I’ve been living in Chiayi for over a year now and I’ve had ample time to explore the city, so I thought it was high-time to write a list of its attractions. From the outside, its a relatively quiet, sprawling, cement-covered Taiwanese town, but if you’ve got the time and the energy its got some interesting attractions to offer the enthusiastic visitor, so read on for a list of fun and unique things to do in Chiayi.
1. Hinoki Village
It’s an old wooden Japanese village that’s been converted to gift shops, cutesy museums, and restaurants. It’s a great place to spend an afternoon and pick up some souvenirs for your family back home. (Also North Gate Train Station is nearby. It’s down a pretty street with a little train museum next to it.)
No. 1, Linsen East Road, East District, Chiayi City, 600
A weird Taiwanese past-time that I’ve written about before. The following address is not the shrimping place that I actually went to in Chiayi, but I can’t remember exactly where it was at and can’t be bothered driving around trying to find it before posting this blog, haha, sorry… Just know that there are several and I’m sure they’re all good fun, so take your pick.
No. 7, Zhongshun 3rd Street, West District, Chiayi City, 600
There are tons of waterfalls in Chiayi county. You’ll need a scooter to get to most of them, but it’s completely worth it. Scooters can pretty easily be rented with most types of license. It technically should be a Taiwanese license, or an international license, but I’ve managed fine with my U.S. one. It’ll cost your about 200-400 NTD for a day. When you get a scooter, just hop on, and follow a map. I won’t bother listing all the waterfall options here as there are much better websites for that sort of thing, such as the following.
4. Carrefour Night Market
This market is one of my favorite Taiwanese night markets. Its filled to the brim with traditional games and activities and foods, but it’s not as insanely crowded as other night markets I’ve visited. So you can get the wacky snacks, like stinky tofu, and try the crazy games, like old wooden puzzle games, that you won’t always get in more modern markets, but you won’t have to deal with nearly as many crowds.
No. 467, Section 2, Bo’ai Road, West District, Chiayi City, 600
5. Wenhua Road Night Market
This night market is a bit disappointing if you are used to the noisy, lively, nutty places in other cities, but if you want some cheap shopping from trendy boutiques or cell phone accessories, then it’s a great place to stop. It’s also got a fun arcade at the end of the road where you can DDR all night long. If you go here for snacks and food I actually recommend turning down one of the smaller roads off the main road. The restaurants on the fringes tend to be tastier than the food carts lining the road.
Wenhua Road, East District, Chiayi City, 600
6. Minxiong Ghost House
This attraction is technically not in Chiayi, but it’s close enough and interesting enough that I’m including it here. There’s a mansion on the outskirts of Minxiong with a creepy past. It’s an interesting ruin if you’re nearby and the rumours surrounding the mansion are satisfyingly spooky, but you’ll need to have your own transport to get to it. Expect some cheesiness mixed in with the lovely old ruins and creepy rumours. You can read more about the house below.
7. Chiayi Prison
You can only get in at certain times and maybe you can request an English tour, but typically only Chinese tours are offered. To be honest, it’s not that exciting, but if you are really into architecture or prison history, or if you are really stumped for things to do, it might be worth it.
8. The Parks of Chiayi
Chiayi’s parks are actually pretty spectacular, especially in comparison to a lot of other Asian cities which tend to be low on green space. Here’s a list of the biggest and most interesting in no particular order.
Chiayi Park – It’s the oldest park in Chiayi and was built by the Japanese, so it’s got some cool old Japanese architecture, as well as Sun Tower, which has a really lovely café on top. It costs 50 NTD to ride to the top, but you can get 20 NTD off a drink in the café, so while it’s pricey, it’s not exorbitant. And in my opinion it’s totally worth it for the view. Try the Coke Float, yum.
Chiayi Park is an easy way to while away an afternoon, wandering through the pretty plantings, taking photos with the many sculptures, art installations, and checking out the birds, snakes, bugs, and other wildlife.
No. 122, Minquan Road, East District, Chiayi City, 600
Botanical Gardens – This park has a pretty old pond and in the evening it lights up with people walking, jogging, and riding bikes on the paved trails.
No. 144-4, Section 1, Bo’ai Road, East District, Chiayi City, 600
The Arboretum or “Tree Park” – This place is right behind Chiayi park and has some of the biggest freaking spiders I’ve seen in my life, so watch out!
Song of the Forest – This is a little park with a weird, but pretty woven sculpture thing that looks like an egg in the middle. It’s located next to Showtime Plaza and it’s a hot spot for people to grab a bubble tea and lay out in the grass on a sunny evening.
Railway Garage Park – It’s filled with old trains and tracks, so it makes for some really fun photo ops on a sunny day. Kids would love this park.
No. 2, Linsen West Road, East District, Chiayi City, 600
9. The Lakes
There are two, Lantan and Renai. Lantan is the closer one to Chiayi and it’s fun to take a bike ride out there to see all the people going for a walk and checking out the little sculptures and other artistic structures. Renai is the prettier and more natural-looking of the two lakes, but it’s farther away. Both are good for a long, healthy bike ride.
Chiayi has bowling. I like bowling. There you go.
No. 29, Shanghai Road, West District, Chiayi City, 600
There are three big malls in Chiayi. The biggest and newest of the three is Nice Plaza, which is my favorite for the Uniqlo shop and Apple store. There is also a Costco.
Far Easter Department Store, 600, Chiayi City, West District, Chuiyang Road, 537號
Showtime Plaza, No. 299, Wenhua Road, West District, Chiayi City, 600
Nice Plaza, No. 600, Zhongxiao Rd., East Dist, Chiayi 600, Taiwan
Costco, No. 668, Zhongxiao Road, East District, Chiayi City, 600
There are two cinemas in Chiayi. Carnival Cinema is the older one, so it’s more rundown and not as large. However, it’s also cheaper and has VIP showings, which means that if you buy a VIP ticket you get a big comfy seat, popcorn, soda, and blanket, all included in the cost of the ticket, which is pretty fabulous. Showtime is a bit pricier, but also tends to show more movies at more times. It’s also the more popular of the two.
Carnival Cinema, No.713, Zhongzheng Rd., West Dist., Chiayi City
Showtime Cinema (inside Showtime Plaza), No. 299, Wenhua Road, West District, Chiayi City, 600
If you want to go to a pool in Chiayi, you’ve got a few choices, but in my opinion there are two main options, that is if you aren’t interested in going for a swim in a waterfall instead. The first is Guohua Waterworld. Its near Showtime Plaza in Chiayi city and easy to get to. 230 NTD gets you all day access to the indoor and outdoor pools. The waterslides weren’t working the few times I’ve been, but with a café inside serving snacks and drinks inside, you could literally spend all day here.
600, Chiayi City, West District, Guohua Street, 377號號
The other is outside Chiayi, so you’ll need a scooter or taxi, but its decidedly more picturesque. A resort pool located on the edge of a golf course surrounded by mountains, Palm Lake Resort is 200 NTD during the week and 400 NTD on the weekends. The big price tag is worth it though, especially if you pack a lunch and can spend the day here in the mountains soaking up the sun.
602, Chiayi County, Fanlu Township, 新福村第三農場24號
14. Chiayi City Museum and Koji Pottery Museum (and library)
I’m lumping these three attractions together because they’re all right next to one another and can be seen one right after the other.
Chiayi City Museum has the history of Chiayi, including some interesting information on earthquakes in the area. It’s also got a cute café downstairs selling traditional cookies from Chiayi. The museum is free, so definitely worth a wander, and if you’ve got kids there are some interactive displays they’d enjoy. It’s a cute place to check out on a rainy day.
The Koji Pottery Museum is in the basement below the library and has some gorgeous displays of the namesake pottery.
The library has a surprisingly large display of English books for a small city and if you’ve got an ARC and live in the area, it’s definitely worth signing up for a card. And if you’re just visiting and need a place to relax and catch up on English magazines, it’s good for that too.
No. 275-1, Zhongxiao Road, East District, Chiayi City, 600 (This is the museum. The library and Koji pottery displays are right next door.)
15. Chung Cheng University
There are a few universities and university campuses around Chiayi, but in my opinion, Chung Cheng has the most beautiful campus. It’s out in the middle of nowhere, but you can get there by train/bus or train/taxi for pretty cheap. It’s easy to get her via motorbike too. The buildings are really unique and its surrounded by some truly beautiful scenery.
No. 168, Section 1, Daxue Road, Minxiong Township, Chiayi County, 62102
16. Pineapple Hill
There are a few branches around Chiayi, but the original factory location is next to Chung Cheng. You can either walk there from the university or take a taxi from Chiayi or Minxiong. They serve pineapple drinks, ice cream, alcohols, and the famous pineapple cake here. It’s a thick, heavy cake that I would describe as more of a bar, than cake. It’s delicious. And pineapple hill gives cakes and oolong tea out for free all day, although the other snacks you need to pay for. It’s got a lovely deck outside where you can stare out into the sunny pineapple fields surrounding the factory or you can cool off inside and read about the history of Pineapple Hill. They also often have live music for a really fun atmosphere with delicious snacks.
No.1-3, Chencuoliao, Minxiong Township, Chiayi County 621, Taiwan (R.O.C.)
17. Electronic Darts
Maybe I’m crazy, but I really enjoy electronic darts in Taiwan with the many goofy games programmed in so you can compete with your friends. There are loads of places that have these contraptions inside, but my top favorite are as follows.
Calgary Bar, 嘉義市國華街351巷19號 – I can’t find the address for this one in English.
Shadow Club, No. 575, Guangcai Street, West District, Chiayi City, 600
Happy Darts, 中興路10巷17號 – It’s located behind the train station, right next to the bus station.
P.S. I’m going to write a separate post on nightlife in Chiayi, so keep an eye out for that.
18. The Morning Market
This market is what I’ve come to expect from morning markets in Asia, busy, winding, eclectic, and yummy, so get up early and head on over to peer through cheap racks of traditional clothing, nom on some breakfast food, buy some fresh fruit, and tilt your head at the strange animal bits on display.
No.168, Wufeng N. Rd., East Dist., Chiayi City 600, Taiwan
19. The Tropic of Cancer Monument
This is one of those monuments that probably seemed like an ingenuous tourist attraction when it was first proposed, but has since fallen into disrepair. It’s still an interesting place to snap some quick selfies though, so if you’ve seen most of Chiayi’s other attractions, ride a bike or scooter down to Shuishang for some goofy photos.
608, Chiayi County, Shuishang Township
20. Dalin Stinky Tofu
While technically not in Chiayi, it’s worth the short train ride to check out this unique restaurant. I, like many a foreigner, have spent my time in Taiwan trying to distinguish between the smell of sewage and stinky tofu to no avail, but if you’ve got an open mind, take the train over to Dalin for a truly surprising and delicious snack experience. The stinky tofu place is several yards down the road in front of the train station and can be easily found by following your nose. My mouth is watering just thinking about it.
No.13, Zhongshan Rd., Dalin Township, Chiayi County 622, Taiwan
21. Doulio Japanese Architecture
Another easy train ride from Chiayi is the town of Doulio which has some really lovely, untouched Japanese architecture and is great for a wander on a sunny day. You can read more about Doulio in my previous post.
22. Chiayi Cultural and Creative Industries Park (A Hotspot for Chiayi Festivals and Concerts)
This site is an old factory that has been converted into some cute art spaces near the Chiayi train station. Check the internet to see if there are any interesting things going on down here before going. Festivals and concerts are pretty common throughout the year, but even if there isn’t anything going on, there will still be some cute shops, cafes, and sculptures to make a visit here interesting enough.
No. 616, Zhongshan Road, East District, Chiayi City, 600
Of course, when you talk about Chiayi, everyone asks about Alishan, but another closer and easier mountain-day-trip option is Meishan. This mountain is famous for its plums, so you can get some lovely plum vinegars, teas, and of course fruits at this mountain after going for a very relaxed hike. You should take a scooter or car to get here.
I’m going to try to keep updating this list for the rest of my time here in Chiayi, so if anyone’s got any suggestions, send ‘em my way! Please and thank you!