Tuesday, March 01, 2011

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Sanxia, Taiwan

3/01/2011 Taiwan Explorer
A town of temples and bull horns


Sanxia 三峽 (寧諾拼音: Sanshia, lit. "Three Gorges"), is a lovely small town located just outside Taipei's suburban area close to Yingge town and Taoyuan City. Sanxia is famous for an old street, that retains the colonial Japanese architecture from the early 20th century. That part is a huge tourist magnet, it's full of shops and restaurants. But aside from that, the town is home to a plenty of magnificent temples, of which the Zushi temple 祖師廟 (pronounced as Tsushi miao) stands out as one of the most beautiful temples in Taiwan. It was built 1767 by immigrants from the Fujian province in Southern China and oftentimes renovated over the course of time. This temple is even more impressive than the old Japanese street.

Aside from the temples and the Japanese colonial architecture, the town has also an impressive town hall building, various museums (such as the Hakka museum) and a very beautiful bridge, that features several pavilions and ends with a paifang. Aside from these popular parts, the town is purely Taiwanese like any other: Crowded roads with cars and scooters whizzing by, betel nut shops and food stalls left and right and the usual noise pollution (however still less than Taipei). Sanxia has an appearance of a small town and with a little over 100.000 inhabitants, it qualifies for one. But in recent years it's rapidly growing. I've seen new high-rise condos totally dominating the skyline. The town is full of students, because the main campus of the National Taipei University (or NTPU, not to confuse with NTU or Taida) is located here. Sanxia is also famous for a croissant in the shape of a bull's horn and the annual Pigs of God contest, where pigs are fed until they're very fat and then publicly slaughtered and paraded through the city. The festival is very controversial. My girlfriend went to the one held recently and you can read about it here.

I have put together a collection of photos and videos of our afternoon in Sanxia. In case you're interested to visit, here's what awaits you. Scroll down to the bottom of the post for a detailed information on how to get to Sanxia.

This is one of the streets in the suburban area.

While walking to the center, we saw this temple.

So far, it looked like a typical Taiwanese small town.

An impressive town hall building in Greek style.

A museum.

And then we arrived in the central area. It was holiday, hence so many people.

The Fude Temple.

One of the central streets.

A view from the area near the Fude Temple.
This is the way to the famous Zushi Temple.
The smell here was strong, someone was roasting chestnuts.
And then we were there, near the famous Zushi Temple, the pearl of Sanxia.
See my video of a vibrant part outside the temple. In Taiwan, there's always food near temples and people like to meet and gather. In Europe the area around churches is much more peaceful (one could say boring).
The Changfu Bridge 長福橋 features several pavilions.
People sitting near the Sanxia river. It was near dawn.
The famous Bull Horn croissant. I have to say it's really delicious. The taste of butter is very strong. It costs 20 NTD (0.50 Eur) and it's a must-try snack, if you visit Sanxia.
This street is full of beautiful Japanese colonial architecture.
My girlfriend told me, that the owners of these houses want to tear them down, but people protest and fought for the preservation. Today it really pays off, because it draws masses of visitors from all over Taiwan during the weekend. There are several shops and restaurants found here. Some are so popular, that people stand in long lines to get a taste of a popular snack. The whole area seems like new, the paving is very well done, so are the facades of the old buildings. This street is truly a gem and beside the old temple, it's the biggest tourist magnet of Sanxia.
This is my video of the Mingquan Old Street on a busy weekend.
There are many uncles playing with the Chinese yo-yo. Check how skilled this uncle is.
I've also seen a lot of monks in Sanxia. Probably because of the numerous temples here.
The crowds seemed to be never ending that day.
Sanxia doesn't have a real night market, but the Old street is a good replacement.
People everywhere.
A closeup on the old brick houses in Sanxia.
And that's the end of the Old street. We were going back.
These snacks are sold on the Old Street.
We saw this cute circus dog's performance near the old temple. Amazing!
A monk praying on the Changfu bridge.
The impressive gate (or paifang) at the end of the bridge.
This part could be seen as some kind of a night market, but it's not officially named so. And don't forget to read about the Pigs of God contest:
Read about the Pigs of God contest here>>
Sanxia is a very fascinating small town, which is definitely worth a visit. One afternoon should suffice to see all the main attractions and to try some of the local snacks. The easiest way to come here would be taking the regular train from Taipei Main Station to Yingge and then getting a cab from the Yingge Station to Sanxia. I don't think it would be too expensive, because the two towns are sticking together. There are also several buses available for you. In a couple of years it will be much easier to go to Sanxia, because a Taipei MRT line is currently under construction will be extended to this lovely small town.