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 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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YOU are about to leave Singapore for your well-deserved holiday, when about 15 minutes before your plane is scheduled to take off, you hear the announcement that your flight has been delayed.
That is fine if it is for half an hour, but what if there is no announcement on how long the delay will be?
Having to keep your cool during a flight delay might be alright for those of us who are not on business trips, but anything longer than an hour starts to become a nightmare.
Here are three ways to help you deal with potential flight delays.
ALWAYS GET TRAVEL INSURANCE
Some people may skip taking out a travel insurance to save money, or do not consider it necessary for a weekend trip.
But let’s look at it this way: do you know that some travel credit cards actually provide a free insurance if you use them to pay for your trip?
Getting it for free just for using your card really makes getting travel insurance a lot easier – not to mention cheaper.
Taking an insurance policy mitigates the risk of changes to your travel schedule and potential losses. At the very least, you can take comfort in getting some monetary compensation.
However, do note that there is usually a minimum delay limit in order for compensation to kick in. Some policies might also not cover delays and flight cancellations due to natural disasters and operational issues by airlines.
MAKE USE OF YOUR TIME WISELY
Many people go on a flight prepared with entertainment to keep themselves occupied during flight time.
If you have a book, magazine or your laptop on hand, why not get some reading done or use the time to learn some new phrases in the language of your holiday destination?
Since you cannot do anything about the plane, might as well do what you can within your power to make the situation more productive for you.
CATCH UP WITH YOUR FELLOW TRAVELLERS
If you are travelling with friends or family members, you can use the delay to interact and catch up on lost time with them.
That is exactly why you are on a holiday together, right? Go for a coffee break somewhere nearby, play some card games together or simply talk about or plan your itinerary together if you have not already done so.
The delay could also make a good conversation starter with fellow passengers. Who knows who you might meet next?
This article first appeared on Get.com, a personal finance and lifestyle website.
KAMUIMISAKI cape is located on the north-western edge of the Shakotan Peninsula in Hokkaido. I walked along a narrow path that looked like a mountain ridge going as high as 80m above sea level. I proceeded for about 20 minutes amid the ocean wind and then came to the tip of the cape, which overlooks the crystal-blue Sea of Japan. This beautiful colour is known as Shakotan blue.
As the horizon appears slightly curved at both ends when observed from the tip of the cape, you can see that the Earth is round. Though it takes about an hour from the centre of Shakotan by car, the spectacle is worth the trip.
The sea offers not only this impressive view but also a variety of seafood. The town is famous for its nama uni don (raw sea-urchin roe topping a bowl of rice). I was there, however, just after the fishing season, which is only from June till August.
Even so, a Japanese restaurant I visited for lunch offered steamed sea-urchin roe and I enjoyed the kaisendon sashimi bowl decorated lavishly with northern shrimp and seasonal salmon roe. The sea urchin roe melted in my mouth and I could taste its subtle sweetness. I felt a sense of the abundance of the sea.
Forests account for 80 per cent of the town. The rains that fall on the highlands are soaked up in the mountain areas and the nutrient-laden rivers flow into the sea. This process is believed to help the growth of seafood and seaweed.
In 2010, Japan Tobacco (JT) began a 10-year project called JT Forest Shakotan to help the conservation of these mountains. JT subsidises the costs of forest thinning, weeding and afforestation over 350ha within the reach of three rivers running through the town, including the Bikunigawa river.
“Ill-maintained forests are recovering,” said Shakotan Mayor Hideki Matsui, 68. “I want to scientifically prove that mountains foster the ocean.”
Experts on forests, rivers and seas have already started investigations in their various fields.
“I hope they will collect enough data soon so that we can properly explain to children, who will be responsible for the next generation,” Mr Matsui said.
Forests not only nurture the abundant sea, but are also helping the reconstruction of areas hit by the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake. About 2,000 trees, including Japanese larches, were cut down, sent to disaster-hit areas such as Miyagi Prefecture and used as foundations for temporary housing units in May 2011. The workings of nature help human beings, highlighting the importance of protecting nature.
A LITTLE HISTORY
The next day, I visited a traditional-style fishermen’s lodge in the centre of the town that was originally built for those involved in the herring-fishing industry. Its herring fishing was the boast of the town and there were many houses that accommodated fishing boat owners, their families and crew members. But these houses are almost all abandoned nowadays.
In 2008, residents in the town began activities to preserve these houses as sightseeing spots. Local volunteers including Noriichi Bessho, 67, renovated the lodge and named it Yamashime Banya.
The two-storey wooden house has a total floor area of about 420 sq m. A public interest corporation subsidised the costs of renovation, such as those for replacing the flooring.
The facility was opened to the public until late September, hosting events such as shamisen lute performances. It is currently closed in preparation for further restoration work but its reopening is planned for around May next year.
“I feel regret if tourists just eat sea-urchin roe and leave town. I want them to know the history of Shakotan, even if it’s just a little,” Mr Bessho said.
Though the town has a population of only 2,300, many local people I met love their home town.
It takes about 1 hour 40 minutes by plane from Haneda Airport in Tokyo to New Chitose Airport. Then, 1 hour 15 minutes by train from the airport to Otaru Station and 1 hour 25 minutes by bus from the station to Bikuni, the centre of Shakotan.
For more details, contact the Shakotan tourism association at (0135) 44-3715 (English inquiries accepted only on weekdays) or visit http://www.kanko-shakotan.jp.
THE YOMIURI SHIMBUN/ASIA NEWS NETWORK
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