Cover Story :

Back to the Basics,Taiwan's Tourist Farms
By Selena Huang

     Are you tired of just sleeping in on weekends? Need a change of scenery? Perhaps you should consider a trip to one of Taiwan's many tourist farms. A return to the basics offers fresh perspectives and makes Monday morning easier to manage. No matter where you are, pastoral pleasures are close by for an easy and inexpensive change to your weekend routine.

Northern Region

     Leisure farms in the north may be smaller in size when compared to the rest of the island, but they are BIG on rest and relaxation.
     Destinations in the outlying suburbs of Taipei produce hearty mountain vegetables, teas and fruits. Both Wenshan Farm (in Hsintien near Shenchangban Station on HuTzuNei Road (Tel: 02-2666-7512) and Ching Ching Ranch (64, Lane 266, ZhiShan[ChihShan] Road, Section 2; tel: 02-2841-1996) are easy access options for a quick get away from town.

     Farther a field, city slickers can enjoy a variety of crops, animals and outdoor activities. Weichuan Ranch (3-1, Kaorong Li (13) Lin,Yangmei Town, Taoyuan County; tel: 03-464-4131) is devoted to dairy farming with milking demonstrations and milk-based products for tasting and purchase. The vast meadow invites leisurely strolls anytime of year. Chiuliu Village Leisure Ranch (5, Lin 4, Chiudou Tsun [village], Hsinwu Hsiang [township], Taoyuan County; tel. 03-477-8577) includes recreational areas for games, like paintball, barbecue parties and overnight camping plus a well-stocked pond for weekend anglers. Fields of organically grown vegetables are ready for picking in season, and an ecological preserve provides a glimpse of Mother Nature at her finest.

     At Shei Pa Leisure Farm (308-1, Minshih Road, Taoshan Tsun [village], Wufeng Hsiang [township], Hsinchu County; tel. 03-585-6192), oriental pears, peaches and kiwis grow alongside alpine plants and flowers, and make for delicious fixins' in fruit-laden dishes like Star Fruit Chicken, Wax Apple Tuna Salad and Kiwi Shrimp.

Central Region

     Ranches in Taiwan's central region follow the rugged contours of mountain ridges and grow cold-weather crops, as well as raise dairy cattle, goats and sheep.
     Flying Cow Ranch, nestled in the mountains of Miaoli County (166, Nanho Li, Tunghsiao Town, Miaoli County; tel: 037-782-999), is home to more than 500 head of dairy cows and thousands of butterflies, which give rise to its whimsical name. The ranch features a nature preserve, milking center, animal viewing platform and butterfly sanctuary. Naturally, a number of dairy products are on sale to satisfy lactose lovers.

     Taichung County's Fushou Mountain Farm (29, Fushou Road, Hoping Hsiang [township]; tel: 04-2598-1411) integrates agricultural production and scenic tourism into one experience. The farm is home to more than 100 varieties of fruit trees as well as cold-weather vegetables, tea and alpine flowers and plants. Fushou's changchun tea is one of Taiwan's choicest teas. Food made from the farm's harvest is served here, such as apple curry and crispy honey melon eel. But, diners must make advance reservations.

     Wuling Farm, also in Taichung County (3, Wuling Road, Pingteng Tsun [village], Hoping Hsiang [township]; tel: 04-2590-1257), is a popular destination all year long thanks to a beautiful setting that changes with the seasons. The farm is well known for its cold-weather vegetables. In the summer and autumn, temperate fruits such as peaches, plums, pears and apples are in season.

     Chingjing Farm is located in Nantou County (25, Tingyuan Lane, Tatung Tsun [village], Jenai Hsiang [Township] just off the Central Cross-Island Highway, where it affords views of spectacular mountain landscapes, somewhat reminiscent of European scenery. The farm produces peaches, oriental pears, California plums, kiwi and cold-weather vegetables at different times of the year. The farm also raises livestock and allows visitors to hike on tea plantation trails or otherwise appreciate the local flora. On the farm's "Ching Ching Meadow," visitors can watch a mock sheep auction. Chinese and Western-style restaurants offer up farm-fresh beef and mutton meals, including filet or sirloin steaks and lamb chops.

Southern Region

     Fields in southern Taiwan stretch far into the horizon, while herds of grazing animals dot the landscape. Chiayi Farm (3, Lin 4, Hsihsing Tsun [village], Tapu Hsiang [township], Chiayi County; tel: 05-252-1711) has more than ten open ranges and a spacious farmhouse for a comfortable overnight stay.
     The red-tiled roofs and whitewashed walls lend a European charm to the setting. In addition to fruit and vegetable crops, expansive gardens are devoted to Chinese medicinal herbs. Playful pursuits include grass skiing, archery and paint ball. Hop Hop Leisure Farm (1, Hsihsing Tsun [village], Tapu Hsiang [township], Chiayi County; tel: 05-252-1529) boasts a kangaroo mascot and energizing activities such as making preserved plums and yam balls, or learning how to weave straw grasshoppers. Tea is cultivated on the farm, and if you like, steep your own brew and drink in the view along with the tea.

     Tsomalai Farm (61, Chiliwu, Erhsi Tsun [village], Tanei Hsiang [township], Tainan County; 06-576-0121) combines three distinct areas (leisure parks, orchards and ranch site) with options for grass skiing, horseback riding, archery, miniature golf, water recreation and the chance to pick fruits and vegetables. Try your hand with farming implements used by the forefathers, or just peruse produce on sale at the Agricultural Promotion Center. When hunger strikes, head over to the restaurant for a taste of healthy wild mountain delicacies. With a full stomach, a nap in the fresh air is next on the agenda. Takeng Leisure Farm (82, Takeng Li, Hsinhua Town, Tainan County; tel: 06-594-1555) combines the flavor of ancient rural villages with modern amenities, plus it gives you the chance to dig bamboo shoots, pick wild herbs or catch pond-bred carp - difficult accomplishments in the city. Swinging rope bridges, small cable cars, wooded hiking trails, hot spas and grilled suckling pig on the menu add to the ambiance.

     Folks visiting Hengchun Ecological Farm (28-5, Shanchiao Road, Shanchiao Li, Hengchun Township, Pingtung County; tel: 08-889-2633) will carry away lifelong memories of sheep grazing amid green fields. The staff is dedicated to preserving native insect and plant life - the firefly re-introduction zone is just one example of current efforts to save species and habitats. In addition to nature appreciation, you are also invited to feast on whole-roasted mutton. Vegetarians can opt for the farm's famous mountain herb meals and organic vegetable dishes.

Eastern Region

     Locations in Eastern Taiwan can't be beat for beautiful scenery. The region is famous for fruits, mountain herbs, and warm friendly people who welcome visitors from near and far.

     Orchards are the star attraction at Shangri-La Leisure Farm (1-1 Tachin Road, Tachin Tsun [village], Tungshan Hsiang [township] Ilan County; tel: 039-511-456). Peaches, plums and mulberries are harvested February through March, star fruit, guava and pomelo from July to October, and oranges in the wintertime. The surrounding mountain forests beckon daytime hikers. Full accommodations, an agriculture research center and roast suckling pig add to the attractions.

     Toucheng Farm (205, Kenghsin Li, Toucheng Town, Ilan County; tel: 039-772-168) features meadows and bamboo forests in addition to fruit orchards. Picnicking beneath banyan trees, poling bamboo rafts, fishing and picking fruit in season are popular in these idyllic surroundings.

     Wang Shun Yuan Leisure Farm (51, TehAn Road, Tehan Tsun [village], Tungshan Hsiang [township], Ilan County; tel: 03-951-3277) originated as a lumber camp. Its buildings are constructed of wood harvested from the area and they emit a fresh natural fragrance that rekindles the spirit. Organic plants and vegetables are cultivated here and can be ordered up for the freshest taste yet.

     Shin Kong Chao Feng Recreation Farm (20, Yungfu Street, Linrong Li, Funglin Town; Hualien County; tel: 03-877-1428) yields crops of avacados, wentan, pomelos and oranges and herds of dairy cattle for a taste of fresh milk and produce. Chao Feng Creek runs though the farm and is perfect for picnics, camping and fishing. A petting zoo is on site to keep the youngsters entertained.