Wednesday, 9 April 2008

Taiwan trip - 9 Apr 08

We wake up at 5.15am today, getting up earlier and earlier as the day goes by. We check out at 6am as we had to catch the high speed train at 6.30am. We purchase the standard ticket 标准车厢票 on the 1st day we reached Taipei. There is also non-reserved ticket 自由座票 which can only be purchased on the day of boarding the train. The difference is for standard ticket, there is cabin and seat allocated while non-reserved ticket can only board cabin 9, 10, 11, 12 and free seating. If there is no seats available, this means you gotta stand throughout the journey. The non-reserved ticket is cheaper than the standard ticket but if there is discount offered to standard ticket, it make more sense to buy standard ticket.

High speed train ticket

The high speed train station is located within the same compound as the railway station. We followed the sign and reach the station easily. People were seating in the waiting area as the train is not ready for boarding yet. Within 10min, there is announcement that the train is ready for boarding and we followed the people entering the gates and took an escalator to the boarding platform.

We had to catch the earliest train which is 6.30am as we had to reach Chiayi at 8am to catch the Alishan train at 9am. If took normal train, the journey would takes about 4hrs. All high speed train station are a distance from the railway station except Taipei station, I had booked a shuttle bus service with Mr. Li from Chaiyi high speed station to Chiayi railway station. Although there is shuttle bus from Chiayi high speed station to Chiayi train station, I'm not sure of the frequency and timing.

Waiting area

My 1st impression of the high speed train is wow... so modern and seems like an economy class in the airplane. There is a business class cabin but i didnt catch a glimpse of it.

Inside the high speed train Lunch box for sale

This appeal to me as the female stewardess dress in men's attire while the male steward don an apron, haha...

Train steward selling drinks and tibitsVending machine
Taichung station

After reaching Chiayi station, we look for the shuttle bus counter and wait about 10min for the other passengers before boarding. Within half an hour, we reach Chiayi railway station. Chiayi railway station looks a bit run down. The Alishan train ticket cost NT$399 ~ S$20 and 小巴 ticket back to Chiayi cost NT$400 ~ S$20 and the shuttle bus from Chiayi high speed station cost NT$100 ~ S$5. There is a service charge of NT$200 ~ S$10 but Mr. Li didnt tell me before hand and he collect NT$1,000 from us instead of the total NT$1,099. Well, it's hard to buy the Alishan train ticket as it's the sakura peak season hence I'm ok wif paying $10 service charge. I found that I'm more happy to spend money overseas than in Singapore. =)

Chiayi railway station

Alishan Forest Railway 阿里山铁路 was first built due to the abundance of timber discovered by the Japanese. It is a 86km network of narrow gauge railway running from Chiayi 嘉義 to Jhaoping 沼平 Stataion. It once had had 25 stations the most along the route. Now, the Alishan Forest Railway passes through Chiayi 嘉義, Peimen 北门, Jhuci 竹崎, Mulyuliao 木履寮, Jhangnaoliao 樟脑寮, Dulihshan 独立山, Liyuanliao 梨园寮, Jiaoliping 交力坪, Shueisheliao 水社寮, Fenchihu 奋起湖, Duolin 多林, Shitzulu 十字路, Pingjhena 屏遮那, Erwanping 二万平, Sacred Tree 神木, Alishan 阿里山and Jhaoping Station 沼平 along its routes now. The whole train journey takes about 3hr 20 min.

Alishan railway is one of the 3 great mountain railway in the world and climbs from 30m above sea level to 2,216m. The other 2 are Darjeeling Himalayan Railway in India 印度大吉岭喜马拉雅山铁路 and Peruvian Andes Railway 秘鲁安底斯山铁路. The train passed through 49 tunnels and 77 bridges, and takes its riders through botanical zones typical of tropical, warm and temperate climatic regions.

Alishan railway is well known for the spiral route railway at Dulihshan and the zigzag mountaineering railway. This special railway in switch back for the train climbing the mountain, so it called "Alishan bumping into the wall 阿里山碰壁". Shall further elaborate later.

Alishan railway train ticket

Saw the spiral line at Dulishan and the zig zag line?

The cameras keep flashing non stop when the train arrived. Of cos, we were one of them, haha...

Train arrivingChaiyi Station
Alishan train

The train cabin was a bit cramp as seen from the photo, there are 3 seats each row and the seats were smaller compared to the normal train. There were only 3 cabins in the train and on normal days, there were only 1 train arriving and departing Alishan. For sakura period, there is one more frequency added.

Inside the train Along the way to Alishan

When the train stops at Fenchihu, quite a lot of people alight and there were people boarding the train to sell lunch boxes before the train moves. We bought one lunch box to try but the lunch box at Taroko is more delicious.

We will stop by Fenchihu on the way back as the train only stopped for ~ 10min here.

Fenchihu 奋起湖 Our lunch

Finally after 3 and 1/2 hr, we reached Alishan!!! Every visitor has to pay entrance fee of NT150 ~S$7.50 before we are allowed to exit the train station.

The famous 5 of Alishan 阿里山五奇 is: sunrise 日出, sunset 晚霞, sea of clouds 云海, forest 森林 and moutain train 高山铁路.

Alishan was originally settled by Tsou tribe of the Taiwanese aborigines 鄒族原住民. Legend has it that about 200 years ago, there was a tribe chief called A Ba Li 阿巴里 who was known for his courage and hunting skills. He would always venture throught the mountain range and successfully return from his hunting trip everytime and the locals named the hunting range Mount A-Li to honour him.

Alishan railway stationIt's 12 degree celcius

According to the minsu person, 欣欣民宿 is beside 7-11 so we walk down the stairs from the train station and look for 7-11. It is not hard to locate the 7-11 as it was quite prominent. Actually 欣欣民宿 has assigned someome to fetch us from the train station but we didnt know so we find our own way here.

Our room

The owner treated us mochi but we were sick of eating mochi and my sis was saying mochi again!!! Of cos not infront of the owner lah. ><"


We left our bags in 欣欣民宿 and went out to explore. The owner gave us a copy of the map so we can nagivate on our own.

Most of the shops are located hereOne of the highest 7-11 in Taiwan
Tourist centre
So cute.....
Train station

We went to the train station to purchase the ticket to chushan 祝山to catch the sunrise. OMG... the trains are super duper early. This means we gotta wake up at 3.30am and all hotels in Alishan would give morning call to their customers. The sunrise varies at different season of the year. There are single trip or return trip ticket for purchase and we bought a single trip ticket as we intend to explore around after watching the sunrise.

Train schedule

There are 2 short distance railway line - Sacred Tree & Jhaoping Line which operates during the Sakura blossom period.

Sacred Tree & Jhaoping Line 神木&昭平线

After purchasing the sunrise train tickets, we navigate around using the map provided.

Is there a forest fire?Sakura

Strike by lighting?

Flowers everywhere

The police station is one the most scenic area during the sakura blossom period. Most photos seen are normally taken here.

Police station 派出所

Alas, i left the spare camera battery at the minsu hence we walked back to the minsu. After taking the spare battery, it's already 3plus so we decided to take the train to Sacred Tree Station 神木站.

Inside the wooden train

Cho cho train Sacred tree station 神木站

The "Alishan Sacred Tree" was in the past one of the nation's most famous tourist attractions but the 3,000-year-old tree collapsed on 1 July 1997 following heavy rainstorms and lighting.

Sacred tree 神木
Steam engine 蒸汽機車
See the steam??? It's real!!!

Trains moving offNice flowers
Too tall to capture the whole tree

Tsu Yun Temple was built by the Japanese in 1919. The Japanese thought of making Alishan mountain a holy place to Taiwan the same as Divine Eagle Mountain to India. So they built a Buddhist temple on the mountain and named it Alishan Temple and was renamed to Tsu Yun temple after the Japanese occupiers left in 1945.

We were quite hungry after the forest walk so we decide to have dinner first. Both cost NT40 ~S$2 each, it's cheap but taste so so.



After dinner, we went to Alishan train station to catch the sunset. The sunset is not well known as Alishan's sunrise but is also pretty amazing. The thin air at this elevation makes the sun's rays particularly strong. This means that as the sun sets the sky appears considerably more blue than normal. Does the sky in my photo appears more blue?


We went back to the minsu to rest as we had to wake up 3am tomorrow to catch the sunrise. We dont really bored as there were so many TV channels to entertainment us, haha... We slept quite early at around 9.30pm as we were exhausted after waking up so early these few days.

>> Day 6: 10 Apr 08

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