Crisp air fills the air as my bus approaches the gates of Flying Cow Ranch, Taiwan, but I see nothing peculiar about the place as its name suggests. Instead, this countryside retreat oozes New England charm and serenity as it sits proudly upon a 120-hectare of land, at an elevation of approximately 200 metres above sea level in Miaoli County. It takes about 90 minutes’ drive from Taipei, which I think easily makes it ideal for both day trip and weekend getaway.
The lodge itself offers cosy guest rooms adorned with comfortable furnishings, while the common areas provide plenty of quiet reading nooks in a country-chic setting. Outside, a well-manicured landscape of rolling green grazing field stretches as far as the eye can see. Quiet. Laid-back. Unpretentious. Life here is a slow dance, and I can now see how and why a farm stay grows in people.
The Flying Cow Ranch boasts four restaurants that offer an array of delectable dining options, all showcasing authentic Taiwanese cuisine. These restaurants take pride in utilising the finest ingredients sourced directly from their own farms, ensuring freshness and quality in every dish. Muslim-friendly meals can also be arranged for the convenience of Muslim guests. Lest you forget that you are in a dairy farm, be sure to try the ranch’s addictive milk ice creams, crafted with care using the farm’s fresh milk.
Guests are invited to mingle with the resident goats and ducks, and they can even help in milking the cows. If these are not enough, they can participate in other bucolic activities like hiking and baking fluffy cakes. It’s an opportunity to connect with nature, enjoy the rustic setting, and slow down. A peaceful getaway at the Flying Cow Ranch is just the beginning of the many enjoyable experiences that await travellers in Taiwan.
Read on to find out more ideas on what you can do while taking a time off in this amazing island nation…
Zhou Ye Cottage
Nestled within the serene embrace of nature, Zhou Ye Cottage unveils a nostalgic village ambiance. This private enclave comprises a botanical garden, vegetarian restaurants, a DIY workshop, and a boutique inn, all of which invite guests to find solace amidst the calming beauty of the surroundings.
Moreover, the destination offers guests a remarkable opportunity to explore the art of fabric dyeing with traditional indigo dyes. From crafting simple handkerchiefs to more ambitious projects such as backpacks or T-shirts, the accommodating and skilled staff will provide step-by-step guidance throughout the creative process.
For a truly rejuvenating experience, I highly recommend booking a stay at Zhou Ye Cottage. Each room showcases exquisite, cosy, minimalist design and embraces a touch of Japanese influence. Some of them even provide serene mountain views and tatami, which make you think you are somewhere in the countryside of Japan.
Schokolake Country House
Schokolake is dedicated to all things chocolate and said to be the first of its kind in Taiwan. This is where travellers can immerse themselves in a delightful experience where they not only have the chance to purchase delicate chocolates, including those with unique flavours, but also participate in a hands-on DIY workshop to craft their own delectable treats. If you choose to spend the night here, Schokolake also offers accommodation options that include the luxury of a private hot spring tub, providing a truly indulgent and relaxing stay.
Miyahara is a gorgeous establishment in Taichung celebrated for its fine handmade confections and delectable desserts, including ice cream, cakes, and cookies. It is housed in a historic building that used to be an ophthalmology clinic until the end of Japan’s occupation in 1945. Fast forward to 2010, the building was acquired by Dawncake, a well-known pastry brand based in Taichung, and eventually underwent a careful restoration to preserve most of its original features.
The building was then reborn as Miyahara Ice Cream and welcomed visitors in 2012. It has since garnered loyal followings for its ice creams; but do not sleep on its handmade snacks, all of which are beautifully packaged, making them excellent gifts for loved ones. There is also a restaurant called the Moon Pavilion occupying the second floor of this building, which has earned a spot on the prestigious Michelin Bib Gourmand list.
Zhongshe Flower Market
Also known as the Chung She Tourist Flower Market, this vibrant floral paradise is a must-visit destination for flower lovers. It is situated just a short drive away from central Taichung and features meticulously maintained gardens complete with fun props that are perfect for capturing Instagram-worthy photos. One of the market’s highlights is its fascinating tulip field, which reaches its full bloom between January and March. Alternatively, visitors can also enjoy strawberry-picking experience from December to April.
Gaomei offers a compelling reason to visit: the opportunity to leisurely stroll along an 800-metre dock and explore the sandy areas beyond it, where you can observe migratory birds, mudskippers, and crabs, among others. Besides, it is also one of the best places to witness magnificent sunsets with silhouettes of colossal coastal wind turbines in the background. The dock is accessible throughout the year but do consider planning your visit during the fall and winter months as migratory birds are most abundant around this time.
LIHPAO Resort Park
Covering an expansive area of 200 hectares, this multi-entertainment complex is Taiwan’s largest resort park offering a unique combination of attractions. It encompasses the country’s most extensive dual land and water theme parks, the luxurious Fullon Hotel Lihpao Land, an escape room attraction, an outlet mall, a thrilling Lihpao Racing Park with Taiwan’s longest karting track, and the Sky Dream, which is Taiwan’s largest Ferris wheel.
Given the impressive array of attractions available, it is highly recommended to allocate an entire day for your visit to fully enjoy everything on offer. However, if your schedule is tight, I strongly advise prioritising a visit to Discovery Land due to its endless exciting attractions. Be sure to also experience the Gravity Max, which is the world’s first tilt coaster to feature a true 90-degree drop. Trust me, it’s terrifying yet incredibly thrilling.
And if you find yourself in need of a meal, make your way to the nearby Jyun En Japanese Cuisine restaurant located on the ground floor of the Fullon Hotel Lihpao Land. The space exudes a soothing Japanese ambiance, while its culinary experts possess impeccable techniques that guarantee a delightful dining experience. Additionally, Jyun En Japanese Cuisine holds a Halal certification, ensuring its suitability for Muslim patrons.
Beitou Thermal Valley
The hot spring culture was introduced in Taiwan when Japan took over the country with the first hot spring spa built in Beitou in 1896, about a year after the occupation. Interestingly, Beitou was once known as ‘Peitou’, which derived from the term ‘paktaaw’ or ‘witch’ in the local aboriginal language. They named the area as such due to the overpowering scent of sulphur and the visible mist rising from the valley. Today, this mountainous district continues to have one of the largest concentrations of hot springs and spas in the world.
But before you proceed to one of the many bath houses, do drop by at the Beitou Thermal Valley, also infamously known as the Hell Valley, which is a free park with a natural hot spring pool where the water’s temperature runs from 80℃ to 100℃. The water may be too hot for swimming, but the mystical mist emanating from the surface is surely an ethereal sight not to be missed. There is a well-maintained pathway around the lake for visitors to take a leisure stroll while admiring the surrounding beauty.
Beitou Hot Spring Museum
The Beitou Hot Spring Museum sits in a beautiful, repurposed building with Japanese and European architectural influences. It initially served as a public bathhouse during the Japanese occupation and is said to be the largest bathhouse in East Asia at the time.
Now it functions as a venue for exhibitions that highlight the history of Beitou and its hot springs, offering visitors a glimpse into the past through a collection of historical relics and old photographs. On the first floor, visitors can even admire the original Roman-styled baths with such elegant stained-glass windows.
If you love marine life, or travelling with children, then a visit to Xpark Aquarium is a must. It is an immersive aquatic wonderland teeming with vibrant life from the waters surrounding Taiwan and beyond. Expect to be blown away from the moment you enter the facility, as a huge tank awaits complete with graceful sea turtles, schools of colourful tropical fish and majestic hammerhead sharks dancing before your eyes.
But that’s not all. The aquarium reveals more exciting charms as you explore its three-storey floors, including the ‘Rainforest Adventure’ zone that mimics the tropical rain forests ecosystem, the ‘Abyss of the Sea’ zone that highlights the mysterious deep-sea creatures, and my personal favourite, the ‘Healing Jellyfish’ zone that shows a variety of jellyfishes with otherworldly glows. Before you leave, be sure to stop by at the café where you can enjoy light bites while witnessing playful penguins swimming around.
44 South Military Village
During the 1940s and 1950s, many Nationalist soldiers and their families from Mainland China relocated to Taiwan, leading to the establishment of military villages across the island. While many of these villages have been demolished over time, some have been preserved as cultural and historical sites.
One such site is the 44 South Village that was named after the 44th Arsenal of Tsingtao’s Combined Logistics Command and was the first military village built in Taipei. The houses now have been beautifully repurposed into an art centre, a store, and a café. The site also serves as a creative community centre for aspiring Taiwanese designers. Be sure to visit this place on Sundays as there will be a farmer’s market taking place where travellers can hunt local handmade souvenirs.
This is a popular bakery specialising in traditional Taiwanese cakes and pastries with multiple outlets across the city. Their best-selling items, including pineapple and chestnut cakes, are renowned as Taiwan’s most sought-after souvenirs. In fact, some of the products are halal-certified, making them ideal for Muslim consumption. If you have time to spare, then elevate your experience by making your own pineapple cakes at the Chengtai Road’s outlet.
TAIWAN AT A GLANCE
- Taiwan is only a four-hour and a half flight away from Kuala Lumpur.
- Taiwan is in the same time zone as Malaysia.
- Currency: New Taiwan Dollar (NT$ 100 = approximately RM15)
- Taiwan enjoys the four seasons climate. Winters in Taiwan are mild, while summers are hot and wet, with July through September being the period most prone to thunderstorms.
- Upon arrival at Taoyuan International Airport, travellers can opt for various transportation options to reach Taipei, including the Airport MRT, bus and taxi.
- The MRT system in Taipei is highly regarded as one of the world’s best metro systems. To use the MRT, it is advisable to obtain an EasyCard from any station or order one in advance. You will need to pay a non-refundable deposit and add the desired amount to the card.
- The EasyCard can also be used for buses and taxis within Taipei, ferries in Tamsui, and local buses in cities throughout the country.
- Taiwan has the one of the highest concentrations of convenience stores per capita in the world, only second to South Korea. More interestingly, some of the 7-Eleven stores feature unique themes, so be sure to check them out!
Gaya Travel Magazine extends our heartfelt gratitude to Taiwan Tourism Bureau, Malaysia for making the writer’s trip to Taiwan possible. Visit www.taiwan.net.my for more information regarding Taiwan.