Taking a day trip to Zhongli is a great option for those staying in Taipei for more than a few days. Taipei offers numerous awesome day trip options, including Gold Mountain, and a trip to Zhongli is one of the most rewarding.
One of the best things is the convenience. It is great to be able to hop on a direct train to Zhongli and not worry about time-consuming transfers. And when you get to Zhongli you will be able to experience a part of Taiwan that feels vastly different than the capital.
Getting from Taipei to Zhongli
One option for getting to Zhongli would be to take the train. The train from Taipei Main Station to Zhongli takes 45 minutes and makes several stops along the way. One of the scheduled stops is at Banqiao which is very convenient if you are staying in that part of town.
A second option would be to make use of the Airport MRT. This line of the MRT is a fairly new construction, and its tracks stretch much farther than the Taoyuan Airport. If you take the MRT you will need to take it all the way to Huanbei Station (stop A21) which is in the north of Zhongli. Huanbei is the terminal station, although it won’t be for long. Two more stations are under construction, stations A22 and A23, and will end at Zhongli Train Station. Once completed these will make the MRT a better choice for getting to Zhongli.
Purchasing a ticket
Train tickets are available online from the Taiwan Rail website. I always recommend pre-booking a ticket as trains in Taiwan tend to get pretty crowded. The cost for tickets booked in advance is higher as you are guaranteed a seat on the train. It is possible to walk up without a ticket if you’re looking for the cheapest option. The only downside is that you will likely end up standing for the duration of the journey. This isn’t so bad on a trip to Zhongli, but it can be tiring when heading to destinations farther away.
One additional benefit to booking online is the ability to book a seat on a specific class of train (and see the travel time for each). Taiwan has a range of train classes that can be confusing for visitors at first. For example, the local train is the slowest but cheapest option and stops off at every small station along the track. The journey times on local trains are long and should be avoided if possible. The Tze-Chiang Express is a good middle option as prices are reasonable and the train only stops at major stations. The Train from Taipei Main Station to Zhongli Station costs NT$89 ($3) when taking the Tze-Chiang Express.
The trains have large windows that allow for some good views of the passing buildings and mountains. There are a number of historic buildings scattered along the railway. All of these are in various states of disrepair, but they give a good insight into what Taiwanese architecture looked like in the past.
If you take the MRT you will be able to purchase a single or return ticket at the station. There is typically ample seating on this line, probably due to both its recent completion and higher cost. I can’t comment on the availability of taxis outside of the Huanbei station as I have always taken the normal train from Taipei to Zhongli. However, I would assume there are plenty available as Huanbei is the terminal station on the Airport line.
Getting around Zhongli
When you arrive at the Zhongli train station you will find a long line of taxis waiting for arriving visitors. It is notoriously hard to find a taxi in the city so it’s a good idea to hire one of these taxis if you plan on visiting sights farther than walking distance. There is a good deal of things to see and do around the train station so don’t feel like taxis are a necessity though!
One other option is to rent a UBike and take your own tour around Zhongli. UBikes are very convenient and affordable – just make sure there is no rain in the forecast!
What to see in Zhongli
Zhongli Renhai Temple
First off let me say that this temple is absolutely massive. On the outside, it looks like any other temple you might see in Taiwan. And from that, you might consider walking right past it on your way to more interesting destinations. That would be a big mistake, however, as the Zhongli Renhai Temple is anything but average.
The interior is extravagantly decorated – even for a Taiwanese temple. Every corner of the temple has been covered with ornate decorations that sparkle in the light. In front of the entrance are several tables filled with offerings of flowers and food. Walking past this you will find sets of staircases that lead to the second and third floors of the temple. The size of the temple is really impressive and due to that, I’d definitely recommend a visit when in Zhongli.
Lao-Jie River Education Center
This stop is within walking distance of the Zhongli Train Station. The convenient location means there is no reason to pass on a visit to the Lao-Jie River Education Center unless you are truly pressed for time.
The Education Center is an old building that dates to the Japanese occupation of Taiwan. It has been well-maintained and gives a good idea of what life here was like a century ago. The most interesting part for me was the photo albums which contain many historical images of the building. Besides this, the kitchen was something that caught my attention. Not many kitchens like this, with their concrete washbasins, are still left in Taiwan.
Once you take a look around the building be sure to make your way outside to the left side of the building. Here you can see a recreation of a water pump and animal pen that used to exist there. It is easy to miss unless you know that there is something to see on that side.
Zhongli Tourist Night Market
This is a rather large night market located on Xinming Road. It stretches a couple of blocks and is quite wide. The width of the market seems to help keep things more orderly as it is less chaotic than most other night markets I’ve been to – including the Chung Yuan Night Market listed below. There is a wide selection of clothes, souvenirs, and street food available from the vendors who set up shop here.
Take some time to walk around and taste some of Taiwan’s most delicious street food while in Zhongli. This is an interesting night market for reasons other than just street food. One thing to check out are the many street-side vendors offering fruits, vegetables, and seafood for sale. This is an alternative to grocery stores that many locals take advantage of when planning to cook at home.
The official opening time of the Zhongli Tourist Night Market is 5pm. However, I’d plan on coming a bit later as some vendors may still be setting up shop.
House Art Cafe
This trendy cafe is located in the Western part of Zhongli. It makes its home in an old mansion that, according to the signage, was built in 1910. The building itself is quite spacious and provides a good many photo opportunities.
The cafe offers the standard coffees and teas as well as some specialty drinks. The coffee was not as strong as I would have liked but the tea was excellent. Food is also on the menu but the kitchen was closed so we were unable to do any taste testing.
We were able to order an afternoon tea set which cost a reasonable NT$320. The set included two drinks and a snack platter filled with fruit, salad, cookies, and a tasty quiche. I’d recommend a visit to the House Art Cafe when in Zhongli. I really loved the atmosphere and history.
Chung Yuan Night Market
This is a second night market worth visiting in Zhongli and is actually my favorite of the two. The Chung Yuan Night Market is a long and densely packed one though, so make sure you’re okay with squeezing in next to strangers!
The crowd is part of the reason why I like Chung Yuan though. It gives the area a sense of excitement that is complemented by the noise and flashing lights. Prepare to spend some time making your way up and down the night market, which spills off onto a number of side streets.
My top recommendation here is to grab a Fried Chicken Wheel Cake. Wheel Cakes are typically sweet deserts filled with creme, red beans, and other sweet fillings. This shop is different as they offer a jumbo-sized wheel cake filled with fried chicken and cheese. It costs NT50 ($1.50) and is absolutely amazing! I haven’t seen this at many other night markets around Taiwan, so be sure to try one here.
Bade Bald Cypress Forest
The Bade Bald Cypres Forest is last on the list for a couple of reasons. First, it is located a good distance south of the city. You will need to take a taxi here and make sure they are willing to wait for you at the forest before bringing you back. The cost might not be worth it for many visitors.
Second, the best photos will only be had in the fall when the leaves start to change colors. At other times in the year, you might not be impressed by the grove of cypress trees. The pictures are still nice, but possibly not worth the effort.
If you happen to visit Zhongli at the right time of the year and make the trip here, you will be rewarded with some spectacular photos and memories.
Let us know what you think about Zhongli!
Have you been here, or are you considering a visit? We’d love to hear your thoughts on the city!
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