Visiting Taiwan . 1 Oct 2012. Day 4. Part 1/2 En Route to Shizhuo (石槕)

I’m already missing Taiwan!

Although I touched down on Sunday, the memories of the laid-back life in Taiwan remained etched deeply. As much as I wish to start sharing about my new trip, I realised I’m not even half way done about my previous trip to Heart of Asia! So… here goes!

1st October was the last day of our stay at Top Cloud Villa. We really couldn’t bear to leave this place because it was simply too surreal. Here are some last shots taken of the place before we descended Cing Jing.

Bye Top Cloud Villa! Til we meet again!

We then began our descent. Our next destination is also a minsu.

This is the Nantou Public Bus, 南投客运公车. Look out for this bus if you intend to transfer at Puli. This bus goes to Cing Jing as well but there are less timing and travellers have to stop over at Puli. We chose the direct bus which also stopper over at this station to allow passengers a quick toilet break before the bus hits the highway and brought us back to Taichung.

Upon reaching the Taichung HSR, we took the earliest possible train to Chia Yi HSR. Along the way, I made a call to Mr Liu, or also known as Papa Liu,  to pick us up. When we reached, he had his car parked by the road and assisted us with loading our lugguages onto his car. He drives a 7 seater so there were plenty of room to accomodate us and our lugguages.

Papa Liu is the Chairman of the Minsu Association and he had literally transformed part of his current home to provide a lodging to travellers.   Along the way, we chatted and learnt that most of the minsu in Taiwan aren’t really minsu. They are actually run by huge corporation so it’s not really modified from someone’s home nor their home. They used the name minsu, however, to attract travellers. To me, it’s very much similar to the bed and breakfast accommodation in United Kingdom and other part of the world but as the Chairman of the Minsu Accomodation, he did help to clarify that there were alot of minsu that are not certified as minsu and had been given order by the government to start packing. When we pressed for details, he was pretty reluctant to reveal which are the ones that did not meet the requirement, thus we also let it pass. ;p

Our first stop in Chia Yi (嘉義) was a chicken rice store… Not! Haha… As opposed to the usual chicken rice that is commonly found in Singapore,  this store sells turkey meat instead. It was surprisingly good and tender, unlike the turkeys some of us may have eaten for Christmas. It is similar to the chicken rice in Singapore and is served in a light soya sauce mixed with other condiments.

Find them on Facebook!

Our food is served! 😀

过猫 (Cross the cat)

This is a very interesting dish called 过猫 (Cross the cat). When we placed order for it, we anticipated the vegetables to resemble cats. It turned out to be quite unlike the feline creature. It is a type of weed (or so I was told) that grew in the wild and the locals served it as a starter or a side dish.

Lunch!

After lunch, Papa Liu brought us to the 天长地久桥 (A Bridge named ‘Eternal Heavens and Everlasting Earth’) located right at the bottom of Alishan (阿里山).

Actually, the bridge behind me is 地久 (Everlasting Earth). The other bridge which is 天长 (Eternal Heaven) has already been destroyed previously by the earthquake and the damage was irreparable.

The barren piece on the slopes of the mountain is a reminder of the landslide that took place during the earthquake that hit the region previously. 

Here’s Poh with one of the nine cute little monk statues that lined the bank of the almost dried-up river.

We hung around the area for a while before Papa Liu drove us to our next destination.

濟公与葫芦
(Ji Gong & his Hulu) 

Sugar Cane Juice!

After grabbing a drink, we made our way to our next destination, only to find that there’s yet another hanging bridge! Due to the numerous rivers, gorges and mountains in Taiwan, we soon realised hanging bridges are indeed a common sight. 🙂

Another almost dried-up river…

 After taking photo at the hanging bridge, we were given a treat. Thanks to Papa Liu and the nice people in this area, we tasted the loveliest grilled wild boar flesh. Close to perfection, the skin was crisp and the meat was tender. Coupled with a dash of salt and pepper and a handful of scallions, the dish is a perfect snack. We gobbled it up too quickly, only to realised I haven’t taken a picture of it. Worst, I can’t even recall where this place was. :/ Here’s a picture of it though. ;P

A huge barbeque pit… I like. 😉

The owner’s seal-like labradors… They are just like seals on land in the form of dogs. Fat and thick. Hahaha… Too much good food!

I suppose when we were in the area, it was past the monsoon season. Thus, the river were either dried up completely or had small puddles scattered scantily on the river floor.

A memorial that commemorate the lives that were lost during the earthquake.

Another site where a mud slide took place…

Looking at these sites where either landslides or mudslides took place, it really lead me to understand that there is always two sides to any matter. Taiwan is such a scenic place but as much as it has all these beautiful sights, dangers are always lurking and the area is so susceptible to natural disasters such as earthquakes, mudslides and typhoons. Perhaps the harsher the condition, the more beautiful is the resultant entity.

The warehouse nearby

A last look at the simple abode of the locals.

On our way to the next destination, Papa Liu told us that the place where we visited is also a minsu. However, with newer and flashier accommodations built at an alarming rate in the area to capture the crazy crowd that flocked to this area, especially from Mainland China, this minsu lost its charm and becomes only occasionally occupied. Furthermore, it may not boasts of facilities as complete as some and the accessibility to this place was pretty limited.

In a short while, we arrived at Sheng Le Farm!

Rather than an animal farm, it’s more like a mini factory that processes tea leaves from the vast tea plantation that the café on the 2nd storey overlook. Before heading up, we took a brief tour in the working area where the tea leaves are processed.

Firstly, the tea leaves are fed into this machine. Besides being treated with warm air, the tea leaves are tossed and turned to rid the moisture in them so that they are suitable to be stored for consumption. After checking that the tea leaves are relatively dried, the tea leaves are extracted from the machine and packed in cloth which is then rolled up into a huge ball. These balls will then be distributed to the suppliers who will then repacked the tea leaves into consumer-friendly boxes for tea lovers.

Machine that tosses and turns and blow dries the tea leaves.

Testing testing… Tea leaves almost dried!

Time to pour out the leaves!

Just the very last bit of tea leaves left…

Crisp dried fragrant tea leaves good to roll!

Rolling rolling rolling…

Both Poh and ZM are pretty amused and surprised at how heavy that ball of tea leaves could be. Keke…

The gorgeous greens…

It’s all tea leave shrubs, by the way. 😉

After our tour, we head up to the café to enjoy a cuppa! 🙂

That’s Papa Liu on the left. 

More greens…

The above pictures looked checkered because…

There’s a mosquito net that separates the outdoors from the indoors! Yay! In that way, any insects (especially the dreadful mozzies) would not be able to fly in and interrupt the peaceful afternoon. 😉

Hot tea served!

Focus on the tea… Focus on the tea…

The owner makes good coffee too!

After the tea and the tour, and the lush plantations and the vast horizons, I will feature the rooms that we are going to stay in the next two days! Here’s a preview of the gorgeous view out of the window! All TEA!!!

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