Nantou Couty is located central Taiwan, relatively near Taichung. Visiting areas in Nantou is a good idea when you want to venture out of Taichung if you are based there. This part of Taiwan is landlocked and is more rural with many mountains, home to certain Taiwanese aborigines’ tribes. The more famous attractions in this county are Sun Moon Lake and Cingjing farm.
Sun Moon Lake (日月潭) is a very big and deep lake and has become one of the top tourist’s attractions in Taiwan. There are many places to view the lake.
This is the view of Sun Moon Lake from Xiang Shan Visitor Centre, which looks like Marina Barrage.
You could also take a boat ride across the lake.
The boat I was on stopped at Ita Thao village.
Ita Thao (伊達邵) is a very small group of Taiwanese Aborigines. Here you can find streets selling food and souvenir items. The specialty around the Sun Moon Lake area is the black tea. I tried the tea during lunch and it was like Lipton tea but better, and I actually really liked it! There are so many shops selling tea around the village and even Pearl Milk Tea using Assam Black Tea from Sun Moon Lake. Sun Moon Lake Black Tea is officially one of my favourite teas now.
I was also pleased to find many fresh handmade mochi stalls in this area. This shop sells hot mochi coated generously with either peanut or sesame powder. I think this is Hakka style and it was my first time trying something like this.
This shop sells handmade mochi at 6 for NT50. What attracted me was that they used coconut as a coating.
I bought a box of 6 assorted flavours – peanut, sesame, red bean, matcha, taro and green bean.
The matcha flavour was not bad but I think coconut doesn’t really make a good coating for mochi.
Among the stalls in Thao Village I’ve tried, I think陳記 is the best.
Each mochi costs NT10 each and everything is handmade and sealed in individual plastic bags.
There were many things about this mochi I liked – the small size, the texture of the dough (which is not too mushy or too tough), the fillings and the bonus of soy bean flour as coating!
My favourite flavours were taro, black tea and red bean. The taro filling was very smooth and sweet. The black tea was very fragrant and it’s very unique to see mochi filled with black tea flavoured filling. I think it can only be found around Sun Moon Lake since black tea is a local specialty. The mochi can be kept for maximum 3 days so it’s alright to buy some to snack on along the way.
Personally, I found Sun Moon Lake to be rather disappointing. It was too crowded to enjoy and I didn’t think the view was extraordinary, especially after seeing nicer waters in other countries. But if Bedok Resevoir is the only water you’ve seen, then this is a lot nicer. However, the Sun Moon Lake Black Tea and mochi was good enough to make me say the trip here was worth it.
Cingjing Farm (清境農場) is another tourist attraction in Ren’ai Township of Nantou County high up on the mountains. The main attraction here is the Green Green Grassland where you can see sheep as though you’re in New Zealand.
Twice a day there’ll be a show and the highlights are seeing the sheepdog control the sheep to run up and down the mountains and seeing a professional shear a sheep within seconds.
The farm is quite big and if you wish you could explore further, going up close and personal with the sheep after the show. There’s also a horse show which I skipped. While this is probably the best farm on top of the mountains with shows catering to tourists, I feel it is nothing compared to Mother Farm in Chiba, Japan, where there equally scenic mountain views, are more animal shows, more animals, more facilities and super good soft cream ice cream.
Along the way up the mountains you’ll see many Minsu and restaurants. These are only accessible if you have private transport. I had my lunch at one of the restaurants along the mountains, a distance away from the tourist attractions.
The 10 course lunch at A Dong (阿東窯仔雞) costs NT2000 and it can feed 8 -10 people. This is considered inexpensive comparing to the prices of our Zi Char in meals in Singapore, but I have no idea how this compares to prices in Taiwan. The 10 course set includes their specialty charcoal oven roasted chicken.
I liked the charcoal grilled chicken, fried mini shrimps and most of the vegetables in particular. The chicken was very fragrant and juicy. The mini shrimps were sinfully addictive, being slightly crispy and seasoned. The vegetables were fresh and locally obtained (I assume, from the mountains). I wouldn’t mind having a meal of just vegetables if everything used were fresh and in season.
The ambiance of this restaurant reminded me of those seafood kelong style restaurants in Batam where you’ll be close to nature, but instead of waters you are faced with mountains here. It was quite a pleasant experience and I do recommend trying this restaurant if you are totally clueless about what to eat around Cingjing.
Carton King is a restaurant and shop which is also considered an attraction around this area. All the furniture here is made of carton. The retail shop sells all sorts of paper products which is not very useful but innovative. I did not visit the restaurant but the tables and chairs used there are also made from carton. Theme restaurants are common in Taiwan.
In the same area you’ll find the Small Swiss Garden. I’ve read somewhere that if you dine at Carton King, you’ll get free entry to the garden.
The garden like the name suggests, is really small.
It was a very hot day. It felt more summer than autumn and the weather made it not so enjoyable to be roaming around.
This is a good place if you want to take pictures, though I don’t really think Switzerland looks like this.
Old England is actually a luxurious minsu with a restaurant where you can enjoy afternoon tea at, but for those who do not have the luxury of time to spend the afternoon or night there, you can go up and take pictures of the exterior. It really looks like a slice of England in Taiwan, but of course if you’ve been to the real England such buildings is nothing spectacular. I wish I could have afternoon tea there though. It may seem expensive at NT450 but if you compare this to the price of high tea in Singapore or England this price is way below average. If I ever get to return I’ll make sure I do have afternoon tea here because the interior looks lovely. The lodging is said to be one of the most expensive minsu in Taiwan.
Perhaps the main attraction about Cingjing area is simply staying overnight in one of the Minsu (like B&B) and soaking up the mountain top atmosphere, something I did not get to try.
My suggestion for Cingjing would be to check out Green Green Grassland -> High Tea for lunch (to beat the crowd) at Old England -> Carton King/ Swiss Garden -> A Dong Chicken for Dinner -> Stay overnight in a minsu. (However, you can see better sheep in New Zealand, have better tea with better architecture in London, and see a real Swiss Garden in Switzerland. Only the roast chicken is found only in Taiwan.)
Puli Township of Nantou County is about an hour away from Cingjing and is located somewhere between Cingjing and Sun Moon Lake. There are a number of tourist attractions created in Puli, like a wine brewery and paper dome but in my opinion those were not worth my time. I visited those places after Sun Moon Lake and felt it was quite a waste of time. However, there’s somewhere in Puli worth checking out – Feeling 18 Chocolate Factory.
The chocolate specialty chocolate sold here was somewhat like Royce nama chocolate which requires being kept in the chiller. Other than chocolate, the gelato here is pretty popular.
The variety of flavours was quite wide but I was disappointed that they didn’t have coconut. I guess coconut isn’t really a Taiwan thing.
It was so hard to decide on just 3 flavours. I took the Dark Chcoolate, Assam Milk Tea and Salt flavour. The milk tea was not bad but I regretted choosing the salt one. The dark chocolate was rich and dark and I liked it. My other favourite was the vanilla. Not all vanillas taste good to me but this one nailed it. The matcha was not bad too, comparable to the numerous I had in Japan. As I am not a fan of fruity ice cream, I have no comments about the fruit flavours.
They also sell soft cream ice cream in a variety of flavours but I was too full to try this, though I wish I had done so looking back now.
Coffee or tea is provided for free as they are primarily selling the coffee beans rather than coffee – so it’s somewhat like free tasting for all.
Without Feeling 18, I would have bad impression of Puli because the other so called attractions were very lacklustre. With a nice ice cream and chocolate place like this, I’d say Puli is worth checking out if you’re around Sun Moon Lake or Cingjing.