Jiji to Chiayi

(79 KMs)

Wednesday 28th February

Jiji - Chiayi

Wonders of Google Translate

We enjoyed our morning coffee sitting in the sun on our little balcony - which actually had a table and chairs.  It was going to be our warmest day yet.  Si, G and I headed off just after 9am, whist Jonno was still in bed, with plans to leave later.  Our first stop was Wuchang temple, that stood near the epicentre of the 921 Earthquake.  The collapsed temple has been preserved as a reminder of the events of that terrible day, and a new temple has been built next door. 

There was also a little market nearby and Simon and i went in search of some bananas.  The bananas were either too green or too ripe, and we settled on some dried mango and plums after the stall holder gave us samples of a range of different dried fruits to help us decide our preference, The temple and markets were deserted whilst we were there, yet when Jonno visited less than an hour later, he said that both the temple and market were really busy.

We picked up the Jiji bike path for a few hundred metres and made our way out of town.  At first the country side was quite rural and we passed rice paddies, small banana plantations and spiky dragon fruit trees.  Before long we were passing through an endless sprawl of little shops, restaurants and commercial sites.  The traffic was light at first and, being a public holiday, some of the shops were closed.  We detoured to find a coffee and had some pumpkin bread and potato bread - which turned out to be white bread - one filled with pumpkin and the other with potato and carrot.

The sprawl continued and the traffic continued to build. Round lunchtime, G took us off the main road to a little restaurant.  We picked up an order sheet and used google translate to inform our food choices, and all decided on fried rice.  The lady owner was intrigued, and we showed her how we took a photo and the words magically changed from mandarin to English.  She was delighted!

We messaged Jonno to let him know we had stopped for lunch but he was 15 minutes past us.  The owner went out the back and returned with a jug of water and some bowls (in lieu of cups) which we accepted gratefully.  Fortified, we set off for the final 45 kilometres, with Simon taking us down back roads when possible, which were a welcome respite from the relentless traffic.

We found Jonno having a rest break some 15kms out of Chiayi and continued on till we found a quiet spot to have our dried mango and plums - a welcome sugar hit, that sustained us through the streets of Chiayi to our hotel, Maison de Chine.  The concierge directed us to take our bikes to the basement and I went to check in.  I said hello in Mandarin and passed over my passport.  The desk clerk accepted it, then looked at me and said in English “Mandarin or English?”.  I laughed and said English as I only knew three words in mandarin.  She said that my Ni Hao was perfect!

Whilst we were waiting for our laundry to finish, Simon and I went to a nearby FamilyMart to print out our tickets for the bus to Alishan.  Thanks to detailed online instructions, we had managed to book return seats online and it was fortunate that we did so, as the 8am bus was full and the 7am only had a few seats left.  We picked up some breakfast supplies and a couple of beers.

I did some research to find a restaurant for dinner and decided we should try Smart Fish, renowned for its fish head stew and made famous on a Netflix series on Taiwanese street food,  Smart Fish started as a small food stall in a night market in 1953.  The current owner has kept the traditional way of making the dish - boiling the broth for over 8 hours with pig bones, dried shrimps, cabbage, scallions, pork meat and chilli. We took a number on arrival and waited for nearly an hour till it was our turn to enter the rambling building. I checked out some of the local shops and found a bench to sit on.  We filled in our order form whilst we waited and ordered fish stew for 2-3 people as well as the other local specialty of turkey rice and some steamed vegetables.  The fish stew was delicious and the turkey rice - literally shredded turkey meat on rice with sauce was also very good.  It was worth the wait.

We wandered through the night market in search of icecream and Jonno bought some dumplings as dinner hadn’t quite been enough.  We found a little icecream shop, and I had icecream in a cup whilst the others had icecream biscuits.  We returned to the hotel, with Simon doing a quick detour via the station to make sure we knew where to catch our early morning bus to Alishan tomorrow.