It was in November 2019 when I headed to Taiwan for a friend’s wedding. I had brought along a companion to teach her the ropes of travelling. As we both love hiking, I decided to put in a quick day trip up to Fenqihu as a perfect starting point.
Fenqihu is a well-known tourist stopover spot in Chiayi County, on the way to the more famous Ali Mountain. It took a little research, but I found that it was as easy to get there by public transport as to book an expensive tour. I had lived in the nearest Chiayi City for six months, so getting around was not a big deal for me especially with a bus card (EasyCard) obtained from 7-11.
Being in the middle of the entire country, it doesn’t matter whether we started our trip from Taoyuan Airport or Kaohsiung Airport. The journey there will be the same in terms of time. In this case, we came from Taoyuan Airport and went straight for Fenqihu. After checking the arrival and departure timing, we chose the more expensive transport options due to limited time. I will recommend at least two days, if traveling from the airport, to maximize time up there.
Our flight arrival was 6am, but for some reason it had taken a long time to get through immigration. Fortunately, instead of a physical arrival card to fill in, now it is possible to do it electronically. We found the URL or QR code at the information centre when we arrived at the immigration hall and used our queuing time to fill it up.
After the tedious entry, we took the Airport MRT, to the Taoyuan High Speed Rail (THSR) station. Again, we were short on time, hence the most expensive but fastest option that took us only 1 hour to get to Chiayi. Otherwise, the Taiwan Railway (TRA) would have gotten us there in 3 hours for half the price, and that’s not including the half hour bus ride from the airport to the station. That would have been my option if I had a night to spare.
Prior to arriving at Chiayi THSR station, I had already looked up the bus timing to Fenqihu on the iBus app. There were plenty starting early in the morning till mid-afternoon, but while they all go to Alishan, but only selected timings will pass through Fenqihu. I won’t list the timings here as they may update in the future, but look out for:
I used my EasyCard bus card, while my friend paid the exact cash onboard. It was less than TWD 300 each way. I found that the timing from TRA was better than that from THSR, so we took a 20-minute cab over to catch the bus just as it rolled up. If there was time to spare, I would have taken the BTR shuttle to TRA station instead. The schedule could be found by the BTR stop outside the THSR station.
The first thing we had was, of course, the popular Fenqihu lunch box. We decided on the first restaurant after passing through the train station. They do either dine-in or takeaway. The latter was cheaper since dining in the restaurant entailed having the set meal that came with soup. We also didn’t go for the classic option, and chose wild boar meat instead. In my opinion, it was more unique and tastier than chicken. I did find the lunchboxes overpriced, but that’s the cost of coming to a pure tourist spot.
After that, we did a bit of exploring through the old street. It’s very walkable, doesn’t take more than 2 minutes each alleyway, except the various vendors managed to stop us trying to sell us wares. I do recommend trying the tree tomato juice though – it’s very refreshing.
As mentioned before, our main goal for coming out here was to go hiking! There are many trails out and about as indicated on the map, but I had set my sight on the Fenrui Hiking Trail. To get there, we had to walk further down the road after the bus stop until the sharp right turn. The entrance to the trail has a sign and a map to indicate so.
It’s a very long trail of moderate difficulty, starting off with plenty of ascension up steps and boulders. My knees unfortunately gave out after only 1km, and my friend had to take rests since she was less fitter than me. In fact, as time was still not in our favour, we only made it to the 2km mark before deciding to turn back in order to catch the last bus at 5pm.
I would hope to make it out here much earlier in the future, as we were told by passing hikers that the view near the end of the trail (about 3-4 hours into the hike) is spectacular. In fact, if you love a quiet hike, this is definitely a good one to do because we only met one couple the entire time.
After we got back, we rested at a coffee shop across the street, which had slightly higher elevation to enjoy the view and a drink. So consider this a Part One post, until the next time I return to challenge the entire length of Fenrui trail to detail it better.
*All photos featured in this story are taken by the author.