It is not possible to miss Old England (老英格蘭) on your way up to CingJing unless your eyes are really not the road. Standing tall on the highlands of Nantou, this traditional English Mansion with its white marble facade, gigantic clock on the main tower coupled with detailed wall sculptures is a majestic sight to behold. Fortunately, our minsu Vienna Pleasance Cottage is just one bus stop away! We will be strolling over for our afternoon tea after check-in.
If not for our detour to kay poh at a local school and relive our childhood at their playground, our tea place was just a short 15 minutes stroll away.
Opened to the public in 2010, this charming mansion soon became a hit with tourists who are visiting the Nantou County. Many love-birds also flock here for their pre-wedding photo shooting. That's Damian posing against the clock tower.
It was said that the owner spent 9 years and invested hundreds of millions Taiwan Dollar on this Tudor-style mansion. With their cheapest suite going at TWD15,000 (S$630), this can be said to be one of the most luxurious and expensive minsu in Taiwan.
To explore the interior, you will need to be a guest staying at the mansion. Else you will be stopped by these medieval guards in the front entrance.
Thankfully, there's a way to work around this - simply spend TWD450 (S$19) for their standard afternoon tea set and you are in!
It's easy to get all trigger happy with your camera when you walk through the pathway to the main dining hall. My advice - stay cool because you have seen nothing yet.
Once in the grand dining hall, I felt as though I have been transported back in time to the days of old England.
Cleverly utilising natural sunlight, diners are able to fully appreciate the intricate design details painstakingly fabricated by its owners to re-create this old British space in Nantou Taiwan.
You can choose to dine in the open hall or
enjoy a more private setting at one of its many nooks.
There is no need to ponder over the menu. There is only one standard afternoon tea set catered for curious visitors like us. Our pot of English tea soon arrived with our petite appetizer.
Let's take a short break. Cheers!
Our dainty tea set came in a three-tier stand stacked with finger sandwiches, scones and pastries.
It's a delectable Victorian style afternoon tea with scones, tarts, sandwiches and a jelly dessert.
It's a pity that the afternoon tea set did not taste as well as it looks. I think Ya Kun serves better toasts and the English Tea was just fine.
We decided to go around for some final shots before the tea session ends at 4pm. There was an adorable Taiwanese boy with his mom who looked pretty princely against the couch.
Since no one was watching, I decided to sneak up 2nd floor to explore the minsu guest only areas.
The long corridor can get a little spooky at night.
A gorgeously adored drawing room greeted me at the end of the walkway. The private rooms on this level were more elaborately furnished than the dining hall below.
Despite its splendour, the air here feels heavy and a little musky. I wondered why there wasn't a single soul in sight when I ventured into these rooms.
Further down, the corridor opens to an elegant garden.
Am I still in Taiwan? This place looks like a scene from Rivendell in Lord Of The Rings.
Left alone amongst these graceful and dignified masonry creations, it's easy to get lost in this medieval setting.
A what'sapp message from my friends jotted me back to reality and I hurried back down to the ground level.
Looking back at the manor from a distance, I find it a pity that the owner despite having created a masterpiece failed to engage and surprise its guest in terms of service and experiences. The service staff here were honestly performing at the bare minimal. It was a stark contrast compared to Vienna Minsu. They are probably overly complacent in assuming that the fame of the manor is more than enough to attract visitors over and over again. It is either that or they only reserve good services for guests who staying at their luxurious suites.
In comparison, anyone who has been to Disney Parks knows that the experience there is wildly engaging. Disney attractions and their characters are part of a great story that continues to intrigue their guests long after each visit. That's what Disney Magic is all about, and that's what keeps hundreds of millions of people returning year after year, generation after generation.
With such impressive architecture and impeccable interior, The Old England owner should learn from Disney’s strategy and seek to provide a unique magical experience by entertaining, educating and captivating guests by creating a medieval story around the manor. Besides just dressing their roles and doing basic duties, the service staffs (guards, butler, chambermaids etc) can be trained further to perform multiple job functions e.g. tour guide, famous English character, mascot etc. Delighting guests in unexpected ways will generate loads of positive word of mouth publicity for greater visitor traffic and revenue.
Other than just opening up the restaurant for afternoon tea, paid guided tours should also be organised to bring guests around the estate. I wish there was someone explaining the interior decor and architectural features to us when we were there. Not only do visitors get these amazing experiences that they remember for a lifetime, they get inspired to go back and research more about The Old England with regards to its history, architecture style and many more.
Being cheaper, better and faster may not be the best solution to set The Old England’s reputation as a must-see premier tourist destination, instead empowering service staff with better job functions to make every contact with customers a delightful one could just be the strategic pivot. If done well, The Old England can become an inspiration and training ground for Taiwanese or expatriates who wish to develop themselves into accomplished themed park service or management staffs in Taiwan or the region.
The Old England is definitely a must visit if you ever visit Nantou Taiwan but it has been resting too much on its architecture and interior decor. There are huge opportunities for further growth and development in store for this manor.
Here's a documentary (in Mandarin) to round things up:
If you are interested to pay a visit to this beautiful English heritage in Nantou Taiwan, here are the full information:
The Old England (老英格蘭)
Address: No.20-2, Shouting Lane, Ren’ai Township, Nantou County 546, Taiwan (R.O.C.)
You may also like to check out my posts on other exciting travel destinations here