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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
1. Trails and hiking routes
Fenchihu has a number of scenic trails and hiking routes that one can explore.
2. Fenchihu Old Street
Fenchihu old street is believed to have a 160-year long history. Different shops and restaurants can be found here.
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.
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. 🙂
You can check out the details of my Alishan trip here.