Saturday, September 16, 2017

Nanzhuang Old Street


I first heard of the small Taiwanese mountain village of Nanzhuang a few years ago in Lonely Planet. The guidebook raved about it, calling it a secret gem tucked up against the Snow Mountains with inspiring views found in every direction. That all sounded really good to me. I easily found the village on Google Maps, which said it would take about one hour to scoot to, but never could quite find it in real life. I tried on multiple occasions with multiple people to scoot to Nanzhuang, but we always got lost over bridges and through tunnels and down winding roads. It was a great source of frustration for me, especially because it was the only place I tried to scoot to but never made it to after years of scoot adventures all over Taiwan. 

Yesterday, however, while trying to find a beautiful waterfall in Miaoli County, we scooted right through the village! A beautiful river runs through Nanzhuang, so the first thing we did was park our scooters and soak our feet in the cool, fast flowing water. 
Then, we visited the real reason Nanzhuang is on the map: its old street. Taiwan has a handful of well known "old streets"-- which are really just streets that have preserved their older, Japanese or Hakka style architecture-- and Nanzhuang's old street is definitely a prominent one on that list.

To date, we have visited five of Taiwan's old streets: Wulai's, Dihua's, Neiwan's, and Juifen's and now Nanzhuang's. All of these old streets have some things in common: cramped alleys full of food vendors trying to give free samples of their goods, the pungent scent of stinky tofu, red paper lanterns lining walkways, and beautiful, massive temples.

Usually, we don't buy anything at Taiwan's old streets because we are not that into Taiwanese street food and the touristy stuff is usually junk, but this time we drank smoothies (and beers) and bought a bunch of bath salts from the lavender farm we scooted to a few years ago that opened up a stall in the market and found fun toys for Ruby.

Eventually, after sitting in the sun long enough to get burned on the tops of our thighs and backs of our necks, we had to hop back on our scooters to make the 1.5 hour scoot journey through Lion's Head Mountain back to Hsinchu City.
But on the way out of town, we spied these little wooden gazebos by the river front, so of course we had to scoot down the river front trail to eat some fried chicken from a bag and listen to the water gush by and the breeze blow.

I will miss days like this more than I know how to explain whenever we leave Taiwan for good next summer. 

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