Tucked away in the south of Miaoli County, SANYI (三義; sānyì) is Taiwan’s woodcarving centre, some fifty minutes from Hsinchu by train – trains from Taipei take two-and-a-half hours, making day-trips possible (Taichung is also just 30min away). Apart from the Sanyi Wood Sculpture Museum, the town’s main attractions are its numerous woodcarving (mùdiāo) shops, selling a vast range of work from religious icons to kitsch souvenirs squarely aimed at the tourist trade. Nearby Shengxing offers some beautiful hiking, historic Hakka teahouses and the photogenic ruin of Longteng Bridge. The village is halfway along a 16km loop of old rail line between Sanyi and Houli (后里; hòulǐ), abandoned in the 1990s.
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The attractive Hakka village of Shengxing (勝興; shèngxīng) is particularly appealing in the spring when the area’s distinctive white tung flowers (tónghuā) are in bloom. Shengxing was once an important transport hub for the camphor oil industry, but a new tunnel meant main-line trains bypassed the village in the late 1990s. Today the tourist industry is booming, which means weekends and holidays turn the place into a bit of carnival, surrounded by car parks; it’s best to visit on a weekday if possible.