Alishan (阿里山), or Mount Ali, is one of Taiwan’s most renowned tourist destinations. It’s not Taiwan’s only mountain (Taiwan is full of mountains), and it’s not the highest (that’s Yushan, or Jade Mountain), but it’s the most accessible, and arguably the most beautiful. Hence, I made Alishan my first stop when touring Taiwan, with a pit stop in Chiayi, the nearest major city, before venturing to visit this beautiful mountain.
Historically speaking, visitors to Alishan have accessed the mountain through a special railroad from Chiayi, but unfortunately a passing hurricane blew out parts of the track, so the railway was out of commission during my visit. Pity. So instead, I had to take a bus, and the roads are ridiculously bumpy. 2.5 hours bumpiness.
Fun fact: Alishan is famous not only for its scenery (it’s pretty good), but also for its railway. In fact, most postcards feature the train instead of the scenery. And it’s a quite a scenic train, as well as scenic railway station:
Anyways, the scenery! The mountain has two things going for it.
One, a lot of natural scenery – trees, etc – with elevated wooden platforms and paved roads, chock full of mainland tourists. A wilderness, this is not.
While walking through through the paths of Alishan, what struck me the most, was the stillness in the air. No wind, no birdsong, no whoosh of the wind through the trees. Just stillness. Stillness, occasionally broken up by the incessant chattering of tourists from mainland China.
Two, there’s a lot of shrines. I’m not sure of their significance, but some of them are quite elegant:
There’s an oddity I’ve noticed about traveling to scenic nature destinations in Taiwan. Specifically, the necessity to give a name to every interesting natural occurrence. Mildly interestingly shaped trees, odd arrangements of rocks, ponds and lakes of every size. They all have names.
I think this is social commentary of some sort?
The Sacred Tree (II): The oldest tree on Alishan. Or at least, it was the eldest tree, until the Sacred Tree died and fell over. Then, another tree (The Sacred Tree II) was designated its spiritual successor. *shrug* I’m not sure how these things work.
Check out these views:
There are a lot of people who come to Alishan to see the sunrise – if you stay on the mountain overnight (in a hotel), you can take an early morning special train all the way to to the peak of the mountain, to see the sunrise. I’ve been told it is beautiful, but having already done two sunrise hikes, I was in no mood to wake up at 3am again, scenery be damned.