Four towns in Taiwan namely, Fenglin, Nanzhuang, Sanyi and Dalin, have been recognised with prestigious ‘Slow Town’ status by Cittaslow International. This influential Italy-based association, inspired by the ‘Slow Food’ movement, promotes a relaxed lifestyle. Its goals are quality improvement in daily living through the slowing down of the overall pace, a more people-friendly flow of humans and vehicles through public spaces, environmental conservation, sustainable development and ‘Slow Food’ culinary habits. In these small towns, visitors can immerse themselves in their unique culture and traditions and discover what they have to offer at a leisurely pace.
As a world-class tourist destination, many first-time travellers think of Taiwan as an industrial dynamo with big busy cities and humming factories, responsible for producing world-famous products like industry-vanguard microchips and Giant and Merida bicycles. While that is true, the island is more than just that. It was once a land of towns and villages, and international visitors will be delighted to know that this part of Taiwan remains very much alive.
Find a cycling community in Fenglin, Taiwan’s first-recognised Slow Town. Located off the east coast of Hualien County, this quaint rural town is carpeted in beautiful greenery and roadside fields. Expect the freshest produce as food is locally grown without the use of GMOs.
Further up in hilly Miaoli County sits Nanzhuang, a former coal-mining site that’s surrounded by the foothills of the majestic Snow Mountain range. Populated by residents of Hakka descent, this unique village serves plenty of gastronomic Hakka treats, such as braised pork with plum leaves and dried-radish omelettes. The town’s main tourist attraction is the narrow Nanzhuang Old Street, dense with old shops and eateries.
Southwest of Nanzhuang and also in Miaoli’s rolling hills lies Sanyi. Dubbed the ‘woodcarving kingdom of Taiwan’, this hill-area enclave is celebrated for its woodworking and railway industries.You can find products like furniture and utensils in wood-sculpture studio shops and the Sanyi Wood Sculpture Museum, where travellers would find the most intriguing collection of mythological statues.
Dalin is a small rural town on the southwest plains of Chiayi County, surrounded by flat farmland where rice, pineapples, orchids and more are cultivated. Steeped in heritage shops offering traditional Chinese medicines and savoury street food such as stinky tofu, the town is rich in old architecture, including a restored movie theatre and ruins of an old sugar factory. A guided walking tour is your best way to explore this quaint location.