Taiwan: The wild west

I’m no dirty hippy. Farms aren’t the first place that spring to mind when I’m planning a fabulous vacation. But by day five of our round-island road trip with baby, I found myself schmoozing with the resident goats of Flying Cow Ranch and rather enjoying the experience.

Agriculture plays an important role in Taiwan, but it isn’t as important as it once was. Unable to generate enough income by selling crops alone, farmers are now opening up their farms for recreation and tourism. Dastardly city folks, whose only knowledge of farm animals consist of cheeseburgers and Mcnuggets, could now pretend they were one with nature. Ohm.

That’s a tractor, in case you haven’t seen one before.

There are dozens of farms all over Taiwan so it was only natural that we lingered in a pimped-out barn for a few nights.

Not all farms are created equal. Some are veritable tourist traps because farmers can be sly too. (If you think all country people are innocent then, boy, are you in for a disappointment!).

It’s not hard to guess which category the Flying Cow Ranch falls under. This Disney-fied ranch situated in a secluded valley of undulating green pastures, complete with farm-themed merch to scam dumb tourists…

I wonder how these Malaysian fridge magnets got here. #WTF

…and cute family accommodations so one can spend the night and marvel at how darn kitschy it all is.

Not my picture.
So kitschy even bubba’s upset.

It’s really not as bad as it sounds. Although I wouldn’t really jump at the chance at staying here for two nights, we spent a lovely day and night doing all the things one would normally do at a farm if it was owned by a shrewd businessman.

Unfortunately though, there are no flying cows at Flying Cow, only plenty of disinterested animals that you can feed, milk or, in my case, attempt to have a conversation with for baby’s amusement. The ducklings, however, were either a) greedy as eff, or b) being deliberately starved, because they all came running at the sight of our outstretched palms, even though we had no food for them.

Like this.

We had fun messing with their minds but felt like real assholes after awhile.

In any case, we were done after two hours since the farm itself was quite small.

To keep families occupied in the evenings, they held a baking class for kids. The bubba needed a lot of assistance since he had just turned 1, but he loved mixing and stirring the batter for the egg tarts.

Gobbling up the final product.

But don’t expect a therapeutic experience; not with kids running around and whining that they were hungry. (To be honest, if you’re two adults with no kids, save yourself the trouble and look for overnight accommodations elsewhere).

There were several restaurants available for dinner but I wouldn’t say they were the height of our gastronomic experience in Taiwan. We had a very forgettable meal — I’ve actually forgotten it — but what I did recall was the Snow White pudding dessert, a chilled milky sphere that burst in the mouth like one of Ferran Adria’s creations.

Not my picture because I ate all of mine up.

I could eat 10 of those and never get bored but then I’d end up looking like a sphere myself.

Anyway, the next day, it was time to drive to Nantou, where Taiwan’s largest body of water, Sun Moon Lake, sits framed picturesquely by distant mountains. I wouldn’t go as far to call it beautiful or even pristine — it is a nice place to while away on a good day, but thanks to rampant lakeside development, one needs to look hard to find the loveliness so often trumpeted about in other travel blogs. It certainly didn’t help that certain stretches of the lake are punctuated by shabby concrete buildings that looked as if they were on the verge of collapse. #toouglyforpictures

We skipped the boat cruise and went on a bike ride instead since there was a flat, well signposted lakeside trail that winds its way around the lake.

We even managed to stop in the majestic-looking Wenwu Temple enroute. I felt like I was in Japan for a second.

Resulting in one too many temple pictures.

The entire route was easy enough…until my bike malfunctioned halfway — but of course — and we had to turn back, with me dawdling along my broken bike like a loser.

We were more than happy to leave Fugly Town by then and retreated to our home for two nights, the Old Five Guesthouse.

Doesn’t l0ok like much on the outside.

This lodge is situated on a bucolic piece of woodland, a good half an hour away from all the eyesore. It is entirely run by well-meaning locals who can’t speak English and the rooms are basic but who cares when breakfast and dinner — which comes included in the price — is AMAZING and you’re surrounded by organic farms and the Great Outdoors.

Expect lots of food.

Armed with a torch, we went for a night walk with a guide after dinner. But because I suck at Mandarin, le hubby had to act as an intermediary between me and the guide. He was terrible at it and I had to relief him from his role before he started offending someone with his bad Chinese.

We did spot many tree slugs though. Yuck.

The next day, the owners wanted to show us around the farm, where all manner of delicious treats were grown for our breakfast.

Steaming hot mantous with jam, all housemade.

There are very few instances that I regret not knowing Mandarin, and this was one of them.

Still, I felt like a real champ for choosing this place instead of one of those five-star lakeside hotels, cooped up in my thousand-dollar room while being assailed by the sight of tacky structures. #soglad

So the moral of my story is: Forget the five-star hotel and spend several nights on a farm (browse the Internet for ones that sounds most appealing to you). And make sure the bike works before you embark on an ambitious round-the-lake ride with baby.

You’re welcome.

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