The first thing you notice about Sanyi is that about 9 out of 10 shops seem to be selling wood stuff. And that’s the main reason why most people make it here. The small town, located in Northern Taiwan’s Miaoli County, is the island’s uncontested woodcarving capital. Sanyi’s surrounding countryside also has a lot to keep you occupied.
First of all you should know that you don’t have to visit the museum in order to see Sanyi’s hand-carved wood products. Zhongzheng Road, the town’s main artery is packed with little shops that are filled with wooden items that range from little Buddha keychains to massive pieces of furniture. Some of the artwork is truly astonishing. It’s unbelievable the precision and time that some of the pieces must have required.
Sanyi Wood Sculpture Museum
This is the town’s top attraction. Set in a massive modern building, the Sanyi Wood Sculpture Museum features an exhibition on the history of woodcarving as well as vast collections of wooden sculptures.
If you’re on a trip to Taiwan for a few weeks, I wouldn’t recommend you twist your schedule and arrange your itinerary to absolutely visit Sanyi and its wood sculpture museum. It’s a cool place, but it’s not a must.
That being said, I have to admit that some of the sculptures in that museum are truly astonishing! Obviously, the two elephants standing at the entrance outside are the top items at the museum, but there’s also some pieces that date back to the 1950s, which are stunning, like those two tigers who seem to have come out from an old Chinese painting…
This tiny, atmospheric Hakka village is tucked away in the mountains, 6km outside of town. On weekends, this has to be one of Taiwan’s most crowded tourist spots and it’s a real nightmare if you’re driving your own car. It once took me more than an hour to find a parking spot. There are plenty of reasons why it’s so popular, though. The mountain air is clean, the people are friendly, the traditional Hakka food is cheap and delicious and the old train station is a cool spot to hang out.
Shengsing Old Train Station
Although way too popular, this abandoned train station is well worth a visit. Here, you’ll find a tiny wooden building where tickets used to be sold, platforms packed with Taiwanese tourists, old-style teahouses and restaurants perched on the mountainside and a 1km-long tunnel that you can cross in total darkness. Crossing the tunnel is a lot of fun and you can actually walk all the way to Longteng Broken Bridge, some 4km away.
Longteng Broken Bridge
The remains of this red-brick viaduct are located deep in the hills, about 4km past Shengsing Village, along country road 49. The bridge was built in 1905 and collapsed in 1935 when the Hsinchu Earthquake rocked Taiwan. Apart from taking pictures of the ruins, sitting down at the busy cafe by the nearby train track and indulging yourself is pretty much the only thing worth doing here… and that’s just fine with me!
Hiking and cycling
With beautiful green hills surrounding the area, Sanyi is also an outdoor town. You’ll find people cycling or walking along the many mountain paths at any time of the day. Country road #56, the one that can take you all the way to Shengsing Village and the old train station is especially popular. Another cyclists’ favorite is the sinuous #130 which can take you as far as the Taiwan Strait, some 10kms away.
One popular trail starts next to the Wood Museum. Use Maps.me to see the hiking trails clearly, as Google Maps only shows the trailhead.
Eating in Sanyi
Sanyi is famous for the quality and the range of its dining options. The town offers some of Taiwan’s best Hakka food. Zhongzheng Road, Guangsheng Village (by the museum) and Shengsing Village are the 3 top spots to find good value restaurants and cafes.
Getting there and away – Getting around
The only train from Taipei leaves at 8:53am. It takes about 2.5 hours and costs around NT200. Trains are plentiful from Taichungand only take forty minutes to reach the town.
Sanyi Train Station is located in the ugly, commercial part of town, 2km away from the main woodcarving strip. When you exit the station, turn left on Zhongzheng Road to get to the sites introduced on this page. After about a kilometer, you’ll see the turnoff (left) for Shengsing Village and Longteng Broken Bridge.
If you’re fit and have the entire day, walking is the best way to explore the town and the surrounding countryside. Taxis are also available at the train station. Expect to pay around NT150 for a ride to the museum.
It’s well known, the town isn’t very rich in hotels and finding a cheap place to sleep is impossible as there are basically none. Most people simply head to Taichung at the end of the day for more sleeping options and a better nightlife. Know that nearby Miaoli has tons of hotels/motels in the NT1000-1500 bracket.
Map of Sanyi
View Sanyi in a larger map
Links to other Taiwanese destinations…
- Taichung: Taiwan’s 3rd largest city, just 45 minutes away.
- Taipei: 10 reasons why we love Taiwan’s capital!
- Kaohsiung: Top 10 attractions in the beautiful harbor city.
- Hualien: City by the sea, gateway to Taroko Gorge.
- Hiking in Taiwan Travel Guide: Discover the wild Central Mountain Range and its remote hidden secrets.
- Lugang: Explore old China in modern Taiwan.
- Tainan: Temple galore, authentic Taiwanese culture, forts.