Tianwei was recommended to me by the owner of the Tai17 hostel in Lukang, who said it was: A) idyllic, B) home to a great hostel, and C) on the way to Nantou. Turns out she was right on all counts!
The hostel is called 旅人小屋舒宿, and it’s owned by a remarkable individual who goes by the name of A-Cheng. It’s essentially a rural homestead that has been converted into a bed and breakfast, with a large dorm cabin (complete with loft and tatami mats), two smaller cabins (one of which has been painstakingly renovated by A-Cheng using traditional Taiwanese rattan), a flower and vegetable garden, and the family’s main dwelling which has a few more rooms. Altogether there’s no shortage of sleeping space because around 30 people were booked that night.
As unique as the space is A-Cheng himself. Cheerful, funny, and tireless, A-Cheng’s life has played out like a modernist dream in reverse. He gave up a successful business career in Taipei to move back home and be closer to the land, because “that’s the only way the heart can know peace.” Now he runs a successful hostel and occupies himself with side projects like walking through the mountains for three days straight with a Taiwanese banjo (月琴).
A-Cheng wasn’t the only interesting character around – his place seemed to draw a diverse crowd. There were Taiwanese couples on a weekend escape; backpacker(s); a group of agricultural luminaries, one of which I swear was introduced as ‘the tomato boss’; an expert in lianpu (臉譜), traditional ceremonial face-painting; and two different student associations that share the same mandate as I do in writing my book: how best to introduce Taiwan to the Taiwan/Thailand-challenged.
And then there’s the beauty of Tianwei, which I will leave to the pictures. The area is known for its floriculture (chrysanthemum, camellia, and lily), and the light bulbs hanging over the field are to ‘trick’ the flowers into growing faster.
(Note: the train pics are of the ‘fan-shaped stockhouse’ beside Chuanghua train station)