THERE IS AN OVER-ABUNDANCE of mountain scenery in Taiwan, so it may be hard to know where to begin. The Alishan Forest Recreation Area is as good as any. Trails covered in mossy green trees which pierce the cloudy sky, wind through the mist, and yet this beauty is served by regular trains and shuttle buses. Don’t miss the forest train to Fenqihu- we did!
Sun Moon Lake gets a bit tacky, but that doesn’t mean you should miss it. And between the two areas are a handful of quaint old towns joined by a quirky little rail line.
Some of Taiwan's greatest attractions are found on the spine of the island: the mountains and forests around Alishan, Sun Moon Lake, and several small villages in between.
While not the highest peaks in Taiwan, the Alishan area can cater for hard-core mountain trekkers or gentle day trippers.
Catching the forest train to Fenqihu is for some a highlight of the area. In Fenqihu town, these bento boxes have been served by the same local legend for about 70 years.
The little town can burst at the seams in the day time, but a few minutes away, these forest trails were deserted.
Buses and trains shuttle visitors to the higher ranges, where trails wind their way through old forests. Strecth your neck to see the tops of these 5, 6, 800 year old giants.
That's a real person on the roof, not a statue.
Be prepared for any weather, especially cold and wet. However, the trails are well maintained and easily accessed, and you could bottle the serenity.
The Shouzen Temple is the largest in the Alishan forest Recreation Area, complete with the usual red, green and blue excesses of Chinese temple architecture.
Many forest trails, short and long, begin from Shouzen, where you will also find a dozen or so shops catering to your hungry needs.
Go easy on the chilli sauce though.
The moss-covered stump of a weathered old tree, typical of the fauna around Shouzen.
Route 169, not far from Fenqihu, sports several scenic and traditional villages and towns, and sees few visitors.
Many of the inhabitants are aboriginal, with genetic and cultural links to the island of the South Pacific.
Dabang is one of those villages, surrounded by forests and small farms.
Traditional, wood beamed cultural houses are still found, and modern art pays respects to the culture.
Again, several walking trails leave from Dabang, well maintained despite their infrequent use. Longer trails go up to the Alishan Forest Recreation Area.
Sunshine and heat and rain make things grow fast and furious around here.
The walking trails from the Route 169 villages reveal an assortment of fauna, as well as OK birdlife.
Small scale farmers prepare fruit for market. Don't know what it is called, but some kind of fig like fruit, which can be dried and made into jelly.
Back in Fenqihu town, local produce can be tasted in the restaurants. This soup contains dialily flowers.
A few hours by bus north, Jiji is apretty little town, with farms and mountains all around.
A small gauge rail line takes you to several other interesting towns, such as Shuili and Checheng.
One of the major attractions on the line is the Pinglai Liuliguang Suspension Bridge, set amongst dramatic forested mountains.
And if the location isn't enough, the bridge has a made-for-Insta glass bottom. Cool.
Keep an eye out for critters while you're there. Metallic green grasshopper? Why not!
Even without the fancy glass bridge, this is a beautiful spot. Maybe it was a weekday, but we only saw a handful of oldies there.
The trains are decked out with superhero and manga style characters.
Checheng is an old logging town at the end of the line. There is a museum of town history, but wandering around the steep village streets is where the interest is.
Being Taiwan, you won't be going hungry either.
This fried eggplant dish was at one of Jiji's many busy restaurants.
Farming remains the backbone of the local economy, and scenes like this from the local station are the norm.
In the year 921, an earthquake struck the area, and the Wuchan Temple in Jij collapsed.
The structure fell down on itself, but somehow stayed somewhat intact, making a sombre reminder of nature's power.
Probably Taiwan's most famous tourist spot is Sun Moon Lake, around which are many attractions, natural and man-made, and several accomodation centres.
A cable car, butterfly farm, paddle-swans, tourist kitsch markets, food food and more food, as well as pagodas, temples and forest walks dot the area.
Some of the best views -and there are many- are from the 12 storey Ci'en Pagoda, constructed for President Chiang Kai Shek in memory of his mother.
A ceremonial drum and other buildins stand on the grounds.