The Hsinchu area in the vicinity of mountains preserves the rich and traditional aboriginal and Hakka styles.
National Highway 3, Provincial Highway 3 and County Road 118 link up with several Hakka townships, such as Guanxi, Hsinpu, Zhu-dong and Chiung-lin, resembling the shape of a pearl necklace made of the east side high mountain foothills.
To explore these townships, you can either come from Zhu-lin Interchange or Guanxi Interchange.
We picked Guanxi Interchange.
To get to downtown Guanxi, get off the interchange to connect to County Road 118. You will get there after a short drive uphill heading southeast.
Continue going east, and the road gets narrower as you come by Guanxi Catholic Church.
Continue going forward, and the road becomes Guanxi Old Street. You'll arrive at Guanxi Traditional Food Market.
President Tsai Ing-wen's Hakka office is situated on this old street.
You'll see supermarkets, Hakka restaurants, and stands that sell Hakka Radish Bun.
Here on this street of small Hakka town, you will not find traditional Taiwanese temples, yet you can see the spire of a Catholic Church, and a convent "Notre Dame."
You may wonder why the catholic atmosphere is in such abundance here.
Turn around on County Road 118 to cross the highway interchange and you will know why.
Here is the Notre Dame de Lourdes.
The Holy Mother here does not refer to the Sea Goddess Matsu that Taiwanese have an affinity with, nor the Queen Mother of the West in Taoism, but the Virgin Mary in Catholicism.
To get to the Notre Dame, you'll need to walk the trail uphill.
Due to reports of uphill disturbance by the locals back in 1958, a catholic priest constructed the Notre Dame imitating Notre Dame de Lourdes, France, using building materials transported from the bottom of the hill.
Notre Dame De Lourdes, France has at least 6 million people going on pilgrimage every year. This is the Taiwan version of the Notre Dame.
There is even a bus station named Holy Mother Mountain (Sheng-mu-Shan). There is an influx of people during May and October every year.
There are three entrances to the trail. Two are around the corner by the busy highway.
The trail entrance established by the Town Hall is right below the highway. There are maps and direction signs.
Continuing forward is another entrance with a large "Notre Dame De Lourdes" painted on the wall.
Walking uphill, you'll see a cement archway. Through the archway and bridge is the entrance to the trail.
We happened to see someone coming down from the hill. Evidently, this holy land is also a good place for hiking and exercising during normal days.
Shi Guang Historic Trail
The third entrance is the Shi Guang Historic Trail by Shi Guang Middle School.
Guanxi is a small town of Hakka traditions. You can stroll around here, eat some Hakka dishes and experience the customs of this township before heading to Neiwan.
To get to Neiwan from Guanxi, you can take County Road 118 to connect to Provincial Highway 3 and then connect to County Road 120.
This is the only road to Jianshi Township Hot Springs in the mountain area.
Alternatively, you can take Taiwan Railways to arrive at Hsinchu Railway Transfer Station and then take the Neiwan Line.
Neiwan Line is one of the three Taiwan Railways branch lines for tourism.
Aside from Neiwan Line, there are the Jiji Line near Sun Moon Lake and Pingxi Line up north.
From Provincial Highway 3 to County Road 120, there is a section of the train route happening to run parallelly to the highway.
If you get lucky, you may see the Neiwan Line train passing by your car.
Hexing Railway Station
When passing by Hexing Railway Station, we happened to see trains pulling in.
The train station is right below the highway. Standing next to the highway fence and looking down, we saw a unique sight of a painted train parked by an ancient train station.
Panlong Suspension Bridge
Coming to Neiwan, you'll first arrive at Panlong Suspension Bridge first. Be sure to make a stop and check out the suspension bridge.
To figure out how the name Neiwan came about, get on Panlong Suspension Bridge to see the village from a bird's eye view and you'll understand.
Neiwan in Chinese means "inner bay."
The village is right on the top of a very large river basin. There are trails along the river by the river basin brimming with greenery.
Neiwan used to be where the Atayal Tribe resided. Legend has it that there were cherry flowers all over the mountains and plains, earning Atayal the name "Cherry Flower Tribe" during the Japanese colonial era.
Most of the cherry flower trees were cut down, you'll have to go along the railway or go to the local police station to be able to see cherry flowers during the cherry blossom season.
After the Han Chinese settled here, the aborigines moved to Jianshi Township in the deeper mountains.
The aborigine residing in Smangus, located in the remote mountains of Jianshi Township, transformed the little mountain tribal site into an ecological site, recently gaining great popularity and becoming an important attraction.
Neiwan Old Street
Going up from the Neiwan Old Street entrance, you'll see houses one after another alongside the hill, all the way to the train station.
There used to be a theater to the left side of the train station, but it's now transformed into a restaurant.
There are mostly Hakka snacks on the old street.
Neiwan Line final stop used to be Zhu-dong Station. The terminal station eventually extended to Neiwan to allow for transportation of coal mines and wood. This little village Neiwan therefore used to be very affluent.