Sunday, May 22, 2011

Tai'an, Taiwan's tofu village

5/22/2011 Taiwan Explorer

Tai'an 泰安 is so far the smallest village I have ever seen in Taiwan. It's located in Miaoli County 苗栗縣, about 30min away from Miaoli City by car, in a small and long valley, an area known for being the home of Taiwan's Atayal people. My wife and I together with her family went on a short trip to this beautiful region. We decided to visit this tiny village, famous for hot springs and tofu, out of curiosity. I had not heard of Tai'an before, but now it's definitely a place I will remember. Why is that so, read further below.

Show bigger map

Tai'an is truly a tiny village, a micro village. There are three small lanes, few tofu shops and that's it! If you ever decide to go here and wonder, why you came all the way from the civilization to this small village at the end of the world, don't say I haven't warned ya! I think the best reason to visit Tai'an is to go to one of their famous hot spring hotels, but more about that later. If you just come, because you've read about a famous "Tofu Old Street", you made a big mistake. I think on the way to the onsen, you can make a short stopover and try the tofu, if you must. But if you don't, you won't miss a lot...

Let me show you some photos of Tai'an from May, 2011:

This is where we parked the car, in front of the township office.

The nature is beautiful here and probably the no 1 reason to visit.

The village is squeezed between a hill and a river. Cute.

This is the biggest junction in the area. One part goes deeper into central Taiwan, another one goes up to the famous hot spring hotels.

After crossing a small pedestrian (?) bridge, you are in central Tai'an.

The central part with tofu shops and a police station (they must be busy!).

This is truly a sleepy village.

Stinky tofu is sold everywhere here.

The "famous" Old Street.

Something about this photo makes me melancholic... It's like it's stuck in some old times.

We decided to try the tofu at the most popular shop: Qingan Tofu Shop.

The funny thing was, when we arrived here and all tables were occupied and people were munching the tofu, many of them turned to us (and me), while trying to chew the hot tofu. Their mouths were half open and I thought the image was very comical. Of course 15 min later I was like them, haha.

This is what we ordered:

Black tofu (80NTD), not bad.

Black tofu from close, full of pepper.

Bamboo soup (50NTD) and tofu in salad (60NTD).

Fried tofu balls (80NTD), my favorite.

Sautéed tofu (60NTD), not bad.

We paid 380 all together (we ordered 2 soups), we were 5 people. We got full, but most of us felt the food is too expensive and just very average. Everybody liked the fried tofu balls the most. If you must try the tofu here, don't expect too much.

As soon as we finished the meal, we decided to go back.

This is the way to some famous hot springs in the area. I wanna visit next time.

This is Onsen Papawaqa, one of the most famous (and expensive) hot spring resorts in Taiwan. I heard that staying overnight costs over 5000 NTD (120 Eur). Click on pic for more (courtesy of the resort).

The Houlong River (lit. Dragon Back River) passes by and continues to Miaoli City.

Aboriginal art (?)...

If you come Taipei to Tai'an, you will feel like you came to another country. The time stands still here, nothing is going on in this village. All you'll see is tourists trying to eat the hot tofu and chewing it with open mouths. I think it's definitely one of the highlights here. For more action it's better to visit one of the hot springs, if you know what I mean. Anyway, I will return to this area, I really love the nature. If you work 12h a day in Taipei, Tai'an feels like heaven (with a smell of tofu, though...). Read about the same trip in Chinese>>

[My TAIWAN TRAVEL page][TAIWAN][All photos by MKL, 2011]