A sea of cherry blossoms awaits April visitors to Alishan

By Lishea Cheng
Translated by Yvonne Chen

       From the second half of March, a mountain full of cherry blossoms marks the beginning of the Alishan Cherry Blossom Festival. A variety of cherry blossoms show their beauty in a dazzling floral display that satisfies visitors until mid-April. Delicate Yoshino white cherry blossoms contrast beautifully with the blue sky, while slightly-larger Oshima cherry blossoms are innocently white. The varying shades of Azumahiga, Yaebenishidare and Fugenzo cherry blossoms push the beauty of pink to its limit. A glimpse of such scenery is like the fleeting expression of a baby--so precious one scarcely dares to blink.

       The crowd at the Alishan Cherry Blossom Festival is also an interesting sight. The place is swarming with daily visitors during the flower season. Photographers stand by their tripods, wait to capture the perfect moment from these mesmerizing scenes. For a photo-album glimpse, visit the photography exhibition at the Alishan Farmer's Association credit department.

       There are several photo-taking sites. The steps of the local police station exude a sentimental feeling and nicely frame the small train in front of it. The tracks, cherry blossoms and mountains in the background are truly breathtaking. On the other side, in front of the Alishan Resort, is another great place to take in the cherry blossom petals, dancing in the wind and falling like snow. A cherry blossoms "snowflake" landing in your tea cup is sheer poetry, coming through your nostrils, eyes and mouth, and straight to your mind as the imagery implants itself on your memory.

       In addition to the highway, the famous Alishan train is also a great way to go. In contrast to normal rail lines, the Alishan Forest Track takes a Z-shaped switchback pattern up the mountain. The 7.14-kilometer line starts at the Chayi Train Station, 30 meters above sea level, and climbs all the way to the Zao-Ping Station, 2274 meters up. The tropical and sub-tropical forests along the way wash away thoughts of city life, cares and concerns on the plains below.

       There are two trains up the mountain each day, at 9 a.m. and 1:30 p.m., with returning trains at 1:18 p.m. and 1:40 p.m. One-way tickets are NT$399, with 15 percent off for round-trip tickets. The reservation hotline for Chayi Northgate Station is (05) 276-8094, and (05) 267-9833 for Alishan Zao-Ping Station.

       From March through May, there is a round-trip Sunrise Train from Alishan for NT$150. Since sunrise is between 5:25 a.m. and 6:20 a.m., the train travels runs to the sunrise viewing area at 4:10, 4:20 and 4:30 a.m. and returns at 6:45, 6:55 and 7:05 a.m. On weekends and holidays, there are six ascending trains from 3:20 until 4:35 a.m. and four descending trains from 6:45 to 7:50 a.m. On weekends and holidays, Sunrise Train tickets are sold in advance, the day before, at Zao-Ping Station, between 1:30 and 5 p.m. and from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Alishan Tourist Service Center. Train tickets for the next day can also be bought in advance or reserved by telephone one month in advance. For information, call the Alishan Tourist Service Center (05-267-9917) or check the website of the Agriculture Committee¡¦s Forestry Bureau.

       Travelers' Tips: Be sure to prepare for the mountain cold weather and make your hotel reservation ahead so you can properly enjoy your excursion.

       Special Note: The Alishan Railroad is once again fully operational and safe, following a recent March accident, according to central and local government authorities, who have taken additional safety precautions.

Lodging information:

Alishan Resort 05-267-9811; Alishan Civilian Lodge 05-267-9611; Alishan Fu-Ruoh-Se Service Center 05-267-9602; Alishan Youth Center 05-267-9561; Alishan Train Lodge 05-267-9621; Gao-Feng Hotel 05-267-9739; Wan-Kuo Hotel 05-267-9777; Wen-Shan Resort 05-267-9627; Ching-Shan Hotel 05-267-9733; Den-Shan Hotel 05-26-9758; Mei-Li-Ya Mansion 05-267-9745; Li-Shing Mansion 05-267-9634; Cheng-Kong Lodge 05-267-9735; Wu-Feng Lodge 05-267-9730; Da-Feng Mansion 05-267-9769; Ying-Shan Lodge 05-267-9803; Shen-Mu Lodge 05-267-9511