It was a ~3 hours car ride up to the mountains in Cingjing from Hualien. I remember we encountered some massive road work on the way up and cars on both sides of the road had to stop for 1/2 hour. In Singapore, this would not be tolerated and people would make a big fuss out of it. But in the middle of the 中央山脉 of Taiwan, almost everyone got off their own cars, walked along the road and enjoyed the chilly fresh mountainous air while waiting. It was a pretty nice experience. 🙂
We reached Hehuan Mountain in the afternoon. Even though it was said that it usually gets foggy in the afternoon, we were lucky to have clear skies and we saw this splendid view. Nature is just so gorgeous, no human marvel can match its beauty. 🙂 I re-watched the movie 赛德克巴莱 recently which is about the Wushe Incident in the Qilai Mountain – how the native people living there fought the Japanese after a long period of submission. The Qilai Mountain, where most of the battle took place, is one of the mountains in the picture. In times of peace, it’s hard to imagine that something so tragic happened before among those serene-looking mountains.
By the time we got to our minsu (民宿), it was already in the late afternoon. We took a leisurely stroll around the area and enjoyed the great views of the mountains before proceeding to the Small Swiss Garden – the touristic center of Cingjing. The highlights of the Small Swiss Garden are the arrays of flowers, miniature windmills and the water show which occurs every hour. I wasn’t too impressed by the water show which started and ended rather abruptly and had limited colours and effects. What is quite interesting about Cingjing is the “conspiracy” between different store owners – something which is also present at the Shifen Waterfalls. When we bought the entrance ticket to visit the Little Swiss Garden, we were also given discount coupons for the chocolate store and cafe located nearby and in the Little Swiss Garden respectively. Needless to say, the discount coupons didn’t offer much savings due to their terms and conditions but we still bought things because we were tourists.
After the short visit to the Small Swiss Garden, we walked over to an area with a small cluster of restaurants and shops. The minsu owner agreed to pick us up from here at 9 pm. I remember we started our hot pot dinner at around 7 pm – it was so nice to eat something warm on a cold night. 🙂 After dinner, we visited many of the shops and bought plenty of over-priced and unnecessary things because it was freezing cold outside and the Taiwanese were too good at selling their products. I remember calling the owner and asking him if he could fetch us at an earlier time but he said he wouldn’t be able to get here before 9 pm. Later, we observed that there were numerous tourists who were aimlessly walking in and out of the shops and we wondered if this is yet another “conspiracy” – the time between the minsu and the shop owners here. For us, this was just a cold night that my family would certainly remember for a long time. 🙂
I attempted to catch the sunrise the following morning but it was a little too cloudy for my liking. Nonetheless, it was a rather mind-calming experience. 🙂 We visited the Green Green Grassland – a sheep farm located 1750 m above sea level! Together with many other tourists, we watched the sheep show. It was a rather interesting show as it was hosted by an American guy who was talking and cracking jokes in Chinese. The highlight of the show for me was when the sheep dog “chased” the sheep down the hill. I don’t know why exactly but watching it (and even thinking about the scene again) makes me feel happy and relaxed. After the show, we took a walk around the area before watching the “Horse Skill Show” – a group of Mongolians riding their horses in various fancy stances.
Next, with the help of the taxi driver we hired to take us from Cingjing to Sun Moon Lake, we made a quick stop at Bi hu (碧湖). Bi hu is an important lake in the region because it is the reason why the area downstream, Puli, has great papers and wine. There was a restaurant perfectly positioned to have a great view of the lake and the owners really didn’t like tourists to enjoy that view without paying for the food. Good thing our driver brought us to a location near to but not yet at the restaurant and we enjoyed a comparably great view too. After seeing so many Taiwanese mountains, we were excited to see the lake next! 🙂