Friday, May 16, 2008

Sunrise at Alishan

I caught a train from Tainan to the town of Chiayi. From Chiayi there is a narrow gauge train that runs up Alishan Mountain. I arrived in Chiayi and was planning on taking the train the following day at 9AM up the mountain only to find a sign saying the morning train only runs on weekends and the afternoon train for today was sold out. There was a lady that was selling rooms in Alishan and even though I did not really like paying for a place to stay prior to seeing it. On paying for the room she also sold me a ticket for the train that afternoon.

My guidebook says the train climbs from 30m to above 2200m in about 3 ½ hours and goes through 3 climatic zones: tropical, subtropical and temperate. It was a really interesting ride and I think I was most impressed with seeing the bamboo forest on both side of the tracks on the way up. I tried to take some pictures of the forest but none of them came out well. The trees seemed to be very evenly spaced like someone had planted them rather than being this way naturally. The train also went through a number of what I would call switchbacks on the way up. These switchbacks are something I had never experienced on a train before. It was sort of a fork in the tracks and an end to the tracks the train would pull in going up the hill with the engine at the front of the train and stop at the end of the track. They would switch the tracks and the train would push up the hill going in the other direction following the other side of the fork with the engine at the back pushing rather than pulling.

On arriving at the village of Alishan I had no idea of where my hotel that I had booked in town was. It was interesting trying to find a place with only a piece of paper with the name of the hotel in Chinese but I had a number of people help me to find the hotel. It still amazes me how friendly and helpful people in Taiwan have been. Alishan is rather high and was a big change in temperature. I started the day at 34c/93f and on arriving in Alishan village ended it was around 12c/53f.

The one thing that seems to be a requirement when someone visits Alishan is to get up and see the sunrise here. I signed up for a tour to go to a spot and see the sunrise. I had to get up at 4 in the morning to make the tour. The sunrise was nice but I am not sure at all if it was worth getting up this early in the morning. The place that the van took us to see the sunrise was in Yushan National Park. This is the 3rd time that I have been in the park and from 3 different entrances. Here is a picture of the sunrise.

The tour also gave me a lens to view the sunrise without harming my eyes. I took a couple of pictures of the sunrise through the lens and sort of like this picture.

I always think of viewing a sunrise or sunset as a personal thing to do and you should do it alone or just share it with someone close to you. I don’t think of it is a group activity and I think it detracts when you have a group like this to watch the sun come up.

We also stopped at a couple other places on the tour mostly to look at different trees and saw a monkey crossed the road. You will have to insert your own joke here on why the monkey crossed the road.

We made it back to Alishan Village just before 8 in the morning. I tried to get a little sleep but then just checked out of my hotel bought a ticket for the train back down the mountain and took a short walk a ways up the mountain prior to catching the train. This is a picture from my short walk.

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