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By Uvia Chang Translated by Teresa Cheng

      Xinshe (Shinshe) township, located in the foothills just northeast of Taichung city, is a place that has gone from almost complete anonymity a decade ago to becoming one of Greater Taichung's more popular destinations, particularly during the weekends. Some of these changes have occurred since the 9-21 earthquake in 1999, as the Taichung county government has worked hard to restore the area to its former appearance.
Agriculture, sightseeing and cottage getaways are high on the list of favorite Xinshe attractions and the area has become popular with vacationers. On the way to Xinshe, you will see many black tents, erected over plots growing multiple kinds of mushrooms, such as the well-known Abalone Mushroom. Street vendors line up next to these farms to sell fresh, deep-fried mushrooms. In addition to these savory fungi, other local specialties include loquats, pineapples, grapes and persimmons--all worth your tasting.
Xinshe has all the elements that make a perfect weekend getaway--natural scenery, lush green mountains, clear water, creeks, a large assortment of flowers and plants, charming gardens and culturally-infused cafes. Coming from Taichung city, get on Dong Shan Road and head towards the Da Keng Jung Xing Ridge. From there, head towards Xinshe. Traffic allowing, getting to Xinshe will take you approximately 40 minutes by car. There are easy-to-follow signs all along the roads to Xinshe. Coming from the north on National Freeway No. 1, get off at Fongyuan (Fengyuan) exit, or get onto National Freeway No. 4, and head east towards the mountain town of Dong Shi (Tung Shih). Passing through Shi Gung the road will lead you in the direction of Xinshe. Head in the direction of Jung Shing Ridge and you will find yourself in Xinshe.

      Xinshe has several worthwhile features--botanical attractions, star-gazing, herbal dining, forests, cottages and numerous open-air cafes. Aside from the cafes introduced below, there are plenty of other things to discover on one's own. Some cafes require an entrance fee, ranging from NT$100 to NT$300, which often cover meals or drinks.

Cherry Blossom

6, Shie Zhong St., Shie Chen Village, Xinshe Township
(04) 2581-5662; Hours: 10 am-9:30 pm (open to 10:30 pm Saturdays)
Completely built out of timber, Cherry Blossom exudes a vintage, rustic atmosphere. It is situated in a specific area of Xinshe which offers ideal hiking and a spectacular view. Cherry blossoms and herbs grew on either side of the pedestrian trail here. During peak seasons, the blossoms bloom to a vibrant fire-red, creating a beauty that is simply indescribable. Cherry Blossom's menu includes various types of coffee, cold/hot drinks, and fruit vinegar and pine vinegar drinks--a specialty touted as having enriching and beautifying effects. Set meals include salad, an appetizer, an entree and soup and are all approximately NT$150.
Great Bodhi Leisure Farm Resort
55, Jonghe St., sec. 1, Yong Yuen Village, Xinshe Township
(04) 2581-7469; Hours: 9 am-6 pm
Website: http://www.great-bodhi.com
As with Cherry Blossom, Great Bodhi Leisure Farm Resort is located on the main street of Xinshe. The resort is targeted towards those who enjoy the nature and is divided up into different areas: an herbal and botanical garden, wetlands education area, lotus flower appreciation ponds, and ecological education area. All the flora in each area is identified with detailed introductions. The resort also offers coffee, teas, wild mountain vegetation and newly-built cottages. The second floor of the dining area offers a picturesque view of the entire resort which is been unspoiled and changes with the seasons. Every part of the resort brings to you a richer experience of the great outdoors.

Natural Founds

16, Lane 6, Jonghe St., sec. 1, Yong Yuen Village, Xinshe Township
(04) 2582-1366; Hours: 10:30 am-9 pm
Website: http://www.tenlai.com.tw/
Located next to Great Bodhi Leisure Farm Resort is the Baroque-style, open-air cafe, Natural Founds. The cafe follows the style of a 1600s European Baroque-infused mansion, full of royal elegance. The dining at Natural Founds emanates a Western flavor, allowing you to experience the passion of Europe without leaving Taiwan. Lodging at Natural Founds is half-priced on weekdays and 30 percent off on weekends. In particular, this place is a great getaway for families, both large and small.
Chien Hua Garden
61, Shie Shing St., Shie Chen Village, Xinshe Towship
(04) 2582-1141; Hours: 10 am-6 pm (Wed.-Fri.), closed Mondays/Tuesdays for mandatory maintenance unless a national holiday. (*Please call to confirm opening days and hours.)
Website: http://www.chgarden.com.tw/
A garden worth a visit year-round, Chien Hwa's scenery changes over time with each season. Each season presents a unique feeling--colors, flowers and plants unique to each time of the year. The garden is lush with greenery and a man-made creek is full of small fish. Chien Hwa Garden's cafe is located inside a glass tower which is covered with intertwined plants. You are able to enjoy a cup of coffee here while literally being fully immersed in nature.

Rose Garden

129-2, Hwa Fong St., Shie Chen Village, Xinshe Township
(04) 2582-0205; Hours: 10 am-6 pm
Website: http://rose.smit.com.tw/
On the way to Chien Hwa Garden, you will find yourself passing a field of roses. Here, Rose Garden covers approximately one acre of land with nearly 30,000 rose shrubs of varying colors. These rows of shrubs await visitors, who have opportunity to personally pick the roses. If hands-on harvesting is not your thing, there are freshly-cut bouquets of roses available at a decent and fair price.
Princess Annie's Garden
223, Jong Xing (Jung Shing) Rd., Jonghe Village, Xinshe Township
(04) 2593-1567-8; Hous: 10:30 am-8 pm
Princess Annie's Garden is built with multi-layered European wood, taking visitors straight into a European landscape painting. Next to the garden is Xinshe's vital "Bai Lun Juing". Because Xinshe lacks water resources, residents rely solely on this giant suction tube. Covering approximately 500 pings, the garden is lush with multi-colored flowers and plants, creating the likeness of a royal castle. Coffee and flower and fruit teas are priced around NT$150. All set meals are seasoned with herbs. The most popular dish, the Provence-Alpes Cote-d'Azur Baby Ribs, will set you back NT$380.

Lavender Cottage

20, Jong Xing (Jung Shing) St., Jonghe Village, Xinshe Township
(04) 2593-1066; Hours: 10:30 am-6:30 pm
Website: http://www.lavendercottage.com.tw/
Fulfilling their dreams, two young women came to the lush environs of Xinshe to create their own ideal world, turning a plot of betelnut trees into a lavender garden. Combining herbal agriculture with a perfect escape, the two women have found their establishment especially popular and famous amongst the many notable surrounding cafes and resorts. Visitors go to Lavender Cottage to experience a retreat of simplicity, herbs and nature.

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