Remarkable Muslim Friendly Staycation at Toucheng Leisure Farm

2021-10-25

What people can relate between Taiwan and Islam? Let me give you a brief story about how Islam reached Taiwan, and how is the situation nowadays.

Little did people know that since the 17th century, Islam had already been in Taiwan, and slowly in the 20th century, there was a second Muslim immigration wave when the Republic of China government was migrated from China to Taiwan. Some of them were Muslims and they are the ones who founded the first Mosque in Taiwan[1].

After the second wave migration, there were the third and fourth, which were dominated by Southeast Asian Muslims, in the 1980s, was people from Myanmar and Thailand, and the recent wave is dominated from Indonesia, Malaysia, Philipines, Pakistan India, and elsewhere, making the current population of over than 250,000 Muslims living in Taiwan. Furthermore, Taiwan's governments implemented a "New Southbound Policy" that aims to enhance cooperation and exchange between Taiwan and 18 countries, which come from Southeast Asia in the majority.

One of the main aspects of the policy is tourism, especially Muslim Friendly Tourism. I would like to share my own experience. I've been living in Taiwan for several years, and I've been witnessing how Taiwan has been through a transition in regards to Muslim Friendly Tourism. Living in Taiwan was a very enjoyable experience in general. This is due to their convenience in public transport, and how the government set the policy to the citizen. Even now, I had brought my family to Taiwan, because of this convenience and also Muslim Friendly environment.

Regarding the Muslim Friendly environment, there is one unforgettable experience.

This experience was probably the first time we've encountered since we come to Taiwan. Since the covid outbreak in December 2019, our world has not been the same. Especially, our daughter had just been born. We were thinking about how we are planning to have a good holiday in this situation. Fortunately, in February 2021, the situation in Taiwan was handled very well, and we can plan our holiday.

We were looking for a good place for escaping busy life in the city. Based on our exploration from the internet, we then decided to go to Toucheng Leisure Farm. At first, we had doubts about this particular farm because we haven't really tried this kind of resort area.

We went to Toucheng Farm through a local train and then subsequently continued by taxi. We were greeted by the staff at the front desk. The farm itself has covered a 120-hectare area running up the side of Yilan's coastal mountain. It's remarkably large. The words "leisure" and "farm" in tandem were perfectly conjuring an image of city people escaping the busy life and looking to find an area to refresh their minds.

[1] This passage was taken from: https://international.thenewslens.com/article/133739#:~:text=Islam%20first%20reached%20Taiwan%20when,the%20general%20Han%20Chinese%20population.

The view from the balcony showing the Yilan’s coastal-side mountain
The view from the balcony showing the Yilan’s coastal-side mountain

The air was the first thing we notice when we arrive at the farm. It is clean and fresh. We felt that this is truly refreshen and relaxing our minds. The second thing we notice is when we drink their orange juice. It is really that good. The taste is different if you compare it with the one in a convenience store. This is probably because the orange was harvested directly from their own farm.

While we are in a process of check-in for the room, we had our lunch. Actually, we forgot to reserve our lunch. Luckily, the staffs were able to prepare the Muslim meal lunch. We had several sets of dishes, including some southeast Asian cuisine and also Taiwanese-fusion cuisine. All dishes were halal eventually. The dishes, surprisingly, were really tasty. Later we know that this is due to the fresh vegetables and fruits. Those are freshly harvested from their own farm. 

The farm is certified as Muslim Friendly
The farm is certified as Muslim Friendly

After we had lunch, we move our stuff into our room. We were amazed at our staying room. As it is Muslim Friendly Resort, the room was prepared with Qibla direction, Prayer timetable, and Prayer mat. 

The Qibla direction and prayer time schedule table were provided
The Qibla direction and prayer time schedule table were provided

We take a walk around the farm. It's quite a long walk. We were amazed at how large the farm actually is. We visited the domesticated animal's area where we can feed the water buffalo, goat, and others. We still vaguely understand some parts of the area because we haven't got the official tour from the farm. After the walk, we are back in our room to take some rest, and then we had a pleasant dinner.

When we were about to take a sleep, the manager called our room and offered DIY-lantern activity at night. The staff guiding all the participants on crafting the lantern and then flew the lantern on the open field.

DIY-lantern activity at night. We had fun with this activity.
DIY-lantern activity at night. We had fun with this activity.

The second day was started with a delightful breakfast. As usual, their dishes were enormous and tasty. We had our first official farm tour. Our guide, Nicholas, was very humble to explain various sites of the farm. 

We had enormous dishes during our breakfast time.
We had enormous dishes during our breakfast time.
Look at this fresh and huge prawn on our breakfast set.
Look at this fresh and huge prawn on our breakfast set.

One of the many purposes that the farm had was sustainability and nature. How to preserve nature while working on the land, harvesting the crops, raising the animals, etc. Along the way, we had several activities.

Many of the activities offer visitors the chance to get up close and personal with the ecosystem. One of the activities is learning how to transplant and harvest rice. Unfortunately, we hadn't the chance because of the season. But we do harvest the crops, picking up fresh vegetables and ate them directly. By the way, all of their veggies are free of chemicals, so it is truly healthy. 

Picking up raw vegetables and some can be eaten directly.
Picking up raw vegetables and some can be eaten directly.

In ancient times, water buffalo were the most important animals in Taiwan due to their usefulness in relation to agrarian and farming activities. To connect visitors with the water buffalo, and also other domesticated animals such as goats and geese, the farm has an area wherein the guests can feed them. One of the funny animals is the turkeys, in which they can laugh when you shout some words to them.

 One of the most important animals to Taiwanese farmers is Water Buffalo
One of the most important animals to Taiwanese farmers is Water Buffalo
 We can feed some of the domesticated animals, such as this water buffalo.
We can feed some of the domesticated animals, such as this water buffalo.

Nicholas further explains and points out all things related to the farm. From the knowledge about composting, natural insect and pest control, also anything related to planting, nurturing, protecting, and harvesting the farm's organically grown produce. In Taiwan, farming involves working with the land, allowing both the farm and natural ecosystem to coexist.

This place is really recommended for a family trip, especially if your children love animals.
This place is really recommended for a family trip, especially if your children love animals.

In the corner of the farm, we can observe ancient Taiwanese farmer housing. In a brief, we get to know how their daily life. Not too far from that area, we can find also the mud oven baking area. Nicholas offered DIY-making Pizza activity. This is one of the best features of this farm. The staff already prepared the pizza dough, and then we can make the pizza and fill the toppings with the veggies that we harvested previously along with other stuff that has been prepared. The mud oven baking area has a halal option, separated from the other fare. Later, we were enjoying the Pizza beside the river nearby the location.

DIY-pizza activity. They provide a separate furnace for the halal option.
DIY-pizza activity. They provide a separate furnace for the halal option.
This is our Halal Pizza-DIY
This is our Halal Pizza-DIY

Shortly after activities, we went back to the main building and waiting for lunch to be served. We were thankful for Nicholas. He explained really well, and we know that he is really sincere with all the activities we had together.

Visiting the farm, learn sustainability, and connecting ourselves with nature is probably the best way to contemplate ourselves within the universe, in particular the landscape of the mountainside of Yilan, Toucheng farm. It is in the Holy scripture of Islam, The Quran that stated, "Seek the life to come by means of what God has granted you, but do not neglect your rightful share in this world. Do good to others as God has done good to you. Do not seek to spread corruption in the land, for God does not love those who do this," [Quran Sura 28:77]. As Muslims, we should have not spread corruption in the land, including how to preserve nature and not seeking destruction on land. Furthermore, from the Hadith[1], Prophet Muhammad said, "Whoever plants a tree and diligently looks after it until it matures and bears fruit is rewarded". This is how actually Muslims should keep in mind.

This whole journey, aside from relaxing our minds and learn a thing or two about farming and agriculture, for us, is to become fully humane. Sustainability, balance in nature and all the green process is the best way to treat our world nowadays. It is aligned with all universal customs and cultures, especially with Islamic cultures. This is also quite a shocking therapy for us because we don't really think our Muslim world, mostly, didn't really think through how to sustain the world today. We need to be thankful every time we breathe fresh air. To preserve an ecosystem is a hard thing to do.

[1] Hadith is a collection of traditions containing sayings of the prophet Muhammad which, with accounts of his daily practice, constitute as a second source for Muslim guidance. 

We had truly enjoyed ourselves during the trip.
We had truly enjoyed ourselves during the trip.

write by Iman Adipurnama,Indonesia