Green Mountain & Azure Water: Alishan National Scenic Area Profile

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Alishan National Scenic Area, Taiwan
By Theresa Yiju Lin

Waterfall
Waterfall
A folk song tells the beauty of Alishan. Green mountains, azure water, friendly people – they are the essences of Alishan. Despite some area are damaged by the earthquake on September 21, 1999, today Alisan is still rated the first of all the mountains in Taiwan.

The story of Alisan began with the chief of Tsou tribe, Abali, about 250 years ago. He often went hunting in the mountain and usually brought back much food. Later in his life, he guided many of the Tsou people to the mountain that led them to the sources of living supports. After he passed away, Tsuo people named it Alishan (Ali Mountain) to remember his contribution to the people.

Alishan lies on the border of Yushan. The New Central Highway connects Alishan and Yushan, which provides the visitors more convenient transportation, and the aborigines’ life and festivals attract many curious tourists each year.

The main residents in Alishan, Tsou, host two major festivals each year. They are Mayashivi in mid-February and Homeyaya in August. Homeyaya is the celebration of the harvesting of millet, and it is also an important family holiday for Tsou people. Attending Homeyaya can be arranged, but it is somewhat difficult.

Mayashivi festival is more accessible for visitors to taste the flavor of the Tsou culture. In the ancient time, attending Mayashivi was the preparation for war. There are various ritual ceremonies during the festival, but the spirit is for the men in the tribe to present their bravery and announce their ability to guard the tribe. The dances, wardrobes and songs indicate people’s social status and their responsibilities in the community.

Visiting Alisan, you may want to make sure to capture the scenarios the Five Marvels. They are sunrise, sunset, sea of clouds, woods and the Alisan Forest Railway.

Sunrise
Sunrise
Alishan sunrise has a reputation as one of the eight must-sees in Taiwan, and many accommodations in Alishan provide wake-up services. Many tourists will be up as early as 4 a.m. for the hike in order to enjoy the breathtaking sunrise. Lying on the Tropic of Cancer, the sun rises from different locations depending on the time of the season.

In the summer (June), the best viewing spot is Zushan. Riding the sunrise train from the Alisan Railroad Station or Zaoping Station, it takes about 25 minutes to arrive at the entrance of the sunrise plaza. Then, taking a 40 minutes hike, tourists can reach the Zushan pavilion and enjoy the astounding sunrise. Zushan is also the utmost north place for the sunrise viewing. In the winter (December), the sun rises from the utmost southern spot that is also the south of the main peak of Yushan. In the spring (March) and autumn (September), the sun rises at about 6 a.m. by the north peak of Yushan. In the area, there are several different trekking routes that lead the visitors to these destinations.

Clouds
Clouds
The sea of clouds usually follows the sunrise when the weather is sunny and not too misty. The clouds will cover parts of the mountains and look as if the waves in the ocean. The best season for viewing sea of clouds is autumn. The Alisan Sea of Clouds is also known as one of the spectacular eight sceneries in Taiwan.

Watching the sunset at Alishan, you are standing on the land that is more than 2,000 meters above the sea level. The aerosphere allows more ultraviolet to penetrate through the thin cloud which adds more color to the sky. The blue sky is more exuberant than watching the sunset on the flat ground. In comparison with the sky, the sunset sometimes looks burgundy. Several famous spots for sunset viewing such as Chiyun Temple, Zushan, Alisan Train Station and Alisan Motel are usually full of tourists at the time of sunset.

The rich sources of woods in Alishan include plants of the four climates. As early as the year of 1899, the Japanese found the value of the forest; they started to chop off the trees in the area and sold them for the sake of money until Taiwanese government took back the power. Alisan became a national scenic area, and the flowers bloom in the spring, which attract numerous tourists each year. Because the plants create an ideal inhabitation for birds, Alisan is one of the top ten places for bird watching.

Shay Steam Train
Shay Steam Train
In the Japan era between 1906 and 1915, the Alisan Forest Railway was built for logging. The system is a narrow gauge railroad; it is 762 meters. The Alisan Forest Railway is one of the three renowned forest railways. Another one is between India and Himalaya Mountains. The third one lies between Chile and Argentina. The old transportation system used the shay steam train. The last alive Shay steam in Taiwan is number 31, and there is daily passenger service. On January 1, 2005, the Shay train started to work again and serve the travelers in Alisan. The total length of the railroad is 71.4 kilometers. Many tourists come here to experience the triple loop around the mountain and multiple switchbacks.

Cherry Blossoms
Cherry Blossoms
In the spring time, Alishan has more visitors than other seasons of the year when the cherry trees are blooming. The cherry blossom usually blooms in March or April, but at this elevation, they bloom as early as January. The Alishan Cherry Blossom Festival draws hundreds of people from everywhere. Near the New Central Highway, there is also maple leaf festival between Alishan and Tongpu.

The effort in reserving the natural environment keeps fireflies in the Alishan area alive. The fireflies are said to be particularly copious in the area so fireflies-watching becomes a seasonal activities for tourists as well as residents.

Alisan is the number one choice to get away from business and relax.

Go to the Web site: http://www.ali.org.tw/ for more information about Alishan Scenic Area or http://railway.forest.gov.tw/ for the information about the Alishan Forest Railroad.

The photos are from http://taiwan.net.tw/





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