spunktitud3

Musings on Travel, Fashion & Fun


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Taiwan – Step into a candylicious fairytale at Cingjing’s Nina de Chocolate 妮娜巧克力工坊

Nina_01

Who can ever resist such pretty bonbons?

Tucked away in the picturesque mountains of Cingjing, Nina de Chocolate is a cute, little candy house making exquisite handmade chocolate bearing interesting flavours with locally-sourced ingredients such as Cingjing gooseberry, kaoliang liqueur and even Alishan wasabi.
Nina_02Located within Florence Resort Villa, Nina de Chocolate reminds one of a candy house found in a fairytale. It is one of the attractions in Cingjing, and people come here to buy their special handmade chocolates home or have tea.
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Even their mode of transport is so cute!

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The theme of the place is whimsical, and great for families with kids or just about anybody with a sweet tooth (dats me!).
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Enjoy the cool air and have your chocolates at the outdoor terrace.
The chocolate atelier is maintained at an optimal 18 degrees celsius to ensure the best quality of chocolate, so if it gets too crowded, visitors are offered tea and invited to wait at the terrace for a short while.
Nina de Chocolate 妮娜巧克力工坊
With such delicious dessert, everyday is Christmas ;)
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Nina de Chocolate was opened by the owners of Florence Resort Villa as a present for their daughter named Nina who loves chocolate, and Nina also means ‘girl’ in Spanish.
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The interior of the shop is a cosy space with a retail area and chocolate DIY corner. All the girls were naturally attracted to the chocolate. The welcoming shop staff also offer you chocolate samplings *squealing with glee* :)
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Nina de Chocolate uses Swiss Lindt and Belgium chocolate to ensure a smooth, rich taste and no preservatives are used. They creatively use locally-sourced ingredients such as gooseberry and red tea from Cingjing, wasabi from Alishan, Kaoliang wine, Taiwanese black sugar and peaches to create unique flavours.
Nina_09How do I resist this amazing spread – I want to try every single flavour! :p The chocolatier also offers seasonal flavours, do ask for them when you visit.
Nina_09a
My eyes lit up when I saw the alcohol series; there’s cherry liqueur, blueberry liqueur and even rice wine flavour!
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Their attractive packaging makes for awesome gifts to bring home. Do note they do not keep long as no preservatives are used, so only buy if you are travelling home within the next 3 days.
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This is the lucky girl Nina :) By the way, the three Italian gondolas beside her are made of chocolate. They do not melt as the air in Cingjing is perennially cooling.
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These attractive chocolate pops sure make attractive gifts to bring back home for visitors.
Nina_12These chocolate-coated nuts have a slightly longer shelf life, so you can buy them home. They are easy to pack in the luggage too ;)
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These ink stamps are so Japanese-inspired!
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The pretty chocolatier introducing the cocoa bean to us, and showing how to make a chocolate-coated gooseberry which was freshly plucked.

Showing us how chocolate is prepared
Nina_16What’s more special than simply visiting a shop to buy chocolates? We made our own at their DIY chocolate-making class. Classes are held daily and each session lasts about 2 hours with a maximum 15 pax. While you can register on the spot, the DIY classes are pretty popular with kids and groups, so I would encourage you to make an advance booking online if you can.
Nina_17Here’s my very own chocolate mold and decorative ingredients; time to unleash the Picasso in me :)
Nina_18After you are done with your designs, chocolate which was earlier prepared by the staff is poured into the mould and put into the refrigerator to cool for 15 minutes.
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And viola – my masterpieces! :)
Nina_20Proudly showing off the fruits of our labour :) Nina_21
And we indulged in a chocolate feast to reward ourselves ;)
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One of the most special flavours in the shop is this attractive pink-coloured one named Galaxy. Much like something out of Willy Wonka’s factory, it is made up of cotton candy, strawberry crisp balls, Belgium white chocolate and…… jumping sweets which fizzles in your mouth!
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Looking inside of Galaxy – Interesting flavour worth a try :)
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Oooh…the kaoliang rice wine is oozing out of my chocolate! *hic*
Nina_24I love dark chocolate, and the 85% raw chocolate sent me to the moon. I can still remember the feeling of smooth, rich chocolate filling up my mouth. Mmmmmmm…sinful pleasures ;p
Nina_25
This green wasabi flavour is one of the shop’s most popular offerings – there were only three left! (And I ate two muahaha)
Nina_26Saying it with a chocolate – I LOVE it!
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My master creations all wrapped up and ready to go home with me :)
Nina_28Nina de Chocolate is really a fairytale come true, cos’ we had so much fun and chocolate to last the entire trip – I felt like a child again :) Do drop by for a visit the next time you are in Cingjing!

Nina de Chocolate 妮娜巧克力工坊
Address: 南投縣仁愛鄉大同村榮光巷8之3號 (at Florence Resort Villa 佛羅倫斯民宿)
Tel: +886 (0)4 9280 2988
Opening hours: 9:00AM to 7:00PM
Website: http://www.nina-choc.com
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/Nina.chocolat

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Taiwan – Xitou Monster Village 溪頭怪物村

Monster Village 溪頭怪物村 / 松林町“You definitely have to visit Monster Village when you are coming to Nantou!” my Taiwanese friend excitedly recommended. Thinking it was a haunted theme park, I went with much trepidation. The fear turned into pure glee when I realized that Monster Village is a kooky Japanese-style village located at the entrance of Xitou Nature Education Area (溪頭自然教育園區). And the monsters were cute ones – 大好きな!This monster-themed attraction is especially popular with domestic day trippers to the Nantou area since it opened in 2011, drawing more than 200,000 visitors monthly.

Monster Village 溪頭怪物村 / 松林町

Entrance of Monster Village

Monster Village 溪頭怪物村 / 松林町

Before its fame, the place was originally Ming Shan Hotel (明山森林會館) serving mainly domestic visitors. A food vendor selling sausages nearby decided to use a giant red Japanese Tengu face with a long sausage nose for publicity. As more and more people got to know about the humorous publicity gimmick via social media, the hotel got so many calls asking about “this monster sausage place 妖怪村” that they decided to re-build the resort into a monster-themed village. As for the sausage seller – he shut down just months before the hype materialised so he never got to cash in on that success. He did try to set up stall again, but wasn’t able to compete with the other sausage stalls which had also set up. Well, that’s life sometimes…

Monster Village 溪頭怪物村 / 松林町

Here’s the famous “sausage nose” lol

Monster Village 溪頭怪物村 / 松林町

Village Square

Monster Village 溪頭怪物村 / 松林町

There are lots of good photo points, so be sure to bring your camera, and smiles :)

Monster Village 溪頭怪物村 / 松林町

The attraction adds a new monster to the village every year, and these greenies are this year’s latest additions. Not sure if they are ducks, relatives of Shrek or whatever haha.

Monster Village 溪頭怪物村 / 松林町

There are regular shows at the village, such as this fortune-telling monster.

Monster Village 溪頭怪物村 / 松林町

Making a wish and sending it over to the monster for advice

Monster Village 溪頭怪物村 / 松林町

Fancy a ride on the Monster Train?

Monster Village 溪頭怪物村 / 松林町

Cute shuttle bus

Monster Village 溪頭怪物村 / 松林町

Off we go to explore the shops and eateries!

Monster Village 溪頭怪物村 / 松林町

Even the dads get into the ‘act cute’ moments

Monster Village 溪頭怪物村 / 松林町

Erm, excuse me but there are 2 monsters above you…

Monster Village 溪頭怪物村 / 松林町

Oopsie!

Monster Village 溪頭怪物村 / 松林町

Monster Mail
I wonder if they get delivered, or devoured in monster speed too

Monster Village 溪頭怪物村 / 松林町

Play a game with the Lucky Lion 招财狮, and collect your prize at its very strategic location! *shy* So shy my photo was blur lol

Monster Village 溪頭怪物村 / 松林町

The nostalgia started flowing when I saw these game stations

Monster Village 溪頭怪物村 / 松林町

Drum up a monster tune

Monster Village 溪頭怪物村 / 松林町

Or flaunt a monster fortune

Monster Village 溪頭怪物村 / 松林町

Mountain King 山大王
The story goes that the Mountain King is an unlucky but kind man who becomes a mountain guardian to protect the good and punish the bad.

Monster Village 溪頭怪物村 / 松林町

Get your fortune told by the Mountain King for TWD10, that’s definitely a bargain haha

Monster Village 溪頭怪物村 / 松林町

Japanese-inspired elements are prevalent at the attraction, such as this pool which you will find at most Japanese temples.

Monster Village 溪頭怪物村 / 松林町

Bubbles are fun

Monster Village 溪頭怪物村 / 松林町

Decorative carts which make good photo points

Monster Village 溪頭怪物村 / 松林町

Scheduled music performances at the centre of the village

Monster Village 溪頭怪物村 / 松林町

Look around you and you may spot something tongue-in-cheek – such as this movie poster for “Anus Man.”

Monster Village 溪頭怪物村 / 松林町

Boo!

Monster Village 溪頭怪物村 / 松林町

Food stalls and shops line this road leading to the Xitou Forest Recreation Area

Monster Village 溪頭怪物村 / 松林町

They do not have KFC here, but they have KEC with a geisha hen as mascot

Monster Village 溪頭怪物村 / 松林町

Fancy an eyeball dumpling?

Monster Village 溪頭怪物村 / 松林町

The Black-Hearted Shop sells black sesame and matcha soft serve, licky licky!

Monster Village 溪頭怪物村 / 松林町

Happy food vendor

Monster Village 溪頭怪物村 / 松林町

Even the drinks are packaged so interestingly

Monster Village 溪頭怪物村 / 松林町

A lot of locals will go hiking at Xitou Forest Recreation Area in the morning, and stop by here to buy some local vegetables on their way home. They are really fresh and cheap.

Monster Village 溪頭怪物村 / 松林町

Drooling at the peaches…I want to dive right in and eat them all up

Monster Village 溪頭怪物村 / 松林町

Get a photo taken with Kuma 枯麻 (a sun bear) and Badou 八豆 (a clouded leopard), the two main mascots of the village.

Monster Village 溪頭怪物村 / 松林町

We spotted a long queue forming in front of Kubota bakery久保田面包店, waiting for the freshly baked ham and cheese bread called咬人猫面包(man-biting cat bread) which is sold only at 10.30AM and 2:30PM daily.

Monster Village 溪頭怪物村 / 松林町

Start queuing 20 minutes before if you wish to try, and each person is only allowed to buy 2 pieces to ensure enough supply. You may want to keep the bread wrapper too – there’s a serialised number which you can see if you have won a prize from the village.

Monster Village 溪頭怪物村 / 松林町

Ta da, the famed ham and cheese bread

Monster Village 溪頭怪物村 / 松林町

Be sure to stop by the Monster Post shop to grab some souvenirs. They are all designed and produced in-house, so they make really good presents.

Monster Village 溪頭怪物村 / 松林町

The items are all very tongue-in-cheek, so come with your sense of humour and you will definitely enjoy your visit :)

Monster Village 溪頭怪物村 / 松林町

Cheeky snacks

Monster Village 溪頭怪物村 / 松林町

Blood Pack Lamp

Monster Village 溪頭怪物村 / 松林町

A cheeky take on the country’s famous Kinmen Kaoliang – this one is Gangmen (anus in Mandarin) Kaoliang lol

Monster Village 溪頭怪物村 / 松林町

Sweets with very witty packaging

Monster Village 溪頭怪物村 / 松林町

The many ways to say good bye
Give it to your frenemy or an admirer who cannot get the hint

Monster Village 溪頭怪物村 / 松林町

Hmmm…

Monster Village 溪頭怪物村 / 松林町

This, was an instant hit with my male friends who asked me to buy for them lol. Sorry to disappoint, I don’t think the milk sweets really work that way :p

Monster Village 溪頭怪物村 / 松林町

The ladies will know what this is… it’s actually just tea with an alternative packaging

Monster Village 溪頭怪物村 / 松林町

This one is interesting – it’s instant cup noodles packed in a rocket carton haversack

Monster Village 溪頭怪物村 / 松林町

A good gift to get for your branded female friends – cakes with LV-inspired packaging

Monster Village 溪頭怪物村 / 松林町

Monster Village 溪頭怪物村 / 松林町

Feeling hungry? Try their signature wood fire-roasted chicken

Monster Village 溪頭怪物村 / 松林町

The ambiance of the restaurant is retro 60s, quite cool

Monster Village 溪頭怪物村 / 松林町

八豆妖?
The Hokkien for “Are you hungry?” And yes, Taiwan Beer is “very song” haha

Monster Village 溪頭怪物村 / 松林町

We had the set menu for 10pax. At TWD2500, it worked out to be about only S$10.50/USD7.80 per person, very affordable and we ate like kings and queens.

Monster Village 溪頭怪物村 / 松林町

The chef (yes dressed in soldier uniform) helping to cut the chicken for us

Monster Village 溪頭怪物村 / 松林町

Mmmmm…the fragrant smell! Can’t wait to start eating!

Monster Village 溪頭怪物村 / 松林町

Preserved Vegetables with Braised Pork Belly

Monster Village 溪頭怪物村 / 松林町

Braised Yam

Monster Village 溪頭怪物村 / 松林町

Fried River Shrimps

Monster Village 溪頭怪物村 / 松林町

Fried Pumpkin with Basil Leaf

Monster Village 溪頭怪物村 / 松林町

Hotplate Tofu

Monster Village 溪頭怪物村 / 松林町

Fried Mountain Vegetables

Monster Village 溪頭怪物村 / 松林町

Sweet Sour Fish

Monster Village 溪頭怪物村 / 松林町

And of course, beer!
These are Taiwan Beer with the attraction’s own branding

Monster Village 溪頭怪物村 / 松林町

I had so much fun, I am turning into a monster myself! lol

Monster Village is not really big so you can cover it quite quickly, but the beauty of the place unfolds when you take time to go around and appreciate the little touches and effort put in to make the place fun. It’s also a great place to buy souvenirs home (I had many requests from friends when I uploaded the cheeky snacks on social media). I would recommend setting aside 2 to 3 hours to visit Monster Village.

 

You can combine Monster Village with nearby attractions in Nantou, or go hiking at Xitou Forest Recreation Area in the day time. The forest belonging to the National Taiwan University houses a great variety of trees including cedars, rare redwood species as well as bird / firefly watching activites during the right season. Go on the Skywalk for an aerial view of the nature reserve.

 

 

 


Xitou Monster Village
溪头松林町 妖怪村溪头妖怪村
No. 2-3, Xingchan Rd, Lugu Township Nantou County, 558, Taiwan
南投縣鹿谷鄉內湖村興產路2-3號, 558
Opening hours: Mon – Fri 10:00AM – 8:00PM; Sat & Sun: 10:00AM – 9:00PM
Free Admission
Website: http://www.mingshan.com.tw
Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/TheMonsterVillage

 

Getting There

1)
Sun Moon Lake – Xitou Shuttle
Take the Sun Moon Lake – Xitou shuttle bus line which covers attractions in the Nantou area.

 

2) Taiwan Tourist Shuttle 台灣好行
Take Taiwan Tourist Shuttle at Taichung Gancheng Bus Station (台中干城車站), Taichung Train Station (台铁台中站), or Taichung HSR Station (台中高鐵站). Get off at the last stop- Xitou (溪頭) and walk about 5 minutes to Nantou Monster Village. A one way ticket costs NT175 per person, and round trip is about NT330. Take note that the last bus from Xitou to Taichung is 1720hrs, so it will be wise to get your bus tickets back once you reach Xitou to avoid missing the last bus.

 

3) Public Bus
Take Taichung Bus or Yuanlin Bus from Taichung Gancheng Bus Station (台中干城車站) directly to Xitou (溪頭)/Shanlinsi (杉林溪). Get off at Xitou and take a 5-minute walk to Nantou Monster Village.
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A Dong Roast Chicken 阿東窯仔雞

阿東窯仔雞
On our way to Cingjing, our driver recommended we stop by A Dong Roast Chicken  for dinner. This restaurant got famous mainly through word-of-mouth so I was pretty looking forward to it.

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We haven’t even ordered, and I already gave it full marks for ambience – it was cooling since we were halfway up the mountains; just  look at the view of tea plantations and cute guesthouses!

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There’s an indoor and outdoor seating area. The decor is mainly bamboo and looks pretty homely. They also run a guest house below the restaurant (香彬小木屋).

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Look at their cute house cat! There were two of them, both as fluffy. And comes with an attitude haha.

阿東窯仔雞

These custom-made kilns are part of the secret to A Dong’s famous roast chickens. Fired up at 200 degrees celsius, they nicely roast 10 chickens at a time. And – the design has also been patented. Roasting chickens is serious business. A Dong took 5 years to get the recipe right.

阿東窯仔雞

Quality lychee wood is used, adding to the fragrance of the roast chicken.

阿東窯仔雞

I like it when a chef shows pride in his cooking
A Dong only uses chickens reared by themselves, and they are marinated with lots of ingredients such as herbs and garlic 1 day before being roasted.

阿東窯仔雞

This secret ingredient is constantly sprinkled into the kiln while roasting to enhance the flavour

阿東窯仔雞

Look at the crispy-looking chicken (TWD 500)! So yummy-looking!
Oil dripping from the chicken during the roasting process is collected into the bowl below; slather your bowl of rice with a spoonful and you’re in heaven. Totally worth the carbs.

阿東窯仔雞

The restaurant supplies plastic and knit gloves with your roast chicken – one to keep you from burning yourself as it is very hot fresh out of the kiln (think 200 degrees celsius) and the other from getting your hands oily. Even better – the kind uncle helped to peel the chicken for us, awwww

阿東窯仔雞

The flesh was tender and flavourful, and the skin was crispy – very good indeed! Dip it with some pepper salt or the chicken oil for an even more indulgent experience.

阿東窯仔雞

高山高麗菜 Fried Cabbage (TWD 100)
Vegetables offered at A Dong are all mountain vegetables so it’s worth to try them

阿東窯仔雞

丁香山蘇 Fried Mountain Vegetables (TWD 100)
The mountain vegetables are all picked on the day itself too, what a treat!

阿東窯仔雞

野味山豬肉 Wild Boar Meat (TWD 200)
Not my cup of tea since I do not really eat meat, and wild boar meat was a tad tough for me (or what they would say ‘Q’)

阿東窯仔雞

香酥溪蝦 Fried River Prawns (TWD 150)

阿東窯仔雞

Mushroom Soup (TWD 100)
The mushroom smell was quite strong and the soup was lighter in taste

阿東窯仔雞

Time to tuck in! Cockadoodledool!
I was glad we stopped by A Dong, the people there were really nice and hospitable, we felt like we were eating from someone’s home. Do visit A Dong if you are visiting Cingjing :)

A Dong Roast Chicken 阿東窯仔雞
Address:
No. 52 Renai Township, Nantou County, Taiwan 546
南投縣 仁愛鄉 大同村信義路52號 (仁愛國中對面)
Branch: 南投縣鹿谷鄉 中正路三段708-8號 (151線4公里處)
Tel: +886 4 9275 0068
Reservations 訂餐專線:+886 92077 1888
Opening Hours: Mon – Sun: 11:00AM – 9:00PM
Website: http://www.adong.tw/
Menu: http://lugu.adong.tw/menu04.php


Driver
If you are looking to hire a driver, you can consider Mr Liu 刘先生. He’s a burly uncle who used to be a truck driver, and very honest. He charged us a very reasonable per day rate, brought us to all the places where the locals went, and none of those touristy crap. And we felt safe with him. You can give him a try if you wish. Mr Liu’s Mobile: (0)988-121-529.

Another contact you can try is Lucky Zhao +886 913 185 157, slightly pricier but good service and speaks well.