Taiwan has been one of my most favourite travel destinations since I first set foot in Taipei in 2009. Six years ago, together with a few friends, we traveled to Taipei City with no expectation but an open mind to explore new friends, cultures and the food of this beautiful country. I was awed by the vibrant and busy night markets; Shilin Night Market, Ning Xia Night Market and Shida Night Market all of which boast interesting, exotic and delicious food such as the Smelly bean curd, Sausage wrapped in Glutinous Rice, Oyster Omelet & Fried Chicken Fillet, to name a few. I remember visiting Taipei 101 and checking out the panoramic and magnificent view of Taipei City. Ximending, a popular shopping district in the Wanhua District of Taipei, was my top spot in checking out the authentic sights and sounds of Taiwan.
Most Singaporeans are however unfamiliar with the other cities of Taiwan. Most travellers would choose popular spots like Kaoshiung, Hualien, Alishan, Sun Moon Lake or even Taichung. Miaoli County, located in Western Taiwan is a less popular choice for Singaporeans. Recently, I had an opportunity to check out this less than popular spot of Taiwan, MiaoLi County and I was pleasantly surprised to discover a hidden gem not known to many Singaporeans.
Miaoli is contiguous with Hsinchu county and Hsinchu City to the north, Taichung City to the south, and borders the Taiwan Strait to the west. The Council for Economic Planning and Development of Taiwan classifies Miaoli as a county of Central Taiwan, while the Taiwan Central Weather Bureau classifies Miaoli as a county of the North. Miaoli City is the capital of the county, and is also known as “Mountain Town”, owing to the number of mountains nearby, making it a destination for hiking.
My first impression of Miaoli County was its lush and rich scenic resources. You will be visually blessed with sights of mountains, rivers and trees. One might also not know that the main population of Miaoli County is comprised of the Han Chinese and the Taiwanese aborigines. The Taiwanese aborigines constitute about 1.9% of the total population while the Hakka are the main group of Han Chinese.
With its heavy Hakka concentration, the cooking style is largely Hakkanese – salty, fatty and distinctively aromatic. The many Hakkanese pastries, snacks and pickled vegetables as well as dishes made with farm products are excellent food choices visitors must try. I was invited for a Hakka-Styled lunch at West Lake Resortopia, a park where you can see very beautiful Tung Flower Blossom in the month of late April early May. This restaurant serves authentic Hakka Cuisine that can melt and touch your heart. My personal favorites were the Pork Knuckle and Salty Yam Soup. Here are some photos of delectable dishes served during my last trip there.
West Lake Resortopia
The Sanyo Interchange of the Sun Yat-sen Freeway easily accesses this resort village. It offers many recreational facilities for the whole family. There are European-style flower gardens, a miniature golf course, jogging and hiking trails, a barbecue area, a roller coaster, and an amusement area for children. It is especially popular amongst young couples that wish to have their wedding photos taken against a set of charming and Victorian backdrop.
West Lake Resortopia also features a number of enthusiastic shows that are suitable for visitors of all ages. In addition, nearly two-third of the park area is covered with Tung trees. Every year when Tung flowers are in full blossom during spring and early summer, white Tung flowers forming picturesque sceneries as if it was covered by snow cover the park. With complete selection of entertainments and mesmerizing surroundings, the park has been rated a premium theme park in Taiwan for 14 consecutive years.
Sheng Sing Station Long Teng Bridge
If you are in Miaoli and have some spare time then maybe you can head down to the Sheng Sing station. The train station was abandoned after the Japanese occupation. Near to the station there are some souvenir and food stalls for tourists and locals. However, the food is slightly more expensive than the usual street food. For those who love to take selfies along the abandoned tracks you can take as many as you want here.
Long Teng Bridge is a bridge that was destroyed by earthquake decades ago. What’s left of it are just less than 5 blocks of ruined parts along the main road. Hikers could follow a trail to see some other shattered parts.
Shangri-La Recreational Park Taiwan Attraction:
If you are game for more family fun, you could organize a trip to the Shangri-La Recreational Park, a huge amusement park equipped with every possible recreational facility for its visitors. The park has a miniature village that showcases the Hakka culture with old Hakka style buildings and wax sculptures and serves an authentic Hakka cuisine. There is a well-maintained European garden, a cascading fountain, and a restaurant that has accommodations for about 1000 diners. The park also has facilities for barbeques and camping, and is thus a popular venue for school excursions.
Getting Around Miaoli
Traveling around Miaoli County might not be very straightforward. Some places are lacking both bus routes and train stations, so you’ll have to find a way to get there on your own. As the highways are small, you would probably manage best on a rented scooter. You might be able to convince taxi drivers in nearby cities such as Taichung to take you around, but it will be far more expensive and a bit of a headhunt. Nonetheless, Miaoli County is a place worth traveling around if you are into an alternative and authentic Taiwan experience.