Travel in Taiwan Maple Series 171223: Alishan | Travel in Asia

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Travel in Taiwan Maple Series 171223: Alishan

#5yearsinTaiwan


Here comes another first from the luomujie blog: A maple viewing tour in Alishan.  Most people visit the scenic area during the cherry blossom festival in April when the Tokyo sakuras open fully their petals.    But do you know that the second half of December is also a good time to visit this famous tourist destination?  Taiwan is not known to have a lot of maple trees, but certain places like Alishan can offer spectacular views of mountains that suddenly got shades of red, due to the vast number of native maple trees.


at Zhushan Station.  Taiwan's highest train station at an elevation of 2,451 meters above sea level.

Depending on the weather in the mountains of Alishan, Taiwan's trident and native maple leaves will change colors as soon the right conditions are met during the last month of the year.  However, climate change can delay the metamorphosis of the maple trees up to the first week of January.  So there is no assurance that you will see lots of red leaves in December.  Don't blame me if you come here too late or too early.  Haha!




November is also a good time to see maple leaves in Alishan but I have doubts if there will be a lot of trees to enjoy.   It is said that in the trail from the Alishan Ranger Station to Alishan Hotel have lots of oliver maple trees.  Common known as the Chinese maple, this plant has five leaflets.   It's nice to see them glowing red under the rays of the sun, but I think Taiwan's native red maple is more interesting.  



Taiwan red maple


a Taiwan red maple leaf under the sunlight

The Taiwan red maple is not the typical maple plant with "five lobes" but rather they look like ordinary leaves with jagged edges.  They still have the five leaflets.  However, it's not that obvious.  The good thing is that they are in great numbers in Ogasawara Mountain.  You can get to this place in Alishan by boarding the sunrise tour trains from  Alishan Station. If you are from Taipei, just board Bus 1835 from Taipei Bus Station at night (every Friday and Saturday only) and after six hours you will arrive in the scenic area.   Buy your train tickets at Alishan Station, ride the train and get off at Zhushan  Station.  After watching the sunrise, walk 550 meters to get to the Ogasawara Mountain Viewing Platform.  The platform is shaped like an octagon inviting visitors to take 360-degree selfies.  







The short hike from Zhushan Statoin was worth it.  Some of the leaves had already fallen on the ground turning the brown color of the soil into a sea of red.   I don't usually see this kind of scenery in Taiwan which makes the place more special.






Taiwan red maple leaves.  Always look at the shape of the leaves to know if it is really a native red maple. Most tourists mistook the red leaves of the cherry blossoms in winter as the native maple of Taiwan.



From the Ogasawara Lookout,  a mountain range is visible with spots of red.  They are probably native red maple trees.  The plants are usually scattered in the nearby mountains during December (pseudo-autumn season of the island).

to the Duigaoyue Sunrise Platform 




Duigaoyue Sunrise Platform 










Since the last train going back to Alishan Station already left, I have decided to walk along the trails leading to Chaoping Station.   On the way to my destination, I have discovered the secret station of the Alishan Forest Railway!  The sidewalk leading to the Duigaoyue Sunrise Platform will delight anyone who loves the dramatic colors of autumn.

At the time of my visit, workers are busy setting up a stage.  A  concert had been organized to welcome the coming of a new year.  I think this is happening annually in Alishan.

I really got curious about these red trees that I wanted to get near them and take some pictures.






start of the Duìgāoyuè hiking trail (Gaoyue Trail)







While looking at the mountains from  Duigaoyue Sunrise Platform,  I noticed a nearby rocky hill where there are lots of red maple leaves.   So I followed the train tracks which led me to the start of the Duìgāoyuè hiking trail.   I climbed the hills walking up and down on its semi-maintained pathway.  Trees with broad branches were trying to reach the sky. Teasing visitors to look at them and take pictures with caution.   If you have good stamina, you can finish this trail in an hour or two.   But I still have lots of places to see so I started walking back to the shortcut which would lead to Chaoping Station.




Zhushan sunrise trail






Zhaoping Station


The shortcut is the Zhushan Sunrise Trail.  Visitors who are staying in Alisha Gou Hotel have the option not to ride the train going to Zhushan Station and just follow this cemented pathway which will take hikers to the road leading to the highest train station in Taiwan.





Tashan mountain with specks of red

I reached Chaoping Station and I was surprised to see the Tashan Mountain cliff to have specks of red.  I arrived in Alishan when it was still dark and I really did not expect this.  The eroded part of the forest railway is clearly visible much to the disappointment of visitors wishing to explore the other areas of the national scenic area.   After enjoying the view, I boarded the shuttle bus going to Alishan Visitor Center.  My plan is to walk outside the premises of scenic area and go to a place known for its sunset above a sea of clouds.



yellow trident maple tree

As I approached the gate, a tree with broad branches caught my attention.  All of its leaves were sparkling as the sun shines on it.   Its yellow color radiates like gold.  A mesmerizing sight that I would never forget in Taiwan. The stunning tree was a native yellow trident maple and I got more excited to see more as I found my way out of the gate of Alishan.







A green maple leaf that has turned into a yellow one.

















Taiwan yellow trident maple.  Do you see the insect?











Taiwan red trident maple





Unexpected.  The largest number of maple trees that I have ever found Taiwan are planted along Xīnzhōnghéng Highway.  Just pass by the Alishan Fire Station and you would come across this part of the road that has a dazzling set of autumn colors.  It's a battle between the yellow and red maple leaves as I got closer and closer to the sunset viewing area in Shāngxīnshān.  While walking, I picked some fallen leaves that I still find to be fresh.  



At an elevation of more than 2,000 meters, you can see the boundary between the clouds and the sky.

Located at the  89.5 to 90.1-kilometer mark of the highway, locals come here to watch the sun as it set against the sea of clouds.  Considered as one of the five wonders of Alishan, seeing the phenomenon is the exact opposite of the Alishan sunrise.  The sun rises in the scenic area as diamonds while it sets here like a glowing gold nugget.

I was actually focused on maple leaves here rather than the sunset.  I set up my tripod, sat on a rock and took photos of myself while I hold some of the precious maple leaves that I have collected.





Take your pick.  Red or yellow? The Taiwan trident maple or the native red variety?  Adore the wonderful shades of autumn through the luomujie blog's Maple Series: Alishan.

***********
Itinerary:
Taipei Bus Station → ride Bus 1835 → Alishan Station → ride train to Zhushan Station → watch sunrise → Ogasawara Mountain Viewing platform → Duigaoyue Sunrise Platform → Duigaoyue  hiking trail (Gaoyue Trail)→  Zhushan Sunrise Trail → Chaoping Station → enjoy view at Tashan Mountain → Alishan entrance → sunset sea of clouds  →  bus station → ride bus back to downtown Chiayi



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Maple Series


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The "Taipei kong mahal" (My beloved Taipei) travel series will return on October 3. ;)


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