When C first mooted the idea of driving along the east coast of Taiwan, I wasn’t very keen on it, as I didn’t quite like the idea of being cooped up in a car for hours on end. My friends suggested that hiring a driver and taking day-trips out of Taipei, but that didn’t appeal to me either. Thankfully, C found Juhu Villa, which provided a “package” option, covering accommodation, meals, and sightseeing. We usually prefer planning our own sightseeing, but we were assured by Mei-Chu, the lady boss, that they would customise the sightseeing based on our preferences.
C booked our train tickets from Taipei to Yuli (and from Yuli back to Taipei) online, so we could collect our tickets directly from the train station on Monday morning itself, just before our journey. (Tip: Select the shortest travel time, ie 2h 48 min, if possible.) Thankfully, Noah slept through most of the train ride, and we didn’t really have to entertain him.
Mr Lai, the owner of Juhu Villa, picked us up from Yuli train station, and brought us to a simple noodle shop for lunch. We had Yuli Noodles, as well as some cabbage dumplings. At first glance, both dishes looked very ordinary, but they were really tasty! Mr Lai told us that he chose that shop because it doesn’t use MSG at all, yet serves delicious food.
After lunch, Mr Lai brought us to do a bit of sightseeing. He told me that he would help carry Noah, but I foolishly told him that I had the Manduca, and could carry him in it. Luckily, he didn’t laugh in my face, and graciously carried Noah when we entered the forest, while we struggled to keep up with him. We visited the visitor heritage centre, a padi field, a waterfall, and did some hiking to get to the Shanfong Hanging Bridge No.1. We didn’t expect to do so much walking on uneven ground, so we stumbled along in our slippers. (Tip: Bring proper, preferably water-resistant sports shoes that you can walk long distances in.)
At the padi field
Noah wasn’t too keen on standing there, because he was afraid that the earthworms would appear
Pretty little flowers, with cool water running in the drain beneath
Strange red insects
At the waterfall
Pristine water that flowed from the waterfall
Mr Lai and Noah, making their way towards the waterfall
This was the closest that they got, because Noah refused to go any nearer
At the Hanging Bridge
The amazing view
Throwing leaves down into the valley with Mr Lai
He ran fearlessly across the bridge and back, while Daddy refused to cross the bridge, and waited for us at the starting point
Mummy and Noah
You know the reality-tv programme, Survivor? Well, if Mr Lai were on it, he would easily win (minus all the politics, of course, because he’s a really nice guy). As we walked, he picked a plant, stripped the stem of its outer layer, and told us that it was edible, albeit a tad sour. Normally, I would baulk at sampling a random plant in the forest, but I figured I should be polite, and tried it. Even Noah had a taste, and he asked for more after his first bite! Next, Mr Lai plucked some velvety leaves, and showed us how they could stick to our clothes. A while later, he selected some long leaves, and showed us how to shoot the midrib of them out.
Noah modelling the latest look: leaves on clothes
As we walked through the forest, Mr Lai told us many interesting facts about the vegetation around us, but unfortunately, we couldn’t understand quite a bit of what he was saying, because our Mandarin is quite poor. He pointed out a lizard to us, and surprised us by catching it with his bare hands. That’s definitely something you don’t see every day! He offered it to us to hold, and amazingly, Noah had no qualms holding it by its tail. I wasn’t as brave though, and stayed as far away as I could from it, while taking photos of Noah with it. When we were done with the photo-taking, we told Noah to release the lizard, and he said, “NO! I want to bring it back.” Haha. We had to explain to him that the lizard lived in the forest, and that he had to put it back, before he agreed to let it go.
Noah holding the lizard
We made our way to Juhu Villa after that, where we got one of the three rooms there. If you read the TripAdvisor reviews, you’ll see that Juhu Villa has been rated five stars by all but one of the reviewers (the last one gave it four stars). We also learnt that we should ask for the red room, which is furthest from the frog pond, where the frogs sing loudly throughout the night. Before our trip, I asked Mei-Chu if they had a cot for Noah, but she told me that she would set up a mattress on the elevated platform for him instead, so that he wouldn’t get hurt, even if he rolled off it.
Our room was well-maintained, and much larger than we expected it to be. I think it’s more of a small apartment than a room, as it had a large elevated platform where Noah slept on most nights, a living room, a four-post bed, separate areas for the shower, sink, and toilet, as well as an outdoor balcony, which overlooks the mountains, and gives us a glimpse of the sea beyond. Mei-Chu told us to draw our blackout curtains if we didn’t want to be woken up too early, as the sun rose around 6am during our stay, but told us that we didn’t have to draw the blinds on the other side when we bathed, as no one could see us, save for the monkeys, which, in her own words, numbered more than the people living there. We actually hoped to be able to catch sight of a monkey or two, but didn’t see any throughout our stay there.
The exterior of the three units
The frog pond and the stargazing platform
Our home for the five days
Noah exploring his bed
The shower and bathtub
The view from our balcony
Dinner was at the Lais’ dining area, a short walk downslope from the rooms. (The walk upslope always felt a lot longer though, because of the steep slope and full bellies.) We had both breakfast and dinner at “home”, where Mrs Lai and her assistants whipped up really delicious dishes daily. We thoroughly enjoyed each meal there, as the food was simple and good, with absolutely no MSG used. She would prepare a smaller portion of breakfast for Noah daily, and he loved the scrambled eggs that she cooked. We also admired how beautifully our breakfasts were plated each day, and it was clear that she took pride in her work. Dinner consisted of at least six dishes, and we soon learnt not to snack too much during the day, so that we could properly enjoy our food there.
Some of our breakfast platters, which always came with plenty of fresh fruit
Homegrown PiPa that was really sweet
Some of Noah’s breakfast platters
Some of our dinner dishes
The chef and her assistants
Juhu Villa is located in the mountains, so we were surrounded by nature. They have a resident snake, which appeared every night in the plants behind the dining area, plenty of frogs, spiders, and all kinds of insects. We got to see flying squirrels during a few of our dinners, as Mr Lai would hear them calling, and quickly shone his torchlight at the trees to track them. We spotted a mousedeer that roamed on the hills, and went to see the fireflies nearby as well. One night, Mr Lai brought us to the stargazing platform, and gave us an astrology lesson in Mandarin. The stars were simply beautiful, and looking at them was one of the highlights of my day, when we returned to our room. The only drawback of being so high in the mountains is that we had very limited Internet access, so we could only use our gadgets when we were out sightseeing, but that’s a small price to pay, for the wonderful experience we had.
Some of the Lais’ many “pets”
Our daily routine there would be to wake up for breakfast around 830-9am, set out for a day of sightseeing around 1030am, and return for dinner around 630pm. Noah looked forward mealtimes, because that was when he could play with Xiao Hei, the Lais’ pet dog, aka the most docile dog we’ve ever met. “Where’s Xiao Hei, mummy? He’s at the house, waiting for me? Can (I) play with Xiao Hei? I like Xiao Hei, you know. Xiao Hei so cute.” Xiao Hei allowed Noah to pet and hug him a lot, and came with his tail wagging each time we called him. Xiao Hei loves fish, and would wait patiently beside our tables while we ate, so that we could give him some of our fish.
Noah and Xiao Hei
Our stay at Juhu Villa coincided with another Singaporean family’s, so we went sightseeing with them, and the Lais gave both families a discount for that. Thankfully, the other family (T, R, DL, and DY) was really nice and easy-going, which made our trip very pleasant. The two children, DL and DY, kept Noah entertained, and Noah kept asking for them even after we returned to Taipei. “Where’s korkor? Where’s jiejie? My friends, you know.” The family often traveled to Taiwan, and introduced us to the best ever milk tea, which can be found in 7-Eleven and Family Mart. In fact, we asked Mr Lai to stop at the convenience stores every day, just so that we could get our fix! We also persuaded him to bring us shopping, and he quipped that it was the first time that he got to take a nap while bringing guests out.
Sightseeing at Liu Shi Shi San
Mr Lai caught another lizard there, so naturally, Noah wanted to hold it
At another padi field, where Takeshi Kaneshiro shot an advertisement for Eva Air
Noah and his friends
We visited Wu Shi Bi at low tide, so we could walk over some of the rocks there. I’m usually very clumsy, and with my slippers on, I really didn’t dare to walk much there, and turned back, while the rest went ahead. Mr Lai carried Noah, so C went along to make sure that Noah didn’t start panicking when I didn’t show up. The view was pretty nice, but I just didn’t feel up to making my way all the way across all those rocks. I joined them when they returned, and we climbed up a cliff together, where Mr Lai managed to pick some hermit crabs up along the way. Noah was fascinated by the crabs, but didn’t dare to hold them, which was strange, considering how he is so fearless when it comes to lizards!
At Wu Shi Bi
Hello, hermit crab!
With Mr Lai and JieJie DY
Mr Lai has a total of five swings at Juhu Villa, all of which he built by himself. We read about them on TripAdvisor, and he brought us up to one of them after breakfast one morning. There’s one along the pathway down from our rooms to their home, and another one just behind their kitchen, but those aren’t the scary ones. We had to take the pick-up truck to get to this swing, and the view was amazing. It was really scary though, but I figured that I should give it a shot, since we were there, and screamed like crazy when I was in the air. C said I wasn’t even very high up, but it FELT like I was extremely far from the ground, okay?
Our little group in the pick-up truck
The amazing view
DL and DY on the swing
Can you spot Mr Lai?
Mummy and Noah
Admiring the scenery
We visited Cheng Gong after that, and had a really yummy fish lunch. My absolute favourite was the fish roe, cooked to perfection. We also bought a packet of the fish floss, since Noah enjoyed it, and I mix some into his rice occasionally these days. After lunch, we walked across to the fish market, where we were rather grossed out by the fish on sale, which were all lying on the floor, with blood everywhere. The fins of the sharks were being cut off, and we wondered what they would do with the many fin-less sharks there.
Delicious fish roe dish
At the fish market
Weighing the shark
Dragging it away
Drying slices of fish
We stopped by a small town to do a bit of shopping on our way to San Xian Tai, and to try the Cheng Gong Dou Hua. It was really smooth and tasty, and we liked the peanuts that we ordered to go with it as well.
Sleepy little town
Old-school kiddy ride
Cheng Gong Dou Hua
San Xian Tai was simply beautiful, with the crashing waves, and pebble beach. Mr Lai told us to listen carefully as the waves rolled out, because we could hear the sound of the stones being dragged into the sea. Noah was very busy picking stones, and kept wanting to bring them home with him.
San Xian Tai
The slightly calmer part
Mr Lai found him this huge branch to play with
Getting scolded for throwing stones at mummy
Us on the bridge (the waves were coming from both directions!)
The next day, we asked Mr Lai to bring us to Chu Lu Mu Chang, as we wanted to visit a farm. On our way down the mountain, we passed by some farmers harvesting sugar cane, so Mr Lai brought us to their factory, where we watched them boil huge woks of sugar cane juice down into brown sugar.
Stirring the boiling hot sugar cane juice
The caramelised juice gets poured into this wok for more stirring
The cooling pan
The final product: brown sugar
We stopped to get some handmade mochi and buns somewhere along the way, which we gobbled up quickly, because they were so fresh and good.
At the mochi shop
My only photo of the yummy bun
Chu Lu Mu Chang was quite a long drive away, but thankfully, Noah napped along the way there. He was pretty good on all the long drives, and would usually nap when I asked him to. He really enjoyed the farm, as he got to ride a horse, and even fed some calves and kids there. C and I were disappointed that there were so few cows there, but Noah was happy, so it’s okay. There were some pigs and rabbits roaming around, but we didn’t manage to take any photos of them.
Riding a horse
Feeding the calves
Feeding the kids
Noah the cowboy
Beautiful scenery everywhere
The clouds were rolling down from the mountains! Absolutely gorgeous.
We left for Taipei the next day, after the Lais helped us to change our train tickets for an earlier train back. It was much better leaving Yuli at noon, as we would get back to Taipei around 3pm, which gave us time to walk around a bit more. Before we left, we got Noah to take some photos with Mr Lai, whom he absolutely adored. I think Noah picked up a few Mandarin phrases during our stay, and we’re beginning to think that we should visit Taiwan more often, for an immersion programme of sorts.
Noah with Mr Lai
We stayed at Royal Biz Taipei this time round, and the room was a lot larger than the one at Éclat Hotel, which we stayed at on the first leg of our trip. No photos of the room though, because I wanted to do some last minute shopping. We went to Shilin Night Market that night, and bought Noah another lot of strawberries to munch on. C also queued up for these buns that are supposedly famous, but I was too stuffed from our dinner at Du Xiao Yue (yes we went there again) to eat anything else.
Royal Biz Taipei
Stopped by a nearby 7-Eleven for our last milk tea fix
Our flight home to Singapore was in the early afternoon, so we had time to walk around Daan in the morning, and chanced upon this lovely local market. We instantly regretted having had breakfast in the hotel, because all the food there looked so appetising! Noah had some strawberries again, but that was it.
At the local market
The flight was uneventful, which is always a good thing. Noah slept through most of it, and I kept him busy with his sticker books when he woke up.
On the flight home
Trying to see if he could see the bags being unloaded
Phew! What a lengthy post! It was a really good trip, and I wanted to include as many details as possible, in case others might be keen to visit Taiwan’s East Coast as well. Juhu Villa is child-friendly, but be prepared to do plenty of walking and climbing. Bring insect repellant with you too, if you’re not fond of bugs, but the rooms were generally insect-free, so don’t worry too much about it.The Lais were really accommodating and helpful (Mei-Chu even did our laundry for us!), and we highly recommend Juhu Villa to anyone who is keen to have a relaxing holiday with good and healthy food. I think March was a good time to visit Taiwan, because the weather was nice and cool, and hopefully, we’ll get to go back again really soon.
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