Hi everyone! Yay for Sunday, right?!
I’m so excited to share this blog post with you all, because it’s genuinely one of the most interesting days I’ve had in a long time.
In England it’s often really difficult to just jump on a train and go and explore somewhere, unless you’re wealthy enough to not worry about train fares. In Taiwan, pretty much everyone can afford them. A day pass along the Neiwan Line is just NT$95 (about £3!) and you can hop on/off all the stops along the line.
Firstly, if you’re not in Hsinchu – you want to get there. You can take a coach, normal train or a high speed train from Taipei, Taichung, Kaoshiung and most other places around the country. Buy your ticket from the ticket office at Hsinchu station (you can’t buy the one day pass at any other stop on the Neiwan Line).
The trains to Zhuzhong run frequently, do not confuse Zhuzhong with Zhudong. They are completely different and if you exit the station at Zhuzhong, you’ll have absolutely nothing to do. You’ll have to change trains at Zhuzhong though, to get to Zhudong and Neiwan.
Check the schedule beforehand as they only run once an hour in each direction.
I ended up in Zhuzhong accidentally on Saturday, as it’s a 20 minute walk from my house. When I realised there was nothing to do, I googled for more info. To my surprise I stumbled across two fantastic blogs that helped me decide my itinerary for Sunday, today.
So, my first stop on the line was Zhudong.
I turned right out of the station and immediately you see the Zhudong Anime Park. You cannot miss it. It’s adorable. It looks like a little village with windmills and cartoon characters and flowers galore. It’s NT$100 entrance and you can redeem this in the souvenir shop if you buy something. There’s also a DIY candy floss machine – great idea for the kids!
The decorations and artworks are fantastic and it’s a really peaceful place. It was lovely to slowly walk around and enjoy the silence and the sun.
I walked back to the station and continued right alongside it, where you will see cafes and creative spaces, covered in flowers and various artworks. It’s a lovely walk and the cafe looked lovely, but I’m on a tight budget at the moment so I didn’t stop.
The next place on the line was Hexing, also known as the love station, where they have converted 3 train carriages into a cafe, a souvenir shop and a food / sweets stand. Despite the number of tourists, it felt calm. If you come off the platform and walk straight down, basically follow the crowds, you’ll come to an open space with chairs and tables, a few street vendors selling snacks and two small rooms. One is a gift shop, the other is a little hut with clocks and some historical information about the area – they’ve added teddy bears and flower props for those taking selfies.
If you’re stopping for lunch or with a group, the hour before the next train will probably go by very quickly, but I found it quite a long wait.
There were couples everywhere, taking photos with the hearts, the signs and the shops. It was really sweet and I helped loads of them take couple photos. They all seemed so surprised that I’d offered. One couple then asked if I wanted a heart photo, and I couldn’t really say no. The girl even took a photo of her boyfriend taking a photo of me – that was amusing!
Note: when leaving Hexing, check first that you’re not getting on the train going back to Zhudong / Hsinchu – it could easily happen!
With just a 15 minute journey left to Neiwan, you’re nearly at the end of the line and you’re in for a treat! Neiwan is full-on! You come out of the station and you can turn left towards the Suspension Bridge and nature walk (do not miss this!!)
or you can follow the other crowd down Neiwan Old Street.
Now if you’re just with friends or by yourself, you’ll be fine, but if you’re bringing children or buggies, be prepared for a challenge. There’s no space. The number of tourists is so high that people are carrying dogs, babies and hugging bags to their chests. The roads aren’t necessarily narrow, but they are just so busy.
It’s fascinating. The biggest food favourite seems to be this gigantic pork sausages (now I’ve never liked sausages and these honestly looked disgusting, but everyone was enjoying them.)
There were dumplings, bao, fruit boxes, candied fruits, sweet potatoes, of course there was chicken, squid, and just about anything you could possible want on both sides of every street. Oh! Don’t forget fresh watermelon juice. My favourite!
There’s an old theatre / restaurant and the police station is meant to be an attraction too, but for some reason I couldn’t find them. I must be a little stupid.
However, I did find a tiny little museum on Taiwan’s wood trade and preservation systems. It was entirely in Chinese but looking at the old photos was interesting.
One thing you do not want to miss is the Cultural Hakka Park. As you exit the station you turn left, and go down the (little) hill. On the left you will soon see a castle that says Elementary school. Go in! Down the steps, up the steps and the entrance is on your right.
It’s NT$50 to go in (£1.50ish) and you can redeem it in any of the shops and cafes, or you can use it for two free postcards on your way out).
If you pick up a map, you can collect stamps in all the different shops – they have sewing DIY areas where experienced trades-people help you create bags or persons (prices start at NT$180) or you can try out the old foot-pedal sewing machine.
The cafe is lovely – they serve loads of food and there’s plenty of photo opportunities there too.
There’s a silverware shop, which if I had the money I would have bought one of everything.
There’s also a notebook shop, where you can create your own. You chose the front and back covers, the types of paper you want, and any embossing, and watch the lady create it right in front of you! (Yes, there’s a fee for this but I’m not sure how much.)
I loved the cultural park and I think it was definitely worth the visit. It wouldn’t be easy with buggies or dogs though, as there’s a lot of steps and uneven pathways.
Honestly, travellers, family, friends. Whoever’s reading this right now – I wish you could all take this little train trip that I did today.
It was fascinating to see the Hakka villages, to see how the local people are trying to make their towns more attractive yet still preserving their histories.
If you have any questions or want to add your own experience of the Neiwan Line – please leave a comment below! I’d be happy to collaborate on any future posts too.
Have a great week ahead everyone, I’m now off to stuff my face with Nutella sandwiches, watch the Everton game and finish my scrapbook pages for today’s awesome trip.