A spectacular sunrise

Alishan National Park Travel Blog

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The Alishan Forest Train from Chiayi to Alishan

People i met here who contributed to, and improved my trip: Emile (Taiwan)

Alishan is the first place that Taiwanese people will advise you to go to, with great scenery, cool fresh air and a lovely little forest railway line to transport you there. I decided that this was the kind of place that i was craving for and thus went to investigate whether the place could live up to its hype. Sadly there was only one train a day up the mountain, which departed in the afternoon and thus the clouds had already begun to roll in by the time that we set off on our 4 hour journey.

I was sitting besides an old Taiwanese (but lived in Las Vegas, America) couple who had brought their teenage kids to visit the country for the first time and i got briefly chatting to them at the beginning of the journey.

Giant Tree Trail in Alishan Park
I was amused when they said 'You are from England, oh which island is that', bless them. Next to start a conversation was the incredibly friendly Emile, an old local Taiwanese man, who came up and introduced himself. For the next couple of hours we chatted away and he filled me in on a range of details about the park and the railway and this was in fact his 7th journey to the area to go hiking, so he was an informative character that i enjoyed my time with.

The train snaked its way up the hillside passing through 49 tunnels and crossing 77 bridges, as well as performing 3 switch backs, on its way to climbing over 8000ft. Each of the bridges actually had the number and height on them and i was lucky enough to be sat in the front carriage, so i could get views out of the drivers window.

Tree that resembles a pig, in Alishan Park
Although the weather was slightly cloudy, it did nothing to diminish the experience, as the views over the cliff edges really were spectacular. The flora and fauna also changed as we passed through the first section, which contained tropical and sub tropical plants such as banana and bamboo, then onto the temperate zone, where camphor, cedar and tea flourished and finally into the alpine zone, the home of cypress, fir and pine trees.

Alishan station was eventually reached around 17.00 and i got a fright to see how many people there were milling around. This feeling heightened when a Taiwanese man who was on our train, asked if i had made a hotel reservation and said that i would struggle to find accomodation if i hadn't booked in advance.

Blooming flowers in Alishan Park
It was already getting cold up here and i began to worry that i might have to sleep in the train station!

My first thought was to head to the tourism office and i couldn't believe it when i found that it closed at 17.00, even though the core of the arrivals were literally just arriving! I was offered a few rooms for 1000TWD ($35), but decided to have a good walk around before commiting to anything. I was pleased that i did, as i came across the Catholic Hostel, where i got a private room with cable TV for only 400TWD ($13).

I spent the evening in front of the TV with some noodles, crisps and cup of soups and played with the idea of whether to go to the sunrise the following morning or not. As it turned out, my newly found TV addiction proved to be the deciding factor, as i watched movie after movie until the wee hours of the morning and almost began to toy with the idea of not going to sleep at all! Thankfully i put this idea to rest along with my weary head around 02.

Blooming flowers in Alishan Park
30.

Wednesday began for me around 10.00 and after buying some sandwiches and crisps at the 7/11 to take into the park for lunch, i was on my way. My first impressions were not really too positive, as there seemed to be an awful lot of people, making the paths quite congested. I figured that the further into the park i got, the quieter it would become, but this really wasn't the case and i began to become a little frustrated with the people never moving out of the way when you needed to get past. On top of this, most of the people seemed to be shouting at the top of their lungs and there were also tour groups whose leaders were using loud speakers! Hardly relaxing.

I actually never understand why Chinese are so loud and also why they never move when they see you want to come past, because they are such nice, friendly people, so i don't think they do it just to be rude! I guess its just something that they are brought up with and see as normal behaviour? The noise that they make often staggers me and i wonder if it has anything to do with having a 'little person complex' where they are desperate to be heard? I certainly think that the volume that they talk at has to do with asserting themselves amongst their groups.

Shouchen Temple in Alishan Park
They definitely come near the top in the international noise league in my opinion, although i think Americans can give them a good race for their money! Oh and lastly, why do they always stand in the way of photos!? Thats something that really gets on my nerves, do they really think i'd want them in my shot? Anyway, i love the Chinese/Taiwanese and most Americans, but i had to get those petty things off my chest!

So, the reason that the park was so busy i guess was due to the flowers coming into blossom and it gave the area a colourful edge, which i really liked. Interesting sights in the park included a tree shaped like an elephant and one like a pig, a tree that had sprouted new roots over 3 generations, a tree spirit monument dedicated to the trees, a walking trail that took you past countless gigantic trees that dated back as far as 2300 years, with the largest having a 12 metre circumference and 45 metre height! There was also the colourful Shouchen Temple, the two sisters pond and the Magnolia garden.

Scenery at sunrise in Alishan Park

After spending most of the afternoon feeling slightly crowded, i decided that i would walk up the Chushan Sunrise Trail, and yes, i know that i was half a day away from the star attraction there! But thankfully there was not another soul in sight as i walked along the pretty forested path and crossed the railway line on my route to the top. The round trip took me about 90 minutes and i felt like i was in another World from the madness down below me. Although the views at the top were pretty much just cloud, it was more for the peace and quiet that i had chosen to go there, and i enjoyed sitting at the summit completely alone, except for a dog!

Back down in the park main areas, i soon felt a little overwhelmed by the amount of people and noise again and decided that i'd had enough for one day, so grabbed some noodles and beers from the 7/11 and settled in front of the TV for the night.

Scenery at sunrise in Alishan Park, Yushan (North East Asia's highest peak) is on the right, it looks like its smoking!
I ended up watching an interesting programme on Marco Polo, but the presenter (who was also a photographer) was doing my head in, as he was shoving his camera in the faces of everyone they were documenting, including one wedding procession, which he appeared to have gate crashed. This is why i could probably never be a photographer, i struggle to invade peoples space in a way that can get you that winning shot. I decided to call it a night around 11pm, it had been an interesting day from crowds to solitude, but one thing was unquestionable and that was the beauty of the landscape, with towering mountains and blossoming plants at every turn.

I was awake by 4.45am on Thursday and it was a 45 minute hike back up the Chushan Sunrise Trail, rather than the 20 minute train ride up.

Scenery at sunrise in Alishan Park
I decided to walk as it saved some money and it was better to be walking than just standing at the top and freezing my butt off! I arrived to a sea of people, who had all obviously decided that the train was a very convenient way of getting up there! It was so busy infact that there wasn't even any room on the main viewing deck, or the 2nd platform down. I therefore went a bit further down the mountain and found a decent spot to take in the views, where there were just a handful of people beside me.

I feel incredibly fortunate to have been there on the day i was, as the views across the mountain range and valley below were sublime. The sun came up over North East Asia's highest peak about 6.15am and the whole valley gradually began to fill with light. It was a beautiful scene and one i enjoyed watching for a good half an hour.

Scenery at sunrise in Alishan Park
It surprised me that almost everybody left the second the sun rose and thus missed the changing colours below, as the light filtered in. Their loss. I hiked back down to the village, packed up my belongings and said goodbye to a beautiful part of the World. I caught a bus to Chiayi, followed by the train to Tainan, to begin my assault on Taiwan's former capital.

JonLau says:
Thanks Deats, and I did in Dec 2014 and spent 4 days in Taroko National Park, cycling and hiking and simply relaxing. I absolutely love love it, so I plan to re-visit Taiwan again in April 2016 for 4 weeks. I am sure I still cannot see everything, but I plan to enjoy Alishan and revisit Tarok again for couple days as it was amazing.

Much appreciated,
Jon
Posted on: Sep 03, 2015
Deats says:
Thanks for the comment Jon. Make sure you also check out Taroko Gorge in Taiwan!
Posted on: Sep 03, 2015
JonLau says:
I think I need to pay visit here in my upcoming April 2016 to Taiwan. Thanks for sharing and it is much appreciated.

Cheers,
Jon
Posted on: Sep 02, 2015
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The Alishan Forest Train from Chia…
The Alishan Forest Train from Chi…
Giant Tree Trail in Alishan Park
Giant Tree Trail in Alishan Park
Tree that resembles a pig, in Alis…
Tree that resembles a pig, in Ali…
Blooming flowers in Alishan Park
Blooming flowers in Alishan Park
Blooming flowers in Alishan Park
Blooming flowers in Alishan Park
Shouchen Temple in Alishan Park
Shouchen Temple in Alishan Park
Scenery at sunrise in Alishan Park
Scenery at sunrise in Alishan Park
Scenery at sunrise in Alishan Park…
Scenery at sunrise in Alishan Par…
Scenery at sunrise in Alishan Park
Scenery at sunrise in Alishan Park
Scenery at sunrise in Alishan Park
Scenery at sunrise in Alishan Park
The Alishan Forest Train from Chia…
The Alishan Forest Train from Chi…
A view from the Alishan Forest Tra…
A view from the Alishan Forest Tr…
A view on the Alishan Forest Train…
A view on the Alishan Forest Trai…
A view on the Alishan Forest Train…
A view on the Alishan Forest Trai…
Flowers in Alishan Park
Flowers in Alishan Park
Cherry blossom in Alishan Park
Cherry blossom in Alishan Park
Elephant Tree at Alishan Park
'Elephant Tree' at Alishan Park
3 generation tree at Alishan Park
3 generation tree at Alishan Park
Forest at Alishan Park
Forest at Alishan Park
3 generation tree at Alishan Park
3 generation tree at Alishan Park
2300 year old tree at Alishan Park
2300 year old tree at Alishan Park
Tree Spirit Monument at Alishan Pa…
Tree Spirit Monument at Alishan P…
Giant Tree Trail in Alishan Park
Giant Tree Trail in Alishan Park
Cherry Blossom in Alishan Park
Cherry Blossom in Alishan Park
The Giant Sacred Tree, which fell …
The Giant Sacred Tree, which fell…
The Giant Sacred Tree, which fell …
The Giant Sacred Tree, which fell…
The Alishan Forest Train
The Alishan Forest Train
Alishan Park
Alishan Park
Flowers are in blossom in Alishan …
Flowers are in blossom in Alishan…
Two Sisters Pond in Alishan Park
Two Sisters Pond in Alishan Park
Tree trunk grows over the path at …
Tree trunk grows over the path at…
Shouchen Temple in Alishan Park
Shouchen Temple in Alishan Park
Carving at Shouchen Temple in Alis…
Carving at Shouchen Temple in Ali…
Shouchen Temple in Alishan Park
Shouchen Temple in Alishan Park
Blooming flowers in Alishan Park
Blooming flowers in Alishan Park
Blooming flowers in Alishan Park
Blooming flowers in Alishan Park
Blooming flowers in Alishan Park
Blooming flowers in Alishan Park
Old steam trains
Old steam trains
Old steam train and carriages
Old steam train and carriages
Pretty flowers with a steam train …
Pretty flowers with a steam train…
Chiang Kai-Shek memorial in Alisha…
Chiang Kai-Shek memorial in Alish…
Scenery in Alishan Park
Scenery in Alishan Park
Thats why im so tired!
Thats why im so tired!
Scenery in Alishan Park
Scenery in Alishan Park
Can you hear that? Nope, me neithe…
Can you hear that? Nope, me neith…
Scenery in Alishan Park
Scenery in Alishan Park
Blossoming cherry blossom in Alish…
Blossoming cherry blossom in Alis…
Scenery in Alishan Park
Scenery in Alishan Park
Scenery at sunrise in Alishan Park
Scenery at sunrise in Alishan Park
Beautiful flowers in Alishan Park
Beautiful flowers in Alishan Park
A viewing platform to watch the su…
A viewing platform to watch the s…
Scenery at sunrise in Alishan Park
Scenery at sunrise in Alishan Park
Scenery at sunrise in Alishan Park
Scenery at sunrise in Alishan Park
Scenery at sunrise in Alishan Park
Scenery at sunrise in Alishan Park
Scenery at sunrise in Alishan Park
Scenery at sunrise in Alishan Park
Scenery at sunrise in Alishan Park
Scenery at sunrise in Alishan Park
Scenery at sunrise in Alishan Park
Scenery at sunrise in Alishan Park
Scenery at sunrise in Alishan Park
Scenery at sunrise in Alishan Park
Scenery at sunrise in Alishan Park…
Scenery at sunrise in Alishan Par…
Scenery at sunrise in Alishan Park
Scenery at sunrise in Alishan Park
Scenery at sunrise in Alishan Park
Scenery at sunrise in Alishan Park
Scenery at sunrise in Alishan Park
Scenery at sunrise in Alishan Park
Scenery at sunrise in Alishan Park…
Scenery at sunrise in Alishan Par…
Scenery at sunrise in Alishan Park
Scenery at sunrise in Alishan Park
Blooming flowers in Alishan Park
Blooming flowers in Alishan Park
Scenery in Alishan Park
Scenery in Alishan Park
Scenery in Alishan Park
Scenery in Alishan Park
Scenery in Alishan Park
Scenery in Alishan Park
Scenery in Alishan Park
Scenery in Alishan Park
Scenery in Alishan Park
Scenery in Alishan Park
Wall murals at Alishan Park
Wall murals at Alishan Park
Watching the Sunrise at Alishan P…
Alishan National Park
photo by: Deats