From Taipei, we set out for 3 days to the countryside to commune with nature. Travel could not have been easier with the equally-efficient High Speed Rail which has trips to most of the bigger places in the country. Taiwanese train stations are clean, impressive and modern. They have facilities that are found in airports such as ATM machines, tourist information center and food and shopping area. Train is clean and the seats are comfortable even in economy class. For passengers with luggage, there is an area inside the train for storage. Quick bites are also available from the train stewardess.
First stop, Sun Moon Lake in Taichung. From the basement of Taichung HSR Station, there is a bus departing to the lake. Bus tickets may be bought bundled as a package which includes various activities in the lake. Though we did not have time to do all the activities that came with the package, it still turned out to be a cheaper option.
The bus stops at the Sun Moon Lake Visitors Center. One of the best facilities the visitors center provides is the lockers where you can leave your belongings. It was heaven sent for us who were only on a day-trip. A certain deposit is required but you get it back when you get your stuff back and return the key, so the service is essentially free.
We rode a ferry that took us to the other side of the lake. For a separate fee, you could opt to take the cable car to get a bird’s eyeview of the lake. Or, since the cable car ride brings you to an amusement park, the Formosan Aboriginal Cultural Village, you may want to while away your time there.
We left Taichung to spend the night in Chiayi. No activities were planned for Chiayi since we will arrive late and plan to leave early in the morning to Alishan. Since our hotel is located in the commercial/shopping area, we just walked around and explored some shops that were still open and visited the night market close by. At past 10pm, the area is still so much alive with lights, sounds, knick-knack displays and the scent of food, considering that most of the patrons and lurkers were locals.
The next day, we set off early to catch the first bus to Alishan National Forest Recreation Area. Alishan was on top of our list mainly because of the Cherry Blossom Festival happening the week after our visit. The trip took about 2.5 hours and we passed by tea plantations along the way. The bus route was quite scenic.
There used to be an old rail that traverses Chiayi to Alishan which was our preferred mode of transportation for its very scenic view. However due to severe damage brought by typhoons several years back, the service from Chiayi was discontinued.
We were pleasantly surprise and excited when we arrived in Alishan because a portion of the Chiayi-Alishan rail route was operational. Of course, we rode the Alishan Forest Railway to the Giant Trees Trail where giant cypresses abound. The trail allowed us to see the Two Sisters Pond, the cherry blossom and magnolia garden and temples, among others. This trail that leads to another railway station is a fairly long hike but is not strenous. There are other hiking trails available. Plan to stay the night to explore other hiking trails and for an opportunity to see the sunrise. There are lodging options within the “forest” should you decide to stay.
Another option just ouskirts of Taipei is Jiufen, a former mining town famous for its quaint streets and tea houses. It was a disappointment when we visited since it was rainy and foggy. It would have been a pleasant location to photoshoot with my siblings.
Jishan street is a food haven and souvenir shopping area. We bought a lot of our pasalubong in this place. We also got to try Grandma Lai’s Sweet Taro Balls which tastes like our “ginataang halo-halo”. You can either have it hot or iced, we chose the iced version. We liked it so much that we bought uncooked taro balls so our family back home can sample it.
Three options out of probably a thousand…
Whether in the capital or in the countryside, Taiwan has a lot of activities and sights that will please even the weary traveller. So don’t confine your travel within the city, hop on to Taiwan’s efficient railway (or bus) system and discover amazing Taiwan!