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June 29, 2017

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Rustic refuge at Flying Cow Ranch

Looking at the logo of a winged cow and the name "Flying Cow Ranch" (飛牛牧場) beneath it, I get an instinctive feeling that the place is going to be unique in some way and, more importantly, that I am going to like it.

We were coming back from Miaoli (苗栗), after visiting the Sanyi Museum of Wood Sculpture. Instead of following the road sign to Taipei, we took a detour towards the ranch and drove through beautiful vistas of verdant mountains, lush green fields interspersed by patches of vibrant flowers.

We drove for about half an hour and then proceeded along a tree lined side road that took us straight to the parking lot. The large number of cars despite the steep admission fee made it quite clear that this place was immensely popular among locals. I am ashamed to admit however, that I heard bout it, rather read about it, for the first time on that very day.

A beautiful European styled hut greeted us after we stepped down from the car. This was the main reception hall, behind which there were places for barbecues and family picnics. Nearby, a small stream flowed gently through the hills that surround the ranch from all sides. The soft rippling sound seemed like a sweet symphony to our ears after the day long exposure to the screeching sound of moving cars.

Walking further ahead, we took the flight of stairs to reach the main part of the ranch. The view was spectacular, encompassing large swathes of grassy meadow sprawling over undulating hills, the azure sky forming the overhead canopy providing relief from the monotony of color. There were a few life sized statues of cows near the entrance; at first glance they seemed so very real. Kids usually love to ride them, and a person like me who suffers from an ever lasting childhood syndrome joined them with equal fervor.

The ranch was opened as Pao An (保安) woodlands way back in 1980 with 110 hectares. Afterwards the Taiwan Youth Diary took over the ranch and turned into a leisure cattle farm. A landscape company was entrusted with the job of improving the scenic views while working to better the working conditions of the farm.

After ten years of laborious work, the ranch developed into a wonderful rustic gateway offering refuge from the stress-filled world. The cows wandering freely in the tree lined meadow by the side of a serene pool of water looked so natural and refreshing. A cottage in European style amid the soft green valley made the scene look like it was just lifted from the easel of a painter.

Besides enjoying the scenic landscape, there were many more things to do. It had a diary demonstration area where one can see first hand the life of a milk cow and experience the milking all by yourself.

It also included an organic plantation area, a general activity center, a children recreational area, a picnic park, a butterfly garden, a camping area, a musical piazza, a restaurant and many other interesting activities of farm life.

However, the most popular event was a ride in a horse drawn cart through a section of the farm.

This was actually a full day's outing, and we felt sad for spending only half a day there. The farm is open from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. and after you paid the entrance fee you can spend as long as you want inside. The barbecue area is quite nice and clean.

How to get there

The address is 166 Nanher Li (南和里), Tongsiao (通霄), Miaoli County (苗栗縣). There is bus from Miaoli that goes towards Fusing; get off at the Shiaokan stop. From there follow the road signs to the ranch.

By car — take the National Freeway No 3, and change to Sun Yet-sen Freeway at Hsinchu. Take the Sanyi (三義) exit. Cross past Sanyi Wood Sculpture museum and drive along Route 130 to Jianpu, then change to Route 37 and follow the directions. It is very well marked in English and the logo of the flying cow placed at intervals is hard to miss.

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