Ascending towards the top of Mount Ali, we began to see the mist clearly. Lush green Mountains were covered in mist as if hiding something.
As the bus stopped after a two and a half hour journey. We got a peek of the place that we were about to enter. Amidst the fog, the mist and tall green pines, there it was, the land of beauty. Our hotel was not far away, so we decided to walk there. Also I wanted to soak in every drop, every bit of the mesmerising weather. We reached our hotel, and munched on the subway burger that we got packed. Alishan is not the place for you if you are a hardcore vegetarian or prefer halal food. You will survive because your soul will be satiated.
After finishing our late lunch we hurried to go out and walking in the mist on the sloppy roads we began to explore the little cosy city.
In spite of all the fog and mist the silvery moon light somehow managed to shower it’s magnificence over the place. Finding vegetarian food was a challenge. After a lot of searching we went in a restaurant and somehow ordered a dinner after a lot of struggle in our broken Chinese and their broken English. Finally we made sure to order fried rice which was our lunch and dinner for the next two days. It wasn’t tantalising but was filling. After dinner we went ahead to explore the sleepy city bathed in misty moonlight and twinkling lights.
Most important thing that you would do in Alishan is watch the sunrise over the highest Mountain in Taiwan, the Jade Mountain. For that we were advised by our hotel manager to sleep early as they would wake us up in the morning.
When our telephone rang at 4:30 am, we were already wide awake. Submerging ourselves in the thickest clothes that we brought, we headed out with our guide in the thick fog and deep darkness. Covering other sights we reached to the point where we were supposed to wait for the spectacular rise of the sun. Place was crowded with eager tourists and vendors selling various breakfast items.
If you plan to travel by Railway, you will see three popular destinations- Jhushan, Sacred Tree and Zhaoping. Jhushan line will lead you to the point for the sunrise. Our hotel provided us a cab and a guide for the Jhushan sun rise, so we were yet to experience the train journey to the top of the mountains.
And then there it was, rising quicker then I imagined , covering every inch of Darkness and scintillating the Mountains with a brilliant golden hue.
Rest of the day was a prepossessing haze. Sun was obstructed by the thick fog soon after it peeked up.
Alishan is best for trekkers and Mountain climbers. There are so many spectacular trails with informative sign posted, making it easy to navigate deep within the forest, and lead to stunning views along the way.
Travelling by Alishan Forest Railway was fun. Trains run to all the routes every fifteen minutes so you never have to wait longer. We hopped on The Sacred Tree Line train and reached there beholding the scattered beauty all along the way.
Alishan Railway Station
One of the most notable tourist attractions of Alishan is the Sacred Tree, with an age over 3,000 years (it existed long before Jesus Christ was born 🤔) and height of 53 meters. There are more than 36 giant trees with their age ranging between 1000-2000 years.
Trunk of the Sacred Tree
Moving upwards to the Jiemei (Sister) lakes, we were greeted by various breathtaking sights and a shopping area with different food aromas wafting in the air filling the nostrils. We stopped there to grab a quick bite before heading up. But what we found in vegetarian option was boiled corn and for drink we decided to try the Almond tea which I had to throw after one sip as my taste-buds refused to savour it again. 🤮
After a 20 minute walk we reached the Jiemei Lake. These are the high mountain lakes. One called the Elder sister lake and the other younger sister lake. These lakes have their own beautiful but sad story.
It is said that two aboriginal sisters fell in love with the same man. They didn’t want to ruin their own relationship and unable to perceive a life without the man they loved, they jumped into separate lakes to end their lives, which are now known as Elder sister lake andYounger sister lake.
Last place that we visited was Zhaoping Park. The best season to visit this park is Spring, when the place is blooming with cherry blossom flowers. Since we visited in Autumn, the place had a different gloomy beauty to it. Autumn is beautiful in its own way. Leaves falling apart scattered all around not only depicts dearth but have a masked promise of resurgence.
John Keats subtly yet beautifully mentions the charm of Autumn in his poem “To Autumn” –
“Where are the songs of spring? Ay, Where are they-
Think not of them, thou hast thy music too.”
That marked the end of our journey to the Misty mountains.
Next morning while sitting in the bus I soaked in whatever I could of the place. The surrealistic beauty was so enchanting that it made me wonder about the actuality of the place. Is it real? Am I really here? Is it a dream……? With a jerk the bus moved, slowly taking us farther from the mist and convincing me of it being a dream with every downward spiral that it covered.