Good to the last stop: Bus trips in Taichung

img_2337For the budget-conscious traveller, Taichung is a great option in part because you can get literally almost anywhere in the city for free. In an effort to curb air pollution and encourage both locals and tourists to use public transit, the Taichung government supported an initiative to make all bus journeys under 10 kilometres free of charge. The patient and clever can extend this to even longer trips by getting off at strategic intervals and waiting for the next bus to come along. We met a local man on our visit to Gaomei Wetlands who regularly takes the bus there all the way from his house in Dali (about 35 kilometres away).

A few general tips: Get an EasyCard at any 7-11 shop, and make sure you’ve got a few extra dollars on there just in case you miscalculate your 10 kilometre intervals. It’s a pain to realise you’ve got into the red and have to go top up before you can get on the next bus. For many interesting destinations along each bus route, consult this map created by Taichung Expats.

We took two different routes right to destinations at the end of the line, which was fun and also incredibly easy, because we couldn’t miss our stop!

Bus 50: 921 Earthquake Museum

(Note, we messed this one up a bit because we left too late in the day and barely had time to zip through the park grounds before it closed. The museum galleries shut promptly at 5 pm, and depending on connections and traffic, it takes about two hours to get there, so plan accordingly.)

The 921 Earthquake Museum and Park is both commemorative and educational. The deadly magnitude 7.2 quake struck in the early hours of September 21, 1999 and the museum is at the site of a former high school where some of the damaged buildings and grounds have been preserved to show the scale of disruptive force.

The Wufeng district is at the edge of the mountains, so this is also a beautiful area to walk around, and much quieter than central Taichung. After the museum, you can stroll along the top of a dyke and explore the quiet, leafy streets of GuangFu Village (or get something to eat at the food stalls near the traffic circle), and if you really plan your day well, you could also walk over to the Museum of Modern Art at Asia University to take in the exhibits.

If we had left earlier in the day, we would also have stopped at the Guoguang Flower Market on our way. Viewed ever so fleetingly from the bus, it looked like a really colourful and lively market (Saturdays and Sundays only). Compass magazine recently wrote about several flower markets around Taichung, including Guoguang.

To get there from T-Life:

  • Take any of the 300 buses down to Taichung train station
  • Get the number 50 to the last stop, 921 Earthquake Park. It is a UBus. Look for the stop on Jianguo Road, just before Lane 159.

Bus 307: Wuqi Fishing Port

We took this trip on the recommendation of the nice man we met at Gaomei, and we timed it much better, arriving with plenty of time to wander around the fish market before sunset, and then spending a half hour watching the boats come in.

The bus ride takes you along the heavily industrialised Taichung Port, with its stacks of shipping containers and massive cranes, but you’ll know you’re close to the final stop when the bus makes a turn next to an enormous mermaid.

The port has several distinct sections, a ring of booths decked with rainbow streamers selling candies, plastic toys, dried fish snacks, grilled squid on a stick, bags of sunflower seeds and plastic cups of sugar cane juice. It has a classic, festive beach boardwalk vibe.

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Passing through there, you’ll come to the actual fish market, a long warehouse filled with stalls selling every kind of seafood imaginable. The air is salty, the floors are slippery, and several of the booths sell small plastic trays of sashimi for $150 to $200 for about ten pieces. We enjoyed just walking up and down the aisles taking in the overall scene.

After that, we walked along the quay. There is a row of restaurants and small souvenir shops, but it was Monday, so most of them were closed. We joined a few other people over by what appeared to be the harbour master or coastguard building and watched the ships come in and dock briefly to run their papers up to the waiting officials.

The sunset was as gorgeous as every other we’ve seen in Taichung. When it was poised just above the horizon, the sun was an impossibly red orb, it felt surreal, like seeing the sunset on another planet. All in all, a good day.

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When the 307 showed up to take us back home, the group who got on with us were all playing Pokemon Go. One woman was playing it on two phones simultaneously, and kept them open the entire bus ride, just in case we passed one. So I guess maybe that’s another potential benefit of the extensive free bus system. Gotta catch ’em all.

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To get there from T-Life, take the 307 bus all the way to the last stop:

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