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      • Part 2: Daxi’s garden of paradise
      • In this second instalment of a 26-part series, GWENDOLYN NG checks out Daxi’s filming locations for TV dramas
  • Gwendolyn Ng

    THE minute you step into Ta Shee Blooming Oasis, a sprawling flower farm in Taoyuan, you’ll feel as though you’ve stepped onto the set of a film.

    There, waltz through a lush green meadow dotted with flowers in shades of pink and red, and feel the breeze gently blowing through your hair as you tilt your face towards the rays of sunshine.

    You can almost hear music playing, too, in this dreamy setting. The soundtrack that was in my head during a recent trip to the Oasis was the melancholic ballad Sea Of Flowers, by Taiwan’s pop prince Jay Chou.

    No surprise, really, for if you Google the music video for the song, you’ll notice that the prairie where the couple frolic about looks the same. In fact, Ta Shee Blooming Oasis (No. 27, Lane 1093, Section 1, Fu-xing Road) in Daxi, Taoyuan County, is where the video was shot.

    With flowers of all colours in bloom all year round, it’s no wonder that the farm has been featured in over 20 idol dramas as well. Familiar names include Corner With Love, starring Barbie Hsu and Show Luo; and Autumn’s Concerto, starring Van Ness Wu and Ady An.

    What’s great about this flower paradise is its relatively convenient location, easily accessible by the Taiwan Tourist Shuttle’s Cihu Route that one can board from Zhongli. Many travellers choose to make a snappy detour to the farm – located in the same county as the Taoyuan International Airport – before heading home.

    Mr John Lu, 47, who runs Ta Shee Blooming Oasis, said: “Tourists left with half a day before flying off in the afternoon are often vexed over their wasted morning – the department stores usually open only at 10am or 11am, so they have nowhere to go.”

    Many tourists caught in this predicament, he added, “opt to take a quick half-day trip to our garden before their afternoon flight home”.

    The farm – which also offers pony rides – opens at 8.30am on weekdays and 8am on weekends. Mr Lu added that you are free to leave your luggage with staff while you explore.

    Get round the 31 attractions spanning the 18ha grounds by taking a leisurely stroll, or you can choose to ride a tractor around (this is only available on weekends).

    Here, romance is key, so flower patches have been given whimsical names – “Lavender Dream” is filled with lovely purple lavender blooms while “Rainbow Field”, as its name suggests, is lined with rows of brightly coloured flowers that change according to the four seasons.

    Drawn by the scenery, couples often flock here for wedding photo shoots. The Oasis hosts an average of five couples and their photographers per day.

    All that photo-taking can make one peckish. For afternoon tea, order a lavender-flavoured latte or ice cream at Van Gogh’s Cafe.

    Alternatively, try dishes at Van Gogh’s Home Restaurant, a popular spot where idol dramas have been filmed. Staff told me that actor Blue Lan made an appearance at this very restaurant to shoot a scene for his new drama, I Love You So Much.

    At the cafe, this reporter was treated to a delightful roasted chicken leg drizzled with a savoury mushroom and garlic sauce, boasting a hint of thyme and rosemary plucked from the gardens nearby.

    Fans looking to retrace the steps of their favourite celebrities in Taoyuan will be pleased to know that there’s more to see along the Taiwan Tourist Shuttle Cihu Route, at the Shimen Reservoir stop.

    Sure, a reservoir might not sound all that exciting, but fans of the hit idol drama You’re My Destiny are in for a treat. If you’ve been wondering whether “Jiangmu Island” – depicted in the show as the home town of “post-it girl” Chen Xin Yi – is for real, the answer is yes.

    Most of the filming was actually done on Pillow Mountain, across from the reservoir’s right bank, which is called Amuping.

    But the fictitious name from the drama has stuck, with the island even boasting signage proudly displaying the name “Jiangmu Island”, which can be translated loosely as “Ginger Island”.

    To get to the island, hop on a boat at Amuping Wharf (No. 1, Huanhu Road).

    One of the boatmen operating there, Mr Zhang Wen Cheng, 46, has seen how the idol-drama effect revived business at the once sleepy Amuping.

    He said: “Many fans from Japan and Korea came in search of the island, and were surprised to find that Jiangmu Island is found on the reservoir. When the drama was hot in 2008, the number of tourists who came to take the cruise rides doubled, especially on weekends.”

    And, I guess, this particular fan has also helped bolster Taiwan’s tourism economy.

    GETTING THERE

    GETTING to these filming hot spots is easy with the Taiwan Tourist Shuttle, both of which are along the Cihu Route.

    Board the shuttle bus at the Taoyuan Bus Company’s Zhongli Terminal, which is within walking distance from the Zhongli Railway Station.

    For details, check out the Taiwan Tourist Shuttle website at www.taiwantrip.com.tw, or call 0800-011-765 when you are in Taiwan.

    To get to Zhongli from Taoyuan International Airport, take a coach or cab.

    Take along your air ticket and hotel-confirmation details to the Taiwan Visitors Association Singapore (30 Raffles Place, #10-01 Chevron House) before departing for Taiwan to redeem Taiwan 7-Eleven discount coupons for a free coffee, Slurpee, one-day Wi-Fi card, and more (while stocks last).

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