Tue, Aug 23, 2011 - Page 16 News List

Long drive bears fruit

Fushoushan Farm may have many limitations as a tourism destination, but the scenery and the sense of being high up in the mountains in relative comfort are sufficient to make it a worthwhile destination

By Ian Bartholomew  /  Staff Reporter

Cabbages are popular produce at Fushoushan Farm.

Photo: Ian Bartholomew, Taipei Times

Fushoushan Farm (福壽山農場) in Greater Taichung is one of a number of farming areas originally established to provide occupation for demobilized soldiers following the establishment of the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) government in Taiwan in the 1950s. Although development as a tourism destination nominally began in 1993, it has been slow, and the area is much less widely known than Cingjing Farm (清境農場) and Wuling Farm (武陵農場), originally established with a similar remit and which have developed into hugely popular destinations for people looking for a summer getaway.

Fushoushan Farm is actively trying to catch up, but has remained much more of an agricultural community. It spreads over 800 hectares ranging in altitude from 2,100m to 2,614m above sea level, and is famous for the quality of its peaches, plums, pears and apples, as well as the sweetness of its cabbages. It was first established by 100 sturdy veterans who the Veterans Affairs Commission (行政院國軍退除役官兵輔導委員會) sent out in 1957 to develop high-mountain agricultural sites. They were given three days’ victuals and sent off into the wilds, and according to a much told story, only discovered this well-watered site just before their supplies ran out.

Until recently, the farm only offered relatively primitive accommodation, but is currently making up for this deficiency with the construction of elegant rooms that feature stunning views and hardwood furnishings.

The central buildings of Fushoushan Farm did not promise anything particularly idyllic, looking like a cross between a motel and an agricultural institute. After a strenuous five-hour drive from Taipei, it was distinctly underwhelming. Still, the sweltering summer heat of Taipei and the Lanyang Plain (蘭陽平原) had been left behind as though in another world, and the cool, clean breeze was much welcome.

The farm offers a variety of accommodations that cover a huge range of styles: renovated villas originally servicing visiting officials that have secluded access and gardens (around NT$6,000 a night for two); two-story villas featuring hardwood floors, contemporary furnishings and carefully designed views (around NT$5,000 a night for two); old shipping containers with a roof attached that will house eight people for NT$1,500 per room; and pre-built tent accommodation that sleeps six for NT$1,200 a night. Visitors include everyone from couples out for a romantic getaway to groups of students getting in touch with nature.

I had opted for accommodation in a three-bed wooden hut (NT$2,156 a night) located in the camping area near the scenic Heaven Lake (天池), about a 15-minute drive from the main building. The huts were a step up from the shipping containers, with their own toilet and bath, but are otherwise rather basic. The camping ground is near the top of the farm area, and provides some spectacular views of the night sky and good access to a number of walking trails.

My room was simple though surprisingly comfortable, and came with a TV and an efficient if rather cramped fiberglass bathroom unit. The presence of stray dogs, though remarkably healthy and friendly for the most part, might prove annoying to some. A central building with vending machines and offices is being constructed to provide better management of the camping area.

Fushoushan caters primarily to those looking for a relatively relaxed experience of nature rather than hardcore campers or trekkers. Nevertheless, the Forest Bath Trail (森林浴步道), which is just over 7km long, offers something of a challenge. (Take care: This trail can be slippery, and rising afternoon mists can make it dangerous.) Most other trails are intended for leisurely strolling and viewing the scenery. The mountains are remarkably beautiful, and the sunsets are famous for their magnificent chromatic effects.

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