Day 8 – July 14th, 2012
After a leisurely breakfast, we spent some time to explore the ‘minsu’ while waiting for 大熊 (the same driver that we engaged for Day 6) to arrive. All the following pictures were taken around the compound of Bokelai ‘minsu.’ Credits to Kiate and my brother for the awesome photography.
Actually, the initial plan was to take public bus to Taichung HSR station and then take the bullet train back to Taipei. That would have cost us around NT$4800. 大熊 offered to take us on a 4-hour tour of Cing Jing and Puli and then drop us off at Puli bus station for NT$2800. He even agreed to help us purchase Puli-Taipei express bus tickets. The tickets cost us a total of NT$1925 (i.e. NT$385 each).
Since there were five of us with our luggage in tow, we decided to take him up on his offer and save us the hassle. It was a good deal, I suppose – for roughly the same amount of money, we could travel in comfort and visit several tourist destinations in Cing Jing and Puli along the way.
We left Bokelai ‘minsu’ at a quarter to nine. On the way down, 大熊 showed us a number of posh hotels and ‘minsu’ in Cing Jing. We were in awe of the European-style architecture and picturesque mountain view, but when 大熊 quoted the room rates, we were immediately brought back to reality. It would cost a bomb to stay in one of these!
The next destination was 廣興紙寮 Guang Xing Paper Mill in Puli. Visitors can tour the factory for free and observe every step of the paper-making process. In addition, they also offer various DIY projects for a fee. If you have one or two hours to spare, you might want to try your hand at it. While we were there, we saw quite a number of the visitors totally engrossed in making paper fans.
Although, I’d have to admit that it was quite fascinating to see how they turned yucky, slimy pulp into beautiful handmade paper, I didn’t enjoy this visit. The factory was too hot and chaotic for my liking. We felt rather ‘lost’ there as the place was crowded with visitors and we were confused about which direction we were supposed to follow. Needless to say, we didn’t linger long at this location.
My father was actually more attracted to the ‘bonsai’ trees in the garden opposite the paper mill. Unfortunately, we could not enter because it was a private property and the owner was nowhere in sight. In the end, we could only take pictures from the other side of the fence.
Kiate, on the other hand, was fascinated by this tiny li’l shop. He said it was very “fairytale-like.” Hmm.. do you think so?
After the paper mill, we moved on to the next destination – 埔里酒廠 Puli Brewery. The moment we turned into the parking lot, we saw MANY tour buses lined in neat rows. Local and foreign tourists swarmed the building – translated ‘not a good place to shop’.
On the ground floor, there were counters selling alcohol and local food products (many of which were “alcohol-flavoured”). Just in case we did not have time to go souvenir shopping later on, we decided to buy some food products here as gifts for friends and relatives despite the nagging feeling that we could most probably find similar products at a much cheaper price elsewhere.
There was an escalator leading to the first floor, where the exhibition hall was located. There were a number of wine-related exhibits and a wine-tasting counter, but other than that, there wasn’t much to see. We were fascinated, though, by the creative DIY soft-toy postcards and paper models at one of the souvenir shops. I bought two for a close friend and my father bought three – one each for his three precious grandchildren.
We had stir-fried vermicelli at 振松記米粉 Zheng-Song’s Rice Vermicelli, which was merely a two-minute walk from Puli Brewery. It was highly recommended by 大熊. He claimed that it was a must-try local delicacy. We were not let down this time. We absolutely enjoyed it. Besides the stir-fried vermicelli, the vegetable dish (shown in the picture below) also tasted delicious I forgot what it was called but it looked somewhat like our ‘paku’.
When we order food in Malaysia, we usually use numbers, ticks or ‘straw bundles’ ( i.e. draw four vertical strokes, followed by a horizontal stroke) to indicate the quantity that we want for each item. In Taiwan, however, it is more common to use the Chinese character “正”. We discovered this after several encounters with Taiwanese waiters who were confused by our ‘straw bundles’ and ‘ticks’ when we placed our orders.
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After lunch, 大熊 dropped us off at Puli bus terminal where we took an express bus (国光客运) to Taipei. We left Puli at 1.30pm and only arrived at Taipei around 6.30pm due to detours and heavy traffic. Although we had to spend 5 hours on the road, the ride was comfortable enough and it gave us an opportunity to rest a bit after all the walking and hiking in Alishan and Cing Jing.
Taking the bullet train would be the faster option (only 1 hour to travel from Taichung to Taipei) but it would cost you almost twice as much (NT$385 vs NT$700). Basically, it all boils down to a ‘time vs money’ decision – the choice is yours~