The Old Trees of Alishan, Taiwan

Alishan, Taiwan

It’s two days before Christmas and we miss the last bus to Alishan. With no backup plan, we resort to hiring a taxi to drive us up the mountain. It’s an expensive endeavor, but so are the holidays. The road turns and twists for more than an hour and at times we wonder if we’ve gone too far off the beaten path with our latest adventure in Taiwan. Our driver even stops to light a cigarette in unspoken agreement that this road is something to be reckoned with.

We finally top out and arrive at Alishan House. It’s a bit too dark and foggy to gauge our elevation but we agree that having our head in the clouds is always a pretty good indicator that we’re somewhere worthwhile. It’s not until the next morning that we see the quiet Alishan forest when we set out by foot to explore the mountaintop.

We board a five-car train for a quick ride to the start of the hike, an unexpected beginning to what turns out to be a charming walk through the forest. An elevated plank path leads the way through the trees — a mix of new and old growth, cedars and cypresses, with a profusion of greenery at every turn. Giant red cypresses are the highlight — towering over us, impossible to photograph, firmly rooted in the mountainside, some for thousands of years.

Logging has ceased here and tourism is the economic force at Alishan. This has clearly been the salvation of these old growth trees. I think of the history through which they’ve existed, their lifetimes in pace with the redwoods and sequoias of Northern California on the other side of the Pacific.

We return to Alishan House for sunset where, above the clouds, we find a stunning view and finally sense our location high on the mountain. The old railway — no longer in use — clings to the opposite mountainside, a broken and dangerous reminder of years past. The sun sets as clouds roll past us and mountaintops jut their heads above the fog to breathe freely from the sky, just like we do.


Alishan National Scenic Area is located in south-central Taiwan, and can be reach by car, bus or taxi from Chiayi station on the Taiwan High Speed Rail route.


  • Beautiful and evocative. I’ll keep it in mind for out trip to Taiwan.


  • Taiwan! I’ve heard it’s lovely. And I guess your photos prove that. Again…I love your way with words. This time, it’s the photos, though, that take the prize for me.
    What edit tool do you use (or do you)?


    • Hey Badfish! Back online after a weekend roadtrip. Thanks for your comment! Taiwan is lovely in a quiet way. Much of it feels stuck in the ’70s — retro without ever progressing. I edit in Photoshop — try to keep it to a minimum. Do most of my framing in camera and mainly adjust color to lighten the shadows. My Nikon tends to shoot dark. Hope you’re enjoying your day/night wherever you are! 🙂


      • You just won’t stop, will you. Where’d you go, Banff? I’ve seen photos of it, I want to go there. Same Rockies as Colorado.
        I’m old school, I frame in camera, also…old habits die hard.


      • My feet always itch for travel. I wish it was Banff! Had to do a road trip to bring some stuff (that’s been in storage for 3+ years) from Lake Tahoe to Vancouver. It was a really beautiful drive — did not take the beaten path along highway 5. Opted instead for some smaller roads through central Oregon. Colors are changing — very nice. Are you on Instagram? Photos are there — I’m compassandcamera (duh). Framing in camera is a good habit — saves time. Have a great weekend! 🙂


      • Oh…yeah, nice trip this time of year. Except for the lugging of stuff. I have about four photos on Instagram. I’m Badfish Cafe there!!

        Liked by 1 person

  • Wow, what a place and your series of photos would make Alishan quite proud… never would have imagined such a place 🙂


  • You have me daydreaming about the many stories the ancient redwoods of northern California and the cypresses of Alishan could tell….Beautiful!


  • Oh Taiwan, I’m so nostalgic ! I visited this place a few months ago and I was very impressed by the sea of clouds. I really like your picture of it, it looks almost magical 🙂 I didn’t seem to busy.


  • Wow what gorgeous. Those forests are quite something. Nothing quite like historic forests, ones that have been left untouched. Magical. Love the clouds sitting atop and the mist, the moss and all the beauty. Spectacular. I have never thought of Taiwan as being a place I would rush too, but you might change my mind for future travels to Asia.


    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Peta! Funny — I’m “reposting” this Alishan post tomorrow as I revisit my trip there in 2013. We were really surprised to find such an old, beautiful forest and wished we had more time to explore Taiwan. Almost the entire east half of the island is forest and natural park land. Definitely worth a trip, especially when the food markets are up and running again someday. More on those coming later in the week. Thanks for your comment! Hope you’re both doing well in MX!


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