Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Taiwan Travelogue: Day Two - Taichung, Lavender Cottage & Yi Zhong Night Market

Lavender Cottage for Day Two, yay!

I struggled to find directions via public transport - its really secluded, and many hired private drivers to bring them.
That would be our last option, due to budget and practicality - we weren't intending to explore the whole Xinshe county, unlike what the others did.

So based on the official websites, I figured out that we had to take Fengyuan bus 豐原客運
no. 270/271/276/277 from Taichung Railway Station 臺中火車站 to Zhong Xing Ling 中興嶺
And from there, take a cab to Lavender Forest, which would cost around NT240 to 280

This is how 'major' bus stops look like. Damn cool leh, like a futuristic.

Taichung Railway Station 臺中火車站!

Short pitstop!
Lipton Milk Tea - with the pretty Ariel Lin as spokesperson.
Aye I think Mineshine 麥香 is much nicer. :D

Day Two selfie!

To get to Fengyuan Bus Station, go through the underpass on the right side of the railway station, next to the 7-11.

You'll see this sign!

At the end of the tunnel, turn right and cross the road to the bus stop.

Eh but we got accosted by this uncle camping at the road side.. who turned out to be a private driver.
I seriously thought he was asking for help but I forgot I wasn't in SG wtf :x

Anyway he asked if we were going to Lavender Cottage and offered us a cheaper rate than the ones I've read online.
Uncle said there was no time limit too, so we could take our time.
Usually for a full day trip, with 3 locations, the rate is around NT3000 to 2000, 
Cause we only wanted to go for 2 locations, we bargained and agreed on NT1200/ SGD54.

So, yup, sorry I can't tell you the complete public transport way either! :x  


After approximately 1 hr 30 min on the highway and bumpy slopes, we reached our destination!

Lavender Cottage 薰衣草森林 began as a dream -
two ladies wanted a haven of their own, to get away from the hustle and bustle of city life.
As nature enthusiasts, they wished for a place to grow their own garden, filled with herbs and flowers they love.
The two ladies also hoped to share this little piece of heaven with travelers wishing for their own escapade.

When they first started out in Xinshe, many doubted their ability to succeed.
Afterall, it was a secluded area up in the mountainous county.
However, with dedication, perseverance and help from their friends,
Lavender Forest is now an attraction for locals and tourists alike.

Welcome to Lavender Cottage, Travellers' Dream Forest! - 薰衣草森林, 旅人的夢中森林

Lavender Cottage
No.20, Zhongxing Street, Xinshe District, Taichung City 426
台中市 新社區  中興街20

Each ticket costs NT100, and it comes with free NT100 worth of cash vouchers too.
You can use them on food, or souvenirs.

A map of the forest is also printed on the back!
See those red spots indicated? At each area, you can collect the unique stamps to complete the map.

Mandatory photo at the entrance! 
(Actually we only remembered to take a group shot when exiting - kena betrayed by the ice cream in my hands HAHA)

"Please throw away all your worries and sadness" 

A little house - there's a souvenir shop inside.

Purification by lavender mist.

The name 'Lavender' came by the Latin word 'Lavare', which means shower.
This purifying mist aims to recharge and refresh your mind and body (:

Just press once on the red button - a fine lavender scented mist will be issued.

Don't worry, its not too strong! 
Quite cooling and mildly scented - shiok in this hot weather.

Souvenir tents.

Photo credits: Bimb

My cute friend :B

If you purchase postcards, you can deposit them into the cute mailboxes here to send it out!

Above mentioned cute friend has irritating fingers.

Lavender House/Maze!

It's like an interactive showroom.
For the entrance, you get to smell the scents of different herbs by pressing buttons on the cute houses.

It was quite fun because some of the smells were unexpected, 
and only the chinese names were written, so we sometimes didn't know what we were smelling  :x

The rest of the house was decorated in a simple, calming theme - light pastel colors, and airy spaces.

Of course, some of the household items are quite fragile and probably can't support your weight, so don't sit okay?

Gorgeous garden out back. Damn nice la I want this next time can?

Inside the house is also a DIY crafts classroom.
Registration is needed beforehand!

Last stop - souvenirs!
I highly recommend the lavender cream, and the mosquito repellent gift pack.

Lavender Soothing Cream (100 ml) for NT420 - but if you get additional items, it's priced at NT360.

My colleague recommended this, as it soothes muscle aches very effectively.
No kidding, I love the cooling sensation when applied to achy areas. Shiok.
And the smell is not too overpowering.
Loved it so much I bought two ! :D

The mosquito repellent spray contains lemongrass scent.
It is actually a scent mister - you can choose the essential oils you want - NT300
All you have to do it to fill 3/4 of the spray bottle with cold water and add 10 drops of essential oil. 

Both of them kept spamming the spray cause mosquitoes simply love O positive blood.
They acted as my shield for the 10 days LOLOL.
A positive no need scared, mwahahah.

My favourite part - Lunch time! 

I've been looking forward to this because Lavender Cottage has a really interesting menu.
Their dishes are incorporated with fruits and herbs - like wow.

There are two eating places within Lavender Cottage:
The restaurant is Forest Cafe 森林咖啡館, and 
The cafe/bistro is Purple Hills Cafe 紫丘咖啡館

The first one you see on the sloped way up is Forest Cafe 森林咖啡館
Approach the staff at the cashier booth and they will lead you to a table. Outdoor seating only!

Menu and Order form.

Choose an item from the herbal meals/light meals + top up NT50 for a drink or NT150 for set meal, 
which consists of appetizer, soup and bread.
For the drink - basic cost is NT160, but you can just top up the difference if you want choose something else.

Oh and you have a choice of white rice or five-grain rice (default), so let your waitress know!

Lunch is served!

Itadakimasu! (or should I say 乾杯 instead?)

Photo credits: Bimb

Lavender Milk Tea (Hot/Cold) 薰衣草鮮醇奶茶 - NT190
Comes in a pot, which makes it worth the price heheh. 

I recommend this! 
Very smooth and not too sweet, with a flowery light aftertaste.
Levon likes the hot version more than cold.

Chicken Baked Rice with Fresh Fruits and Herbs 水果香草雞肉焗飯 - NT320
The dish contains apples, pineapples, snow peas, and a healthy sprinkling of rosemary, which always goes well with chicken. :D
Definitely a super healthy baked rice with all the dietary fibres.

I surprised myself by liking the pineapples and not the apples - because they didn't blend very well, and remained quite hard.
I don't usually like pineapples, but who knew they went so well with chicken?

Lavender Honey Glazed Roasted Chicken 薰衣草蜜汁嫩雞 - NT330
One of the top recommended items.

I forgot to ask Levon if she actually tasted lavender HAHA.
From my own taste test, I rmb the chicken skin is magically crispy. nom.

Grilled Pork Chops with Sour Mandarin Sauce 酸桔醬烘烤陽光豬排 - NT330

Bimb's. I think it was nice because her plate was empty.. except for the carrots HAHAH.
I like the sour sauce! 

In total our meal cost NT1507 - including 10% service charge.
That's SGD68.50, your standard price of meals in Singapore,
but considering the freshness of the ingredients, I would still go for it.

Next stop - Lavender Paths and Wishing Tree.

The season for lavender is actually during late October - April.
What you're seeing in my photos are Salvia nemorosa, in season during June - August.
It's a type of woodland sage, and also purple in color.


At the foot of the lavender path is a beautiful carousel, which basically completes the dream experience here.
It is functional, but you have to pay NT50 for a ride.

Climb up the sloped paths to reach the Wishing Tree!

After completing the stamps and braving the mosquitoes, we decided it was time for ice cream :D

Purple Hills Cafe 紫丘咖啡館 is along the sloped way down, on the right side of the carousel.
Of course, we ordered their Lavender Ice Cream - you'd thought we would be sick of lavender by now, but noooo.

There are other flavours available as well: Blueberry Yoghurt, Mint Chocolate Chip, Rose, and Lemongrass.
Single scoop for NT50, double scoop for NT90.

The ice cream comes with a complimentary swing set. :B

AHAHAHA Bimb was actually posing with the ice cream and le wild Levon attacked. #laughdieme

Yay to the completed map!
We spent 3 hours in the whole place (okay la minus 1 hour for lunch) to finish it.

Just nice, because it started to drizzle.

Photo credit to Levon

We found our driver waiting for us near the entrance with a huge umbrella.
He left us instructions to call him when we were done, 
so we were quite surprised and touched that he waited there because it was raining.

Eh but then we got into the car and he told us we only had 1 hour to spend at our second destination,
because he had to pick up some other passengers at 6.30 pm in Taichung.

That wasn't the plan, because he told us there wouldn't be any time restrictions.
So we were kinda like wtf is this.. but never argue la, old man jiu sua lor.

Second destination is Mushroom Garden, around 20 min away from Lavender Cottage.
Our initial plan was to take a cab from Lavender Cottage, but judging from the secluded location,
I doubt there would be an empty cabs driving back towards this direction.
Almost every group of tourists had their own cabs/drivers waiting for them at LC's carpark.

Mushroom Garden 
No.2-1, Xiezhong Street, Xinshe District, Taichung City 426
台中市 新社區 協中街2-1

Memories - the chinese sinseh shop near my ahma's market always had these drying outside.
Ingredients for zhap chye - 金針 and 白木耳 

Admission to the Mushroom Garden is free.
You only pay for the mushrooms you pluck, which they will charge by weight.

Eh and no guide was around to give an introduction, so what the hell, we just explored by ourselves.

Types of mushrooms they grow here.

Totally reminding me of RBCs, but they're definitely anaemic.

The mushrooms are grown on these 'logs' - a mix of nutrients needed for growth.
Different mushrooms will require different mixes, which might have sawdust or compost.

All mushrooms require warm temperatures, moisture, and shelter from direct sunlight.

Oyster mushrooms!

櫻桃小丸子 x 2
Eh or maybe it should be 蘑菇小丸子

After a ridiculous short self-tour, we needed another food break. #justkeepeating

The no. of mushroom related items is just mind-blowing.
Mushroom chips, mushroom powder, dried mushrooms, mushroom keychains.. omg.

Uncle recommended that we try the 香菇貢丸湯 and 香腸, 
but eh not a fan of fishball (or any balls) soup. hahah.

We tried the King Oyster Mushroom Sausage 杏鮑菇香腸
Deep Fried Assorted Mushrooms 鹽酥綜合菇 and Mushroom Ice Cream 香菇冰淇淋.

Yup you read it right, apparently lavender ice cream is not different enough.

I loved the deep fried mushrooms! Super hot and juicy. 

The sausage is something like your regular Taiwanese sausage, with chunks of oyster mushrooms inside. 
Quite nice leh, though I know it looks v disgusting. HAHAH. 

Mushroom Ice Cream - tasted like a frozen, sweet version of mushroom soup HAHAH.
It's not that bad on the first few mouths, but I got turned off by the aftertaste which was getting stronger.
Bimb, who usually loves loves mushrooms, was like NOOOOO after the first mouth.

Definitely an acquired taste.

Reigning glutton Levon finished it off.

Right after we finished our meal, I got a call from this weird no. on my Taiwan phone.
Turns out the uncle couldn't wait for us and 'transferred' us to his cousin's car.
He rushed off to pick up those passengers and got his cousin to send us back to Taichung city instead.

At that point I was quite annoyed, because we weren't even there for 30 mins!
Thank goodness we haven't paid him too - he told us to pay him only at the end of the whole trip.
Imagine if we had paid him already and he left us stranded there?!

So no, I wouldn't recommend this driver at all.

Oh, and we also reminded the cousin about the agreed price - in case he charges us more than we promised.
Okay la at least they were honest about this. But ARGH y like that.

We got the driver to drop us near Yi Zhong Night Market 中夜市
which I felt was much easier to navigate compared to Fengjia.
It's like a huge square lined with stalls and shops all over.

Yi Zhong Night Market 
Yizhong St, North District, Taichung City
台中市 北區 一中街

And there are more places for shopping too!
Wahahah bought 3 pairs of shoes here.

There's also a 小三每日 cosmetics store here - something like Sasa, but freaking 2 storeys of cosmetics heaven.
This is the place where the really nice salesperson helped us book the 3CE eyeliner :D

Really very impressed by their service standards in Taiwan; though I feel that generally Taichung has it better than Taipei.
Levon is right I guess - the fast pace of the city makes everyone less friendly.

Random snack stall which reminded me of Korea - spot the tempura-ish hot dogs? :D

Random mini cheese hash browns which cost NT15 for 3.
I later saw the same thing selling at NT50 for 5 at Taiwan McD's. *mwahahah*
#cheapthrill #turningaunty

Cannot miss this shit for your life.

The batter is super thin and crispy so it wasn't a floury mess of carbs,
and the sour plum powder is damn addictive!
So glad we got the big packet - NT60 only.

Can't believe I didn't take a shot of the sweet potato fries, must have been too busy with my mouth.

Torched Beef Cubes was also a popular item, based on the queues alone.
They claim to use only good quality Angus beef - real not idk, but everyone loves it.

Levon tried the rose salt flavour 玫瑰礦鹽 - and she bought this twice, so I suppose you can't go wrong.
I mean, she's quite picky about food a connoisseur so just trust her yeah. :B

They toss the cubes on a charcoal grill, and when it's semi-cooked, torch it to give a nice sear.
Then sprinkle flavouring and taadaa done.

Photo credit: Levon

I love this shot of the twilight sky - this was at 6 plus only, btw.
Time seemed to crawl and I loved it.

Had our first Koi in Taiwan - the original name is actually 50 嵐
Super cheap, and you can choose the amount of ice on top of the sugar level.

But eh I was damn blur during ordering, and the staff was like an annoyed. :x
I now appreciate the insistent step by step questions asked by Koi staff - Size? Sugar level? Toppings? HAHA.

In conclusion: I really loved Lavender Cottage, and Yi Zhong Night Market.
Mushroom Garden you can totally skip unless you're really into mushrooms, 
and because of the lack of an educational experience - like seriously, we walked around and no one bothered attend to us.
The above information is I go research one lor. :x


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