Alishan has two 7- Eleven Stores, and claims they are the second highest in Taiwan ~ and Taiwan’s #1 highest post office too. Another must see!
And Taiwan’s #1 highest elementary school. Wow, that’s quite something! 2,195 metres above sea-level, that’s over 7,000 feet. Imagine that eh?
But of course, none of these reasons are really why Alishan is so popular. It’s very well up on the list of THE places to visit in Taiwan. Tourists from all over Asia and especially Mainland China, zillions of people have it on their list. Alishan is famous, very famous.
We’re talking about an area of over 400 km² way up in Taiwan’s central mountain range, with the main Alishan mountain resort located at just over 2,000 metres above sea level. Famous for it’s sunrises and sea of clouds, for it’s cherry blossom and giant ancient ‘sacred’ trees, for the famous folk song about the beautiful girls of Alishan (阿里山的姑娘) and the local Tsou indigenous people, for its tea plantations and wasabi, and for its mountain railway and winding roads….
The Alishan area was originally settled by the Tsou tribe of the Taiwanese aborigines; the name derives from the aboriginal word Jarissang…. Following the cession of Taiwan to Japan at the end of the First Sino-Japanese War, Japanese expeditions to the area found large quantities of cypress (檜木, or hinoki in Japanese). This led to the development of the logging industry in the area and the export of local cypress and Taiwania wood. A series of narrow-gauge railways were built in the area during this time to facilitate the transportation of lumber from the mountains to the plains below, part of which continues to operate as the Alishan Forest Railway.
Now the area is called Alishan National Scenic Area and possibly the only reason for it not being completely overrun with even more tourists (not true, it IS overrun by tourist in the cherry blossom season!) is it’s remote location ~ 6 hours by road from Taipei, that’s 3 hours down the motorway to Chiayi and then 3 hours of winding roads going forever round and round and up and up!
Anyway, a fine day was promised for Saturday, and it’s the end of April – so we’re right at the end of the cherry blossom season. Gotta get there fast!
How to do it?
Well, this is one way ~ overnight bus from Taipei straight to Alishan, arriving in Alishan at 3:00 am, just in time to get ready to head for the sunrise due at about 5:30 am. The key place is to see the sun coming up over Yushan, Taiwan’s highest mountain (3,952 m) …..
By which time it’s about 6:30 am, and time for a big explore of the Alishan area. Checking out all the ancient trees, cherry blossoms, views and of course the little trains.
And then back by bus to Chiayi mid-afternoon, train to Taipei and home on the last bus, arriving just before midnight. Phew!
Yes, Alishan on a day trip ~ kinda crazy but definitely worth doing, even if you have to survive on hardly any sleep. Hey, there’s always plenty of coffee available at Taiwan’s second-highest 7-Eleven stores ~ and you’ll need it, I’m telling you!