A flavourful city keeping many of Taiwan's food traditions alive.
A small city surrounded by lush mountains, Chiayi primarily serves as a pitstop for visitors of Alishan. Originally occupied by Aboriginals, the city came under the rulership of both Chinese and Japanese; until Taiwan's 'independence' in 1945.
Chiayi may not share the limelight with Taipei (thanks to its seclusion) but it does offer a deeper understanding of Taiwan's culture—especially its food.
Best time to visit: Mid September-Mid December for dry and pleasant weather.
Currency: New Taiwan Dollar (NT$)
Two trains, an Express (HSR) and a Commuter (TRA), can take you to Chiayi wherever you are in Taiwan.
Tip: The HSR station is 15km from the city center. If coming from Tainan or Taichung, it's best to take the TRA instead.
Getting around: The center is so small you can walk around it in 30min.
Thank you : xie xie (shie-shie)
Hello : ni hao (ni-haw)
Good : hao
How much? : duo shao? (dwo-shaw)
Bill please : mai dan
Yes : shi (sher)
No : bu shi (pu-sher)
Do: Tip in bars
Don’t: Talk about Taiwan-China politics; Leave chopsticks standing upright in a bowl of rice; Wear shoes indoors; Tip in restaurants
Here’s a guide for a 2 day visit in Chiayi.
For Your Sour Fruity Tea Fix
The first thing you’ll notice in the city center is the unbelievable long queue in front of this tiny tea shop. Locals seem to love this place as it is rarely idle. Their price is a bit more expensive than other places, but once you’ve tried what they offer...you’ll have them take all your money!
11AM EAST MARKET
Market Packed With Good Food
Chiayi’s East Market is known for its fresh produce as well as a slew of eateries found inside its bowels. If you’re a bit squeamish at the sight of raw meat, fish innards, and the likes, you might want to skip this market—but you’ll be missing out on loads of good bites.
Must eat: beef entrail soup, fried pork spare ribs, savoury sticky rice cake, fresh spring rolls
1PM CHIAYI OLD PRISON
A Prison from the Japanese
Opened in 1922, an apparent feature of Chiayi Prison is its Separate System architecture; where the prison blocks radiate out of the center main hall (just like a fan). An interesting place to satisfy your curiosity, as well as a glimpse of the Japanese colonial era.
2PM ALISHAN FOREST RAILWAY GARAGE PARK
To Marvel at Old Trains
Another infrastructure built by the Japanese during their reign in Taiwan is the Alishan Forest Railway; originally built for the logging industry, it has become one of the country’s top tourist activities.
If you don’t intend to visit the mountains, you could still go to the Garage and ogle trains of every sort, as well as specific rail cars. Black Head, a steam locomotive, is undoubtedly the star of this park.
5PM WENHUA NIGHT MARKET
For the Best Chiayi Grubs
Surely smaller than Taipei or Tainan’s more famous night markets, Wenhua has got more to offer that is definitely bigger. One advantage of going out of your way, and deciding to stay in Chiayi is the food experience. Despite its tiny and obscure location, it holds one of Taiwan’s best kept traditions. So it’s good to know that their night market offers specialties only found and served in Chiayi.
10AM TURKEY RICE
The Real Deal
A great starter for your 2nd day is the famous Turkey Rice. Pumping your tummy with steaming rice topped with shredded turkey and pickled radish will give you an energy boost for a day of walking.
11.30AM LANTAN RESERVOIR
A remnant of the Dutch and Japanese era, Lantan Reservoir is a big man-made lake (dam) that serves as the city’s main water source. It offers a splendid scenery for a natural stroll and to simply breath in tranquility.
When you feel re-energised, do some stretches as you’ll be walking back to the city center.
1) Take CHIAYI COUNTY BUS in front of the TRA station, 2) Ride DOWNTOWN ROUTE No. 1, 3) Alight at LANTAN CAMPUS Chiayi University
2.30PM SUN SHOOTING TOWER
40m High Empty Tower
Traverse Xiaoya Road, it’ll take you about 30min-40min from the lake to the tower, depending on your pace. But don’t fret as it is a fun and entertaining detour. If you’d rather wait for the bus, you’ll have to sit and wait for hours, so we strongly suggest walking back.
The shooting tower takes it form from a colossal sacred tree in Alishan, and is considered as Chiayi’s top landmark. You can climb up to the 11th floor and relax your legs and feet in their café while enjoying a pleasant view of the city.
4.30PM ZHUJU TEA HOUSE
To Experience Ancient China
An imperial tea house built around a pond, craftily styled with Chinese decorations to optimize your feel of Zen, is the ideal place to culminate your Chiayi trip.
Jiu zhe yhang (就這樣)! 2 DAYS of foodgasm in CHIAYI!