Tuesday, 9 September 2014

Day 5: Exploring Cinjing Grassland, Taiwan, 2014

Let me just highlight that this entry is gonna be a LONG LONG one where I spam photos of the full-day's experience of Cinjing Grassland (I basically maxed out the itinerary as I was there for only 1 day and 1 night)

Hence, if you happen to stumble on this blog hoping to research on something more specific, you may need to just speed scan and note the orange sub-headers to zoom into your area of interest.

In 1 day, we covered the following:
- Journey to Cinjing
- Checked in to Star Villa Hotel in Cinjing
- Visited Green Green Grassland,
- Little Swiss Garden and
- Carton King

So, let's start!


Being the sentimental being that I am, I guess it was a default mode for me to send some postcards from the city I was in to specific, random friends who are as sentimental as myself.

Strangely, I didn't think about sending myself one (just happen to think of that as I write this!).

The old school post boxes that has a touch of nostalgia in them.
 And if you are wondering how to get the postage stamps? 

Please approach the nearest convenience shop (like 7-11 etc) because they sell EVERYTHING including stamps - and they are found everywhere!

So, off we went to the Zuoying Station via the KRT to continue with our Taiwan tour.

To travel from Kaoshiung to Cinjing

 - Take HSR to Taichung Station (800 NT / 40 mins)
 - Take a private van-transfer directly to the accommodation in Cinjing (450 NT per pax / 2 - 2.5 hrs)

There are a few private transfers contact that I found:
1. www.gotw-travel.com / 0977141669
2. www.taiwantravelbus.com / taiwantravelbus@gmail.com / 02-8287-5600

I understand from my research there are ways to get to Cinjing via public buses, and they will definitely be cheaper than 450NT, but I'd rather have the convenience this time because I have a heavy luggage with me.

Since the timing was more predictable, we really didn't want another round of drama by having no seats in the HSR this time, so we managed to book our HSR tickets online. Collection of the tickets was easy because they can be done at any convenience store - super cool!

We planned for the 1030 hrs departure (possibly, cos I wanted to have enough time to rest and not have to wake up too early since we are just halfway into our trip. Don't want to be burnt out!)

Our target was to get to Cinjing by 2pm or so.

 YAY! Really glad we had seats this time!

Obviously early enough to take silly photos!

And we opened the surprise given to us by ICON Hotel as a doorgift - a hand lotion! 
And it smelt really nice too!

So, I believed we slept through the journey because I realize I didn't take any pictures of scenery while in the train!

Well, at least we didn't miss our stop, so upon arrival, we headed to the basement where the private bus operator had informed us to wait.

Pretty comfy huh?

Well, it better be since this is where we will be spending the next 2 or more hours on the winding mountain roads!

The winding mountain roads are already nauseating, but what's worse was that, there was a bunch of loud tourist from Hong Kong sitting right. behind. us.

Yakaty, yakaty, yak yak yak and yak some more! They went on - non-stop!
I wish I had the guts to say "OH! SHUT UP!" 
But I didn't. (Not up for a quarrel whilst on a vacation.)

The good thing about private transfers are that - they take you right to the door stop! Although I am a free & easy, public transport, self-travel kind of person, time wasn't on my side, and it makes no sense to lug the luggage all over the place trying to identify which bus stop to wait / alight.

Finally, we got some peace the moment we alighted from the min-bus. Thank God that bunch of loud-mouth folks didn't stay in the same hotel as us. PHEW!

Star Villa Hotel in Cinjing

I thought to pen this down, that Star Villa is located walking distance to Little Swiss Garden and the Tourist Centre (where you can find little touristy shops selling knick-knacks, souvenirs and offer multiple dining options, and a 7-ll - these will be featured in the lower part of this entry); but it is NOT walking distance to Green Green Grassland.

The obscure signboard of the hotel

Imagine multiple signboards cluttered together leading to all the hotels located in the same area? I would've totally missed the right signboard if not for the private transfer. (So much for promotion private-transfers - dunno for what? Not like I'm gonna get some commission - bleh-)

Here is the shot of the nearest bus stop to Star Villa. (Also looking rather obscure, just slightly better than that in Kenting.)

Trying to read & digest the map of the Cing Jing Farm Roadmap.

I thought this map was quite good - they indicated some tour itinerary that you could follow.

From here, we knew that we could take the 499 steps trail from Green Green Grassland back to the hotel.

The driveway leading to the Villa was beautiful - almost like I was walking into some rich man's bungalow!

And we were even greeted by this lovely Golden Retriever, Michelle upon arrival!

I'm pretty sure she is well-seasoned with portrait photo shots seeing how calm and composed she is in here (totally unlike my Shalom Chan)


And we spotted a balcony overseeing the scenic landscape of Cingjing just at the entrance of the Villa.

My mind drifted to a scene where we could enjoy alfresco breakfast under one of those big brollies, sipping freshly-brewed coffee, absorbing the wonderful nature & basking in what I call the "quality of life", except that the breakfast encounter we had the next morning looked like this:

I mean, it IS a decent breakfast, but it definitely isn't one of those international buffet-style I had initially expected (as the accommodation was not cheap!) Moreover we were too pressed for time to bother about bringing the food for the breakfast area to the "alfresco-dining"location. -_- 

Upon checking in, we were asked if we would like to join the Sunrise tour for the next day, which meant waking up at 4.30 am as the sun rises early on Summer days - which I definitely wanted to go for, but I did not want to over commit since it was going to be a long day as well as we are going to check out and head to Sun Moon Lake.

Serenity. Overlooking the mountains and seeing how big the world is.

Our room (taken only at night was we could not check in yet).
It was spacious (and also the slightly more exp one since the most basic one as that was already fully booked!), but a tad old.

Green Green Grassland
Now, Green Green Grassland is NOT walking distance from the Minsu and the owner has very kindly volunteered to send us there via his car. 

Since we had to wait for him to drive us there, we took a walk around the Villa, and pretty Michelle actually walked us out. It was as if she knew exactly where to go and kind out acted as a guide to show us the way since we were clueless!

There were shops selling dried goods, fruits, vegetables and even "coffee shops" where we could grab a bite etc!

Soon,  we left for Cinjing and as we arrived, we spotted so many tourists! I was kinda expecting there to be less people cos it was non-peak season afterall.

It was only upon entry that we learnt that there was a Horse Show to watch, whereas the Sheep Show was over.

Our entry stamps.

Entrance Fee: 200 NT/pax

As the grassland was really vast and big, we just randomly walked all over the place in no sequence.

And there were horses too!

These are not ponies, but there are the smaller, petite version of the usual horses.

My favourite shot of the Grassland.

They call this the Sheep Castle.

Somehow, we found some market place which we had to walk pass to get to the Horse Show Arena.

Finally, it was time for us to leave and so we headed for the 499 steps trail which will lead us back to our minsu.

Little Swiss Garden

Since we only have 1 day (technically half a day, since we arrived only at around noon time), there was no time to waste and we "rushed" to check out Little Swiss Garden (which is walking distance from the end of the 499 step trail).

I think it was a nice place to walk around with the many varieties of flowers and stuff, but I was really disappointed at how poorly maintained it was, flowers withering, grass overgrown, ponds not cleaned and even looking dirty with thrash here and there. If entry was free, I would not expect too much, but there is an entrance fee, so I thought they should do some up keeping.

Entrance Fee: 120 NT/pax

AGAIN, the obscure entrance to Little Swiss Garden.

If you look closely at the flowers, many are withering.  
Overall, the garden seems a little poorly maintained.

Carton King

Now, finally, we have came to the final highlight of the day- Carton King - an area connected to Little Swiss Garden. This place is free for all to explore. It is all about making things with cardboard boxes.

Basically, it is a shop which exhibits all the unique creations made from cardboard boxes and also sells some of these items.

By the time we were done with exploring Carton King, he sky has darkened significantly, signalling for us to start our dinner search and head back for a good rest before another day of travel scheduled for the next day (since we are only staying for 1 night).

So, a few steps away from Carton King was in fact the Cingjing Tourist area where there were many little quaint shops and dining establishments - and we chose the most non-taiwan kinda food - MOS BURGER! LOL.

Of all the shops, I thought this one was the most Taiwanese, so we shopped a bit in there.

Found the perfect gift for all my friends and colleagues. Lavender scent packs.

I liked that I could fill them up on my own. Gives it a bit of a personal touch,

But it is totally not funny doing about 25 packets of this, the sales assistant had a look of sympathy over her face!

By the time we were ready to head back - night has fell!

Yup, I can see nothing accept for the silhouettes of the mountains in darkness! 

Thankfully, we woke up earlier the next day and managed to get some good shots of Cingjing before we left. Darn... I should have just joined the Sun Rise tour... It must have been a pretty sight!

Saying bye to Michelle before we set off!

The comfy 7-seater that will take us straight to Sun Moon Lake.