The cherry blossom season in Taiwan draws large crowds, especially to Alishan, which is also home to vast tea estates and the Alishan Forest Recreation Area.
I OFTEN travel to Taiwan and it is one of my favourite countries to visit. I had never been there during cherry blossom time so I was happy to be in the country in early March.
I was one of 63 members who went on the seven-day Malaysia Taiwan Cherry Blossom Photography Tour 2017, organised by the Taiwan Tourism Bureau KL Office and the Selangor and Kuala Lumpur Photographic Society.
For those of you who are planning your vacation, do think about heading to Taiwan for your cherry-blossom viewing instead of the usual – Japan or South Korea.
Our first stop in Taiwan was the famous Alishan (or Ali Mountain, though it is actually a range and not a single peak) town in Chiayi County. It is touted to be the best place in the country to view sakura (Japanese for cherry blossom).
We took a chartered coach from Taipei, and spent the night in Chiayi. At 3am the next morning, we took off on a one-hour journey to Alishan, with a lunch stop in Fenchihu – which has a train stop – and checked out the famous steam train and the railway lunch boxes.
The next stop made me think about Cameron Highlands as it was nestled within a tea estate – the famous Long Yun Leisure Farm, where we were happy to see the tea-pickers. You have two chances to see them in action – the first picking starts at 8am, and the second around 4pm. They are made for great pictures, though it was a bit gloomy so the colours didn’t show up so well.
I enjoyed the coolness, which again reminded me of Camerons but it was more chilly, probably around 10°C when I was there. It was our base for two nights.
The next day, at about 3am, we drove to the Alishan railway station, reaching at around 4.30am. We then had a pleasant half an hour ride on the Alishan Forest Railway train to reach Chushan Station two stops away. It was the perfect spot to view the sunrise, which we waited patiently for. Finally, the sun started to tease us at about 6am. What a wondrous sight it was – well worth the wait.
The vast stretch of woods here falls under the Alishan Forest Recreation Area. We walked around for three hours and had our fill of the magical cherry blossoms on show for us shutterbugs. There was also a big crowd of tourists in the area so sometimes it was cherry blossoms fighting with tourists for the lens’ attention.
It can be a challenge to have the blossoms to yourself or, more aptly, for your camera. The colour pink dominated and sometimes interspersed with the white variety.
Then we retraced our journey and went back to Long Yun. I couldn’t resist taking a 10-minute walk at night to take some pictures of Shijou Village nearby. It was like a magical place, with the mist giving it a heavenly feel.
The next morning, it was off to the Taiwanese icon of the Sun Moon Lake in Nantou County. It took about two hours to get there. You can easily spend at least half a day there, given the attractions, with the lake itself taking prime spot. There are just so many angles to capture its beauty, as well as in different weather and lighting conditions. It also has its fair share of cherry blossom trees.
Try not to miss the famous Formosan Aboriginal Cultural Village nearby. The cultural performances are very entertaining, and the villagers are warm and friendly. Some of their dishes reference the famous flowers nearby, for instance, Cherry Blossom Chicken, which is only prepared during that season. I didn’t have a chance to try it, though. Perhaps you might.
Then we said goodbye to Alishan and Nantou, and headed to our next stop – the industrial city of Taichung. That is another story. My head was still filled with images of the beautiful blossoms I had seen (and my photos will help me relive those fond memories).
Cherry blossoms add colour to the landscape. There are two main varieties in Alishan: The bright red Formosan variety, and the pink and white Yoshino variety.
The breathtaking sight of the tea plantation near the leisure farm lodgings at Long Yun, where the writer stayed. — Photos: NG KOK LEONG/The Star
Sunrise at Alishan is an amazing experience up high in the mountains as you wait for the rays of light to peek through the sea of clouds. Stake your spot early as you will be competing with many other people.
Glowing clouds and mists over Shijou Village make for a magical sight. Who says you need the bright lights of the city to have a glittering picture?
Alishan is probably one of the very best places in Taiwan to see the cherry blossoms.
If you pose next to cherry trees in full bloom, there is a possibility of being overshadowed. But it will make a pretty picture, for sure.
Sun Moon Lake is a large expanse of fresh water at the heart of a mountainous area rich in vegetation (and cherry blossom in the right season). Take a boat tour along Taiwan’s largest lake.
The splendid aboriginal folk dance show at Naruwan Theatre at the Formosan Aboriginal Cultural Village. All show performers are native Tsou people.
Fenchihu was an important stop for the Alishan Forest Railway in the early days. The steam train would need to stop at Chiayi about noon time for maintenance.