First Day in Taiwan: Exploring Fenchihu

Ever since I saw a picture of Alishan National Scenic Area posted on Instagram, I started checking out blog posts about the place and made sure I get to visit it when I go to Taiwan. I was finally able to do so during my solo trip to Taiwan last month. Alishan is located in Chiayi County. To get there, one could take a public bus from Chiayi train station or take the Alishan Forest train to Fenchihu and then take a bus to Alishan. The blog post I read recommended taking the route Chiayi-Fenchihu-Alishan and since accommodations in Alishan are too pricey, I decided to spend a night in Fenchihu before going to Alishan.

My flight to Taiwan was originally scheduled at 11:00 PM of the 14th of November but because of the ASEAN Summit, it was re-timed to 12:20 AM on the following day. Then the flight was further delayed and we were able to leave at almost one in the morning. Flight to Taiwan takes 2 hours and 10 minutes. I didn’t book an accommodation in Taipei anymore because I planned my trip such that from Taoyuan, I will take a train to Chiayi County which is located in the southwestern part of Taiwan.

The first on my list of things to do after the immigration process was to have my peso exchanged to New Taiwan dollar (NTD) then purchase a Taiwan sim card. There was only one money changer open and the counter selling sim card was still closed because it was only past three in the morning. I had my money changed at the only available money changer. Next, I bought an Easy Card. Easy Card is similar to the Octopus Card of Hong Kong. It is a card that allows you to conveniently ride the MRT or bus systems without the need to constantly grab change out of your pocket. You can also use it for payment at 7-11, Family Mart, and other convenience stores and supermarkets.

The counter selling Taiwan sim card. On the left of this is the money changer.

How to Get to Chiayi from Taoyuan International Airport

To get to Chiayi from Taoyuan, you can either take the bus, the ordinary train (TRA) or the high-speed train (THSR). The high-speed train is the fastest (takes about an hour) but is the most expensive while the bus is the cheapest but takes 4 to 5 hours travel. I decided to take the ordinary train because I wanted to sleep a little; I was able to sleep for an hour only on the plane. The train trip takes around 3 hours.

To get to Taoyuan train station from Taoyuan International Airport, take Ubus 706. The first trip is at 5:55 AM and the bus frequency is 20-40 minutes. If you choose the high-speed train instead, then take Ubus 705 to Taoyuan THSR station.

The Train Ride to Chiayi

When I got to the TRA station, I tried to look for a sim card so I can have internet connection on my phone. Having an internet would be really helpful because most Taiwanese don’t understand/speak English. It is hard to ask them for directions. Unfortunately, I was not able to find one.

I didn’t know which train to take and how to go about purchasing a ticket. There were a lot of things posted in the station but most are written in Chinese characters which I do not understand. For a moment, I wanted to cry because I didn’t know what to do. But I didn’t give up easily and instead looked for the train timetable written in English. I used common sense to figure out which train to choose, where to buy a ticket and how to get to the railway platform.

At the railway platform, there is a screen showing arrival time of trains in that station (upper left photo). Printed on the train ticket (lower left photo) are the train departure time from your origin and the train arrival time at your destination, trip date, train number, car and seat number and the cost of the ticket. I marked with red circle in the right photo the sign for the waiting area for Car 10.

Inside train 105

Chiayi

After more than three hours of travel, I finally arrived at Chiayi. The next problem I had was what to do in Chiayi while waiting for the 3:10 PM bus to Fenchihu. It was only quarter to eleven in the morning. I read prior to going to Taiwan that there are only two trips of the bus going to Fenchihu from Chiayi, 7:10 AM and 3:10 PM.  The Alishan Forest Train, on the other hand, has only one trip and it leaves at 9:00 AM. I was considering visiting National Chung Cheng University, the real-life version of the Ying De University from the Taiwanese drama Meteor Garden but was worried I might not be able to get back to Chiayi train station before 3:00 PM.

Chiayi Train Station

Luckily, there’s a Visitor Information counter at the Chiayi train station. I asked the lady in charge if there is an earlier trip to Fenchihu. I was told that the next bus leaves at 12 noon. Problem solved! Since I still had an hour to spend in Chiayi, I attempted to look for a sim card again. Unfortunately, the shop that sells such didn’t have available stock so I decided to go to the bus stop.

While waiting at the bus stop, this Majin Buu look-alike started talking to me in Chinese. I said I don’t speak Chinese so he started talking to me in sign language. He asked if I was alone, if I am married etc. Then he pointed to my phone signaling that we should take a selfie so this.

Chiayi-Alishan bus timetable

Fenchihu

Cherry blossoms

After an hour and 40 minutes of travel, I finally arrived at Fenchihu. It is located in Zhuqi Township, Chiayi County. It is located 1400 meters above sea level and is famous for its unique railway culture, delicious food on the old streets and trail system with enriched natural resources.

After checking-in at my hotel, Yeashow Villa, I started exploring the place. But first, I looked for a place to eat. I haven’t had lunch yet and it was already almost 3 in the afternoon. There were so many food choices available that I was having a hard time choosing where to eat. In the end, I chose a restaurant with a view of the mountains.

Late lunch/snack: Fried potatoes and mushrooms and iced tea. This iced tea was not sweet though, it’s a cold-brewed oolong tea.

Things to Do/Places to Visit in Fenchihu

Fenchihu has got amazing sceneries and really nice weather. It is a blissful and small area so there aren’t too many things to do. You can actually cover the whole area in half a day. But it is a place that you should check out if you’re traveling to Alishan. It is very scenic and really pretty.

Houses are built in accordance with hill slopes

Chayote/sayote vines are everywhere.

The Green Shed Path is made of chayote. It was the major economic crop for Fenchihu people in the past. Back in the 50s and 60s, locals built sheds to plant chayote that would grow in accordance with the shed. (http://www.fenchihu-hotel.com.tw/en/tourguide/ecotour.asp)

Cacti growing on walls

1. Trails and hiking routes

Fenchihu has a number of scenic trails and hiking routes that one can explore.

The trails are made of wooden stairs

The giant trees

Trees everywhere

Love these bamboos

Don’t know what these flowers are, but they look really beautiful

During my walk, I passed by this Catholic Church. I dropped by to say a prayer and to make three wishes

Super cute water tank

2. Fenchihu Old Street

Fenchihu old street is believed to have a 160-year long history. Different shops and restaurants can be found here.

You can buy the famous Fenchihu lunch box here

These are okra chips. They’re really delicious and crunchy

3. Fenchihu Train Garage (Museum)

This is where few old train engine models, old steam locomotives, refuel station as well as a number of pictures displaying the glorious history of Alishan Forest Railways can be found.

The Fenchihu Train Garage

Inside the museum

So… that’s what happened on my first day in Taiwan. Quite challenging because of the language barrier but I survived. And I had a very relaxing afternoon in Fenchihu. Hope you enjoyed reading my first-day adventure. Feel free to comment if you have questions. 🙂

P.S.

You can check out the details of my Alishan trip here.

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7 thoughts on “First Day in Taiwan: Exploring Fenchihu

  1. My partner and I stumbled over here different website and thought I may as well check things out. I like what I see so now i’m following you. Look forward to looking into your web page yet again.

  2. Hi tina,

    I am planning to go to taiwan next year for 7 days with my mother (my birthday gift to her haha). And alishan is on my list! Thanks for sharing your experience, it was very detailed compared to other blogs i have read. Can you share your itinerary to a fellow filipino please? Hehe i would really appreciate it. Thanks and keep on writing!

    • Thank you Share! 🙂 Im glad to know that you liked my post. I am already working on the post about my itinerary in Taiwan. I will let you know once I finish it. 🙂

  3. Lucky that I found your blog! I am going to Alishan this November and booked accomodation also in Yeashow Villa. How was your stay there? Is it easy to find the place? I’m travelling with my parents so just want to be extra careful 🙂 Thank you very much!

    • Thanks for visiting my blog. My stay there was okay. Though Fenchihu is a small place, I highly recommend that you ask the shops near 7-11 where Yeashow Villa is located to save time. To get to the reception of the hotel, you need to get down the stairs from the road. 🙂

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