Are you a fan of rice fields, biandang, and rice in general? Chishang is the place for you! As the unofficial rice capital of Taiwan, its unspoiled views of rice fields with a backdrop of the eastern rift valley is one of the most unique and unspoiled scenic areas in Taiwan.
The name Chishang comes from the town being located near Dapo Pond (or Daopochi 大坡池). The area was first settled by aboriginal tribes relocated from Pingtung. Qing dynasty Chinese farmers started settling there in 1875, as a reaction to Mudan Incident of 1871 (in which a crew of shipwrecked Japanese were beheaded by Taiwan aborigines) and the Japanese punitive expedition to Taiwan in 1874. After the Japanese took control of Taiwan, Chishang's main industries were growing sugar cane and rice. A train station was completed in Chishang in 1926 as part of the eastern railway line.
Because of its flat land and and abundant water, Chishang naturally became a great place for growing rice. It's rice fields and biandang (lunchbox) have generally been accepted as the best quality in Taiwan. Many of the rice varieties grown here can trace their roots to Japanese rule. Besides its unadulterated rice fields, the area also became famous due to a Mr. Brown coffee commercial shot here (at what is now know as Brown boulevard) as well an ad for EVA Air featuring Takeshi Kaneshiro (金城武）a Taiwan born Japanese actor (famous for many movies, the one which I remember him best in is the male protagonist in House of Flying Daggers), in which he drinks tea next to a tree. The tree is still there and is growing strong, although it was damaged in 2014 by typhoon Matmo.
I'm not sure if this is the original Mr. Brown Coffee commercial, but its at least pretty close:
Here is the EVA Air commercial featuring Takeshi Kaneshiro made in 2013:
Watching the above will give you the best idea of why this place is so popular. The area became especially popular for bike riding after the EVA Air commercial came out.
How to get there:
By Train: Take the TRA train to Chishang station, and you're there! From there you can rent bicycles or scooters, but be sure to reserve a scooter in advance if you are going on a weekend.
By Car: From Taipei, take National Highway 5 to Yilan, then drive on highway 9 to Hualien, and then continue south to Chishang.
By Air: You can fly to Taitung Airport from Taipei and then rent a vehicle, take a taxi, or take the train (TRA) to Chishang.
Map: Please see below:
We came to Chishang via train, thanks to my generous coworker who also booked our hotel. The hotel didn't have a scooter rental place close by, so I had to walk far into town only to discover that all the scooter rental places had no scooters left! Finally I found a Yamaha place that was rather expensive, (450 per day) but at least we had transportation.
The most important sight in Chishang is Brown Boulevard, named after the Mr. Brown coffee commercial which is not on Youtube. On the same road is the tree where Takeshi Kaneshiro shot the commercial (see above for the video).
Takeshi Kaneshiro Tree 金城武樹
Here is the Takeshi Kaneshiro Tree (Jinchengwu Tree) (金城武樹), recreated by the tourism bureau I assume to look just like it did in the commercial, tea kettle and everything.
How to get there:
If you go by scooter, the local townspeople have the main road to the tree blocked off, so that they can trap you into renting a bike. Don't listen to them, just drive around taking the rice roads and you can still get there via scooter. You can use the map below:
I also visited the tree back in 2015, and even then it was popular. Back then the tree had just been hit by typhoon Matmo, and was held up by stilts. The tree is a Bishop Wood.
Here are some shots from my drone around the tree (unrestricted flying area!). Even if you don't care about Mr. Brown or Takeshi Kaneshiro, surely you can appreciate the beautiful unspoiled scenery.
A shot from the drone looking west. You can see the throngs of Chinese tourists riding their four person bikes on Brown Boulevard.
View to the east toward the eastern mountain range.
View to the northeast.
View to the northeast, including downtown Chishang and 60 stone mountain in the distance.
Unspoiled rice fields as far as the eye can see. Rice plants actually have a sweet floury smell.
An Ahma planting rice in 2015.
Bicyclists enjoying their time on Brown Boulevard.
Rice planting machine.
Perfect rows of rice!
There are actually many abandoned buildings around Chishang, many of them taken over by the elements.
Another abandoned farm house.
Also while wandering around Chishang we found a heard of cows! A rare sight anywhere in Taiwan.
This is the hotel resort (Papago International Resort) that we stayed at. Back in the day, Takeshi Kaneshiroa also stayed at this resort, and his name is hung outside of where he stayed. I guess this is another reason that people come stay here. The resort is very close to Brown Boulevard and offers bike rental as well as day trips to sixty stone mountain.
The resort was very nice. We had our own private Jacuzzi and swimming pool. The best part though was that we didn't pay a dime for it!
And then we packed our bags and headed back to Taipei via train!
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We are US Expats that have extensive experience living and working in Taiwan. In our day, we had to learn many things about Taiwan the hard way. But we have come to learn that Taiwan is one of the best places in the world for Foreigners to live. Our blog does not represent the opinions of every foreigner in Taiwan. We are just trying to help others learn more about this beautiful country.