Going to Cingjing and staying at a minsu for the first time, and not quite sure what to expect?
Firstly, what’s a minsu?
Similar to a B&B (bed & breakfast), guesthouse or farmstay, a minsu in Taiwan generally refers to a homestay kind of accommodation. It is mostly run like family property, with seperate units for guests. Your neighbours might be fellow travellers or even locals. A minsu is a good chance for you to get a taste of local life, and is a very popular choice of accommodation in Taiwan.
In January 2016, I stayed at a minsu called Starry House Nantou (also called Starry Minsu / 觀星園) in Cingjing, Nantou, near Taichung in Taiwan, and this post is a review of my stay, largely based on that experience.
At 2,106 metres above sea level, Starry House is the highest minsu in Cingjing.
Public buses will not go up until that altitude, so only privately owned cars or vans can go all the way up. The tiny road that leads into Starry House from the main road, was, in fact, steep and narrow. I was glad my driver was a very experienced driver!
Some things you can expect for your minsu stay in Cingjing
Especially in winter!
Colder weather & perhaps even snow*
*Dependent on month you’re visiting. I was there end of January.
Due to its high altitude, Cingjing can be a cold place to be at, especially where the peaks are at (such as Joy Mountain aka 合欢山 (11,207 ft)). When we drove up to Cingjing in the daytime (end-January), the temperature was easily 0-2 degrees outdoors. At one point, it was snowing where we were at the mountains. This year’s January was also the time the cold surge hit countries like Taiwan, Hong Kong and China. Check the weather before your trip!
If it snows too much, the roads will turn slippery and cars need to add snow tyres to the wheels. According to my driver, authorities might close off the roads if they’re too dangerous.
Cingjing is especially cold in the early morning and at night. When the sun comes out, the temperature will rise significantly. I got up at 6+am to catch the sunrise, but not before putting on my sweaters, jacket and boots – full winter gear! My brother had woken up too, but it was too chilly and he decided to leave me outdoors by myself braving the cold, thanks ah!
No heaters or aircon
Honestly, it came quite as a surprise for me to discover this, but there was absolutely no heater in the room at all. There’s no aircon unit that can blow out hot air out either. Which means the room is coldddd (Cingjing was 4 degrees that night).
I went to read up about other Cingjing minsus afterwards and found out this is actually quite common. However, you might be able to rent a heater from the minsu-owner, depending.
If it’s cold weather and you have young kids with you, be fast in preparing them for and after showers in order to not have them catch a chill. There’s the usual water-heater in the bathroom for showering.
At my minsu, mattresses come with electric heating pads underneath the bedsheets, which you can control using a switch. It was very comfortable to lie in bed. I felt so glad to be sleeping in a warm bed at night!
To keep warm inside the room, you either need to keep your thick jackets on, or stay snuggled under the covers.
Basic, none-lavish room amenities
Amenities inside your room will be basic and minimal. There’s a TV in our room too. Hot drinking water is available at the reception. The only thing to do in the room is to snuggle under the bedsheets and watch TV and fall asleep.
No lifts or elevators
Families travelling with elderly people need to note this especially. Even the popular minsus including Starry House, and Misty Villa and Star Villa, do not come with lifts. Your minsu room could be at level 1.. or level 4 (for other minsus). Good luck with lugging your luggage up to a few levels to your room!
The lady owner of Starry House very kindly gave us a room for 6 people at the ground level although there were just 4 of us, so that my elderly parents didn’t have to climb the steps, though from what I see, the highest here was level 2.
No facilities like gyms or swimming pools
Other than TV in the room, and WIFI, you could perhaps take a walk outdoors. Over here, there’s no gyms, no heated swimming pools, no outdoor bathtubs!
You’re not allowed to flush toilet papers
Due to the location being high up in the mountains, plumbing is an issue. When checking in at Starry House minsu, we were told to NOT flush used toilet papers into the toilet bowl, or risk choking it. Throw toilet papers into the rubbish bin inside the toilet instead. This is something I can never get used to overseas!
Make a guess who didn’t dare to poop that night at the minsu? Hahaha!
(Maybe) Bugs & flying insects
I’ve seen reviews sharing moths or cockroach-like bugs that will be in your room if you didn’t shut the doors or windows properly. Thankfully, we didn’t encounter any of those creepy-crawlies at Starry House. My room came with a wooden door plus an additional screen-door.
Like other kinds of homestays / rented apartments / AirBNBs not just in Cingjing or Taiwan alone, if you’re staying for more than one night, don’t expect housekeeping in the morning while you’re out for the day. A minsu is not a hotel. I only stayed for a night so I didn’t verify but I’m pretty sure they don’t do housekeeping until your departure. Do check with your minsu for confirmation!
Challenge in booking your minsu stay
In Taiwan, Mandarin is the main language. Also, due to some minsus being family-owned businesses, you might experience problems trying to locate them on accommodation agents like Booking.com or Agoda.com. They might choose to not be on those websites.
For example, like Starry House, you need to book directly via their minsu website. I typed in Mandarin to manage my booking (via email) directly, paid a deposit via PayPal to secure the stay. The remaining payment was made when checking in.
And now for the good!
Peace and quietness
Away from the city, there were no vehicle noises, no screaming children or people throwing tantrums. It was generally quiet and peaceful being at Starry House. I totally enjoyed short walks to the common patio for amazing views over the whole of Cingjing!
Fresh mountain air & being near nature!
It felt so good to deeply inhale the freshness of the mountain air! And to listen to the sounds of nature when the sun is out, and water dripping down streams somewhere somehow below. Ahhhh lovely.
Warm, welcoming minsu owners
The owners at Starry Minsu are very hospitable and warm people. I had engaged a driver for my trip, so we didn’t need other transport services, but from reviews I read, the minsu owners will be happy to help you arrange transport to attractions downhill such as to Green Green Grasslands or Swiss Gardens.
I’m not sure if the owners speak English though, as my bookings via the website and emails as well as verbal conversations were fully in Mandarin.
A homely kind of decoration style
Staying at a minsu feels almost like you’re staying at a relative’s house. The decor is homely and charming. Look at the corridor! Don’t you feel like just sitting there and appreciating the moment?
Plants, trees, shrubs, flowerpots and agricultural crops down the hills, a minsu stay gives you a good chance to get close to nature’s blossoms.
It’s really awesome to have a delicious, homely style of steamboat for dinner when the weather is chilly outside! This amount of food was prepared ahead by the minsu and was more than sufficient for the four of us. All we had to do was to cook them in the steamboat.
For breakfast, there weren’t any hotel-like buffet spreads, but tasty toast, fruits, sandwiches and coffee prepared by the kitchen helpers.
Sunrises, sunsets, stars overhead, highlands underneath
These are the kinds of activities* you can expect at your minsu (*subject to weather conditions). I watched the sun rise over the mountains at the common patio outside my room at Starry House, but if you’ll like, you can join a tour to catch the sunrise at Joy Mountain. You’ll have to book it via the minsu owners the night before.
Disconnection from the outside world,
to connect with the people you’re with
Although there’s WIFI at Starry House minsu, the atmosphere, the surroundings were too lovely to neglect if you turn your attention to the phone. With the sun out, it was a lovely temperature to be outdoors, where you can sit with your family, travel companions or other travellers who are also staying at the minsu.
I don’t even need to elaborate on this. View my pictorial entry of Cingjing here!
Overall, my minsu stay in Cingjing was quite an experience in itself and I’ll recommend it to anyone a stay for one night!
Hope this post gives you good insight on what you can expect from staying at a Taiwanese minsu in Cingjing! Feel free to ask me anything!
I stayed as a paying guest at Starry House. All opinions, as always, are my own.
Visited: Jan 2016
Featured minsu in Cingjing: Starry House Nantou 清境觀星園景觀山莊
Additional reads about minsu accommodation in Taiwan: Web in Travel • Travel Weekly Asia
Image credits: Snow scene is taken from Starry House’s Facebook.
All other photos were taken by me (if of me, it’s by my brother).
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