Tianwei Highway Garden
Heaven for Plant and Flower Lovers
Text: Joe Henley
Photos: Maggie Song
South of the central Taiwan city of Taichung, the chrysanthemums of Tianwei in Changhua County are blooming. Across a flat expanse of over 1,000 hectares, hundreds of nurseries, gardens, and greenhouses teem with lush greenery, just as they have since the region began to develop its flower farming industry in the 1940s. Back then it was purely a commercial operation, but today Tianwei has thrown out the welcome mat for tourists, taking a page of out the Dutch tourism playbook, including offering the chance to bike through the colorful and fragrant fields. Here's a look at how a day amidst the verdant scenery of Tianwei might go.
Tianwei Highway Garden Visitor Information Center
Start your visit to Tianwei at the area’s visitor center, getting your bearings with a map and information on various highlight attractions provided by the center. A quick walk from the visitor center are the two main bike-rental stations, Songmeng Rental Station and Oufeng Rental Station, where standard bicycles as well as customized and motorized four-wheelers are available for hire by the day. From the rental shops it's a short ride to the Tianwei Bikeway, a circular path that takes you around the area's farms, nurseries, landscaping shops, restaurants, and cafés. (Note: There are streets cutting across the bikeway, should you wish to take a shortcut to a specific destination.)
This beautiful restaurant and garden, about a kilometer from the info center, is known for its cypress trees, a magnet for shutterbugs. During the fall and winter months the feathery needles turn a reddish-orange hue, blanketing the ground as they fall. Nearly everything found on the restaurant menu is grown on-site. There are free-range chickens for eggs, and vegetable gardens and greenhouses in which organic vegetables are grown. A narrow waterway filled with lilies leads to a picturesque pond surrounded by guava trees and ladyfingers (okra), among other plants. An exhibition hall is currently under construction behind the restaurant,where in the future there will be shows pertaining to gardening culture and landscape design. The farm's original owner began his agricultural career growing orchids, and that legacy remains in clear evidence today. Inside, next to the restaurant, is an orchid display, and Tenway Garden still does flower designs for events of all kinds, with the moth orchid the local specialty.
The restaurant itself is actually a climate-controlled greenhouse, with plants hanging from the roof. During the summer months the temperature inside is kept pleasantly cool, and the plants serve as natural air purifiers.
A-ma Private Dining
Located on Liufeng Road, this is one of the best-known restaurants in Tianwei. The Peng family has been serving up traditional Hakka and Taiwanese favorites for three generations. Current manager Peng Chun-yue's grandparents once farmed the land surrounding the family home, and hired extra hands to help out. Grandma Peng would cook for the hired hands, and the food was so good her cooking became known in the area, which eventually inspired the family to establish a formal eatery. The atmosphere inside is homey and cozy, with paper lanterns hanging from the ceiling and various pieces of vintage Taiwan memorabilia covering the walls. The food proves that Grandma Peng's reputation as a master chef is more than justified. Try some of the house specialties, such as succulent braised peanut and pork knuckle, black chicken soup with radish, taro cake, and dried cauliflower. Dried foods have always been a staple of the Hakka people, who were once known for their migrations, leading to a certain skill with preserved foods. Come hungry, as set menus for anywhere from two to 12 people run from NT$499 to NT$8,000, and the portions are generous.
Longsheng Petrified Wood Museum
If you're into garden decoration and landscape or interior design, this warehouse shop, one of the largest in the area, is a must-see. Say Ni hao (“hello”) to the talking gray macaw greeter, then tour the store's collection of wood-carved figurines and other miscellany, marble tables, and petrified-wood stools. If you're not much of a shopper, the store also houses an additional attraction – its tree-fossil jade museum. Such fossils are from trees that fell long ago, were subsequently covered with earth, sank down into the sub-strata, and were subjected to intense pressure and heat that, over the course of 100 million years or so, transformed the wood into precious jade. Though no such jade – commonly called “tree jade/fossil jade” – has been found in Taiwan, the shop's owner has collected samples from all over the world. Check out a piece called “Formosa,” so named for its resemblance of the island of Taiwan, and the towering 4,000-kilogram piece known as “The Charisma of Lord,” by far the most imposing item in the collection, both in name and stature.
Narrow Lane Old House Café
This is a coffee shop just off Minsheng Road, housed in a traditional three-sided farmhouse fronted by the Phoenix Flower Garden. The interior is pure Taiwanese nostalgia, with old vinyl records from favorite local singers and songstresses on the walls, as well as a variety of memorabilia – everything from old beer paraphernalia to movie posters. On the menu you'll find a variety of coffees as well as smoothies, floats, teas, and beers, along with snacks and desserts. There's outdoor seating with a garden view, as well as a small children's play area. Don't be surprised if the resident farm dog, Lucky, stops by for a lengthy game of fetch, all part of the friendly, rural charm of the place.
CD Rose Garden
Just down Minsheng Road from the Narrow Lane Old House Café is CD Rose Garden, a restaurant in an A-frame building with floor-to-ceiling windows that let in the area's abundant sunshine. Look for the large water fountain out front, along with the rose garden from which the restaurant takes its name, and follow the winding red-brick path to the front door. There is both indoor and outdoor seating, and the menu features a special hotpot with locally grown greens and flowers. Another specialty is the rosemary chicken. There is also steak and pasta, along with a large selection of herbal teas.
If you've got a soft spot for plants of the spiny variety, this is the shop for you. Shengyuan Cactus specializes in cacti, in all shapes and sizes. Some are no more than a few centimeters high, while those on display outside dwarf an average-sized person by a meter or more. There's a DIY cactus-decorating area where you can stick various colored materials on the spines of your cactus of choice or, if you prefer, the knowledgeable staff will expertly decorate your purchase for you. If it's warm, sit outside and enjoy some sweet cactus shaved ice (a treat imported from Taiwan’s Penghu islands, not a local product).
As the name suggests, the Orchidee Treasure shop is famous for its orchid-flower designs. The orchids of many colors and types that are on display are all grown on-site, and the shop can create custom designs tailored to a customer's specifications. And as the large sign at the front proudly proclaims, yes, they speak English.
Getting There and Getting Around
To get to Tianwei from Taipei or Kaohsiung, take a High Speed Rail train to Taichung Station (at Wuri). Once at the HSR station, head down to the lower concourse and look for bus platform 6, from which shuttle buses, heading directly to Yixinyuan Water Park, where the Tianwei Highway Garden Visitor Information Center is located, depart. Buses leave regularly starting just after 8 in the morning; the trip to Yixinyuan Water Park takes about 50 minutes. Alternatively, you can catch Changhua Bus no. 6937 to the park. Prices for bikes rented at either of the aforementioned rental stations range from NT$150 to NT$600 for a full day of riding, depending on the type chosen. The area is small enough that it is easily possible to visit as many as 10 attractions within the span of a day and not wear yourself out; but as always, it's best to go slow, take your time, and enjoy at a relaxed pace.
English and Chinese
|Phoenix Flower Garden||鳳凰花園|
|Yixinyuan Water Park||怡心園親水公園|
Tianwei Highway Garden Visitor Information Center (田尾公路花園遊客服務中心)
Add:156, Sec. 1, Minzu Rd., Dalian Village, Tianwei Township, Changhua County (彰化縣田尾鄉打簾村民族路一段156號)
Tel: (04) 883-6882
Er-ge Workshop (峨格手藝工作室)
Add:52, Sec. 2, Zhongzheng Road, Sandi Village, Sandimen Township, Pingtung County (屏東縣三地門鄉三地村中正路二段52號)
Tel: (08) 799-5200
Hours:Daily 9 am ~ 5 pm
Songmeng Rental Station (松錳租車)
Add:107, Sec. 1, Minzu Rd., Dalian Village, Tianwei Township, Changhua County (彰化縣田尾鄉打簾村民族路一段107號)
Tel:(04) 883-6061, 0932-681-936
Oufeng Rental Station (歐風租車廣場)
Add: 287, Sec. 1, Minzu Rd., Dalian Village, Tianwei Township, Changhua County (彰化縣田尾鄉打簾村民族路一段287號)
Tel: 0919-705-679, (04) 883-6668
Tenway Garden (菁芳園)
Add:73, Zhangcuo Lane, Dalian Village, Tianwei Township, Changhua County (彰化縣田尾鄉打簾村張厝巷73號)
Tel: (04) 822-3535
Admission:NT$200 (deductable from meals); number of visitors limited; weekdays NT$100 (deductable from meals)
Longsheng Petrified Wood Museum (隆盛木化石博物館)
Add:41, Sec. 2, Minsheng Rd., Liufeng Village, Tianwei Township, Changhua County (彰化縣田尾鄉柳鳳村民生路二段41號)
Hours:9 am ~ 5 pm
Narrow Lane Old House Café (窄巷古厝咖啡)
Add:478, Sec. 1, Minsheng Rd., Dalian Village, Tianwei Township, Changhua County (彰化縣田尾鄉打簾村民生路一段478號)
Hours: weekdays 1 pm ~ 5:30 pm, weekends and holidays 9:30 am ~ 6 pm
CD Rose Garden (全得玫瑰莊園 )
Add: 451, Sec. 1, Minsheng Rd., Dalian Village, Tianwei Township, Changhua County (彰化縣田尾鄉打簾村民生路一段451號)
Tel: (04) 824-5889
Hours: Tuesday ~ Friday 10 am ~ 7 pm, Saturday & Sunday 10 am ~ 9:30 pm
Sheng Yuan Cactus (生源仙人掌)
Add:1, Lane 150, Sec. 2, Minzu Rd., Liufeng Village, Tianwei Township, Changhua County (田尾鄉柳鳳村公園路一段269號)
Orchidee Treasure (花王園)
Add:618, Sec. 1, Minzu Rd., Dalian Village, Tianwei Township, Changhua County (彰化縣田尾鄉打簾村民族路一段618號)
Tel: (04) 823-2425