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Branching off the west-coast trunk line in flat rural Changhua, this 29km former narrow-gauge line ( 集集小火車線; Jíjí Xiǎohuǒchē Xiàn) chugs past some lovely stretches of rural Taiwan before coming to a halt in Checheng, a vehicle yard and former logging village in the foothills of Nantou County.

While the ride is short (45 minutes), the list of things to see and do at the seven stops is long: you can cycle, hike and monkey-watch, as well as visit temples, museums, kilns, dams and historical buildings. The line is open year-round, though the popular stops are a madhouse on summer weekends. Consider a winter day, when the weather is dry and mild, and the hordes are at home.

There are seven stations along the way, the most visited of which are Ershui, Jiji, Shuili and Checheng. You can sometimes get a map at the train stations, but in Chinese only.

Most of the towns have 7-Elevens with ATMs. There’s a visitor centre (iconhourspng9am-5pm) at the Ershui station.


Like the Pingxi, Alishan and Neiwan lines, the Jiji line once served in the industrial development of Taiwan. Completed in 1922 under Japanese rule, the line supported the construction of the Daguan Power Station downstream from Sun Moon Lake. This was the first hydroelectric plant in Taiwan and power from it was used as far away as Taipei. Tourism began in earnest just 10 years ago, and now, along with farming, forms the core of the local economy.

chap-grey-info-png Getting There & Around


Buses from Sun Moon Lake stop at Shuili station.


A Jiji line all-day train pass costs NT$80, with 12 daily trains in either direction, from 6am to 10pm. The schedule is available at any station along the small rail line.

Ershui, the first station of the Jiji Small Rail Line, is connected to the main West Coast Line, but not every train stops here. A train from Changhua (fast/slow NT$73/47, 30 minutes, frequent) takes 30 minutes.

When you arrive at Ershui station, alight and transfer to the Jiji Small Rail Line (follow platform signs in English).


Road Biking Around the Line

Ershui and Jiji have short cycling paths but the rural roads all over this area are great for longer rides:

» Ershui to Jiji on County Rd 152: 20km

» Jiji to Shuili on Township Rd 27: 7km (can also take 139 north to Changhua: 50km)

» Shuili to Sun Moon Lake on County Rd 132: 22km


Ershui 二水站

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Ershui is the first station on the Jiji Line and where you’ll transfer if coming by train from Changhua. It’s worth a few hours’ stop to cycle the dedicated bike paths through the farm fields.

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The cycling-only bike path (jiǎotàchē zhuānyòng dào) begins to the right of the train station, and intersects with quiet country roads that are also good for cycling. The countryside is picturesque, with lush fields and temples, shrines, traditional brick villas and pagodas popping up in unexpected places. Just to the north stands Songbo Ridge, a holy spot for Taiwan’s Taoists. With its thick forests and crumbling cliff faces, the ridge helps to break up the flat landscape along the bike path.

You can rent bikes outside the train station (per day NT$100 to NT$200).

freeErshui Formosan Macaque Nature Preserve MONKEY RESERVE

( 二水台灣獼猴自然保護區; Èrshuǐ Táiwān Míhóu Zìrán Bǎohùqū; iconphonepng04-879 7640; iconhourspng9am-5pm, closed Mon) The 94-hectare park covers the slopes of Songbo Ridge and contains well-preserved mid-elevation forests favoured by the Formosan Macaque, the island’s sole monkey species. Today hundreds of monkeys live in the reserve and are easiest to spot in the morning.

The reserve and exhibition halls are 6km east of Ershui off County Rd 152 (look for the English sign ‘Ershuei Formosan Macaque Education Hall’), which is a pleasant rural route to take should you wish to ride the 20km to Jiji.

Jiji (Chi Chi) 集集

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Lying at the feet of Great Jiji Mountain, Jiji (Jíjí), the fifth stop down the Jiji Small Rail Line, has a real country charm with fields of banana and betel-nut trees, grape vines and cosmos flowers lining the roads. The old cypress train station is a reproduction of the original Japanese-era station that was levelled in the 921 earthquake.

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Endemic Species Research Institute RESEARCH INSTITUTE

( 特有生物研究保育中心; Tèyǒu Shēngwù Yánjiù Bǎoyù Zhōngxīn; www.tesri.gov.tw; 1 Minsheng East Rd; admission NT$50; iconhourspng8.30am-4.30pm) The institute functions as a research centre and natural-history museum for plant and animal species endemic to Taiwan. Displays are highly informative and now feature full English text (proper English, too). The institute is about 1km east of the train station on the bike path.

Wuchang Temple TAOIST TEMPLE

One of the oddest sites billed as an attraction you’re likely to come across in Taiwan, Wuchang Temple ( 武昌宮; Wǔchāng Gōng) made its name after the 921 earthquake collapsed its lower floors leaving the roof to lie in ruins on the ground. Very photogenic in its state of disrepair, the temple is now one of the first things people rush to see when they come to town.

To get to the temple turn right as you leave the train station and walk about 10 minutes to Ba Zhang St ( 八張街). Turn left and walk another 10 minutes. You can also reach the temple on the bike path.


Jiji’s bike path is for the most part scenic and easy to follow, with distance markers and clear turning signs. Note that when you get down near the weir the bike path takes you back to town, but it’s fun to explore this area as well. Riding up County Rd 152 takes you through the Green Tunnel ( 綠色隧道; Lǜsè Suìdào), a section of road with a high canopy formed by interlocking camphor-tree branches, while County Rd 27 rises to take you past the trailhead to Great Jiji Mountain ( 集集大山; Jíjí Dà Shān; elevation 1390m) before a fast descent into Shuili and the backdoor to Sun Moon Lake.

You can rent bikes (per hour NT$100) at numerous locations around the train station.

categorysleeppng Sleeping & Eating

Jiji is not hurting for places to eat, both around the train station and at various stops along the bike routes. Cafes and convenience stores abound, and there’s a night market on weekends.

Mountain Fish Water Boutique Hotel HOTEL $$

(集集山魚水渡假飯店 Jíjí Shān Yú Shuǐ Dùjià Fàndiàn; iconphonepng276 1000; www.mfwhotel.com.tw; 205 Chenggong Rd; 成功路 205 d/tw NT$2240/4060; iconinternetpng) With its great location off a quiet leafy road, big mountain views and cozy rooms that offer comfort and style beyond their costs, this is one of the best options for the traveller who wants to relax for a couple days in the countryside. A buffet breakfast and use of the swimming pool (fed with mountain spring water), steam room and spa are included (summer only). To reach the hotel, go north from the train station to Cheng Gong Rd and turn right. Discounts of 30% are usual on weekdays.

Shuili 水里

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The penultimate stop on the Jiji Small Rail Line, bland Shuili (Shuǐlǐ) serves mostly as a base for travelling somewhere else.

Yushan National Park Headquarters NATIONAL PARK OFFICE

( 玉山國家公園管理處; Yùshān Guójiā Gōngyuán Guǎnlǐchù; iconphonepng277 3121; www.ysnp.gov.tw; 515 Jungshan Rd, Sec 1; 水里鄉中山路一段 515 iconhourspng8.30am-5pm) For English brochures and films about the park, as well as the latest road and trail information. Usually someone working can speak English.

chap-grey-info-png Getting Away

Buses to Sun Moon Lake (NT$50, 30 minutes, hourly) are available with Green Transit Bus Company (Fengrong Bus Company; 豐榮客運 iconphonepng277 4609). Yuanlin Bus Company (員林客運 iconphonepng277 0041) has buses to Dongpu (NT$115, one hour 20 minutes, eight buses daily). Note that buses to these places run during daylight hours only (6am to 5pm or so). To reach the Yuanlin Bus Company, exit the train station and turn left on Minquan Rd. The bus station is on the opposite side of the road from the 7-Eleven. The Fengrong Bus Company is further down the road on the same side.

Checheng 車埕

At the end of the Jiji Small Rail Line, and conceived initially as little more than a car yard due to its large shelf of flat land, Checheng’s (Chēchéng) fortunes were closely tied to the railway’s functions as both supply mule for hydroelectric development and logging.

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A few decades ago more than 2000 residents lived in Checheng, most working for the Chen Chang Corporation that had won the rights to log the region in 1959. A moratorium on logging in 1985 left Checheng nearly a ghost town. The remains of the logging industry and the old wood and brick houses now form the backbone of this charming little stop. The upper village exists more or less as it was, while the lower village has been gentrified, with a nice mix of wood walkways, grassy parks, open decks, new cedar wood buildings, cafes and restaurants.

Checheng Wood Museum (Logging Exhibition Hall) MUSEUM

( 車埕木業展示館; Chēchéng Mùyè Zhǎnshìguǎn; admission NT$40; iconhourspng9am-5pm) This stylish museum, under an enormous wood A-frame, highlights the area’s logging.

Mingtan Reservoir SCENIC AREA

This reservoir ( 明潭水庫; Míngtán Shuǐkù) sits just above the village and feeds a power station billed as the largest pumped-storage generating plant in Asia. Is that impressive? Who knows, but the system uses surplus electricity at night from the 2nd and 3rd nuclear power plant to pump water back up to the original source of the reservoir’s water (Sun Moon Lake). During the day, in peak hours, the water is released to generate extra power. And that’s kinda cool.

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In the lower village there are a number of cafes, teahouses and restaurants.

Mommy Chang Hostel HOSTEL $

(陳銀花民宿 Chén Yín Huā Mínsù; iconphonepng0920-389 808; dm NT$300) At the end of a row of squat yellow and green brick houses that couldn’t say ‘old Taiwan’ more if they had a water buffalo lowing outside, the genial Mrs Chang offers a couple of simple rooms each night to crash out in. To find her place just head up from the Checheng Wood Museum and turn left at the signpost, which conveniently reads ‘Mommy Chang Hostel’. Mrs Chang’s house is the last on the right about 150m down.

Checheng Wood Museum LUNCHBOX OUTLET $

(Chēchéng Mùyè Zhǎnshìguǎn; railway lunchbox NT$80-270; iconhourspng9am-5pm) At the Wood Museum you can pick up a railway lunchbox ( tiělù biàndēng ), from simple paper lunchbox meals to more expensive options in cedar boxes that you can take away as souvenirs.