Wednesday, January 29, 2014

FTV: The banality of Changhua, the Beauty of Wuling Farm

Another trip with FTV, to Changhua and the incomparable Wuling Farm. Shot above is the 7A just above Nanshan. It was fogged over, but at Wuling Farm, the sky was picture perfect... Click the READ MORE to see more and read some interesting information about... Beidou?

Our first stop was Baguashan in Changhua. We walked one of the many trails up the mountain.

Charles, our cameraman, shoots the trail. It is raised and covered with stones.

Michella interviews our guide. As he was talking he gave the standard formulation of the 19th century ordering of Taiwan's ports: 1. Takao, 2. Lukang, 3. Mengchia (Taipei), 4... Beidou? I gave him a skeptical look, but he assured me, in the bad old days, Beidou was a hopping place (it is allegedly where ba wan were invented, and is the home of the family of the NBA's Jeremy Lin, Wiki says). He told me that boats coming up the river from Lukang had to stop there and offload their cargoes onto smaller boats for shipment further on. But then the Japanese decided to run the railway in, the people of Beidou objected to the newfangled technology, and the rail line went elsewhere, taking prosperity with it.

A bug rests on the leaf. So frustrating for me, so few bugs about in the winter.

Our next stop was a longan cake factory.

Michella and I got into working gear and went to work on the line. This shop and factory are so famous, truckloads of tourists unloaded to shop there.

After that it was back to Baguashan to Dashan Farm, one of the crop of leisure farms that have sprung up in recent years. This one is still a work in progress, but the area is quite relaxing and the owner very welcoming.

We did all the leisure farm things, drinking milk straight from the cow, and feeding the animals. Here Michella struggles to keep two cows happy with one cow's worth of grass.

We ended the day with -- what else? -- the famous ba wan on the famous corner, where two old ba wan places square off against each other. I've eaten at both, both are delicious.

Long lines at the place across the street.

A common business technique in Taiwan -- the red sign and the white sign sound the same when spoken; one has obviously opened next to the other and copied its name, hoping to take advantage of its fame.

Finally! The next day I headed over to Wuling Farm, taking the bus from I-lan city. Takes about three hours to the farm, and its full of colorful local people and just about everything you can imagine that can fit in a box. The ride up to Wuling Farm at 1700 meters is stunning. $285 NT, stop is next to the Changhua Bank across from the train station. Two buses run a day, one in the morning, one at 12:40. Difficult to get up and down in a day.

The visitor center where the bus stops.

We were there to shoot the blossoms, plum and cherry. When plans were made for this shoot, we were told there should be some early cherry blossoms, but instead there was a sharp freeze a few days before and the blossoms were burnt by the cold. Thus only plum blossoms could be found. But they were beautiful, as above.

We stayed at the Wuling Farm hostel. Note temperature in the morning there.....

The cars were frosted over.

...but a great buffet inside.

Lovely river and forest scenery, and stirring mountain views. It was freezing cold, but very enjoyable with no wind and plenty of sun.

By 9:30 the temps had risen dramatically and we were meeting with the assistant director of the farm, who turned out to be a real gem of a man, soft-spoken, polite, knowledgeable, and kind. It was the start of an excellent day....

The farm is full of places to walk and ride.

First stop: the tea farm. Wuling Farm's teas are famous.

Charles gets a shot of the tea farm as morning strollers enjoy the gorgeous day.

Wuling Farm was originally built by retired soldiers who came over with the KMT, like Chingjing Farm on the other side of the mountains. The museum, our next stop, preserves momentoes of their lives.

Preserving the vehicle that Chiang Ching-kuo once rode on....

A little reminder that some of the servicemen were originally soldiers from Burma, Laos, and Thailand.

The mountains around Wuling Farm are staggeringly beautiful.

Setting up the tea shot.

The tea for once lived up to its reputation: it was amazing.

Despite the cold, bees were active; in fact they were out at temps of 3 C.

Taking a coffee break.

Then it was off to the Salmon Eco Center to get some sashimi see the Formosan Landlocked Salmon.

The Eco Center was formerly a campsite and is gorgeous.

Then we drove to the end of the road and climbed to the entrance to the Hsuehshan Hiking Trail at about 2000 meters.

The views are amazing.

The road goes up past the campsite.

There's a viewing platform, parking lot, and a building there for hikers.

A group of climbers from Malaysia.

Returning down the road to the farm area.....

....we pass monkeys. The assistant director said they tried to grow fruit, but the monkeys ate too much.

Grandpa monkey came to check us out.

Last stop: the salmon themselves, since none could be seen at the Salmon Eco Center.

Salmon clustering in a pool.

Setting up the final shot of the day. What a fantastic day, one of the best I've ever experienced. Clear, clean, and every view better than the last. Wuling Farm is an amazing, special experience.

The cherry blossoms will be out in force in two weeks. I plan to go back... soon...

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