A spectacular sunrise
Alishan National Park Travel Blog› entry 277 of 658 › view all entries
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.