While Chiayi (Jiāyì) is not part of the Alishan National Scenic Area, almost every traveller will have to pass through here on the way there. The narrow-gauge train to the Alishan Forest Recreation Area leaves from Chiayi train station, as do buses and taxis. There are a few better-than-OK sights to recommend in Chiayi, so plan to spend a half day or so before moving on.
Central Chiayi is small enough to walk across in 30 minutes, though air pollution often makes it unpleasant to do so. Most road signs appear with pinyin also. Taxis are plentiful, except in the area west of the train tracks.