One of the prettiest places I’ve visited in Taiwan to date is the little town of Chishang 池上 in Taitung County. With its flat green rice fields bordered by the mountains of the Eastern Rift Valley in the distance, it’s a lovely place for a day trip for anyone exploring the eastern coast of Taiwan. I spent a day cycling around this picturesque little town and put together this little guide to Chishang and things to do in Chishang.
How to get around Chishang
Chishang is not a very big place, and a cheap and fun way to explore is by cycling. Traffic isn’t heavy and some roads are even blocked off from vehicular traffic. I rented my bike from a little stand next to Chishang Train Station for 100 NTD (S$4.20).
Things to do in Chishang
I mostly followed the designated bicycle path that you can see in the map above, but I’ve also mapped it out on Google Maps to help you navigate.
Wutao Chishang FanBao Museum 悟饕池上飯包文化故事馆
Chishang is renowned in Taiwan for its high quality of rice that’s extra QQ (springy is my best translation for that) and a little bit sweet. Rice is such a big deal in Chishang that it only rice with proper certification and verification can be marketed as Chishang rice. In addition, the ubiquitous Biandang 便當 or the rice lunchbox that you can find all over Taiwan has evolved into a uniquely Chishang version called Fanbao 飯包, traditionally served in a little box held together by 4 wooden panels.
Start your exploration right by dropping by browsing through the exhibits of the Museum to learn about the history of this lunch box from its beginning in 1939 on the upper floor, with lots of rice related exhibits and dioramas as well though I honestly didn’t spend that much time reading all the information.
I was more keen to sample a traditional Fanbao for myself. While the Fanbao is meant for takeout, I recommend eating it in one of the converted train carriages that you can find around the compound – it’s a nod to how Fanbao became popular in the first place, as something people could take on the train to eat. The rice was pretty good but I don’t think I’m expert enough to pick it out of a line up.
Getting here: 259 Zhongxiao Road 池上鄉忠孝路259 – you can walk here from the Chishang Train Station. Open 8am-8pm.
Dapo Pond 大坡池
After a satisfying Fanbao, my next stop along the cycling route was Dapo Pond. Not much was happening when I passed by, probably because it was midday and blazing hot, but it definitely is a pretty spot. Dapo Pond is an inland freshwater swamp with a nice jogging and bike path around it, and the reason for the town’s name – Chishang 池上 translates directly into ‘Pond Above’.
Getting here: Cycle along Zhongshan Road Tongshui Lane 中山路通水巷 towards Dapo Lake
Chishang’s Many Rice Fields
All the rice in Chishang is grown locally, so of course there are plenty of farmland and rice fields to admire as you explore. Stop to enjoy the view – I found some cute rest stop spots where I could just sit and quietly enjoy the rustling of the rice stalks in the wind. The way they rippled was pretty mesmerising
The beauty of the rice fields is that they change colour depending on the season. It was all very green when I visited in May, but the fields will turn a beautiful golden yellow as it approaches harvest season in October. There is usually a harvest festival as well towards the end of October.
Getting here: About halfway around Dapo Pond you will see Jinxin Road 錦新路 and signs directing you towards Bolang Dadao 伯朗大道 or Mr Brown Avenue
Mr Brown Avenue 伯朗大道
Probably the most famous spot in Chishang, Mr Brown Avenue 伯朗大道 or Mr Brown Boulevard, a 2.2km long straight stretch of road that cuts across Chishang’s rice fields with no barriers and lampposts along it to obstruct the picture perfect view of the lush green fields and surrounding mountains.
Officially it’s known as Jinxin #3 Road 锦新三号道路, but it got its Mr Brown moniker because of an advertisement filmed here back in the day by Taiwanese coffee brand Mr Brown. I found a really retro looking clip of the ad on youtube and you can see some scenes of the train passing through and the fields forming a great backdrop for the ad.
But a more famous ad that was filmed in recent years was by Taiwanese airline EVA Air which featured the actor Takeshi Kaneshiro cycling along this road, and stopping under a picturesque tree to have some tea. That tree is now called the Takeshi Kaneshiro Tree 金城武树 and just about everyone who passes by stops to reenact that star moment beneath its branches. Good luck not capturing anyone else in your shot – it can get pretty crowded.
Road to Heaven 天堂之路
Bisecting Mr Brown Avenue is another road originally known as Wanxin Road 萬新道路, but better known by its nickname Tiantang Road 天堂之路, which translates as the Road to Heaven. Unlike Mr Brown Road which is straight, this one has some pleasing curves to it and is said to resemble a dragon’s tail.
At the end of this road is a lookout point of sorts built out of wood. I climbed up to the top, a longish raised boardwalk of sorts for an elevated view of the surrounding rice fields.
Chishang Pastoral Farm Resort 池上牧野渡假村
On the way back, instead of taking the main road, I decided to cycle along some of the smaller parallel back roads instead. I found myself entering the Chishang Pastoral Farm Resort 池上牧野渡假村. Maybe it was the time of day or the wrong season, but it seemed a bit quiet and empty when I visited.
Given that it called itself a Pastoral Farm, I was expecting perhaps some sort of a farm animal petting zoo with your typical livestock, but I definitely wasn’t expecting to see the ostrich, nor the cassowary birds. According to the Taitung Tourism website, I apparently missed out on seeing the pygmy hippos!
This apparently used to be the site of the old Taitang 台糖 or Taiwan Sugar factory that was converted into a resort in 1994. In keeping with the whole pastoral farm theme, they have a whole Mongolian theme going with lots of little yurts and artwork. It’s a bit bizarre when you’re cycling through this place without any context whatsoever. Read more about it here.
Getting here: 110 Xinxing Village 池上乡新兴村110号. See website here. Open 8am-5pm.
Hakka Cultural Park 客家文化园区
I needed a bit of a breather at this point, and ended up stopping at the Hakka Cultural Park 客家文化园区. There is an information centre and a small but new museum all about the Hakka culture in Taiwan. I wandered in for a quick walk around and to escape the afternoon heat.
What I thought was more interesting were the gardens opposite the museum which they call the Flower Sea or Huahai 花海. Again I saw down here and enjoyed the flowers before I continued on my cycling journey.
Getting here: 1 Xinguan Road 池上乡新兴村新光路1号. Open Wed-Sun 830am-615pm
How to get to Chishang
I stayed in Taitung City in a hostel called I’m Here [booking.com affiliate link] really close to the main Taitung train station, so it was easy to just hop on a train to Chishang. It takes about 45 minutes to get from Taitung City Station to Chishang Station via the Taitung Line, and cost me just 61 NTD (S$2.50) for a one way ticket on the slower train, and 74 NTD (S$3.10) on the faster return train.