a wooden viewing deck which Papa Tsai said had been built to provide a vista of the sprawling 10-hectare farm from an elevation of 168 metres.
To get back to lower ground, we took an exciting ride on the sky slider across a ravine while a few opted for the rope bridge, walking down some 800 steps built by the hands of Papa Tsai.
The most valuable part of farm vacation is enjoying the simple pleasures and joys of life, picking vegetables and fruits, milking a cow, feeding goats, collecting eggs, listening to birds, watching the stars at night, waiting for the sunrise, or simply letting Nature heal the body and mind.
The visit was such a heart-warming experience from the moment we arrived until we bade farewell. Learning about the farmers and their pride has inspired and moved us to change and pursue our dreams with hard work, sacrifice, dedication and perseverance.
For more information about Da Keng, contact +886-6-5941555 or fax to +886-6-5940266 or visit www.168big.com.tw.