Friday, January 30, 2015

Taiwan: Alishan

Since I got a one way flight back home, I had to find another one way flight back to Asia. One way direct flights between San Francisco and Hong Kong are really expensive so I was looking around for a good stopover when some of Yalu's MBA friends happened to be in Taiwan around the same time. So I joined them for a few days as a short stopover trip. We booked a 2 day tour to go to Alishan and Sun Moon Lake. I usually don't like organized tours since they tend to make you feel like cattle. But this one was really good since we had a lot of time to do whatever we wanted. The tour basically organized all the necessary transportation. Let's start from the beginning.

I flew into Taipei airport and quickly repacked my luggage. I had a big luggage, small luggage, and a backpack. I packed everything I needed for the Taiwan trip into my backpack and stuffed the small luggage into the big one and left the whole thing at a "Left Luggage" near the baggage claim. You can leave bags there for a small fee for up to 30 days. I thought I would be able to get the bag back when I check in but apparently for big luggage, they just put them right onto the plane for you. For carry-on size items, you can get it after you get through security. It was a bit annoying to not know this beforehand but it's a convenient service. After getting out at arrivals, I got a sim card that gives me unlimited data and some amount of minutes for 3 days. It was all very easy. I got on a bus and met up with friends all within 2 hours of landing.

I got in at night and we got up early the next morning to take the high speed rail to meet our tour group in Chiayi. The tour group turned out to be a van with 4 other people. The driver took us up to Alishan with short stops for lunch and such.

Arrived at the Alishan visitor's center:

There used to be train service from Chiayi all the way up to Alishan. But part of the railroad got wiped out by landslides after a typhoon. The railway is a private one and they haven't been able to come up with the funding to repair it. So the only way up is by car or bus. It's a shame we couldn't take the railway since it seems to be a very scenic one. You can see the part that's damage:

After the driver dropped us off at our hotel, we had a couple of hours to wander around the visitor area. We went to a couple of tea shops to try out the famous Alishan teas. The second place we went to had really good teas at decent prices. It's run by a family and the father and son poured us many flights of tea and had some great stories about how to tell good quality tea. The tea leaves I got from them are some of the best I've ever had. So fragrant and the taste doesn't fade even after making many cups. 

We then met up with a guide who took us through a short hike. She described different sights and was a pro at knowing which angle to get the best photos at each spot. I really enjoyed the hike as we got to see some really beautiful areas and it was not a strenuous hike.  

Our tour gave us vouchers to one of the restaurants where we had hot pot for dinner. The tour was all very do-it-yourself. We could have chosen to eat somewhere else but we didn't really want to think about it. The hot pot was decent. We had two options to see the sunrise the next day. One was a train ride somewhere and the other was a car ride to another part. We chose the train ride and the next morning we got up in the dark and was met with a ton of people at the train station. I really didn't know there were so many tourists. Unfortunately, we couldn't really see the sunrise as there were too many clouds. Apparently it's really hard to see a good sunrise. There's about a 30% chance to see a good one. It was kind of strange as well since there were two older men who stood up on a ledge and talked about random stuff the whole time. The scenery was still nice though.

This was the start of our day of unfortunate events. I'm going to save that one for the next post.

1 comment:

yalu said...

ah, very nice pictures!