ALISHAN SERIES: THE TOP THINGS TO DO IN ALISHAN, TAIWAN! (Part 3/4)
Usually I like to do a must eat post for the places I go to; however, the Alishan Forest Recreational Area is quite small, and our dinner was included into our hotel package; henceforth, I didn’t try enough food there. The food we did try at the Alishan Forest Recreational Area didn’t necessarily blow me away, so we will roll any food that we do recommend in with my ALISHAN: THE TOP MUST DOS!
ONE. TAKE THE ALISHAN FOREST TRAIN.
If you’ve read all the posts in the Alishan Series, this recommendation should come as no surprise to you. If you’re wondering about the logistics of booking, etc., check this post out, which not only has info on how to book the Alishan Forest Train, but also info on all the other forms of transportation you can get to get to Alishan. We recommend getting the Alishan Forest Train going from Chiayi to Fenqihu- a sitting ticket & on the right hand side because it’s supposedly more scenic.
What’s the big deal about the Alishan Forest Train? Good question. The railway was constructed in 1912 and was originally constructed for logging. It’s a very scenic ride and it goes from Fenqihu to Alishan and back. It’s got a running English commentary throughout the 3 hour duration, and you will pass through 50 tunnels, 77 wooden bridges and even has unique Z-shaped switchbacks. The train has a lot of character and it would be a pity to miss out on it.
TWO. GET A RAILWAY BENTO BOX (鐵路便當) AT FENQIHU.
A bento box is a lunch box and in Taiwan, railway bento boxes are really famous. The bento boxes are usually in a paper container and it will generally consist of rice, some Taiwanese cabbage, a chicken or pork chop (or in this case, both), and maybe a marinated egg. It is epitome of Taiwanese comfort food. Bento boxes were and still is sold at railway stations so passengers can grab lunch when they are waiting for the train; therefore they call them Railway Bentos.
Fenqihu still sells the traditional railway bentos and Fenqihu is famous for railway bento boxes because back when the Alishan Forest Train was being constructed, it was during the Japanese Occupation & Fenqihu was the only big stopping place before Alishan where the Japanese workers would stop to get a bento lunch box for lunch. Bento is actually Japanese and it means “lunch box”. The super famous place now to get the Fenqihu Bento Box is this place:
While you’re at Fenqihu, make sure you walk around because the Old Street of Fenqihu has it’s own characteristic and appeal.
THREE. TAKE AS MANY FOREST TRAILS AS YOU CAN AT THE ALISHAN FOREST RECREATIONAL AREA.
I recommend staying one night at Alishan. If you’re wondering where you should stay in Alishan, we have a post befittingly titled, “Where to stay in Alishan” to help you out. There is a bigger Alishan National Scenic Area and then a smaller Alishan Forest Recreational Area which is within the National Scenic Area. The main “Alishan” area where all the Forest trails are are within the Alishan Forest Recreational Area and for convenience’s sake for viewing the sunrise, I recommend staying within this area.
There are plenty of forest trails to explore within the Alishan Forest Recreational Area and it is very clearly marked with sign posts. The map that you will receive either at your hotel or at the entrance of the Alishan Forest Recreational Area will be very handy. From what I remember, some of the most famous sights were the Sister Pond(s) – they’re called Sister Pond because there is a bigger pond and a smaller pond akin to a bigger and younger sister, the trees that were shaped into funny shapes, and also the 3 Generation Tree, which is a tree that grew on top of a tree on top of a tree.
As the Alishan Forest Train only makes one daily trip from Chiayi to Fenqihu in the morning, you’ll arrive at the Alishan Forest Recreational Area early afternoon. Now is a great time to grab a map at the Tourist Information Centre and to tour the whole Alishan Forest Recreational Area.
There are also marked areas on the map to indicate good spots for sunset viewing. Alishan is famous for the cloud sea (bunch of airy clouds with the sun just peaking through) – one of the best places to view that is at the Ciyun Temple at sunset.
Here’s a map of the Alishan Forest Recreational Area (Main Area).
FOUR. TRY SOME FAMOUS ALISHAN TEA.
There is a tea house right near the parking lot of the Alishan National Scenic Area, and if you know of tea lovers, then this is definitely a good place to get some nice souvenirs. Try a cup of their tea as Alishan is famous for their tea, so much so, that there is a famous tea plantation close to it.
If you’re a super tea love, then around the Fenqihu/Shizhuo area, there is a tea plantation called Sheng Le Farm Cafe/Tea Plantation and you can get all lame and cheesy, put on a straw hat and don a woven basket to try tea picking yourself! I didn’t get to do this myself because we were really strapped for time, but I think it would be really fun (and a bit touristy), but fun mostly. Here’s a photo of the writer from Lust to Wander demonstrating the outfit:
If you want to venture out there, I think it’s best to probably hail a taxi from Shizhuo with the Chinese name and address of the tea plantation. The writer from Lusttowander has a post on her tea plantation experience, which you can read here (but come back because we have more to our Alishan series).
FIVE. SEE THE 5 WONDERS OF ALISHAN.
Alishan’s 5 wonders are: 1) Sunrise 2) Sunset 3) Forest Train 4) Forest Trails 5) Cloud Sea
Whether you’ll be lucky to see the sunrise or not, you still should attempt to if you’re at Alishan. Apparently it’s beautiful and here’s a photo to show for it.
Unfortunately, it was a cloudy day when we went; therefore, we weren’t fortunate enough to see the sunrise, but I’m sure it would be spectacular!
If you’re really not into sunrises, then Alishan can be a day trip instead of an overnight trip.
As depicted on the map you’ll get at the entrance of the Alishan Forest Recreational Area, there are some viewing spots for the sunset. One of the best places for viewing the sunset is at the Ciyun Temple. The red sun will set on top of the sea of clouds, similar to the photo above. We had heavy cloud cover on the day we went, so our sunset looked a little something like this:
See point one.
See point three.
I believe they’re the most beautifully when it’s paired with the sunset or sunrise. Unfortunately for us, we didn’t get to see it, but hopefully, the weather will be better for you!
SIX. COME FOR THE SEASONAL SIGHTS.
The busiest times for Alishan are during when they have their seasonal sights. They are exceptionally busy during the Sakura/Cherry Blossom Festival during the March/April months and during the Autumn season to view the Autumn Foliage. We went in the very beginning of the Cherry Blossom period last year, and unfortunately, it was too cold of a winter; therefore, we were too early and the cherry blossoms were only just beginning to blossom… I would imagine it to be absolutely breathtaking when they’re all out in full bloom!
That’s it. Alishan is quite an idyllic and small area so there aren’t too many things to do; however, it is definitely a place you should check out if you’re travelling in Taiwan. It really is very scenic and pretty. Read the next post in the series on The Things You Should Know About Alishan Before Going. Feel free to comment if you have any other questions.