Al­lur­ing Alis­han

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.

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - Front Page - By NG KOK LEONG star2­travel@thes­tar.com.my

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).

— NG KOK LEONG/The Star

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.

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