Perhaps the most famous of all attractions in Taiwan, Alishan, or Mount 'Ali', is a mountaineous area that is well-known for the iconic Alishan Forest Railway, completed by the Japanese in 1912. In April this year, a friend and I made the journey up the breathtaking scenic area.

How to go: Take the HSR or TRA in to Chiayi. We took a bus from Chiayi TRA station direct to Alishan, cost was about NT$212 per person one way. The bus station is directly in from of the TRA station. Ignore the cab drivers who try to get you on their cab to go up to Alishan, it will cost about $1600 via cab.

Accomodation: We stayed at the wonderful Day+ Hotel, conveniently located a comfortable 15 minutes walk away from Chiayi TRA train station. Book through agoda or via their hotel website directly. The cost was roughly SGD$140 for a twin room for 1 night. More pictures and review below after the content on Alishan.

Review: Bus up Alishan was winding and long, it's advised to prepare some pills if you are prone to motion sickness. Alishan area is also ~5-10 degrees colder than Chiayi so dress warmly. The bus will drop you outside the main entrance, after which you need to get down the bus, purchase a ticket then walk up the last bit to the Alishan train station.

bus up the winding road to Alishan

Once you reach Alishan station, you can make your way to level one where there is a mini exhibition of the railway map and mini model. There is also a washroom located on this floor but it's advised to use the one on the third floor which is less busy as the first floor washroom is frequented by tourists from tour buses. 

Tickets to the railway can be purchased on the third floor ticket counter. During cherry blossom season, the counter staff will advise you to take the ride to Zhaoping station, then hike through the scenic route to take photos of the cherry blossoms and walk to Shenmu (sacred tree) station, and take the return train from shenmu station to Alishan station. Map of the train and attractions around Alishan can be found here.
It's a comfortable 15-20 minutes ride from Alishan station to Zhaoping station.

Getting off the station, one can the the route north west towards the sister ponds and magnolia gardens. Follow the tour crowds if you're worried you're on the wrong direction.  
If visiting during spring, it is recommended to take the trail via Zhaoping park to view the sakura trees near the Alishan ranger station. When we visited in April, the cherry blossom season had ended early but we were lucky to find a lone cherry blossom tree about 200m from the station. 


As we walked down the path, we were delighted to find some Kala lilies by the side, followed by another lone cherry blossom tree near the roadside. 

Continue down straight further down the road and it will lead you towards the sacred tree trail. Along the trail you will find many massive tall trees, some with strangely shaped (like an elephant) or massive tree trunks that are a thousand years or older. 

Finally, after passing by a primary school and a small trail up, you will find yourself  at the Lulin Sacred tree. 
Lulin Sacred Tree (鹿林神木) was crowned the new Sacred tree of Alishan after it's predecessor fell in 2006. The Sacred Tree stands at  the Lulin Sacred Tree is 43m high with a trunk circumference of 20m, and is about 2,700 years old. 

After taking photos of the sacred tree, you can make your way to the nearby Shenmu station to take the railway back to Alishan station. 

If you're hungry and would like to try some traditional bento or lunch box, make your way to Fencihu, which is a short drive or bus journey from Alishan station. 
From Alishan station, walk down towards the carpark area where the tour buses are parked. There is a 7-11 next to a public toilet, where you can purchase tickets from Alishan to Fenqihu. 

If you wish to make your way to sun moon lake from Alishan, you can also take the chartered mini van from Alishan direct to SML. There are 2 bus timings, at leaving 1pm and 2pm outside the 7-11. 

We were originally intending to head to SML direct from Alishan, however, after some deliberation we decided to take the bus from Alishan to Fencihu to try the traditional bento. 
At Fencihu, walk down the path near Fencihu railway station for about 200m and you will see fencihu hotel  where you can purchase the legendary Fencihu bento. 



The NT$120 Fencihu bento (奮起湖便當 fencihu biendang), consisting of a deep-fried pork cutlet, chicken drumstick, egg and a selection of mountain veggies on rice. There is free flow seaweed and egg soup available near the counter for guests to help themselves to. 
The dining area is below level ground, and the window seats offer a unique view of the street outside. 

The streets of Fencihu are lined with many interesting small stores selling souvenirs, food products and gifts.

An interesting snack we found a vendor selling was ice cream wrapped in a popiah like skin, with green onion bits and mashed peanut. The taste was very unique. 

You can make your way back to the bus stop in time for the 5pm bus from Fencihu back to Chiayi train station. The bus ride will take about 2 hours. If spending the night at Chiayi, you can consider staying in Day+ hotel, and visiting the Carrerfour night market, which is a short 10-15 minute taxi ride away. 

Hotel Review:

Day+ hotel is a boutique business hotel located in the centre of Chiayi. The hotel door is rather inconspicuous and may be easily missed. Look out for the statute of the white man next to a brown wooden panel-like frame, which is the entrance to the hotel.

The hotel lobby is bright and spacious and decorated with many installations and art pieces. The hotel's main lobby and open space in it's upper levels are host to art exhibitions from time to time. 

There is a small store in the hotel selling a wide range of products such as face masks, food products and books. Prices are slightly on the steep side but it's convenient for guests who don't want to step out the hotel. 

Hotel corridor areas are tastefully decored and as you exit the lift on each floor you are welcomed by a different art installation which reads 'have a nice DAY'. 


The room we had was a standard twin bed without window, which was spacious and well-lit. The beds are comfortable and pillows and comforter are thick and fluffy, making for a good night's rest. 


The bathroom walls are made of glass panels, but there is a curtain for modesty should one feel uncomfortable being exposed to one's traveling partner while showering. 
Toiletries provided are thoughtfully and artistically packaged. 

Though slightly on the pricer side, Day+ hotel is a good option to consider if one is spending the night in Chiayi. Given a choice i would not hesitate to return to Day+.