The best day trip in North Taiwan: It’s Alice to Neiwan

If I close my eyes I can still feel the scooter rattling along the road beneath me, the wind sweeping past, cooling the hot summer air and carrying with it the potent, earthy smells of the mountains of Taiwan as I race along a winding road only 30 minutes from our apartment in Zhubei City. It didn’t take long before we were out of the bustling city and into a sea of lush, verdant beauty.

It was heaven on earth.

It’s been well over a month since Kylie and I took our last beautiful scooter ride through the mountains of northern Taiwan, and I think it is high time we share our favorite route with the world. I have included the route on google maps below (make sure you choose options -> avoid highways). I can only hope someone out there in internetland reads this, rides the route, and gets the same joy out of it that we did.

There are many additional roads, routes and detours one could make or take on this day trip, but I am going to lay down the basic route we often took, and you, grand adventurer, can forge your own special way if you like.

Our journey started in what is essentially a suburb of Hsinchu City, on the border of Hsinchu City and Hsinchu County.

We hit the 120 East (or alternatively the 118 to the 115 to the 120). This is a pretty direction to be driving as the city starts to thin and the mountains start to grow ahead of you.

The 120 weaves in and out of the 123 and eventually you take a right on the 123.

You make a beautiful crossing over the Touqian river (make sure you see the sights to your left and right, carefully mind you!) into the small but heavily traveled city of Zhudong. Just over the bridge you take another left onto Beixing road.

Beixing T’s off with the #3. You face the veteran hospital and take a right. Stay sharp here, because the roads are confusing for a while and the traffic is a bit of a nightmare, especially on holiday weekends.

Take a left on the 122/Dongfeng/Nanqing, which is where the 7/11 is.

Once you are on the 122, you are cruising for a while. Once you get out of Zhudong, the air will cool and the mountains will suddenly open up in front of you.

122 is a stunning ride. You can cruise it for a long time – It only gets more beautiful – and reach one of our favorite campsites (but that’s for another blog post).

For our present day trip, you are now headed to one of our favorite restaurants, and indeed one of our favorite places, in Taiwan: It’s Alice Cafe!

45 minutes outside of Zhubei, nestled into the mountains between Beipu and Neiwan just off the 122 on the mountain crossing 35 road, is the cutest, most whimsical cafe run by a very kind, very beautiful (and single as of this blog post! *ahem* you better hurry gentlemen!) young woman named Alice Hsieh.

We recommend anything with the spicy salami, especially the spicy salami sandwich. It is one of my favorite spicy delights that side of the Pacific!

Everything is beautifully presented, and the coffee and tea selection is exceptional. I highly recommend the earl grey milk tea.

Perhaps the most stunning thing about It’s Alice Cafe is the view, it is one we will never forget.

Once you have had your fill at It’s Alice, continue on the 35 up and over the mountain. There are a few ways you can go over from here, each route providing it’s own unique perspective of this beautiful region. You can follow the 35-1, the 34 or stick to the 35. Either way, set your destination for Neiwan Old Street.Once you are over the mountains, you will come down into the sleepy little tourist town of Neiwan.
Neiwan was a bustling mining town up to and around the 1960s, but after the decline of local mines, it was eventually converted to a quaint little tourist destination with a busy market stretching up “Neiwan old street”

There are also some interesting tidbits around the area regarding the Native Hakka culture and the old Neiwan train line, but the market is the main attraction.  According to “Neiwan has a special kind of zongzi (糭子) sold at many shops in the main street. It is wrapped in ginger leaves rather than in Palmleaves and gives it a special taste.”From Neiwan you can make a slow, leisurely drive back down the 120 to Zhubei. The whole trip, stops included could take anywhere from 4 to even 8 hours, depending on your speed. We recommend taking it slow. There is much to see, and even in slow-mo, you will want to travel this route many, many times!

Happy scootering!

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