Taiwan Road Trip: MiaoLi County

Famous for its Hakka influence and “Tong Hua” (桐花) blossom season, MiaoLi (苗栗) County is a relatively easy 2-hour drive south of Taipei. It could be enjoyed as a Taipei Day Trip, but travelling independently by car over 1-2 days is a better way to experience the area.

By Stuart Hill

Rain falls on the Sky Castle in MiaoLi

High in the mountains of MiaoLi is the property of Sky Castle. Its high-vaulted multi-floor restaurant has a panoramic view of the surrounding valleys.

Like so many places worth visiting in Taiwan, MiaoLi County is best tackled by car. Though public transport will get you to the center of various towns and along main sections of the highway, MiaoLi’s more interesting highlights — both natural and man-made — are tucked away in valleys and on top of hills, and often with several kilometers of potentially steep and winding roads between them.

Why is MiaoLi Famous?

Like nearby HsinChu County, MiaoLi has a large population of Hakka residents. Local restaurants, language, and cultural festivals reflect this influence.

While MiaoLi county is reportedly the site that petroleum was first discovered in Taiwan — and there is a museum near HouLong River run by China Petroleum Corp should you want to learn more — the area’s source of camphor and its suitability for various cold-climate fruits support significant industries even today.

MiaoLi was also a key stop on Taiwan’s old railway network, ruins of which offer one of the county’s key historical points of interest.

Annual festivals are held to celebrate various cultural and rural events, including peach, plum, red dates and strawberry festivals, New Year celebrations, and the “TongHua” blossom season in spring (April-May).

What are the Driving Conditions?

From Taipei you can get to MiaoLi County via highways 1 or 3. Watch for the turn off after HsinChu.

Like other locations outside Taiwan’s main cities, the streets of MiaoLi’s towns and villages can be narrow. As you move further away from developed areas into farmland and forested mountains, expect winding, single-lane roads and tracks. Be prepared for poorly lit mountain areas, which it is recommended you avoid at night. As you head into smaller townships and farming communities, many roads seem little more than driveways.

As with all of Taiwan’s mountainous areas, pay particular attention to rock slides and other debris that can result from intense rains or earthquakes.

Some Places to Visit and Stay:

YUN JING HU (勻淨湖) — THE LAKE HOUSE

Yun Jing Hu bed and breakfast

Yun Jing Hu, located on the edge of a reservoir, offers a quiet location to relax a night. The B&B offers three different sized bedrooms upstairs; each has a view onto the lake. On the first floor is a restaurant area that does afternoon tea and French cuisine for dinner. Meanwhile outdoor seating offers the best views.

SHIANSHAN SHIANTSAU (仙山仙草 “xian shan, xian cao”)

Black jelly desert at ShianShan ShianTsau

The busy snack restaurant offers some local twists on a range of traditional Taiwanese deserts, including innovations like the hard to describe “fried black jelly”. While not as adventurous, the black jelly with taro and yam is pretty good.

SKY CASTLE  (天空之城)– City in the Sky, Sky City?

City in the Sky

MiaoLi County’s “Sky Castle” (天空之城) offers a cafe and restaurant, gift shop and panoramic views of the surrounding mountains. The food is Californian Italian.

KENG-TAO YUAN ART GALLERY AND RESTAURANT (耕陶源)

Keng-Tao Art Gallery and Cafe

Local famous pottery artist and sculpture Li Ren Yao has established the Keng-Tao Art Gallery as an exhibition space for his work and other artists. Attached to the property is a restaurant serving Hakka food. They also have an elaborate espresso machine which makes great cappuccino.

LONG-TENG BROKEN BRIDGE (龍騰斷橋)

LongTeng Bridge in MiaoLi County

Ruined by a huge earthquake in 1935, the Dutch style red-brick aquaduct bridge was the tallest railway construction in Taiwan until it was destroyed and then replaced by a new line. Nearby stalls sell stinky toufu and other snacks. While more modern cafes appear along the other side of the railway line further up the hill.

MAPLE MAP CAFE (馬拉邦山)

Maple Map Cafe Lookout in MiaoLi

With its birds eye view of the strawberry fields nearby, the Maple Map Cafe and B&B offers simple western-style set meals and personal hotpots. Outside in the garden and on the first floor are huge areas for eating, while upstairs is given to guest accommodation.

Learn More:

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2 responses to “Taiwan Road Trip: MiaoLi County

  1. Pingback: Top 5 Stories of 2013 on Syurati-vision | Syurati-vision the Blog

  2. Everything is very open with a precise explanation
    of the issues. It was really informative. Your website is useful.
    Many thanks for sharing!

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