September 26, 2008
The Neiwan Line
The Neiwan Line is the less famous brother of the Pingxi and Jiji (Chichi) branch lines, the only branch lines left in Taiwan (excluding Alishan) and all built during the Japanese occupation.
Neiwan, like Pingxi used to be a mining town but now exists mostly for tourists. As such, you can expect it to be packed during weekends and holidays so try and go off peak if you can.
In truth, there is little to distinguish Neiwan from any other small town in Taiwan. There are hot springs, food vendors, gift shops, coffee shops, a river and mountains.
However unless you are driving you might not have access to other small towns, and Neiwan is easy to get to and explore without needing to speak Chinese.
The branch line goes from Hsinchu station and takes about 50 minutes to reach Neiwan. With very little mountain scenery however, the Pingxi line beats the Neiwan line hands down.
There are however some things of interest. The old movie theatre that the Japanese built for the miners is still there, very close to the train station (on the left as you exit the station). The building (the Neiwan Theater) is now a restaurant, but the stage and screen are still in place and movies are screened as you eat. So you enjoy some traditional Hakka food and watch a Taiwanese film from the 70s, some even with English subtitles.
The high-roofed two storey building is decorated with paraphernalia from the mining heyday and days gone past, and it is this that makes it especially interesting. You can almost imagine the miners from days past gathering together, at what must have been the center of entertainment, cheering as the ROC armed forces put the region to rights. Huzzah!
Another reason people like to visit Neiwan, is the very well-known cartoonist, Liu Xing-ching (劉興欽). He still has a store in Neiwan and you won’t be able to miss it, as there are giant sized cartoon heads of two of his characters - which you can wear for photos – at the entrance. A lot of the art in Neiwan, including the tourist maps, were drawn by Liu and the man himself can sometimes be seen inside.
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