This weekend, E and I made our first visit to Alishan National Scenic Area. Unfortunately, we had awful luck and it rained all weekend. We couldn’t appreciate the amazing views that Alishan supposedly offers, but we did see some very beautiful things.
Getting to Alishan from Kaohsiung is very easy. There are two options. First, take the High Speed Rail from Zuoying to Chiayi. The train takes about 30 minutes and costs $400NT. Outside of the Chiayi HSR station, there is a bus stop from which the Alishan bus leaves twice a day. I believe the times are posted as 10:10 and 11:40. We took the 11:00 train from Kaohsiung which arrived just in time for us to catch the bus.
The second option is to take the slower train which leaves from Kaohsiung Main Station. The fastest of these trains takes approximately 1 hour and 20 minutes and costs $245 NT. Buses from the Chiayi TRA station to Alishan leave regularly until about 5 PM. The bus from Chiayi to Alishan takes between 2 and 2 and half hours. It costs about $250NT. This bus ride would be a particularly difficult experience for those who suffer from motion sickness. Expect to pay $150 NT per person for entry to Alishan if you arrive on public transportation.
When we arrived at the park, it was pouring rain and very very foggy. We couldn’t see ten feet in front of us. It is also significantly colder at that elevation than in Kaohsiung. Needless to say, we were rather miserable. In addition, we were informed that the fireflies we had gone to see were not actually in Alishan but in a town called Fenqihu, located about an hour away. There is only one bus linking the two towns each day and that bus was long gone by the time we arrived. We decided to make the best of our stay and went for a hike.
We began our hike on the Alishan Railway. This railway used to link Alishan to Chiayi, but was heavily damaged in a 2009 typhoon and that link has not reopened. Someone informed us that the longer line will reopen in June but will only link Chiayi to Fenqihu, not Alishan. Regardless, the railway still operates three historic mountain trains within the park. One of these takes visitors to a viewing platform on Zhushan where tourists can watch the sunrise over Jade Mountain and the sea of clouds. Please note that spring is not a good time to watch the sunrise as clouds too often block the view.
We took the Sacred Tree line. This train travels slowly along the mountain side for 15 minutes. I’m sure that some of the views on the train would have been lovely had we not been stuck in a cloud. At the end of the line, we began the walk back to Alishan. Luckily, a nice Taiwanese couple took pity on us and showed us the way back to town. They also showed us some of the ancient trees along the way. Many of these trees were cut down during the Japanese occupation. The Japanese liked to use the giant Taiwanese red cypresses to make furniture. However, some still survive. The oldest one we saw was 2300 years old! About 45 minutes later we arrived back in Alishan with the intention of giving up and returning to Kaohsiung on account of the weather.