Cycling is one of the key drawcards of the Jiji Railway Line. The most popular bike path runs mostly beside the train tracks from Ershui Station to Yuanquan Station. Much like the train ride itself, it offer charming vista of Taiwan's horticultural industry, which could easily be forgotten in the crowded cities. It seems as if every product grown in the central plains of Taiwan is on show somewhere along this four-kilometre path. A mountain ridge makes a pleasant backdrop.
A few old temples and Japanese-era buildings dot the landscape, however none stand out as especially significant and none have any English explanations, so it's better to just explore the area at your own pace, and stop wherever seems interesting. The route is only thee kilometres, so it's worth taking your time. While I found locals very friendly and welcoming, and happy for visitors to wander around and take photos, these are all 'living' temples, not tourist attractions. It's best to just explore the area at your own pace, stopping at whatever seems interesting.
|Several old buildings like this one ("Mr Lin Temple") can be found along the path.|
Babaozhen Park (八堡圳公園)
A few minutes beyond Yuanquan Station, Babaozhen Park is the water inlet to the Babaozhen canal, and features a few old waterwheels and some retired irrigation equipment on display. It's worth the extra few minutes ride from Yuanquan Station if you have the time and interest.
Facilities - None
There are no toilets along the railway tracks, nor any places offering due privacy. For better or for worse, there are also no convenience stores or vending machines, so be sure to stock up at Ershui Station.
The Jiji locals define a "bike path" somewhat differently to the rest of the world. "bikes" certainly include scooters and sometimes even loaded trucks, which barely fit down the narrow path and assume the right of way.
Bicycles can be hired outside Ershui Station, starting from around NT100 per day. They are permitted on the trains so can be brought back.
Whether cycling or hiking, follow the tracks to the north (right as you exit the station, past the tourist information centre) until you reach the first railway crossing. Cross the tracks and then continue straight for the hiking trails or turn right onto the bicycle path, which heads back towards Ershui Station.
On the way to the crossing you'll pass the "Vapor Train [steamtrain] Exhibition Field" (蒸气火车头陈列场), a small park featuring a couple of the original Japanese steam trains, and (curiously) an old fighter jet.
There are plenty of bilingual maps along the path, and a large one outside the tourist centre.
Ershui also offers some great hiking opportunities which combine stunning mountain scenery, temples and monkeys. As is often the case, the paths go by different names and translations in every reference, so it's essential to pick up maps from the tourist information centre outside Ershui before departing, and check your location on the many bilingual maps along the way.
There are two main hiking paths, both starting from the railway crossing (see above) and ending at the beautiful Shoutian Temple (受天宮), near the Sonboling Visitors Centre (松柏嶺遊客中心) and a beautiful picnic area. On a clear day the temple offers stunning views over the central plains and the Taiwan Strait.
The shortest, easiest route passes by Fengbo Square (豐柏廣場, also Fengbo Plaza) which is essentially a large carpark and the gateway to the hiking trails for people who arrive by car. The longer, more beautiful trail goes past the quaint little Shoude Temple (受得宮), which is especially beautiful in Spring, and then through the Kengneikeng Firefly Conservation Area (坑內坑生態工程示範區, the firefly part appears to be a mistranslation). This path is also known as the Kengneikeng Hiking Trail (坑內坑登山步道) and on the maps around the area as the Kengneikeng Forest Trail (森林步道).
After enjoying the views at Shoutian Temple most people head back to Ershui, but from nearby Visitors' Centre the path continues along small roads (mostly Songlong St) as the Tea Aroma Trail(茶香步道) - which passes through more than just tea plantations - to the Tianzhong Forest Park (田中森林公園) a beautiful mountain park overlooking the Changhua plains and the Taiwan Strait (as with the Shoutian temple). The main trail is three kilometres long and takes about two hours to hike, allowing rest and photography stops. From Tianzhong Forest Park it's possible to walk down to Tianzhong Station (田中車站) (about four kilometres, or one hour).
If all this walking has left you feeling hungry, I recommend the Delicate Store Vegetarian Restaurant (自然緣素養生蔬食專賣店) a stone's throw from Tianzhong Train Station at Number 58, Section 1, Zhongzhou Rd, Tianzhong Township (彰化縣田中鎮中州路一段58號). Delicious meals cost under NT100.
This whole region is a prime habitat for Taiwan's indigenous monkey, and spottings are most likely early in the morning. While they're very cute, they're also potentially dangerous, so it's important to keep your distance and not interact with them, in particular NEVER feed them as it interferes with their natural lifestyle and could create dependency on humans. Keep any food well sealed and out of view.
The Ershui Formosan Macaque Ecology Education Centre
|I didn't see any Monkeys. But the hike in was still beautiful, albeit very hot!|
This small exhibition hall (二水台灣獼猴生態教育館) features a small exhibition all with limited displays. A rough path (more like a very overgrown road than a hiking trail) leads into the reserve. Bring good footwear and clothes you don't mind getting dirty. It would be a lot easier and more interesting to say see the Macaques on the regular hiking trails (above).
The centre is six kilometres from Ershui Station, or another three kilometres from the end of the Ershui cycle path. Be sure to bring a lock for your bicycle if you intend to hike into the park, as it's quite deserted.
Open: 9:00-17:00, closed Monday (admission free)