National Palace Museum Experiences (Southern Branch in Chiayi): Ride the Rails in Southern Taiwan

The National Palace Museum in Taipei is one of the premier tourist attractions in all Taiwan. NPM opened its southern branch in Chiayi County in December 2015 and since then that too has become one of the country’s top places to visit. Located in Taibao City, the museum looks beyond the 5,000 years of Chinese history covered by the northern branch and displays art and culture from all corners of Asia, including many exhibits unique to the southern branch. Following your morning of soaking up history, you’ll take a journey of a different kind, with a ride on the 小火車 (small train) at Suantou Zhecheng Cultural Park. Here’s your itinerary for a great day out in Chiayi. (Read also: Alishan – A World of High-Mountain Tea Up in the Clouds)

9.30am – National Palace Museum (Southern branch)

The National Palace Museum’s southern branch is a stunning complex, boasting a manmade lake and a bridge crossing, with its design inspired by three traditional Chinese painting styles (thick ink, ‘flying white’ and ink wash). The exhibits see National Palace Museum’s southern branch look beyond more than 5,000 years of Chinese history that the northern branch is best known for and cover art and culture from many different parts of Asia. Permanent exhibits at the museum include Buddhist artworks and Asian textiles, while depending on when you visit, you might get even get to see famous artifacts from the northern museum such as the Meat Shaped Stone.

12.30pm – Lunch at Black Beans Café

After a morning of history and discovery, it’s time to eat. For lunch you’ll head to Black Beans Café, known to locals as 新農豆食堂. Here, you’ll be able to try all kinds of healthy, locally sourced dishes ranging from tasty biandang – traditional lunch boxes found across Taiwan; known as bento in Japan – to fresh fruit smoothies, coffee and more.

2pm – Bantaoyao Crafts Studio

Founded in 2005, Bantaoyao is a crafts studio and pottery workshop where you’ll learn about all things ancient Chinese arts and crafts. Explore their craft museum to learn more about the history of jiaozhi pottery (cochin ware) and take a walk through their outdoor garden area against the backdrop of the Jianan Plain, the largest plain in all Taiwan. At Bantaoyao’s DIY Workshop, you’ll be taught how to make your own masterpiece, such as a pottery plate or a mosaic puzzle; a perfect souvenir.

3pm – Train ride at Suantou Zhecheng Cultural Park

All aboard for the next stop on your tour, a ride on a 小火車 (small train). The site of a former sugar factory, the Suantou Zhecheng Cultural Park is now a multipurpose compound, home to museums, a railbike, a traditional Chinese garden, and more. The highlight of your visit will be a ride on the old train carts that were once used to transport goods from the factory. The route is 5.3km long and takes upwards of half an hour. During the ride, there are guides on hand to explain the history and the scenery that you’ll see along the way. (You might also like: Cruise Kaohsiung Taiwan Part 2: KW2, Pier 2 and Fongyi Tour)

(Image source: Suantou Zhecheng Cultural Park)

The tour will end at 5pm with your being dropped back at the HSR station. Hope you had a great days!

Taipei branch
Southern branch (Chiayi)