Located in the mountains of Chiayi County in southwest Taiwan, the Alishan National Scenic Area is the most notable mountain resort in the country with visitors all year round. With about 37,000 hectares of dense forests in the area, Alishan promises both locals and tourists some respite from the hustle and bustle of city life with its idyllic scenery. In case you are fretting over the most ideal duration of your next holiday to Alishan, do not worry even if you only have 2 days 1 night to spare for the short break at this lush nature preserve. Here are 5 things you must do to make the most out of your short getaway!
Make a stop at Fenqihu to enjoy the famous railway lunch box
The most scenic and nostalgic mode of transport to Alishan National Scenic Area is to take the Alishan Forest Railway that departs from Chiayi at 9.00 am every morning. It stops at Fenqihu the midpoint station around lunch time. Do not miss the famous Fenqihu railway lunch box – packed with a large drumstick, big slice of pork chop, Taiwanese sausage, hard-boiled egg and a selection of mountain veggies on rice! You can alight at this small town to try the lunch box at 100 TWD a box (approximately 3 USD a box). Besides being able to enjoy a delectable meal at wallet-friendly price at Fenqihu, commonly called the Jiufen of south Taiwan, you should also allocate 1 to 2 hours to tour the Railway Museum and the shops lining the Old Street selling all sorts of mountain produce.
See the Unique Sacred Tree in the Alishan National Forest Recreation Area
Take the Alishan Forest Railway at the main Alishan Railway Station located near the hotels and hostels in Alishan to the Shenmu Railway Station. A round trip adult train ticket costs 80 TWD (approximately 2.50 USD). This is a short yet scenic 10-minute ride on the famous narrow gauge railway to Shenmu Railway Station (which means Sacred Tree in Chinese) with an elevation of 2,138 metres.
After alighting at this station, check out the giant red cypress tree, the icon of Alishan, lying on the boardwalk beside the station as pictured above. Known as the Alishan Sacred Tree (also called Alishan Shenmu), this unique tree is at least 3,000 years old with a height of 55 metres and 23 metres in circumference. The sacred tree was tough and able to withstand typhoons and earthquakes over the years. However, after being struck by severe lightning in 1956, it was internally burnt and overtime, the slant turned so bad that it was cut and laid as such since 1998.
Besides admiring this icon of Alishan, do take your time to explore the sacred tree trail along the station with its vast spread of red cypress trees over a thousand years old. Depending on your stamina, the trail can take up to 2 hours. For visitors such as the elderly and young children who may have difficulty climbing long flights of steps, you may choose to take the easy boardwalk trail around the Shenmu Railway Station, which will only take about half an hour. In addition to being able to breathe in cool and fresh air along this trail, you will also feel at ease and enjoy the breathtaking scenery this forest bathing experience offers.
Tuck in to a healthy yet scrumptious trout dinner the local style
Highly recommended by the locals, you must try Alishan’s speciality – the freshwater trout for dinner at Shan Bin Restaurant located in Alishan Township. The steamed trout in black bean sauce with beancurd, as seen in above picture, is really fresh and tasty! The fresh trout is also served in steamboat, also known as a simmering hot pot, where the fresh trout is cooked in the hot pot with lots of cabbage and mushroom. With generous portions served in every dish, you will feel satisfied and full with the healthily-cooked meal. Furthermore, you only need to pay an affordable 550 TWD for 2 persons (approximately 17 USD) after eating to your heart’s content.
Witness the splendid sunrise at the tallest peak in East Asia
Instead of taking the popular and overcrowded forest railway that operates only twice every morning to Zhushan Railway Station to catch the sunrise, why not admire the lovely sunrise in comfort at Yushan (which means Jade Mountain in Chinese)? Being the tallest peak in East Asia at 3,952 metres, Yushan is located in Nantou County, east of the Alishan Mountain Range, within a 30 to 45 minute drive from Alishan Township.
Since it is taller than Zhushan which stands at only 2,489 metres, there is a higher chance of witnessing the sunrise successfully. As there is a strict daily visitor limit to Yushan Main Peak, this means that it will not be as crowded as Zhushan. Furthermore, your comfort is guaranteed with a private mini tour bus that seats up to 10 passengers, picking you up directly from your hotel lobby to Yushan Main Peak. You can also catch a bit more sleep by choosing this option to catch the sunrise, as the bus picks passengers up around 4.50am compared to the first train departing 3.40am at Alishan Main Station. You can book this private tour 1 day before your intended sunrise date with any of the licensed tour guides (carrying a certified tour guide pass) that hang around the big car park in front of the shopping and dining area with a large 7-11. Cost for taking the private tour bus option to and fro Yushan is at an additional 300 TWD (approximately 9.30 USD) per person. The picturesque and breathtaking scenery at Yushan definitely makes the extra cost worthwhile!
Send a wooden postcard home from the quaint Alishan Post Office
Set up in 1907, the Alishan Post Office building is an outstanding structure in Alishan Township, looking like it has just popped out from a Chinese period TV drama. To make your holiday more memorable at Alishan, why not send a special Alishan wooden postcard back home from this quaint post office before you leave? Imagine the joy of receiving your own overseas handwritten note in the mailbox when you reach home? The Alishan wooden postcard can be purchased from the large 7-11 convenience store near the post office, which prides itself as Taiwan’s Highest 7-11. Airmail charge is a mere 6 to 12 TWD (approximately 0.20 to 0.40 USD) per postcard, depending on where you send it to.
Make the most out of your short trip in Alishan
With Taiwan’s favourite tourist destination packed with tourists all year round, it is essential to make the most out of your short 2 days 1 night trip for a pleasant and memorable holiday. The 5 must-do activities described above are applicable at any time of the year to make your trip worthwhile. Perhaps after your first short break at Alishan trying out these activities, you will be inspired to spend more time exploring Alishan in future!