Attraction Alishan National Scenic Area, 605, Đài Loan, Chiayi County, Alishan Township, 中正村59號 Published on: 13-11-2015
Image copyrights belong to authors
Why Alishan National Scenic Area is special ?
The Alishan National Scenic Area lies east of Chiayi and is more or less smack-dab in the middle of Taiwan. The weather is hot and humid but obviously gets cooler and thinner as you make your way up the mountains. The area was originally settled by aboriginal tribes, and the Japanese used the mountain's lush forests for lumber - a rail system that you can still see with your own eyes.
What to explore at Alishan National Scenic Area?
Alishan's park is a relatively family-friendly tourist attraction for nature-lovers and tea enthusiasts. The Ali shan area also offers sublime hiking and mountain climbing.
Chase the Sun
Like most places in Taiwan, Alishan has its primary claim to fame - the sunrise. If you ask any local what the most important thing to do at Alishan is, they will almost all mention heading to one of the high peaks in the scenic area to catch the sun peeking up from underneath the "sea of clouds".
You'll want to take the old Alishan train from Ali-shan station to the top of Jhushan, where you and dozens of others will be crowding around to get a glimpse of the phenomenon. It might be worth it to wander around or hike up a bit, away from the train station, to find some more personal space. If you're willing to get up early enough, you could also make the hike up the Jhushan Sunrise Trail.
Alishan Giant Tree Trail
More hiking in Alishan reveals more natural wonders, and the Giant Tree Trail is no exception. The photogenic giant cypress trees make it totally unnecessary to stop and think about why Japanese colonialists would want to take advantage of Taiwan's timber. Their legacy lives on in the trail; Japanese temples as well as the Tree Spirit Pagoda are remnants of that time, which you can spot if you remember to look down as well as up.
Alishan Tea Tourism
A friend once told me a story about Alishan tea: a Taiwanese man was on a business trip to Russia and brought several containers of the stuff to give as a gift to his Russian acquaintance. The Russian customs agent, recognizing the high-grade drink, corruptly inquired as to what the purpose of bringing so much tea was. "It's for my friend in Russia," the Taiwanese said. The customs officer, eyeing the tea, replied "I'm not your friend?"
Alishan is a name that rings out across the tea-drinking world, and it's your chance to get a couple containers and bring it home. Recently, throughout Taiwan, stuff falsely billing itself as "Alishan tea" has been crowding the shelves, but you can be assured going there yourself is a great way to ensure authenticity.
How to get to Alishan National Scenic Area?
Your Alishan experience starts before you even get there, as you'll most likely be taking the Forest Railway from Chiayi Station into the park area. However, the trains are sometimes infrequent (a few times per day), and in this case you'll be able to take buses from Chiayi as well. Both options will be scenic and rewarding, but the train is a bit more of a story to tell.
Travel from Taipei to Alishan
This is the most reliable way to get to Alishan as the Alishan Forest Train is very often out of order.
Step 1: First, travel from Taipei to Chiayi by High Speed Rail (HSR); 1.5 hour; NT$860 or by normal train (TRA); around NT$500; 3.5 hours.
Step 2: If you took the HSR, you'll need to get to the Chiayi TRA Station, which is located in downtown Chiayi. You can either take a taxi or a shuttle bus. The shuttle bus is easy to locate as there are English signs in the station.
Step 3: From the Chiayi Bus Station (next to the train station), you can take a bus (NT$220; 2.5 hours) all the way to Alishan.
Alishan National Scenic Area, 605, Đài Loan, Chiayi County, Alishan Township, 中正村59號
Tips for you
“Scenic” Long journey from Taipei. Advisable to stay 2 nights so to rest after long car ride. But my family only stayed one night. Arrived at mid level Alishan town and had railway bento (called ben-tan) for late lunch. Succulent chicken thigh and thin pork chop. Further down railway bento shop, found the best fresh mochi. It's make of rice flour instead of glutinous rice flour. Very soft and delicious. As it doesn't have preservative, it will expire in 3 days. Other mochi with slight added preservative are sold there too. Those last 3 weeks but slightly tougher in texture. Small railway station at mid level displaying some old trains and pictures of trains worldwide. Travel up to Alishan town. Stayed at a hotel here. Hotel owner drove us to see fireflies. Early next morning 4am head to train station (very short walk from hotel) to catch a train to higher elevation to view sunrise. Daily sunrise time and first train ride time is shown at train station. Be sure to check the day before. Only 2 trains up and down per day for sunrise and limited number of tickets being sold. Walk around the area instead of hanging out at the edge, waiting for sunrise. There are better viewing places. If planning to hike down through the forest reserve, grab some food from the row of stalls near the main viewing area. Guide recommend a stall at the furthest end of the stalls but we didn't take breakfast as too early for our stomach. Took a train down but stop at Alishan Gou Hotel station. There's a trail behind the hotel to go down to Alishan town. Trails are mostly covered by planks which make walking easy. It's a 1-3 hours walk (depending how fast you walk and how often you stop). My family including my 65-years old mum took only slightly more than an hour. Guide underestimated us ladies and was panting catching up with us :) Weather was great. Cooling with bright sun. Great for hike and photography. A different atmosphere from hiking dense forest as most of the trees are super tall pine trees. Great history too. I enjoy this hike more than the sunrise