Chiayi City is a laid-back, friendly country town of around 270,000 people and is the access point for trips to the scenic mountain area of Alishan. If you are on your way to Alishan, note that it is not necessary to stay in Chiayi, as buses leave quite frequently.
High Speed Rail
Chiayi is also served by mainline TRA trains and the scenic narrow-gauge Alishan Forest Railway to Alishan, which both leave from the same station, but have separate ticketing counters. Long-distance buses leave from the terminal immediately outside the station, but local buses (notably those to nearby hot spring town Guanzihling) use the Zhongshan Rd bus terminal a few hundred meters down the street.
The Alishan Forest Railway was severely damaged by Typhoon Morakot in 2009. As of January 2015, the train runs from Chiayi to Fencihu only, with the remainder of the line still closed for repairs. The local lines within the recreation area are operating normally.
The Chiayi Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system has three lines, with the main line linking the HSR and TRA railway stations. The trip between the two takes around 30 minutes (NT$40, exact change - no charge if going directly between the HSR & TRA stations), but note that the BRT stop is on the rear side of the TRA station, so you need to take the pedestrian bridge to cross to the other side. The location of the TRA station is not obvious from the BRT stop. If coming from the direction of the HSR railway, after you get off at the stop, cross to the other side of the street at the intersection you have just passed. The "back station" area is still under construction - bear to the right and you should find the pedestrian bridge. If coming from the TRA station, go to the far left when facing the station from the outside (past the taxi queue) and you will find signs and a pedestrian bridge upstairs that leads to some patchy BRT signs - BRT is on the ground floor, usually bus terminal 1 (likely to be a queue of other people) for a free ride to the HSR station.
Buses have announcements and signage in English as well as Chinese.
Taxis are plentiful, especially around the train stations, and some pidgin English is spoken.
Buses to Alisan cost about NT$236-250 one way, and can be bought at the bus station next to the train station. The ride takes 2-2½ hours. There are also some gypsy cabs that will drive you to Alisan, too.
The best way to get to know Chiayi is to take a walk down Culture Road, and not just once but a few times, back and forth. There are also two movie theaters where you can experience watching both Western movies and Chinese-language movies in a theater packed with local Taiwanese viewers, young and old. There is a good bookstore called Hon-too Bookstore with a wide range of English-language magazines which you can peruse at your leisure. For some quiet downtime, Chiayi Park and Botanical Gardens are a lovely way to spend the afternoon. The Botanical Gardens provide pleasant trails that weave you through a large variety of plants and trees native to the area. Ponds hold Japanese koi fish, turtles, and frogs. Chiayi park is well-maintained and serves as a center of activity for local adults—and senior citizens—and children from 05:00 to late in the afternoon.
Culture and history
- 1 Hinoki Village (檜意森活村), No. 1, Linsen East Road, East District, ☏ . 10:00-18:00. Also referred to as the Cypress Forest Life Village, the village consists of 28 wooden Japanese-style dormitories as well as the Alishan Forest Club, director's official residence, guest house, public bathhouse, etc.
- 2 Sun-Shooting Tower (射日塔), No. 46, Gongyuan Street, East District, ☏ . W-Su 09:00-17:00. The tower exterior designed was inspired by a giant sacred tree in Alishan. The brown aluminum pattern mimics the wood grain of the tree and the center is left with a 40-m-high empty space that mimics the crack in the center of that giant sacred tree. The interior bronze sculpture is inspired by the "Sun-Shooting" legend of Taiwanese aborigines. This bronze-made sculpture is 24 meters tall and 3 meters wide.
- 3 Chiayi Jen Wu Temple (嘉義仁武宮), No. 54, Beirong Street, East District, ☏ . A smaller temple built in 1677 using materials imported from Fujian Province on the Chinese Mainland.
- 4 Chiayi Confucian Temple (嘉義孔子廟), 600, Taiwan, Chiayi City, East District. 06:00-21:00. A Confucian temple within the Chiayi Park which was built in 1706, but relocated to its current site in 1961.
- 5 Mount Jiuhua Kshitigarbha Temple (嘉義九華山地藏庵), No. 255, Minquan Road, East District, ☏ . 0600-2130. A large, red, multi-storey temple complex.
- 6 St. John's Cathedral (聖若望主教座堂), No. 62, Minquan Road, West District. The cathedral church of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Chiayi.
- 7 Chiayi Municipal Museum (嘉義市立博物館), No. 275-1, Zhongxiao Road, East District, ☏ . The founding of the museum was a collective community effort in the hope to establish a cultural public space for all of the residents of Chiayi City. Among its displays are silk wrappings used to cover Tibetan Buddhist texts and an Islamic jade collection of the Qing emperors.
- 8 Chiayi City Historical Relic Museum (嘉義市史蹟資料館), No. 42, Gongyuan Street, East District, ☏ . Tu-Su 08:00-17:30 (closed Sa). A museum of local history within the main park in the city. There is a limited amount of material in English, so it may not be as engaging for non-Mandarin speakers.
- 9 Chiayi Old Prison (嘉義舊監獄), No. 140, Weixin Road, East District, ☏ . Tu-Su 09:30-11:30, 13:30-15:30 (closed M). A former prison building which now houses a museum of the prison system in Taiwan.
- 10 Museum of Ancient Taiwan Tiles (台灣花磚博物館), No. 282, Linsen West Road, West District, ☏ . W-Su 10:00-17:30. A tiling museum housed in an old Japanese-era lumbermill building.
- 11 Taiwan Hinoki Museum (希諾奇台灣檜木博物館), No. 146, You'ai Road, West District, ☏ . A museum about hinoki trees.
Do visit the 1931 Kano baseball museum, which houses old photographs of the famous Chiayi high school team from 1931.
- 1 Chiayi City Municipal Baseball Stadium (嘉義市立棒球場), ☏ . M-F 08:00-17:30. A 10,000-seat stadium built in 1918, and refurbished frequently since. The stadium regularly holds Chinese Professional Baseball League (CPBL) games.
- 2 Chiayi City Municipal Stadium (嘉義市立體育場), No. 2, Tiyu Road, East District, ☏ . The city's main athletics stadium.
- 3 Chiayi City Cultural Square, No. 600, Taiwan, Chiayi City, East District. A complex containing a number of arts-related buildings and institutions.
- Cultural Affairs Bureau (嘉義市政府文化局), No. 275, Zhongxiao Road, East District, ☏ . Tu-Su 09:00-21:00 (closed M).
- Chiayi Municipal Cultural Affairs Bureau Library (嘉義市政府文化局圖書館), No. 275, Zhongxiao Road, East District, ☏ . Tu-Su 09:00-20:00 (closed M).
- Chiayi City Music Hall (嘉義市政府文化局音樂廳), No. 275, Zhongxiao Road, East District. +886 5 278 8225.
- 4 Art Site of Chiayi Railway Warehouse (嘉義鐵道藝術村), No. 37-10, Bei-sing intersection, ☏ . Last Sa of every month: 14:00 to 17:00. An artists' space constructed from a former railway yard where visitors can view works from local artists.
- 5 Chiayi Performing Arts Center (嘉義縣表演藝術中心), No. 265, Section 2, Jianguo Road, Minxiong Township, ☏ . M-F 08:00-17:00. A multi-arts park space with performance halls and galleries.
Parks and nature
- 6 Chiayi Park (嘉義公園), No. 264, Qiming Road, East District, ☏ . A large 26.8-ha park in the city which contains a number of local landmarks within its grounds.
- 7 [dead link] Chiayi Botanical Garden (嘉義植物園). A botanical garden which spreads across 8.6 ha of land. It is an experimental ground for planning and developing economical tropical trees. As of 2020, there are 140 tree species in the garden, which is further classified into 47 families and 107 classes.
- 8 Chiayi Cultural and Creative Industries Park (嘉義文化創意產業園區), No. 616, Zhongshan Road, West District, ☏ . Tu-Su 10:00-18:00. A multi-purpose park area which also contains facilities for community education programmes.
- 9 Lantan Lake (蘭潭水庫). The lake is also called the Holland Lake, Dutch Lake, and Hong-Mao Pei (see ang mo) because the lake was dug by the Dutch around 300 years ago during the Dutch Formosa rule. The lake covers 2km2 and is the main water resource of Chiayi City.
Culture Road (site of the "Wunhua Rd Night Market", see below) is Chiayi's main shopping street. Another shopping street, but more commercial and less cool, is Zhongshan Road (中山路) which stretches from the main train station to a roundabout public fountain area at Culture Road.
One specialty chain store on Zhongshang Road is the "Guang Nan" (光南), which sells small electronics and other media-related goods. Catch a good deal on cables and computer accessories here, along with VCDs of Taiwan dramas/Japanese anime/American films (subtitled in traditional Chinese).
There are two night markets in Chiayi, but the most famous and the best is the Culture Road night market. The other night market, also fun and tasty, is the Carrefour Night Market next to the Carrefour store along Bo Ai Road.
Chiayi is famous in Taiwan and among tourists for its turkey rice (火雞肉飯), a popular dish of turkey strips and a savory sauce ladled over the white rice. It's available at many sidewalk shops and indoor eateries around town, NT$20-40.
- Fountain Turkey Rice (噴水雞肉飯), 325 Zhongshan Rd (中山路325號). One of the most popular turkey rice joints in town, with a number of franchises. But the shop on Culture Road, around the corner, is the most famous -- and crowded. NT$50-100.
- 1 Chiayi East Market (嘉義市東市場), ☏ . 06:30-18:00. A local market of fresh produce with a number of cooked food stalls.
- 2 Chia-Le-Fu Night Market (嘉樂福夜市), No. 467, Section 2, Bo'ai Road, West District, ☏ . Tu-Su 18:00-00:00. Also called the Carrefour Night Market, situated along Bo Ai Rd near the Carrefour store offers a tasty variety of Taiwanese food dishes, and you can sometimes spot foreigners busking, juggling, miming, or selling their Chinese-language books there. The barbeque stall at the entrance is a must-try, as is almost every other stall in the market. The night market spans over an area of 1,800m2 and consists more than 300 food stalls.
- 3 Wenhua Road Night Market (文化路夜市). 17:00-01:00. The night market features famous Chiayi snacks and delicacies. Many popular restaurants and traditional dishes can be found along the night market road.
- 4 Mituo Night Market (彌陀夜市), Liren Road, East District. W, F: 17:00-23:00.
Chiayi has many roadside tea shops and quite a few karaoke lounges, and a few pubs and bars, too.
- Cha-no-Michi (茶の道), Zhongshan Rd 505-1. Pleasant little modern tea shop right next to the Zhongshan Rd bus terminal, offering up a vast range of yummy Taiwanese drinks like milk tea with pudding chunks (布丁奶茶) and more traditional fruit juices. NT$15-40.
There are a number of business and tourist motels just outside the TRA Chiayi station.
- Chiayi Dream Hotel (嘉興旅館), Zhongzheng Rd 750 (中正路730號. Renovated and clean, around the corner from the station. Beds are comfortable and sleep will come to the tired traveller.
- New Alisan Hot Spring Motel (新阿里山溫泉汽車旅館), No. 269 Siwei Road (四維路269號), ☏ . A modern motel about 2 km west of the train station, offering fancy spa bathrooms in most rooms. Standard rooms from NT$1,200, spa rooms from NT$1,680.
- Alishan — one of Taiwan's best known scenic mountain areas
- Guanziling — a quiet and very rural hot spring resort
- Chung Cheng University, one of Taiwan's most beautiful university campuses, is 30 minutes by bus from Chiayi City.
|Routes through Chiayi (THSR)|
|Miaoli ← Taichung ←||N S||→ Tainan → Kaohsiung|
|Routes through Chiayi (National Highway)|
|Miaoli ← Taichung ←||N S||→ Tainan → Kaohsiung|