Hsinchu is the oldest city in northern Taiwan and can be reached in an hour or so via Taiwan's TRA train system. To get to Hsinchu make your way to Taipei Main Station and head to the TRA section.
Check the screens for the next available train to Hsinchu (or stations beyond it). You can use your Easycard for access to the platforms. If you are unsure what train to catch, since there is hardly any English notices, ask the helpful staff in the ticket booths. They will be able to help you.
There are different ticket prices. If you use your Easycard to catch the train from Taipei to Hsinchu you do not get a seat on the train, it is just a standing ticket. If you purchase your ticket from the ticket booth, you will get a guaranteed seat. These are however more expensive. The ticket is also printed with a train number that can make finding the correct train easier.
We chose to use our Easycard to purchase a standing ticket. We then made our way on the train and sat down in two empty seats. If you do this be prepared to move if anyone appears with a seated ticket. Using the Easycard was nice and cheap for this short trip and it was quiet so there free seats available. It may not be a good idea for a longer trip where you may appreciate a guaranteed seat.
If you are lucky, the bento box lady will come by and you can feast on a vegetarian bento box like the one shown in the below photo. They cost NTD $80 each and easily fed both of us as a snack. Yummy!
Once you get to Hsinchu, if you have a heap of bags, the Hsinchu station has a baggage room for you to store your items. The prices are very reasonable. For a full day of storage it shouldn't cost you any more than NTD $50. We didn't store anything ourselves however I'd be surprised if there was any funny business with your bags.
Across the road from the front of the train station is a massive shopping centre called SOGO. Here you will be able to buy some label wear as well as buy some snacks, use the clean toilets and enjoy the air-conditioning.
Even though Hsinchu City is quite small, there is a lot of things to see and do. Our first stop on our Hsinchu day trip was to visit the residence of Hsin Chih-Ping who was the principal of the Hsin-Chu High School in the Japanese period.
Two buildings can be found on site, the first is the residence of Hsin Chih-Ping and his family. The house is absolutely amazing. The building has been lovingly maintained and the staff will happily show you around and tell you stories about the house.
The house is very Japanese in style with tatami mats covering the floors and movable walls between rooms. Andrew and I found the movable sliding outside walls to be particularly amazing. All the walls could be moved and then lifted off tracks and stored in a box attached to the outside of the house. There would certainly be no problem getting fresh air into the house. Just lovely! Unfortunately, we were not allowed to take photos inside the house, so you will just have to come to Hsinchu to see it!
The other building on the grounds was originally a dormitory where teachers teaching at the High School lived. It has been revamped into an Art and Culture Hall showing artwork and biographies of important people.
The gardens surrounding the house and the dormitory were also beautiful. We relaxed under a glorious tree providing a lot of shade. For more information, please click here.
Our next stop was at Taiwan's oldest zoo, the Hsinchu City Zoo. It was established in 1936. The entrance fee to the zoo is NTD $10 per adult. Children under 5 and seniors over 65 are free. The zoo grounds are open every Tuesday to Friday from 8:30 am to 5:00 pm except on Chinese New Year's Eve. Bargain!
Because the zoo was established in 1936, the cages, ponds and general animal grounds aren't the most expansive. Some of the areas are quite tight and brought a few tears to my eyes BUT the zoo grounds are in the process of being improved and they seem to be doing their best with the limited space they have. Some of the really old cages are on display but are no longer used.
Here are some of the lovely animals we got to see on our visit to Taiwan's oldest zoo...
There are a lot more things to see and do in Hsinchu. Check out this website for more info.
Hsinchu is best visited as a day trip from Taipei.