Alishan : Small trains and giant trees

January 17, 2012 at 12:13 pm | Posted in heritage sites, outdoors, Taiwan | Leave a comment
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The oldest tree I saw was 2,000 years old. There used to be lots of trees like this in Alishan, but during the Japanese occupation many were cut down. Narrow-gauge railways were built to help transport the wood for export. Nowadays tourism has taken over from logging and the trains carry people not trees.

The Alishan Forest Railway was badly damaged by Typhoon Morakot in 2009 and much of it remains closed. However, you can still ride from Alishan to Zhushan (which most people do to watch the sunrise).

I hope one day I can go back and take the train from Chiayi direct to Alishan and say hello to the ancient trees again.

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Alishan : in Micro

January 13, 2012 at 1:03 am | Posted in heritage sites, outdoors, Taiwan | Leave a comment
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When I visited Alishan in December, it was around 12°C. A very fine mist made everything damp and much colder than it really was. The forest seemed to absorb sound. The trees towered up, but I looked down at the micro-world around me, which was a whole little forest by itself.

Alishan : Panoramas

January 9, 2012 at 3:56 am | Posted in heritage sites, outdoors, Taiwan | Leave a comment
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The forest-scape of Alishan National Scenic Area was the perfect place to try the panorama feature of my new camera.

As we waited for the shuttle bus at Shoujhen Temple, the mist crept in and enveloped us. Within 2 minutes we could barely see a thing.

There was no ‘sea of clouds’ the next day at dawn, but it was still beautiful, if a little cold and wet up at 2,000 metres.

Maokong

November 9, 2011 at 6:12 pm | Posted in culture, heritage sites, outdoors, Taiwan | Leave a comment
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Maokong lies in the southern hills surrounding Taipei. The area began cultivating tea in the 18th century and exporting it in the 19th century.

Tea production continues today, although Maokong is now more famous as a place to enjoy drinking tea than as a production centre.

There’s an array of tea houses to choose from (50-60 according to the tourist map). Whether you’re looking for a terrace overlooking the views of Taipei, or a hidden garden tucked among tea plantations, it’s a lovely place to while away an afternoon. There are also plenty of easy hiking routes (paved paths) which lead you into quiet valleys and tea fields.

The views of Taipei are stunning but even lovelier is the cable car ride up to Maokong. The carriages are small, with large windows – some even have glass floors (known as Crystal Cabins).

The total ride is about 20 minutes, although there are two stops before you reach Maokong. Tourist info has a good map which shows how the stations, hiking routes and roads (you can also take a bus here) link up. If you get on at an intermediate stop, you might have to wait a while for a cable car with space since most people ride the whole route without stopping.

video courtesy of Jonathan

Northern Vietnam

October 30, 2011 at 9:29 pm | Posted in Asia, culture, heritage sites, outdoors | Leave a comment
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video courtesy of Jonathan

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