Tag Archives: Taiwan

Taiwan Trip – Cing Jing & Puli Half-Day-Tour

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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?

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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.

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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.

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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’.

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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~

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Taiwan Trip – 小瑞士花園 Small Swiss Garden

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Day 7 – July 13th, 2012

In my earlier post, I mentioned that we went to 小瑞士花園 Small Swiss Garden for a musical fountain show (evening of Day 6). However, we didn’t get to take pictures with the beautiful array of flowers there as it was already dark by the time we arrived. Not wanting to miss anything, we went back again the next day. We showed them our ticket stubs from the evening before and we were allowed to re-enter for free. For your information, the entrance fee was NT$120 (adult). My brother, Kiate and I managed to get our tickets at a discounted rate of NT$90 each when we presented our youth travel cards.

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Visitors could feed the ducks, geese and fish at Small Swiss Garden. One could conveniently purchase the feed from vending machines like the one in the picture (left).

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*520 = 我爱你

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Like mother, like daughter…

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We happened to be there during the annual Cing Jing Windmill festival, which lasted from July 7 to Sept 2, 2012. Thus, there were windmills everywhere.

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Besides the windmills, there were, of course, f.l.o.w.e.r.s.! There were lots and lots of them, much to my mum’s delight.

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Other than taking pictures and watching the not-so-impressive musical mountain, there really wasn’t much else to do at Small Swiss Garden. Unless you really love flowers, I suppose you can always give it a pass and treat yourself to a nice meal instead.

Taiwan Trip – Green Green Grassland 青青草原

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Day 7 – July 13th, 2012

Breakfast at Bokelai was a simple affair of salad, ham and egg, toast,  and a cup of hot drink. It was nice though, and I especially enjoyed the mountain view from the dining area. After breakfast, we took a leisurely stroll to 青青草原 Green Green Grassland, which was within walking distance from Bokelai ‘minsu’. We were just in time to catch the 9.30am sheep shearing show, which was the highlight of the day.

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The normal entrance fee was NT$200 (adult). Flash your youth travel card, and you could get a discount – NT$100.

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We found the sheep shearing show very entertaining, but I doubt the sheep would agree. Don’t you think so? It was stripped naked in public! and its wool was distributed among the spectators. Poor sheep!

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After the show, my brother grabbed the opportunity to ride on a horse (NT$100 for one person, or NT$150 for two). He looked absolutely stunning riding a “white” horse.

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If you’re going to Cing Jing during summer, do remember to bring an umbrella and put on sunblock. The sheep shearing show lasted half-an-hour and we had to sit under the HOT sun for the entire duration. After the show, you can treat yourself to a “sheep’s milk ice cream”. 

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Before we moved on to the next performance, we spent some time to feed the sheep and take pictures. Visitors could purchase the ‘feed’ from a vending machine nearby (as shown above) for NT$20 per packet. Kiate had a great time feeding the sheep and petting them.

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The next performance was 哈萨克马术表演 Kazakhstan Equestrian Stunt Show, which was scheduled for 10.45 am. We lingered for too long after the sheep show that by the time we reached the stunt show venue, we could not get a good seat with a clear view. And since both Kiate and I did not enjoy the show, we decided to give it a pass. While waiting for the show to end, we killed time by taking more photos.

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Statue of Chiang Kai-Shek

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499-step trail – Weren’t we glad that we were going down and not UP!

After we went down the 499-step trail, we exited from Green Green Grassland and went over to 小瑞士花園 Small Swiss Garden. Later in the afternoon, we re-entered Green Green Grassland to cover one of the attractions that we’d missed earlier that morning – 清境绵羊城堡 Cing Jing Sheep Castle. *You can re-enter for free if you show them your ticket or the stamp on your hand.

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 All in all, we spent around 4 hours here. We absolutely loved the fresh air, magnificent view, the blue sky and green green grass, and of course the adorable sheep.

Taiwan Trip – Small Swiss Garden and Carton King

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Day 6 – July 12th, 2012

In Cing Jing, we stayed at 柏克萊民墅 Bokelai ‘minsu’ for two nights. After we checked in, we quickly freshened up and then got ready to head out again. The ‘minsu’ owner had offered to give us a lift to 小瑞士花園 Small Swiss Garden for a musical fountain show, which was scheduled to begin at 7.30pm. While waiting for the show to begin, we strolled around the area and took pictures.

Much to our disappointment, the show was far from spectacular. After it ended, we walked back to the drop-off point earlier and the ‘minsu’ owner fetched us back to our accommodation. As all of us were tired after the long journey from Alishan, we retired early after a simple dinner of instant noodles and bian dan (便当) with hot MILO.

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@ Carton King, Cing Jing

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Taiwan Trip–Mountain Highway from Alishan to SML

If you’re planning to travel from Alishan to Sun Moon Lake, make sure you engage a licensed taxi driver and do clarify to  make sure that the taxi fare includes insurance coverage for all passengers. Better still, avoid this route if possible…

You’ll know what I mean when you see the following pictures :-

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I knew that we would have to travel along a stretch of mountain highway, but seriously, I did not expect it to be so – perilous! I was praying silently in my heart as we slowly made our way past three danger zones. By God’s grace and protection, we made it to our destination, safe and sound. Truly thank God for journey mercy~

Taiwan Trip – From Alishan to Sun Moon Lake

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Day 6 – July 12th, 2012

We departed from Xin Xin ‘minsu’ Alishan at 8.45am. Our final destination for the day was 柏克萊民墅 Bokelai ‘minsu’ at 清境农场Cing Jing Veteran Farm, but along the way, we planned to stop by the renowned Sun Moon Lake as well as a few other tourist spots. The journey from Alishan to CingJing would normally take around 5-6 hours by car.

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A: Alishan           B: Sun Moon Lake           C: CingJing

We hired a ‘taxi’ from Go-Go-Alishan company and paid NT$5000 for the trip (8 hours in a 9-seater Volkswagen Caravelle).  Our driver for the day, 大熊, is a very jovial and humorous chap. He is also very thoughtful. Throughout the journey, he made an effort to engage everyone in the conversation and he even prepared bottled drinking water for us. He was also quick to offer to take photos for us at every stop. In addition, he’s also a careful and experienced driver.

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Along the way to Sun Moon Lake, we stopped at several scenic spots  to take pictures. At one of the stops, we saw at least a dozen rhesus monkeys heading in our direction. The sight was quite alarming!  According to 大熊, the monkeys had grown accustomed to tourists and ‘human food’.   I wasn’t fond of the monkeys, though – they looked very wild and aggressive. One of them even showed us his butt! Ewwwh…

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Husband-and-Wife Trees

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@ 梅子夢工廠 / Dream Works of  the Mei Winery


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We reached Sun Moon Lake around noon. Indeed, the scenery here was breath-taking. After taking photos at Shuei She dam, we had lunch at a restaurant in Harbour Resort Hotel, overlooking the Shuei She Pier. The restaurant, which was highly recommended by our driver,  served traditional Thao cuisine. Although, the food was rather pricey (around NT$250-320 for one set lunch), we did enjoy the atmosphere and the beautiful view from the restaurant. 

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After lunch, we visited several tourist spots at Sun Moon Lake, namely Wenwu temple, Peacock Garden and Ita Thao.

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Spotted at Sun Moon Lake – it should be a dog, but it looked a bit like a cat and it reminded me of a black-and-white cow… what do you think?

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The bible verse on the front door – Acts 16:31.

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By the time we left Ita Thao, Sun Moon Lake, it was already half past three. From there, we drove to Puli town, which is also known as the “heart of Taiwan” as it lies at the geographical centre of the island.

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A: Puli, Nantou County in Taiwan

From there, we made our way to Cing Jing. After a whole day’s journey, we finally arrived at Bokelai ‘minsu’ around 5.30pm. Stay tuned for more of Taiwan. Coming up next: Cing Jing Veteran Farm

Taiwan Trip – Random Stuff @ Alishan

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Day 4 – July 10th 2012 and Day 5 – July 11th, 2012

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– Happily stamping away@ Alishan Visitors’ Centre

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– Steamboat for dinner @ Alishan 山宾美味餐厅

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– Dinner @ Alishan 九九九 Restaurant

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– If you’re not too fussy about food, you can settle all your meals at 7-Eleven (or simply “Seven” to the Taiwanese)  …. They have lunchboxes (便当), herbal eggs, hotdog  buns and ‘char siew pau’, fish balls, meat balls, assorted instant noodles, coffee, ice-cream etc.
@ Alishan 7-Eleven

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– Wooden postcards… NT$60-80 each; stamp NT$25 (to Malaysia). It took roughly 10 days for the wooden postcards to be delivered (from Taiwan to Malaysia).

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– This is a POST OFFICE, and not a temple…
Seriously, I’m not kidding you… @Alishan Post Office

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– Black & White, the most humongous dogs I’ve ever seen!
@Alishan shops

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The Wonders of Alisan

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Day 4 – July 10th 2012
and Day 5 – July 11th, 2012

We were very blessed indeed to be able to experience all the five wonders of Alishan – sunrise, sunset, sea of clouds, mountain train and forest trails. As the saying goes, ‘a picture speaks a thousand words’, so I’ll let the following photos tell the story of our short, but memorable, stay at Alishan Forest Recreation Area.

Sunrise (日出)

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Sunset (日落)

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Sea of clouds (云海)

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Railway (铁路)

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Forest Trails (森林)

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Taiwan Trip – Xin Xin Minsu @ Alishan

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欣欣民宿 Xin Xin ‘minsu’ was highly recommended by a friend who had stayed there during her visit some years back. If you were to search online for reviews on Xin Xin ‘minsu’, you would most likely come across both positive and negative comments. We did take the negative comments into consideration, but in the end we decided to stay there anyway as it suited our needs and the pros outweighed the cons (for our case).

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Pros:
1. We couldn’t have asked for a better location. Xin Xin ‘minsu’ is located near the main parking area – the drop-off point for public buses. It is right next to 7-Eleven (you can easily settle all your meals here if you’re not very fussy about food) and there are shops and restaurants nearby too. The visitors’ centre and Alishan shuttle bus stand are just opposite the ‘minsu’. The best part is that you can walk to Alishan train station in less than 10 minutes (just go up one flight of stairs).

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*This photo was taken while standing outside the Visitors’ Centre.

2. The room rate is reasonable. We booked online and made the payment through PayPal. For a 6-person room, we paid around NT$3200 per night. Compared to other accommodations in Alishan, Xin Xin ‘minsu’ is relatively more economical.

3. We loved the room, which was clean and comfortable. We were especially fascinated by the “roof window” and built-in double-deck bed.

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4. The ‘minsu’ owner and family members who help to run the ‘minsu’ are very warm and hospitable. The owner, who used to be the village chief, came to greet us and showed us the way to the ‘minsu’ the moment we disembarked from the bus. We were also given a map and a detailed introduction to Alishan Forest Recreation Area after we checked in. They even provided sweaters and umbrellas for guests!

Cons:
1. The stairs are very steep and narrow. It was a hassle having to carry our luggage up and down the stairs.

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2. No breakfast.

3. Wi-fi was not available in our room. We had to go to the lobby to go online.

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Taiwan Trip – Our Journey from Taipei to Alishan

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Day 4 – July 10th, 2012

Breakfast at Nei Jiang Hotel was nothing spectacular.  We found our breakfast, i.e. a sandwich and a packet of juice, conveniently packed and hanging on our door handle as we were leaving the room. After checking out from Nei Jiang Hotel, we headed for Taipei Main Station. We had to take two separate cabs because taxi drivers in Taipei could only take a maximum of four passengers and there were five of us.

We disembarked at the West 3 entrance and proceeded to the HSR ticket counters. Five adult tickets from Taipei to Chiayi cost us NT$5400 (NT$1080 each). The bullet train that we were taking was scheduled to depart at 8.36am; and salute to the transportation system in Taiwan, the train left the station at 8.36am on the dot. We were impressed!

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We arrived at Chiayi HSR station at 10.00am. Our plan was to take the local Chiayi City Bus to Alishan Forest Recreation Area. While searching for the bus schedule, I came across this guide by sinotour (http://sinotour.com/tourguide/alishan/transportation.asp) which I found very helpful. According to the schedule provided, one could either take the 10.10am or 11.40am bus from Chiayi HSR station direct to Alishan (2 1/2 hours journey, NT$255 per pax). We missed the 10.10am bus. As we did not want to waste time waiting for the 11.40am bus, we decided to take the other alternative.

We took the free shuttle bus to Chiayi train station (30 mins), walked over to the nearby bus station (5-10 mins) and took the 11.10am bus to Alishan (2 hours, NT$221). We saved NT$170 ( NT$34×5) and arrived 40 minutes earlier than if we were to take the 11.40am bus from the HSR station.

*Note: The free shuttle bus drop-off point is at Chiayi train station (back entrance). You would have to walk to the front by crossing an overheard bridge. The picture below shows the front station of Chiayi TRA.  If you are facing the station, the ticket counter and waiting area for the bus to Alishan is to your left.

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Taking the direct bus from the HSR station would save us a lot of hassle. In retrospect, we should have taken the 8.00 am bullet train from Taipei in order to make it for the 10.10 am direct bus. Otherwise, we could have slept in and take the 10.00 a.m. bullet train and still make it for the 11.4o am direct bus.

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After about 1 1/2 hours of winding mountain road, we stopped for a quick toilet break in a small town. It was another 45 minutes before we reached our destination. At the entrance to Alishan Forest Recreation Area, we had to disembark from the bus to pay the entrance fee – NT$150 (for those arriving on public transport). Kiate, my brother and I only had to pay NT$100 each because we showed them our youth travel cards.

*Note: The entrance fees included a group insurance policy for the duration of our stay at Alishan Forest Recreation Area. We were given the following insurance form which we filled out and submitted at the Visitors’ Centre after we checked in.

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After we’d paid the fees, we re-boarded the bus and proceeded to the main parking area (the final drop-off point). The following panorama view will give you a rough idea what to expect…
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Kiate took this picture while standing in front of the Visitors’ Centre.

When we disembarked from the bus, the owner of XinXin ‘minsu’ 欣欣民宿 came to greet us and showed us the way to his ‘minsu’. After checking in, we freshened up and went out to explore the area. The temperature was around 16°C-18°C and it was drizzling slightly when we arrived.

Stay tuned for the next entry on the 5 wonders of Alishan and a review of XinXin ‘minsu’ 欣欣民宿 …