Fenqihu used to be a stop on the Alishan Railway from Chiayi. Today, it is only reachable by bus. Although, rumor has it, the railway will reopen between Chiayi and Fenqihu in June 2013. It is believed that the railway will never again link Chiayi and Alishan.
Popular activities in Fenqihu:
1. Eating the famous Japanese Lunch Box. These can be found all over the town and range in price from $100NT to $160NT. The most famous are sold at the Fenqihu Hotel. Vegetarian lunch boxes are available. (The picture shows me about to enjoy my lunch box.)
2. Hiking. There are numerous short trails that follow the old railway tracks and longer trails that go further up into the mountains. These hikes can be strenuous but offer awe-inspiring views.
3. Sipping tea, learning about wasabi, and enjoying aiyu jelly. These are all produced locally and sold at many locations in the town. I recommend trying the aiyu jelly drink at Uncle Aiyu. Ask someone how to get there as it is difficult to find. Uncle Aiyu’s place has a covered balcony which looks over the valley below.
4. Viewing fireflies. From April to June every year, fireflies light up the mountainsides around the town nightly. Be aware that weather in the area is generally poor this time of year. If it rains, the fireflies will not appear.
Fenqihu is situated before Alishan on the bus route. I believe that there are two buses which go to Fenqihu from Chiayi TRA daily. One is in the morning, perhaps around 9 AM, and one is in the evening, around 5 PM. Expect the journey to take about an hour and a half and cost about $200NT. If you are already in Alishan, the 10:10 AM bus headed to Chiayi stops in Fenqihu.
There are plenty of cheaper accommodation options in Fenqihu than in Alishan. In fact, the church has doubles for $800NT per night. We stayed in a nicer “homestay” for $1800NT.
To leave Fenqihu, there is one bus a day that goes to Alishan. This leaves at 11:50. To get back to Chiayi, you can take a bus at 5:00 or you can get a taxi to the Shermuh bus stop where buses run more frequently. The people at the Fenqihu Hotel are all very helpful and speak good English. They can answer any question you have about bus times.
(On a side note, we once again experienced the kindness of the Taiwanese people on our trip back to Chiayi from Fenqihu. A young man saw us waiting for a taxi at the hotel and offered to give us a ride back to Chiayi train station free of charge. He had brought his mother and father to Fenqihu for Mother’s Day, but they had been discouraged from staying due to the rain. I really can’t believe that these kind of people still exist in the world and that I meet so many of them in Taiwan!)