Having been curious about visiting the famous Alishan, we frantically made a call to go there..during winter! Yes, winter! Knowing for sure there won’t be any snow even in the highest point in Taiwan, we thought what will be unbearable about it. So there we went finding information. Personally, I was not aware that Alishan is located in county of Chiayi (worst, I did not know at all about Chiayi).My partner heard this information about direct train to Alishan, but when we confirmed by calling the office the train service was suspended for quite sometimes. Hence we needed to find another alternative way to reach there. As we went on a short weekend trip, we did not want to waste time on the transportation. We eventually bought bus tickets from Taipei Main Station to Chiayi for late Friday night to reach Chiayi early in the morning, just nice timing to then catch next mode of transportation (which we were still blurred about even at the time we departed from Taipei) to the forest of Alishan.
Incidentally, we arrived in Chiayi in the middle of the night (about 3AM) without any place to go. Browsing around the quiet station we saw some bikes up for rent just like the icon of Taipei “U-Bike”.
We rested for a while waiting for morning to come. Finally crowds starting to flow into the station, we also began to our quest of inquiring how to quickly get to Alishan. Out of nowhere, a guy approached a couple sitting in front of us and offered his service to get them to Alishan – slight eavesdropping admitted 😆 They seemed to quickly agree and follow that man. Not long after this same uncle approached us and offered the same thing. First, of course, we asked him about the price. Well, anyway we did not know the rough cost, but considering he already got some people joining, in no time we could get going and not wasting anymore time. So…off we go!
The trip from Chiayi to Alishan was about 2 hours, and we missed the sunrise as we were still along the way. The uncle spent some more time recruiting more people to join our van, by the time the van is full it was already like 6AM. We hit Alishan at about 8.30AM and it was freezing cold! I had to spend sometimes to wrap myself in more clothes to bear the 5 degree windy weather (thumbs up for my partner to be able to coolly withstand this!). Done with the preparation, we were eager to start exploring.
Compared to Taroko Gorge Scenic Area, Alishan is considerably smaller. The path is not so difficult, maybe that is why along our journey there were a lot of old people hiking there. Some popular spots are Alishan Sisters Pond (姊妹潭), Sacred Tree (神木), Three Generation Tree (三代木), and Shoujhen Temple (受鎮宮). Though not getting the chance to take the whole train trip from Chiayi to Alishan, we took a short railway trip within Alishan Forest area.
Around lunchtime, we got back to the car park to find our van and the rest of the people. We, then, quickly got going to move back to Chiayi with some places promised by the driver that we could drop by along the way. First stop was the well-known Fenchihu Old Street (奮起湖). The atmosphere was indifferent to Taipei’s Jiufen for me, but the driver insisted that this place is not to be missed while visiting Chiayi, so we couldn’t refuse. Notable thing here is its lunchbox or widely known in Taiwan as ‘biendang‘ (便當). The best and most crowded one is Fenchihu Hotel’s. Taste was okay, I mean what can be so nice off a lunchbox (pardon me, not really a fan), and for just a lunchbox, it was considered pricey, probably because of the brand.
Our next stop was Everlasting bridge (天長地久橋). It was said that couples holding hands while crossing the bridge will have an everlasting love. Hmmm..you can always give it a try 😉 At the end of the bridge there were some statues of cute bald kids doing different style of kung-fu.
Less than an hour later, we made it back to town. We had a reservation in Day+ hotel and were so excited about this; it is the highlight of this trip if we may say. It was a memorable stay indeed. The room was spaaacious (so was the bathroom!) and very well decorated. There was a small area matted with tatami where we can sit down and have some tea. We really adore how they finish up the details of every pieces of ornaments in the room. Aside from the room, they do not fail to do up the lobby, walls, etc and they have game room equipped with Kinects – what more can we ask for? Oh, before we forgot to mention, their breakfast spread was also splendid for a hotel in Taiwan.