Following the morning tour in Beinan Township, we proceeded to Chishang Township, about an hour’s drive (about 46 km) north of Shanli village. Best known as the hometown of rice, Chishang is 1 of the popular tourist attractions of Huadong Valley. The agricultural township produces the most renowned quality of rice in Taiwan, & Chishang lunchboxes, also called bento, are famous throughout the country. Of course we had to try it for lunch that day!
Enroute to Chishang, Mr Wang asked which bento shop we would wish to have lunch at as there are quite a few well known brands in the township. Amongst the numerous brands, Woo Ricebox & Chuan Mei Hang Bento Restaurant are the most highly raved about. I tried Woo Ricebox at Ocean Financial Centre when it opened its first outlet in Singapore at Ocean Financial Centre a few years back, & was rather disappointed. While I wasn’t sure if it was because the taste would differ a lot from the real Chishang bento in Taitung, Mr Wang told me Woo is more known to tourists, as it has branches spread all over Taiwan. On the other hand, Chuan Mei Hang Bento Restaurant could only be found in Chishang. So, the choice was clear, we picked Chuan Mei Hang as our lunch venue for the day. 🙂
Chuan Mei Hang Bento Restaurant is located on the right side of the street directly in front of Chishang Railway Station. The reputable bento restaurant has a history of over 30 years, & is the same rice box brand sold at Chishang Station platform. Actually I thought the shop has been around longer because it looked quite rundown haha. The wood furnishings in the shop evoked a very traditional Japanese feeling too. Not many seats in the long & narrow shop, but it had 2 storeys, though level 2 was closed when we arrived at about 1.30 pm. I guess it wasn’t the peak lunch hour so they closed off level 2, but there were still several tables occupied at that time.
Everything here was self-service. First, we ordered our desired bento at the counter near the entrance & made payment on the spot. Thereafter, we had to go to the collection counter at the back of the restaurant to collect our Signature Bento (80 TWD, ~S$3.70) & the disposable cultery with the payment coupon. We could also help ourselves to the big pot of soup next to the collection counter. After the meal, customers were supposed to clear the table & throw rubbish in the designated bins.
Chishang rice is very similar to the Japanese rice loved by many people. Each grain of rice seemed to be bigger than the Thai Jasmine rice we are used to in Singapore. The Signature Bento was packed in a wooden box full of goodies, including braised egg, radish, ginger slice, cabbage, sausage, fried fish, char siew, roasted meat and bonito flakes. The bento was very yummy so I finished it in no time. Really worth a try if you are in Chishang!
After a satisfying lunch, I stepped out of the restaurant for a breather while waiting for friend to finish hers. Saw the unique structure of Chishang Railway Station, really very Jap-like… We could really see the great influence the Japanese brought to the country through 50 years of Japanese occupation.
Time for a workout after a filling meal ya? We were brought to Mr Brown Avenue, just an 8-min drive from Chuan Mei Hang, where we could experience a fun bike ride through vast paddy fields. At first, when Mr Wang told us we could ride along the avenue & enjoy the beautiful paddy field scenery, we were like “what? we can’t cycle…” But he assured us that 4-wheel electric bikes are available for rent too so both of us could share a ride together.
Mr Brown Avenue came about after the place was featured in a Mr Brown Coffee TV commercial in 1997. Many people were intrigued by the beauty of the road amidst widespread paddy fields in the town & called the township office to enquire about the exact location. Now, this road has become a tourist hotspot. In fact I can safely say this was the only attraction in Taitung where we saw so many visitors. Haha
I wasn’t kidding. The throngs of people we saw here, while still considered manageable compared to other parts of Taiwan, made it an uphill task to take photo of this iconic photo spot without anyone blocking your view, as you can see from my photo above. -_- Queues were formed in front of the photo spot, & as usual, there were people trying to cut queue (especially those from 1 of the Asian economic powerhouses that also speaks Mandarin). We also met a few big tour groups who were quite rowdy, which somehow disturbed the tranquility that this picturesque place should have.
Before getting into Mr Brown Avenue, we rented a 2-pax electric 4-wheel bike from 1 of the bicycle shops nearby, which costed 500 TWD/bike (~S$23.30) for about 2 hours. The bicycle shop staff showed us how to handle the bike & kept assuring us that it’d be safe because its maximum speed was only 20km/hour. So we started our bike trip after finally taken some photos at the iconic photo spot in above pic.
We took quite a while before we could familiarise ourselves with how to ride the bike smoothly, & the owner had to come & guide us again haha. But I eventually got the hang of it & grew to love the feeling of riding through the huge paddy fields. Think my friend sort of gave up & passed the wheel to me solely since I seemed to enjoy it more than her. 😛 Here are some of the picturesque photos taken during our awesome bike trip in the rain.
As seen in photo above, that’s the famous “Takeshi Kaneshiro Tree” that appeared in the 2013 Eva Air commercial. The commercial made Mr Brown Avenue even more popular as increasing number of tourists came to seek for this unique tree in Chishang’s boundaryless field. The bench & teapot were placed there so that visitors would be able to find the tree, & also could act as props to reignite the scene in the commercial. 😉 It was somewhere in the middle of the avenue, & we took about 25 min to arrive at the spot, with some stops along the way to take photos. The tree was hit by typhoon in 2014, hence you may have spotted the poles on the left of the tree to support it from collapsing.
Too bad we sorta lost our bearings in the huge farmland, & I don’t think I took photos of the “Road to Heaven” although we did ride along the narrow path that looked heavenly. We even had to call the bicycle shop for help as we couldn’t find the way back, so that someone could come & guide us back to the correct path haha. But it was a really fun experience despite the wet weather & crowd!
Next, Mr Wang also drove us to the nearby Dapo Pond, located to the east of Chishang. Formed as a result of fault activity in the township, the water comes from an underground stream situated at the tip of Sinwulyu River’s alluvial fan. The township’s name, which means “above the pond” in Chinese is a reference to Dapo Pond. Too bad, it was too foggy that day due to the non-stop rain, the view at Dapo Pond was nothing fantastic to shout about…
Next, it was time for some afternoon snacks at Da Chi Soy Bean Skin Shop. As its name suggests, they only sell soy products, & only 4 items available. Strictly speaking, there are only 3 types of soy products, namely, soy bean skin, soy bean curd & soya milk (which has 2 versions – low sugar & no sugar). Established for about 50 years, Da Chi has proven that you don’t need many items to attract customers. Even if you specialise & only have a limited menu, customers will stream in if the food is good. The shop was filled with customers even on a rainy weekday late afternoon.
然后，又到了享用茶点的时候了。汪先生带我们到五十年的老字号 – 大池豆皮店去品尝美味的豆类食品。这家店只售卖3种产品，即豆浆、豆花及豆包。豆浆有低糖和无糖选择。来到大池豆皮店，你可以亲眼见证，店家只要专心把拿手食品做好，无需多种选择，也能吸引食客到来品尝。我们到访的那天已是下午4点多，又下着雨，但食客还是好多。
We were lucky that the shop was open that day, as there is no fixed schedule as to when it would be open or closed. To order your food & drinks, get into the shop where you could see numerous lines of soy bean skin hanging high on the production line. There are some staff who would be busy stir-frying the soy bean skin ordered by customers. It was a busy day as I waited patiently in line for my turn to lay my hands on a cup of soy bean (low sugar) drink (30 TWD, ~S$1.40) & a plate of freshly stir-fried soy bean skin (65 TWD, ~S$3) (as per photo above). The 4-piece stir-fried soy bean skin tasted really crispy on the outside, yet soft on the inside.
All products at Da Chi are prepared using non-genetically modified soy beans, so customers can consume the fragrant soy bean products at ease. If you love soy bean products, you would love the rich soy taste here. NB: Use the chilli paste in moderation, it was quite salty for us.
The rainy afternoon at Chishang thus ended as we finished the snacks at Da Chi Soy Bean Skin Shop. I definitely enjoyed wandering through the paddy fields with the electric bike, as well as the delicious food we had here. The weather may not have been perfect, & the township was more touristy & crowded compared to the earlier places we had been to so far. Nonetheless, it is a place that I would gladly return if I visit Taitung again!