Saturday, June 28, 2014

Taiwan 2014: Day 1 - Alishan

For this year's annual trip ; I've went to Taiwan back in March 2014.

Exactly 3 months after I'm back from the trip; here's the first post on the trip.
In March, it's spring season and I would call it end of winter season due to the cold and misty weather. In spring, it also marks the blooming of the cherry blossoms flower which is quite popular in Japan. Well, in Taiwan; there's cherry blossom too! Was there from 5-12 March and Taiwan is so interesting that 8 full days is not enough to enjoy the beauty of Taiwan.

As usual, we took Airasia ~ Everyone can Fly with Airasia :)  where the return tickets costs RM520+. FYI, I bought the tickets back in December 2013 (about 3 months before the trip) during the Airasia promotion. For a comfortable flight to Taiwan which takes about 4 hours and 45 minutes, I've upgraded the seats to a quiet zone area. This area is located between the super expensive extra long legs area with flat bed seat and the normal seats. Best part, our seats are nearer to the door and got to board the flight early (coz the seat is nearer to the door) and meals is served to us earlier too.

View from the quiet zone area.

During the flight, enjoy the beautiful scenery of these puffy clouds that looks like cotton candy!

Or maybe the clear blue sea.

Oh right. And we got the entire "section" by ourselves. Well, normally each side will have 3 seats and coincidentally; we have no other passenger sitting beside us. Thus, occupying the seats meant for 3 for both of us. Utilizing the seats to put bag :P

After some time, our pre-booked meal is served. We had the infamous Airasia Nasi Lemak and Green Curry Chicken. Completed the meal package with beverages and desserts add on option. Do pre-booked your meals before you board the flight. It's more value for money. We ordered an extra cup of instant noodles when the cabin crew served the meals because we wanted to try how it feels like Maggie hot cup in the air. HAhaa.. It taste better when you have nothing to do but to sleep and eat in the air. 


Airasia Nasi Lemak. It's delicious and comforting the flight experience.

Green Curry Chicken and we ordered an extra cup of instant noodles too. Maggi Hot Cup in the air :)

Once you are able to see the patches of green fields or small lake look-a-like; you are now in Taiwan's sky. Taiwan is a country which emphasize heavily on its agriculture sector. Thus, you will be able to see different shades of green patches field from the sky. These are the plantations and located out of Taipei. Here's the view from the flight.
  

Beautiful tone of earthy and greens..

From the airport, we took the UBUS to bring us to the TaoYuan High Speed Railway (HSR) Station .It costs NT30 each and it takes approximately 20 minutes. It's because our driver will fetch us up to Alishan from Chiayi HSR Station. From Tao Yuan HSR, we board the HSR and bring us to Chiayi HSR Station. To get to Alishan, the nearest HSR station is Chiayi.You can also get to Alishan via bus from Taipei but it would take about half a day.

We reached Chiayi HSR at about 5pm and due to the winter/spring season, the sun sets at about 5.30 to 6 in the evening. Without further delay; our skilled driver bring us up Alishan using his Toyota Wish. We booked the driver from RoundTaiwanRound. Do engage with them if you want to ensure a safe and efficient trip in Taiwan. They will help you to get the best driver and ensure you have a good time during your holidays.

One of the scene you will see when you are about to reach Chiayi.
Our journey up the Alishan Mountain is a dangerous one. You see; the sunset is at 6pm and we only started our journey at 5pm. it takes about 2 and half hours to reach uphill. Therefore; we were in the midst of darkness halfway uphill and the road are more winding than our route up Genting Highlands. Moreover, there's a sudden thick midst welcoming us in certain area where even with our car lights on; we can't see the road in front of us. To make the situation worst; there's no lights on certain area of the road  :(
We were so scare that we dare not talk or move while going uphill. However, the driver was not afraid and with his great experienced in driving uphill; he just continue driving and we reach Alishan National Scenic Area safely. Bravo to our brave driver. Do engage a driver with RoundTaiwanRound if you would like to have a safe and comfortable journey up Alishan.
And for the fact that we are the ONLY vehicle going uphill to Alishan despite that it's already sunset. (Because even the hotel reception was surprised that we check-in so late and coming uphill in darkness). Do visit RoundTaiwanRound and I booked my driver with Grant Lee (grant.lee@roundtaiwanround.com)

 From the main carpark in Alishan, our driver help us to contact our hotel reception and the hotel send a shuttle van to the carpark to fetch us to the hotel. It's because third party vehicle are only allowed to reach the Alishan main carpark area (the place where main shops and restaurants in Alishan were located) and prohibited to go further towards the hotels area. Thus, all hotels in Alishan have their own free shuttle to pick and drop guests from the hotel to the main carpark area. We bid goodnight to our driver and there we are in Alishan House hotel's lobby. Alishan House is the most beautiful hotel in Alishan which is located further up from the carpark. It's located very near the ZhouPing trail. Checking in was fast and within a few minutes, we were already boarding the hotel shuttle down to the main carpark area again for dinner.

In the mountain area, as the sky gets dark faster; the shops and restaurants are mostly close at around 8.30 or 9pm. Thus, we went for dinner at this restaurant right beside the JiujiuJiu (999) Restaurant. Forgot what is the name but it's located right beside JiuJiujiu Restaurant because Jiujiujiu was closed when we reach. Although it was spring season, the weather in Alishan is very cold at about 6 or 7 degree.

Back to the restaurant, they had set menus and steamboat. The steamboat portion is for a big group of people; thus we went for the set meals instead. It's actually quite cheap for the set dinner consist of fish, chicken, soup, etcc. Alishan cuisine is quite different from other parts of Taiwan. It's a mountain area and most dishes are cooked using local produce. Commonly found in most of the dishes are fresh bamboo shoots, ear fungus, lily bulbs, etc. Here's what we had:

This soup is clear and sweet which comes form the fresh ingredients. It's a vegetarian soup without meat. Soup comes with fresh bamboo shoots and fresh lily bulbs. In Malaysia, we often used DRIED lily bulbs with mushroom and black fungus to steam chicken. Having to taste the fresh lily bulb is just awesome. And it's completely different from the dried ones that we have.
Soup from fresh bamboo shots and fresh lily bulbs.


 Ever tried stir fry fresh bamboo shoots? Apparently, bamboo shoots is a local produce in Alishan and it's very crunchy and sweet. 
Stir fry fresh bamboo shoots.

Okay; we are suppose to eat this chicken with the skin! Tried one and skin was half chewy and crunchy texture and it's cold. However, it taste good. Probably they have marinated or braised this chicken with salt or etc.  
Forgot the name. But it was something about crispy cold chicken.

 Hot and spicy bean curd come to rescue on a cold day :)
Mala bean curd.

Fish meal up on a mountain area? Well, it's fresh okay. And the sauce is unique.
Fried fish.

Our first meal in Taiwan and it's located up at Alishan!
4 dishes with a soup. With a fish, chicken, beancurd, vegetables and a soup; it will cost a bomb if you are having such meal in Malaysia. However, in Alishan; it's half the cost that you usually pay back home. Thus, it's good !!!

This is our first meal in Taiwan and it's at Alishan!!! Surprisingly, the meal here do not contains any MSG. It's pure vegetable sweetness. Their dish might be simple but it's tasty. And realized that they eat dishes more than rice which makes sense that the set meal comes with 4 dishes and a soup :)
Oh, forgot to mention that I find it weird to have our rice served in a tiny paper bowl which can fit only a mouthful of rice. Well, of course the rice is refillable but I find it weird to serve in a mini paper bowl. But it's good that they don't need to wash so many plates since the paper bowl can be thrown away and it's recyclable material. After I few days passed, I realized that it's the norm way rice are being served in certain shops. Well, and I got used to it too!

After the dinner, we walked back to our hotel because the hotel shuttle ended at 8.30pm. Thanks to the hotel shuttle driver who taught us how to recognize the path back to our hotel. It was freaking cold and we were only in our sweater and not a winter clothing when the temperature is at 6 degree. Well, we survived the cold and there were no one else walking out in the dark like us. Was so afraid that some giant bears or dogs will come and attack us (ahaha). But we enjoyed the view of Alishan in the dark where it's quiet with cold wind blowing. After walking about 20 minutes uphill, we finally back in our hotel room :)

Btw, the hotel rooms in Alishan House were built with thousand years old wood and our room was a Japanese style room. There's a bath tub made from thousand year old wood that grows in Alishan. I'm gonna stay here again when I'm back in Alishan next time.

That sums up our day 1 back in Taiwan. Was excited and tired at the same time. Well, why Alishan on day 1? Because the journey up hill takes about 3 hours and since we arrived in Taiwan in the evening, might as well use the time to go uphill and can enjoy the sunrise the next day.

Stay tune for Day 2 coming up soon.

1 comment:

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