Hsinchu 新竹  (also spelt Xinzhu) is a city in the north-western part of Taiwan.
Hsinchu is the hometown of a particular form of rice noodles, called Mifen (米紛). In 1980, the Hsinchu Science-based Industrial Park (more often called simply 'The Science Park') was founded. The park has been very successful, and hosts companies like TSMC, AU Optronics, UMC and numerous other semiconductor manufacturers. The establishment of the park was a major boost to the economy of the area and as a result, Hsinchu, despite its relatively small population (around 350,000), has some surprisingly high standard hotels and shopping complexes. The average wage of the citizens of Hsinchu is now the highest in Taiwan, surpassing even that of the capital, Taipei.
Hsinchu is definitely not a tourist city, but you may find yourself here on business or attending a conference. Also, the city is a good base to explore the mountain areas of Hsinchu County
Due to the constant gusts of wind that blow in from the Taiwan Strait, Hsinchu is often referred to as the 'Windy City'. While the wind keeps the city relatively pollution free, it also makes it a very cold place in the winter, especially around the time of the Chinese (Lunar) New Year celebrations.
Hsinchu is located on the main Taipei - Kaohsiung rail and freeway routes, and it takes about one hour and ten minutes to reach the city from Taipei. The nearest airport is Taipei CKS International Airport, which is about a thirty minute drive.
- The How-Tai bus company run a fast, cheap (NT$120 from Monday to Thursday, NT$160 at weekend), efficient and very comfortable (extra wide seats with personal video screens) service from Taipei to Hsinchu. In Taipei, the red buses depart every fifteen minutes from Zhengzhou Road behind the Taipei Railway Station (north-east side of the station) and from bay 21 at the Taipei Bus Terminal - also called Taipei Intercity Bus Terminal (gray structure to the left and behind the railway station when looking at the station from Jung-xiao West Road. It is the furtherest of the two bus stations from the railway station). From Hsinchu, the buses depart from next to the Hsinchu Railway Station (when exiting the station, the bus stop is a two minute walk to the left, just past the Hsinchu Bus Station), and makes a stop at the National Tsing-Hua University en-route to the freeway. NB: If the driver doesn't collect your ticket before departure, hang on to it. You will need to give it to him when getting off the bus.
- The United Highway Bus ((03)383-4779) run a bus service to/from CKS International Airport (NT$100 one way) and many other destinations. Departure is from the centre of the Hsinchu Science-based Industrial Park and the trip takes about one hour. Other departure points might also be available, please check with them. Services start around 5:30 and run until about 22:30.
- Hsinchu is large enough for a local bus service, which connects the suburbs with the downtown area, though not large enough for taxis to cruise. You'll need to go to the station or a department store to pick one up from a taxi rank - or call, if you can speak Chinese.
Parks and scenic sites
- Chingtsao Park - Created around an oriental style lake, this centrally located park offers respite from the busy city.
- The central reservations of Wen-hwa, Xin-yi and San-min roads have been converted into parks. These stretches of green are great for taking a leisurely stroll on a sultry summer day or escaping from the office during lunch break. The parks on Wen-hwa and Xin-yi are especially pleasant, as they have incorporated running water into their design.
- Eighteen Peaks Mountain is a crescent of mountains circling the eastern and southern suburbs of Hsinchu. It is a great place for hiking and offers panoramic views of Hsinchu city and beyond. To get there drive along Guang Fu Road, turning left onto Nan-da Road, and then onto Bao-shan Road. This will lead to the mountains.
- Hsinchu Botanical Garden on Bao-shan Road (near the Tsing Hua University) has some great hiking trails and provides the opportunity to become acquainted with more than 300 varieties of Taiwan's indigeneous flora.
- Green Grass Lake (Qing-cao Hu) off Ming-hu Road is a parkland surrounding a lake - a great place to relax and watch water fowl gliding with the clouds.
- Amusement Parks Hsinchu is home of several theme parks, like Leofoo Village (http://leofoo.com.tw/) and others
Landmarks and temples
- Chenghuang Temple, located on the corner of Zhong-shan Road and Dong-men Street, is a typical Taoist temple with lots of colorful frescoes.
- Constructed from granite and with a distintive arched entrance, the historic East Gate is the city center's most well known landmark. It is located at the junction of Dong-men and Zhong-zhen Roads.
- Hsinchu's railway station was built in 1913 in the classic Baroque style that was popular in Taiwan at the beginning of the 20th century. There is nothing to see inside, but the facade provides a good backdrop for souvenir photographs of the city.
Museums and galleries
- The Craft Glass Museum - is dedicated to Hsinchu's long association with the craft of glass making. It is located in the park directly behind the railway staion. Open: Wed to Sun 9AM-5PM (ticket office closes at 4:30PM)
- The Municipal Image Museum - is located in the renovated former movie theater building. In addition to images and documents of film and theater in Taiwan, the museum also has an auditorium where movies and plays can be performed. Open: From Wed to Sun 9:30AM-12 noon, 1:30-5PM, 6:30-9PM. Production times: Wed to Fri 7:10~9PM, Sat and Sun 10AM, 2PM and 7:10PM. Address: 65 Tsong-tseng Road. Tel:5285840~2 Fax:5285843
Hsinchu has a large student population, many of whom study at the city's two most prestigeous universities, National Chiao Tung University and National Tsing Hua University. The two universities are known for their strengths in electrical engineering and the physical sciences, respectively.
Hsinchu is a typical Taiwanese city containing thousands of restaurants, and, becaue of the relatively large ex-pat community, many offer international cuisine.
As in most major cities in Taiwan, vegetarian buffets are common in many neighborhoods in Hsinchu. The price at a buffet is estimated by the weight of the food on your plate. Rice (there is usually a choice of brown or white) is charged separately, but soup is free and you can refill as many times as you like. NT$90 - NT$110 will buy you a good sized, nutritious meal.
The list below is for all-you-can-eat buffets (at these, there is a set charge, usually over NT$250, and the meal includes dessert and coffee/tea) or menu style restaurants:
- Green-On, 24 Chuanai Street. Tel:5728022
- There are two cheap and simple veggie restaurants on the short stretch of Da-tung Road between Zhong-yang and Zhongshan Roads - a buffet style at number 120 and noodles at number 89.
- There is a vegetarian outlet on Changan Street.
- Cheng Huang Temple, 75 Chungshang Road. Tel:5223666, also offers vegetarian fare.
- Golden Swallow Hotel, 13 Mintsu Road. Tel:522 7151
- Lakeshore Hotel Metropolis 1. Tel:611 6111
- Sol Hotel Downtown, 10 Wen-hwa Street. Tel:534 7266 - centrally located on the very pleasant tree-lined Wen-hwa Street.
- The Ambassador Hotel. Zhong-hua Road. Tel:515 1111 - Hsinchu's largest and most luxurious hotel
- Howard Plaza Hsinchu 178 Chungcheng Road. Tel: 528 2323 - Taiwan's largest domestic hotel and resort chain
- Caesar Park Hotel, 75 Zhong-hua Road. Tel:532 6622
- Lakeshore Hotel, 51, Lane 775, Ming-hu Road. Tel:520 3181 - overlooks a lake
...the beer situation in Hsinchu is rather dismal. Taiwan (brand) Beer, while not necessarily the worst in the world, is far from the best. Furthermore, most restaurants, pubs, and even high-class hotels carry a paltry selection, consisting mainly of Heineken, Kirin, Taiwan Beer and one of a variety of mass-marketed, mass-produced American beers (Budweiser, Coors, etc.). In some bars also the German Erdinger is available.
- Pig & Whistle, located near the Ambassador Hotel. Ostensibly a British pub, the Pig carries the widest selection of beers to be found in Taiwan, including Draught Guinness, Hoegaarden (a Belgian selection, in case you're wondering), Tiger Beer, Boddington's, and more. Upstairs there is a club with dance floor and live music.
- Flying Pig, located around the corner from the Sol Hotel at Wen Hua Jie, it has a small veranda to sit outside and watch the passing traffic. Inside it's a large bar with dance floor, pool table and table football. Friday and Saturday evenings always a go.
- Min Tsu Road, a small road just around the corner of Flying Pig and Sol Hotel, offers various small bars of different styles
All the main chains are represented in Hsinchu, with a Starbucks and Barista located across from the main railway station. Cafes with more unique character are to be found throughout the city center, especially around Wen-hwa Road and San-min Road - just walk around, you'll find something to your taste.
The main shopping center meanders through the roads and lanes from the main train station to Bei-da and Min-sheng Roads. SOGO Department Store is on the corner of Zhong-hua and Mintsu Roads (directly across from the railway station), and the Mitsukoshi Department Store has a large branch next to the Ambassador Hotel.
Windance Mall is the largest shopping complex in Hsinchu (reputedly the largest in Taiwan) and includes a ten screen Warner Village cinema. Windance in located at 233 Zhongyang Road - tel:515 5252.
Another major shopping center is the Far East Department store (FE21) in Xi-da Road on the corner of Xi-men Street. There is plenty of parking and it also has a wide range of movie theaters.
For a wide range of high quality trekking and backpacking goods, check out Mountain Hardwear, 2F., 161 Zhong-hua Road, Sec. 2. Tel:535 0798.
The best place for English books is at the main Hsinchu branch of Eslite on the corner of Xin-yi and Da-tung Roads. There is also a small Caves Bookstore in Dong-da Road, but is a little far out from the downtown area and the selection is limited.
The area dialling code for Hsinchu is 03. From overseas, dial +886 3 XXXXXXX
- Shih-tou Shan (Lion's Head Mountain) is a mountainous area on the borders of Hsinchu County and Miaoli County famous for its Buddhist temples and scenery.
- Shei-pa National Park (雪霸國家公園) spans mountains and rivers offering some great hiking, climbing and relaxation.
- Located near Hsinchu City is the Siao (Little) Ding-Dong Science Park. It is the only outdoor science playground in Taiwan.