Mon, Dec 12, 2011 - Page 13 News List

Autumn leaves

‘Appreciating maple leaf season’ is well under way at Wuling Farm, one of Taiwan’s most popular destinations for scenic wonderment

By Ian Bartholomew  /  Staff Reporter

Instead, the visitor’s line of sight is drawn to the high mountains that hem the valley. Moving upward from the farm itself, the surrounding mountains are part of a much bigger conservation area: the Shei-pa National Park (雪霸國家公園). The farm itself is the approved access point for climbers aiming for the peaks of Hsueshan (雪山), or Snow Mountain, a trek that arguably provides some of the most beautiful mountain scenery in Taiwan. The climb generally requires three days and two nights, and climbers must present a Class A Climbing Permit (甲種入山證) and a National Park Admission Permit (入園證明) at the ranger station at the trailhead. Many visitors are perfectly happy with the splendid views that can be obtained from various observation points around the station.

On the way to the trailhead are the vast camping grounds for which Wuling Farm is justly famous. Situated high above the valley of the Cijiawan River, the site offers spectacular views. The camping area provides a mix of camping styles, from small prefabricated huts to simple wooden platforms where people can set up their own tents. Some of the huts are leveraged out from the hillside, providing a tantalizing, or possibly horrific, sense of being suspended in space. It is worth noting that temperatures can plunge during the night, so warm gear is absolutely necessary.

For those who prefer greater comfort, there are a wide variety of cabins located closer to the main administration area of the farm. While far from luxurious, locations such as the Maple Cabin area (楓葉木屋區) provide a considerable level of comfort and amazing convenience (NT$4,300 a night for a room with king-sized bed). Located just behind the main building, and facing onto a garden lined with varieties of maples and cypresses, a scenic attraction in itself, these snug little cabins, with their large picture windows, wood-paneled walls and modern electrical items (an electric blanket among other mod cons), provide a high level of comfort and proximity to nature at its most carefully groomed. When I visited the swamp cypress was pimping up the scene with a bright display of reds and yellows, but I was assured that the maple would kick in with the next cold snap.

For those who want all the facilities of a modern hotel, there is the Hoya Resort Hotel Wuling (武陵富野度假村), which is the only really blot on the landscape in the farm. Hotel-style accommodation is available from NT$4,600 a night for two persons.

Given the rather isolated location of Wuling Farm, it is unfortunate that the catering is so particularly unimaginative. Buffet meals are provided in the main building, and while adequate, neither quality nor variety redeem the pedestrian offerings. While the environment invites long stays, the facilities are clearly designed primarily for the tour-coach or SUV tourist there for a quick, painless dip into nature.

Wuling Farm clearly has huge appeal to local tourists with its mix of undemanding holiday experience and reasonable prices, but whether it will be as attractive to foreign tourists (especially younger people) is a little more open to question. Nature for the most part is enjoyed at arm’s length, but one must be thankful that the demands of conservation have prevented the management from getting too imaginative with the exploitation of Wuling’s abundant resources.

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