In Summer 2015, we visited Cingjing as a day-trip from Taichung in Taiwan. Cingjing is a small town located high up in the mountains, known for the beautiful mountains surrounding it and some European cottage and castle inspired Minshu (a.k.a. homestays / B&Bs) located there.
The nearest major city to Cingjing is Taichung. So what we did was to hire a private driver to bring us up the mountains and around Cingjing from Taichung. A cheaper option would be to take a bus from Taichung to Cingjing, after which there will be plenty of cabs around which you can hail to bring you around. But with two young kids, we opted to get a private driver.
Our driver picked us up from Taichung THSR station. As we drove towards Cingjing, he pointed out the Betelnut (bin lang) plantations that dominated the region.
It was approximately 1.5 hours drive from Taichung to Cingjing. Our first stop was for breakfast at Matina Mill.
This was our first and favourite destination in Cingjing. The food was great and the scenery was great.
Click here to read more about our visit to Matina Mill.
Small Swiss Garden
Our next stop was a popular destination in Cingjing – Small Swiss Garden. We felt transported to another world, having came here from Matina Mill. It was extremely quiet and secluded at Matina Mill, but once we hit Small Swiss Garden, the place was flocked with tourists!
Nevertheless, with a lot of patience (plus the fact that we were here at 12 noon and everyone was hiding somewhere cool having lunch), we were considered lucky to be able to take some photos without being photobombed.
The flowers were in bloom in June, which made it a beautiful time to visit Small Swiss Garden.
There were also many windmills put up all around the garden. They were so colourful and pretty!!
We managed to catch a short fountain show when we were there.
Just beside Small Swiss Garden was a Carton King store. Carton King is a famous chain store in Taiwan selling, well, all things carton.
There were many cardboard displays within the store for you to take photos of, including the Carton’s Mini Zoo.
And yes, you can even go inside that little carton house.
What was more interesting was the restaurant on the second floor. It was a carton themed restaurant! Like you know how much I love themed cafes and restaurants? I coudn’t miss a chance to dine there.
Never mind that we just had breakfast at Matina Mill and was planning to have high tea at The Old England after that. I was not missing a chance to dine (and take plenty of photos) at this cool themed restaurant.
Check this out, even the high chairs were made of carton!
And like I said, we were going for high tea after this, so we only ordered 1 set of adult food and 1 kids set to be shared between the 4 of us. Look at that – everything was served in paper and carton! I love that cup holder the most!
When we paid the bill for our meal at Carton King, we were stumped when they gave us free entry tickets to Small Swiss Garden. We had earlier paid for our admission to Small Swiss Garden! *pulls hair out*
So remember: Dine at Carton King FIRST, then use the free entry tickets from them to enter Small Swiss Garden.
Visit: Carton King Official Website
Our driver drove us to The Old England next. High tea at The Old England was extremely popular, we couldn’t get a table when we arrived and had to write our name in the waiting list. So while waiting, the driver drove us to the recreation center.
The recreation centre was actually just across the road from Small Swiss Garden and Carton King. (Our driver was absolutely da bomb, I tell you. Driving us to and fro like that with no complaints.) This is where you can find Starbucks on a mountain. But food was the last thing on our mind, so we just wandered around.
We came to a lovely shop selling colourful and fragrant soap. MF was pretty intrigued by the soap and went to smell all of them to see which was nicest.
At the back of the shop, there was a herb garden which gorgeous view of the mountains.
Before we knew it, it was time to head back to our allocated time slot for high tea at The Old England.
The Old England
The Old England is a minshu (homestay) that looks pretty much like a castle. The reason high tea at The Old England was so popular was not because the food was great. It was because it was the only way you could gain access into the castle without having to pay for a night’s stay.
Happily, we trotted past the exclusive garden towards the high tea venue.
The high tea here was charged by head count. So we couldn’t say that we only wanted 1 set because we were full. Even kids had to pay for a kids set. But at least they were kind enough to allow us to have just 1 kids set instead of 2 since our kids were still pretty small.
The 3-tier high tea set was for the adults, while the small plate in front was the kids set. The food was okay, nothing to really wow about. We were here to sleuth around the interiors of this mysterious minshu. But disappointingly, we were only allowed to roam the high tea venue and the garden outside. We couldn’t go up to the rest of the castle – which remained exclusive to staying guests.
We took our time taking photos at the garden. We paid good money to be here, might as well make it count.
Green Green Grasslands
Our last destination at Cingjing was Green Green Grasslands.
We were running behind time because we couldn’t get a table initially at The Old England, and we took our time to have our high tea and take photos. This resulted in us missing the sheep shearing show. Which I really didn’t care much about. I have seen enough sheep shearing shows from my countless Australia visits. And gosh, THE CROWD. Are sheep shearing shows really THAT fascinating?
Instead of wasting time squeezing with the crowd at the show, we just went around to admire the scenery.
This place was not called Cingjing Farm for nothing. It was teeming with sheep. Meh….
Green Green Grasslands was full of shit. Literally. There was sheep poo EVERYWHERE. So I can’t say I was a fan of the place. But I was a fan of the surroundings.
And it was no joke trying the maneuver a stroller through Green Green Grasslands. Just ditch the stroller if you are coming to Green Green Grasslands please. Unless you think it’s fun pushing a stroller across super steep slopy grass patches that are covered with sheep poo.
We took our time to breath the fresh air. Wait, do I smell sheep poo?
At the end of the day, it was all about soaking in the view of the mountains.
Besides the sheep shearing show, there was also a horse stunt show. We made it to the show venue and watched like, 5 minutes of it, when we noticed the weather starting to get gloomy. The last thing we wanted was to be stuck at the top of the mountains IN THE RAIN with 2 kids and a stroller. So we started heading back. Thank goodness, because within a few minutes, mist has totally shrouded the area we were standing at earlier.
With that, we ended our visit to Cingjing and counted our lucky stars that we had such good weather the whole day!
Feeling 18 Degree C Chocolate Factory
If you think our day trip had ended, you are wrong. After we left Cingjing, the driver drove us to Feeling 18 Degree, a popular chocolate shop in the region.
By now, our driver was working OT, so we just grabbed some quick ice-cream. They had both gelato and soft serve ice-cream here.
What we did not know was that, if we had purchased something from one of the shops, be it the chocolate shop or gelato shop, we could have redeemed a 1-for-1 soft-serve cone from the soft-serve kiosk! By the time I realised this (while I was queuing for soft-serve and saw people in front getting free soft-serve), my hubby had thrown away the receipt for the gelato.
So remember: If you have a purchase from any of the stores at Feeling 18 Degrees C, KEEP THE RECEIPT. Then head to the soft-serve kiosk and you will be entitled to 1-for-1 soft serve!
Ruyi Sunny Cake
And believe it or not, we were still not going back to our hotel! During the earlier part of the day, my husband just making conversations with the driver and asking what souvenirs were popular in Taichung. The driver said they were famous for Suncakes (Tai Yang Bing). So my husband asked if he knew which shop was good. We weren’t asking him to bring us there, we could have gone the next day on our own. But in the end, he drove us there before sending us back to the hotel.
Not sure if the driver received commission from bringing us there. But honestly, I hope he did. He totally deserved commission. We were HOURS behind schedule, and this cake shop he brought us to was fantastic! They stuffed us with sample after sample, which were mostly delicious, and we bought SO many boxes eventually. But just in case the driver did not receive commission, we bought an extra box for him because we felt so bad that we exceeded our agreed timing by so much.
By now you should be wondering who our wonderful driver was. I didn’t do much price comparison etc. on drivers in Taichung. I was too lazy and just googled ‘Taichung driver’ or something like that and saw people on TripAdvisor forum recommending him. His name is Xie Zhiming. You can whatsapp him at +886 937 216 180 to book his service. Not sure if he knows English though, we communicated in Chinese throughout.
I have nothing but good things to say about him. He was patient with our rowdy boys (because he has two sons himself). He advised us to make reservations for Matina Mill and brought forward our original meeting time so that we could get there in time. He kept to the itinerary, bringing us to 18 Degree C, despite us way exceeding the 8 hours we initially agreed on. He drove safely and his car was very clean. He offered to take photographs for our family throughout the day. And he was forever so happy and cheerful!
So do look for him if you need a driver in Taichung! 🙂
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