Friday, October 5, 2007

Jiji, Nantou

Jiji; the perfect day out

Take a trip to Jiji and a few things will quickly become apparent; that it is very popular, especially with young couples and young families, that its surrounding scenery is really very beautiful, and that it most likely has the largest concentration of tandem bicycles anywhere in Taiwan, perhaps in the world.

Jiji is the perfect day out, just close enough to be accessible, just far enough away to ensure that it never gets truly overrun. Whether you arrive by road or rail, you’ll be treated to some of Taiwan’s prettiest countryside views, sweeping mountains, tall and jutting hills that seem almost to be growing out of the ground. When seen against a crisp blue sky, you can feel your spirits lift with every passing kilometer.

Travel by train and you’ll experience one of the town’s most enduring attractions. The Jiji line, which runs from Ershuei, takes you right up to Taiwan’s oldest train station. Built in 1933, the Jiji station is by far the most popular, and photographed place in the town. The building itself is simple enough but with its white, wooden walls, it has a quaint charm that cannot be denied. It is this building in the heart of the town that really sets the area’s quiet and intimate tone.
No matter how you arrive, your first point of business should be to rent yourself some transport. Jiji has just about every form of two-wheeled vehicle you care to think of, bicycles, tandems, scooters, miniature motorbikes, and electrically powered bicycles. They’re all here, they’re cheap, convenient, and more than just a means of getting around, they’re part of the overall experience of visiting the town. Indeed, you can’t really say you’ve been to Jiji until you’ve made yourself look like a silly fool, struggling with a tandem, or some other weird looking bike that you normally wouldn’t even dream of riding. The great thing about it is that in this town, you’ll have fun doing it.

So you’ve got your bike, now where to? West of the town center you’ll find the Tianxing Kiln; this is an old fashioned wood-burning kiln and, should you be interested, it has a small museum, exhibitions, and even a classroom where you can try your hand at pottery. Nearby is the Green Tunnel, so called because the trees that line the road grow to meet each other in the middle.
Adjacent to the kiln are a couple of leisure areas. One of them, offering a large selection of snacks and some very pretty, red brick (no doubt products of the kiln) souvenir shops, is very nice. The other one however resembles a beaten up, and broken down traveling carnival. There are a few of these around the town and that’s a very unfortunate thing, they all look seedy, second-rate, and can only tarnish Jiji’s image.

Heading east out of Jiji, you can follow the train track to the Mingxin Academy. Standing right next to the local elementary school, this temple is always busy, as students from around Taiwan come here to pray before taking exams. Even if you don’t want to pray, you’ll be sure to enjoy the temple’s relaxing gardens.

Wu Chang Gong Temple is also to the east of Jiji town center. Leveled by the 921 earthquake, Wu Chang Gong has been left in its partially ruined state, and has now become something of a tourist attraction. It is quite incredible to see the carnage of the building and to imagine the force of the earthquake that brought it down.

Destroyed 8 years ago by the massive 9/21 earthquake, Jiji is a town characterized by its contrasts. A mountain town, it remains remarkably flat; bright and youthful, it also carries a strange air of faded grandeur; it is often busy, yet remains quiet and intimate. Jiji is a small and thriving center in Taiwan’s competitive tourist market, and one of the forces helping it succeed is its legacy of destruction.


Anonymous said...

Tandem Bicycles - Tandems (Tandeming) is great fun, cant wait to get out on mine again

Anonymous said...

hi, good site very much appreciatted

Anonymous said...

I love this blog and everything about it. I have been reading it for awhile but have yet to say hello. well...Hello!