Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Nanzhuang 南庄

Hello Taiwan, I am back! Since my first trip here back in 2009, I have been wanting to make a return visit and this year, I finally had a chance to visit the island again. This time, I came with my parents.

I did not choose to join a Malaysian tour agency this time, unlike my previous trip. Instead, I found roundTAIWANround during one of my Google searches and chose to use their services due to three things:

1) My communication with them was entirely in English (well, you know, my Chinese is pretty limited)
2) They went along with my choices of accommodation and places to visit (I do not like how some other local Taiwanese tour groups insist on their choice of accommodation)
3) They were super accommodating and helpful in suggesting places that my parents and I may enjoy, and were very prompt in their replies

If you are like me (a partial or total banana), I totally recommend them so that you could enjoy your holiday in a language that you would understand. They may be a tad pricier than other tour agencies but I would rather pay to stay at places that I want to stay at and visit places that I want to visit.

My parents and I were greeted at the airport by our guide, Allie (阿立), a really friendly and chatty fella with an easy-going personality. Poor guy, our flight had a delayed landing due to the heavy traffic at the airport (we were flying in circles for quite a while), so he had to wait for a bit and was apologetic when informing us that our itinerary may have be be slightly rushed due to the time lost. He did not need apologise though, it was not his fault the airport had too many planes!

First place we stopped at was a place called Nanzhuang (南庄), a township situated in the county of Miaoli (苗栗). After about 1.5 hours of driving, Allie parked the car under a bridge, next to a stone river where locals were seen fishing.

The main reason I asked to make a stop here was because I wanted to try a local dessert called the iced sweet dumpling with osmanthus malt (桂花酿冰镇汤圆) I found out about a few years ago. Fingers crossed, I hoped we were not too late in arriving at Osmanthus Alley (桂花巷).

I saw the first two stalls open and thought, yes, we are in luck!

But once I walked up that little slope, I saw that most of the stalls had their shutters down. Oh no... we were too late.

But we can't come and not try any of their osmanthus produce, can we? I mean, we have come all the way! And so, the one stall that was still open very enthusiastically gave us samples of almost every product on display.

We did not dare buy too many, as it was after all, our first stop. After that, we checked out the place and was introduced to a historical public wash trough still in use today. According to Allie, the water flows in from a local spring.

We passed a temple...

... and the local post office (so adorable!).

We found the town to be peaceful and very much like Bentong, as it is also flanked by mountains and has a river flowing through.

Before making our way to our accommodation, we had dinner at a local restaurant called 客家庄小吃. We wanted to see the difference between the Hakka food here and the Hakka food we have back home.

It took me a while to order because of well, my limited reading ability and so I passed the job to Mum. We ordered the following and found the first three dishes very familiar to us. What we found new were the last two dishes, both which were recommended by Allie:

Braised beancurd 红烧豆腐
Stir-fry Areca flower 炒槟榔花
Hakka Stir Fry 客家小炒
Fried Hakka Ban Tiao 炒客家粄条
Hakka Glutinous Rice Balls 客家汤圆
The ban tiao (粄条) is like a wet char kway teow version of our ban meen. The glutinous rice balls left an impression because unlike the sweet ones that we are used to, these are savoury ones, which were like wow, I can have the entire bowl!

We left satisfied and feeling positive about the rest of our holiday. First meal in Taiwan - thumbs up!

No comments: