Monday, February 29, 2016

Cherry Blossom Season in Taiwan [Taiwan Day 911 (Sakura Series): Wuling Farm (武陵農場) - Feb. 28, 2016]



2017 Wuling Farm Cherry Blossom Festival

The highlight of this year's “Sakura Series” is a visit to Wuling Farm and this cherry blossom viewing trip deserves a proper documentation. The home of Taiwan's landlocked salmon is also a paradise of thousands of cherry blossom trees. If you really want to see a massive number of blossoming sakura in Taiwan then Wuling Farm is one place to go but before you got too excited and see to this place let me tell you a few things about the Wuling Farm Cherry Blossom Festival.


1. There is an official period for celebrating the cherry blossom festival. This 2016 it started in Feb. 2 and it was planned to end on Feb. 28. It actually depends on the weather conditions so the festival period is changing every year but expect it to be every February. During this period, there is a public transportation that will bring people to Wuling Farm and back to Taipei or Yilan on the same day.  The farm is located in Heping District in Taichung City.



Normally, you will have difficulty visiting Wuling Farm not because there is no bus going to this recreational farm but because the arrival time and departure time of the bus leaves no ample time to explore the place in one day. 


Screenshot from the Wuling Farm website about the E-go bus schedule and other details.




There is an E-go bus that will take you from Taipei at 7:20 am and it will arrive at 11:20 am in the farm but it will leave around 2:00pm. Planning for a day trip in Wuling Farm is really impossible and you really have to book an accommodation which is not cheap or bring your own tent to camp overnight.

Other public transportation options to Wuling Farm can be found below:

[a] Bus 1751 (Yilan to Lishan route).  Take train to Yilan Station and walk to the bus station from the rear exit.

Screenshot from Taiwan Bus Information System website.  Take Bus 1751 from Yilan Transfer Station to reach Wuling Farm.   From the Yilan train station go to the rear exit.  There is a bus station nearby and buy your tickets there.

Screenshot from the Taiwan Bus Information System website.  Only two buses leave Yilan Transfer Station going to Wuling Farm.

Screenshot from the Taiwan Bus Information System website.  The fare of the Bus 1751 ride from Yilan Transfer Station to Wuling Farm is NTD 285.

[b] Bus 1764 (Luodong to Lishan route).  Take train to Luodong Station and walk to the bus station beside the train station.

Screenshot from the Taiwan Bus Information System website.  Bus 1764 from Luodong goes Wuling Farm.

Screenshot from the Taiwan Bus Information website.  Only 1 bus leaves Luodong to Wuling Farm at 7am and it returns at 1pm.

Screenshot from the Taiwan Bus Information System.  The bus fare from Luodong to Wuling Farm for Bus 1764 is NTD 294.

[c] Bus 6506 (Fengyuan to Lishan route) then board Bus 6508 (Lishan to Wuling Farm route)

Screenshot from Taiwan Bus Information System website.  Bus 6506 goes from Fengyuan to Lishan.


Screenshot from Taiwan Bus Information Syste website. Only 1 bus leaves Fengyuan at 9:10am.

Screenshot from the Taiwan Bus Information System website.  The bus fare from Fengyuan to Lishan is NTD 519.

Screenshot from the Taiwan Bus Information System website.  At Lishan, transfer to Bus 6508 to reach Wuling Farm.

Screenshot from the Taiwan Bus Information System Website.  Only 1 bus leaves at Lishan to go to Wuling Farm at 5:00 pm.

Screenshot from the Taiwan Bus Information System website.  The bus fare from Lishan to Wuling Farm is NTD 78.



2. There is a limit on the number of people that can visit Wuling Farm everyday during the cherry blossom season. For people coming from Taipei only 2,000 sakura fans can join the fun and I was one of the lucky 2,000 people that were able to see the cherry blossoms on Feb. 28. I bought the return trip ticket at Taipei City Hall Bus Station for a price of NTD 730 a night before my trip. The bus ticket also includes the entrance to Wuling Farm. This is Taiwan's way of controlling the number of people visiting the farm which I found to be very effective. 

Chinese information about the bus to Wuling Farm during the cherry blossom festival.
Screenshot from the Wuling Farm website

Chinese information about the arrival and departure times of the bus during the cherry blossom festival. Screenshot from the Wuling Farm website

Translation by google about the buses during the cherry blossom festival in Wuling Farm.

Translation by google about the arrival and departure time of the bus during the cherry blossom festival in Wuling Farm.  Notice the 2,000 people quota for Taipei.




Tickets can also be bought at Taipei West Bus Station B and also at Yilan Rail Transfer Station. One should take note to buy the tickets as early as possible because of the large number of people who wants to visit Wuling Farm during the festival period. Tickets can also be bought at convenience stores which I didn't do because I can't read Chinese. For a non-Mandarin speaker, it was better for me to just buy the tickets at the bus station and tell the lady at the counter 'Wuling Farm'. I was given the 7:00am ticket and I was told to be in the Platform 16 of the Taipei City Hall Bus Station at 6:50am. Take note of your seat number and before entering the bus I was given a card with a 16:00 written on it. This is the departure time of the bus in Wuling Farm and I will need to present this card to sit on the same seat when going back home to Taipei.

3. Due to the recent snowfall in Taiwan, a lot of cherry blossoms buds were affected by frostbite and were not able to flower anymore. A lot of people were very happy about the rare snow in Taiwan but little that they know that it have bad effects to the island's agriculture and also the cherry blossom trees.



Many people were actually disappointed this year because there were less cherry blossom flowers that opened. Based on my research, the pink beauty that I saw in the farm was only half of the previous years. The El Niño phenomenon made it worst with the deterioration of the flowering since last year. The best photos that I saw for Wuling Farm was in 2012. It was really fantastic!

4. The poor rate of flowering prompted Wuling Farm to extend the festival period to March 5 but they just made it until Feb 29 when the administration observed a steady blossoming of the cherry blossom trees. When is the best time to see the cherry blossoms in Wuling Farm? It is Feb. 20 but since I was still not convinced of the photos that I saw in Wuling Farm's facebook page I decided to visit the farm on Feb. 28 which happens to be a good day to see cherry blossoms. The sun was up with the freezing wind to cool the visitors. The cherry blossoms actually started to blossom around Feb. 20 and the flowers will lasts 8 to 10 days so the flower festival is only sustainable up to the first few days of March.

5. It took 4 hours to reach Wuling Farm from Taipei City Hall Bus Station. There is a toilet break so you don't have to worry if you experience a call of nature but remember to memorize the plate number of your bus. There might be 10 to 15 buses park at the same time during the break and they all look the same. To be safe, I took a photo of the plate number of my bus. Visitors must also bring their own food in Wuling Farm. I brought bread and water and while inside the farm I heard a woman was selling a lunch box and I bought it for NTD 100. There are restaurants inside Wuling Farm but you need to walk for a long distance.


6. I studied the map of Wuling Farm and I was wondering what is the systematic way to see the cherry blossoms along the 6 kilometer Wuling Road. Another question is where will the bus stop once inside Wuling Farm. This is a crucial piece of information since I must be in the bus before 4:00pm or else I will be in big trouble.
 


The bus entered Wuling Farm and I was expecting it to stop at the Wuling Farm bus stop but it went inside the farm and it made a stop in the Peach Garden where all the passengers alighted. After all the passengers were out, the bus went directly to the other end of the farm and while I was already taking a lot of photos along the road I suddenly saw my bus through its plate number and it was already going in the opposite direction. All buses might have made a U-turn at the end of the Wuling Road and will wait at the big parking area at the Sheipa Pa National Park Wuling Farm Visitor Information Center. 



7. I explored the Peach Garden which have lots of small trees with no leaves. I also saw a Wuling Farm shuttle bus and since I don't speak or read Chinese I just ignored it. I decided to go into the direction where our bus entered Wuling Farm by walking until I started to see a large number of cherry blossom trees. Most visitors also walked along the Wuling Road.
 




















8. At one point I saw visitors in a long queue but I just ignored them until one man stopped me from walking. I was actually going to the Tea Garden Trail and the guy told me something in Chinese and I heard him mentioned the word 'cha'. I eventually got what he wanted to say so I joined the long queue. He speaks a little English but thanks to my research about the best cherry blossom viewing spots in Wuling Farm I have an idea of what he was trying to say. A big bus came that gave visitors a two minute ride to the entrance of the Tea Garden Trail.
 





















9. The Tea Garden Trail is a short trail but it will give you fantastic views of the other cherry blossom trees in Wuling Farm. There was a pagoda on a top of the hill where visitors also had a chance to see a tea plantation. The Tea Garden Trail is really one of the best places to see the pink flowers in Wuling Farm.
 






Chaofeng Bridge




Tea Garden Trail



























10. I walked for 15 minutes from the entrance of the Tea Garden Trail to reach the parking area where a lot of Kua-Kong bus are waiting for their passengers. The parking lot of the Sheipa National Park Wuling Farm Visitor Information Center has a cherry blossom forest which hides another big parking space. My Capital Tour bus was actually parked there and the English speaking staff of Wuling Farm who were handling the traffic gave me simple instructions to see my bus. It was really helpful that I took a photo of my bus.

Taiwan's snow mountain













My “Sakura Series” became successful with this visit and I'm so excited to visit again next year when the sakuras return to their normal flowering rate. I will be buying the tickets early so that many people can join and enjoy the beauty of the cherry blossoms in Wuling Farm.





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