It was hard getting up this morning because we did have a window in the room – just a fake one.
We ate breakfast at the hotel and then met with a woman who sold us a package to go to Alishan. It’s pretty expensive without public transportation, because it’s pretty far, so we ended paying 500NTD ($16) per person, each way, to get a van and driver to take us up there.
The ride up was very interesting. We started in a tropical zone (complete with forests of palm trees) and ended up in the cold mountains of Alishan National Park. There was a lot of evidence of typhoon damage along the way, and some of the pictures Carlos took look like ground zero of a bomb explosion.
Alishan feels like the location of a natural disaster. You can tell it was popular once – for example, they have a Starbucks and a 7-11 – but the fact that both stores are closed only accentuates the abandoned feeling of the village. It’s also very cold: around 15ºC during the day, much colder than we were expecting to experience in Taiwan.
Our beds were comfortable and warm looking so it was tempting to stay in the hotel, but we went out instead. We took a 3-hour loop around the park, which was one of my favorite parts of the entire trip to Taiwan.
It was incredibly beautiful – quiet, totally green, with a mixture of mysterious fog, blue skies, and dappled sunshine through the forest.
The paths were all man-made and very walkable, with a good mixture of up and down. Except for an occasional lack of maps at crucial points, it was really well-made for visitors.
We saw parts of the track of the Alishan railway, which is supposed to be the best way to see the park. Unfortunately, it too was damaged by the typhoon, so maybe I’ll have to come back in two years to ride it . . .
All in all, it was a wonderful afternoon. The walk wasn’t strenuous like mountain climbing, so while I felt like I had done something, I wasn’t exhausted or sore afterwards. After dark, the temperature dropped to 12ºC or so, which combined with the incredible humidity, was very uncomfortable. It constantly felt like everything had been washed and only dried 80%. We had hotpot for dinner, which helped to warm us up, and then returned to our warm beds.