HEADING UP TO ALISHAN
The journey up to Alishan begins in Chia Yi via the famed Alishan Forest Railway. The Alishan Forest Railway was built during the Japanese rule in Taiwan back in 1920 and was used to facilitate the transportation of logs out of Alishan. Today, it is no longer used as a logging transportation and has become a popular mode of transportation up Alishan for holiday makers looking for a memorable and historical way of traveling up Alishan. Traveling on the nostalgic train, passing through misty forests and maneuvering through the steep and narrow face of the mountain is an experience to be enjoyed.
Alishan Forest Railway begins at Chia Yi Train station and I boarded the train at a more charming and historical station, Bei Men Station.
The train operates at most twice a day and this historical train ride draws huge crowds daily. It is highly recommended to book your tickets at least 2 weeks in advance to avoid any disappointment. Advanced bookings can be made on the website.
From Chiayi, the railway travels along relatively flat terrain for 14.2 kilometers before beginning the long climb, corkscrewing around Mt. Duli, climbing 200 meters over a distance of five kilometers. The last stop Fenqihu Town in Alishan, is a quaint old town located next to the railway track. Fenqihu has an old street that has delicious local food and snacks and it is famed for the delicious railway bento set.
FEN QI HU , 奮起湖
Besides the railway bento, Fenqihu is also known for producing Ai Yu jelly. Ai Yu Jelly is made from the Ai Yu fruit which is seen in the image below that looks like a hairy mushroom. With the top part of the fruit scrapped and boiled in boiling water for a couple of minutes, the natural coagulant is released and the mixture is sieved out from the solid bits and when left to cool, the jelly texture of Ai Yu Jelly is formed.
I have tasted Ai Yu Jelly in Singapore and it doesn’t taste much like the one at Fenqihu as the texture is bouncy yet soft and it has a really cooling and refreshing taste when mixed with the freshly made honey lime syrup. Nothing much can beat a freshly made cup of Ai Yu Jelly.
YUYUPAS , 優遊吧斯
Our next stop was to the village of Yuyupas home to the Tsou Tribe on Alishan.
Yuyupas, means rich and safe in the language of the Tsou Tribe, is an indigenous cultural park situated in Alishan around 1300 meters altitude. Over 2 hectares, the park organized exhibition hall, theater, traditional houses, the house of the princess, restaurant, Shenmu Hall (sacred tree), artifacts, and traditional designed tree huts.
In the image above, the millet is a commonly used grain in their meals and in the production of millet wine, which is a sweet tasting wine made from the fermentation of millets.
Yuyupas Cultural Center also preserved the tradition of tea cultivating and you can see the vast and vividly green tea plantation. From a far, you could spot the Tsou Tribe ladies in the tea plantation harvesting the young shoots of the tea plant for the production of tea. The process of tea harvesting is arduous as harvesting is done in the late morning early afternoon when the mildew from the morning mist has evaporated so that the leaves are dry which makes it easier to roast the tea leaves.
Within the grounds of Yuyupas Cultural Centre was a restaurant that served authentic Tsou Tribe dishes using the freshest ingredients that has been harvested from the hills around. From the wild vegetables to the tea leaves and oil that they use to marinate the food, all the dishes taste very simple but extremely delicious as the sweetness of the these fresh ingredients were brought out with the careful pairing of condiments and method of cooking.
I was very impressed with the spread and taste of the food and it was beyond what I had expected of meals in the mountains.
Yuyupas Cultural Center has recently introduced a Muslim menu which is Halal Certified to cater to the increasing number of Muslim visitors who left disappointed as they were not able to have a taste the culinary skills of the Tsou Tribe.
The Muslim cutlery and utensils have been specially labeled to differentiate them for careful separation of items to keep in accordance to the guidelines for a Halal certified kitchen and restaurant.
After the hearty meal, we adjourned to the main hall for Tsou Tribe performance. The performance showcased the dances from harvest season to the fierce and swift actions of the warriors in battle.
At the end of the performance, the audience was invited down to the floor to join in to dance to the famous tune of Alishan. It was so much fun being about to interact with the locals like this and to learn from them these simple steps that brought so much laughter and joy.
Up in the next post, I will be sharing with you the activities I did and where I stayed in Alishan. Stay Tuned!