Taiwan Day 8 & 9 – Qing Jing Farms & Mount Hehuan

Our next stop after Sun Moon Lake was Qing Jing Farms, which is a little settlement along the road that leads all the way up to Mount Hehuan (Hehuan Shan, and shan obviously means mountain). The road is quite narrow and winding, and after the earthquakes of September 21st, 1999 destroyed the trans-island road that connected the west and east coast of Taiwan, it remains the only west/east connection via Taiwan’s central mountain range – there’s trucks and buses crawling and climbing up that narrow, winding road. It’s crazy.

Qing Jing (or Chingjing) Farms itself is insanely popular among tourists because it features a lot of “European style cottage” houses that are hotels or bed & breakfasts. Other than that, it has a set of gardens and meadows and other attractions that I just didn’t get. For example, there’s a spot called “Little Swiss Garden”. It has windmills! Do the Swiss have windmills? I was confused by that. Other than that, Qing Jing Farms is not only teeming with tourists, but also with Seven-Eleven stores. I haven’t counted, but I’d say that the small village has at least 7 or 8 of them. Really strange. I called it the Seven-Eleven Township.

We had booked a room at a bed & breakfast for two nights, and it was quite a nice place, two buildings nestled at a relatively steep slope, with views to the mountains on the other side of the valley bellow. If it wasn’t foggy or cloudy, that is. After checking in, our first stop was a place called “Mos Burger” – a burger place?! Yep, that’s right. Their specialty is a burger (well, sort of) with a rice bun. Think of it as a mixture of döner, a burger, and rice. It wasn’t really easy to eat (and it wasn’t that special, either).

Luckily, our bed & breakfast also offered dinner, a fixed menu, so to make things easy, we ordered that. This turned out to be an excellent choice, the food was carefully prepared and really delicious. A selection of meat, vegetable and fish dishes, with a bowl of soup on a little stove as the final dish (it’s common to have the soup as the last dish), then some fruits. We liked it so much that we didn’t go out for dinner on our second day either.

So besides the somewhat funny attractions of Qing Jing Farms, what’s to do in that place? Well, first off, it’s at an higher elevation, and people seek these places to escape the humidity and temperatures of the lowland. I can certainly understand it! 🙂 The other thing is “that road,” which leads up to Mount Hehuan. It’s highest point is called Wuling, and it’s 3275m (10745ft.) above sea level. The 3416m (11207ft.) Mount Hehuan is just a 20 minute walk from there, on an old concrete military road for the most part.

The host of our bed & breakfast informed us of a sunrise tour on that road, with the bus stopping at some scenic spots for making photos. At first we thought that it might be a nice idea (even though the prospect of catching a bus at 4.30am wasn’t exactly too appealing), but then I had doubts whether these stops would allow me to take my time and make photos as I wished. In the end, we decided to simply do that sunrise tour with our car instead.

So, after a short night (it turned out the fan in the bathroom would not turn off at all unless you pulled the key from the central power switch of the room…) we began the drive up on the winding road. As we left the settlement of Qing Jing Farms it was pretty dark and the road just kept winding up and up and up. I actually quite liked it. As we were nearing Wuling (the highest point) however, we drove into the clouds! Major bummer. No glorious sunrise, no views into the distance, nothing.

We saw the little tour bus and followed it a bit, curious where it would stop, and were able to get some early morning photos of clouds hanging deep below in a valley, but other than that we were cold, hungry and sleep-deprived, so we drove back down into the village to sleep a little, have breakfast, and then decide what to do with the rest of the day.

And guess what – since there’s really nothing to do at Qing Jing Farms except going to a Seven-Eleven or one of the gardens/meadows things, we decided to drive back up to Hehuan Shan again later. We were close, and there was a chance to be on a high, high mountain with fantastic views and scenery (Google Image search) – I didn’t want to miss the opportunity, who knows when we would be back?

We made more photos of clouds. They’re beautiful! 😛 Actually, we drove down the mountain on the other side, from Wuling to what I believe was called Dayuling, but it didn’t look very attractive, so we drove back up to one of the highest hotels there – and, odds of all odds, we ran into Shuwen’s cousin and her husband there! The hotel had a lunch buffet and we took our time, hoping the rain would eventually stop. When it did we headed out to make some photos of the surrounding area before I had to give in to my itch to at least be at the top of Mount Hehuan, even if I would see nothing.

We parked at Wuling, I put on my scarf, jacket, hat, gloves, and left Shuwen, who opted to miss this experience and just stay in the car instead, sheltered from wind and elements. Tsk! 😉 The hike was short (as already mentioned) and without any problems. Info panels at the top inform of the history of Hehuan as a military base for Winter training (abandoned in 2000) and the efforts to return the area to a more natural state as it was integrated into Taroko Gorge National Park – in particular, there was a crazy array of antennas on the peak, and all that has been moved underground in a joint effort by network operators and Taroko Gorge National Park. I wish this is something that would be done on some of the hikeable Southern California hills and mountains…

Back down at Qing Jing Farms and our B&B we relaxed a little bit, had another delicious dinner, and went to bed early after another stroll through the Seven-Eleven mall and some souvenir shops.

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