Places: Miaoli 苗栗

One thing I do find lacking about studying Chinese at NTU’s Chinese Language Department is that we seem to be very separate from the rest of National Taiwan University (NTU).  So when I found out about ISIS (International Student Information Service) I jumped at the chance to take part in some of the events they hold.  My first trip with ISIS was a one day trip to Miaoli County, and Hsinchu.

Our day started early, meeting at NTU Main Gate at 7:30am, on a very rainy, wet, Taipei day.  We took a chartered bus, and to be honest to get to most of the places I mention you will need your own transport (or hire something from Hsinchu city).  After a little sleep on the bus, we reached our first destination, where we would be doing some Taiwanese tea grinding & making Taiwanese style mochi.

I must say, grinding the tea was an amazing workout.  To grind the dried tea leaves into a find powder, then have to also crush in other nuts & herbs was a real effort.  That said, the tea that was produced was delicious!  To make the mochi, we had to pound a bowl of glutinous rice for about 10 minutes.  Again, absolutely exhausting, but really tasty mochi.  I suppose you do appreciate food a whole lot more when you understand the effort that goes in to making it.  The owner of the tea house didn’t speak very much English, so gave all instructions in Chinese.  Luckily for our group, we had the ISIS students to translate, but if you’re on your own, I’m sure you can still get by.  I don’t think bookings are required, but if you want to find more information, you can use the details below.

Ancient Latee Mill (擂茶坊)

苗栗縣南庄鄉東村17鄰109-6號
Tel: 037-821237
Website: http://hakkatea.many30.com/

The tea we ground, with some rice puffs.

The tea we ground, with some rice puffs.

After the effort of grinding tea, and the delight of devouring the results of our hard work, we then went on to Nanzhuang Old Street to have some lunch & sample some of the other local food.  Many of the food & drinks in the area feature the osmanthus flower as an ingredient, and as you walk down the old street in Nanzhuang you can sample food at every store!  There are also plenty of places where you can eat delicious local noodles.  There is a lot to sample, and eat in Nanzhuang, so it’s definitely worth making a stop there to fill your belly.

Local noodles at Nanzhuang.  Delicious!

Local noodles at Nanzhuang. Delicious!

With our bellies full, we went on to our final activity of the day – traditional Aboriginal fabric dying.  It was a little bit away from Nanzhuang township, up in the mountains.  It was amazing up there, with the heavy rain falling, the mist over the mountains, and waterfalls cascading down across the river valley.  We went to 石壁彩虹民宿 (Rainbow Guesthouse), which is one place you can stay in the area if you want to spend a weekend there.  The guesthouse is run by local Taiya Aboriginals, who showcase their tribes culture, and crafts for guests.  To the side of the guesthouse is a large hall, in which sessions on local crafts are held.  The patterns that are able to be achieved by dying the fabric are amazing, despite the methods being fairly simple.  By simply folding the cloth, and tying it with rubber bands, or holding it together with chopsticks, we were all able to create some amazing designs.  The fabric is dyed in a very foul smelling brew, so be sure to wrap it up in a plastic bag while taking it home.  Again, the instructions here were entirely in Chinese, so having a translator to help is very, very handy.  Details for the guesthouse below, they can be contacted about the fabric dying too.

石壁彩虹民宿

苗栗縣南莊鄉東河村石壁21號
Tel: 03 782 1777

The final stop of a long day was a the City God Temple in Hsinchu city.  The temple is really cool, and the night market surrounding it has plenty of food to fill your belly.  Our stop there was only brief, so I can’t say too much on it.  After having a light dinner, we boarded the bus again & made it back to Taipei by 9pm.  It was a long day, but a very interesting day – despite the rain.  To make the most of it, and to not rush your time too much, I would suggest staying at a local B&B , or in Hsinchu city, and working your way around the area from there.

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