May 23, 2014

High Up in the Taiwanese Mountains is Ruilie

Up Up Up - and Then You Reach a Piece of Paradise

The first time I came here was a warm and humid day in the spring. My hair was curling and was sticking to my forehead, my bag felt enormous, and my legs were tired. I had managed to get a coffee on the way, which had helped a little but far from enough. I had not had time to have a proper breakfast. All I wanted was to have a nap and something to eat, not necessarily in that order.

I had to get hold of a person but had not been successful, I could not reach him on the phone and while it seemed the first text message I had sent had gotten through the rest were bouncing and I couldn't get through, nor did I have any idea if I had reached the right person. I had no idea if I'd actually be able to find the place where I was going to stay that night, and it did worry me a bit.

And then I stepped of the train, and realised that whatever happened next, it would be OK, because with a view like that, nothing can ever be anything but OK or better!
High up in the mountains of Taiwan is Ruili Scenic area (see link), a fascinating area. Life here is very different from the life of the busy Taiwan cities on the west coast, different from the busy Taichung city, the place I call home in Taiwan.

I stepped off the train in the middle of nowhere, at the Jiaoliping station (交力坪火車站), a tiny station without a proper platform, just steps between the tracks. The station is squeezed in on what seems to be a very narrow little shelf on the mountains, and when you are standing looking out from the station, you get the feeling that you are going to fall off, but miraculously enough, there are some small roads that lead to the station, and that's where I was picked up, once I managed to get a connection again and got hold of the owner of the home stay where I was going to be staying. That I had to wait a little didn't matter one bit, because beautiful doesn't even begin to describe it.

Once I had been picked up we drove to a spot very close, the Yuantan Ecological Park, where you can learn about the special flora and fauna of the mountains, eat lunch and get connected to nature. A fantastic stop; In Rueili area you are high up over the sea level, the area is between 800 to 1200 meter above the ocean, and with that the temperatures go down quite a bit at night time, while it is warm during the day – a fantastic environment for the teas that are grown here, but not only for the teas, but for everything that grows.

Yuantan Ecological Park - 圓潭自然生態園區 (pinyin: Yuantan Ziran shengtai yuanqu) – feels like a rather unique little spot, and if you are in the area, you should definitely plan a visit. There are signs in English, and at least one of the guys who works here speaks English really well, so you have a good chance to learn. And do make sure you have some time to spend in the park itself as well, don't just stop and look at the little museum.

How to get there

The easiest way may be with a tour, but the more fun way is to take the Alishan Forest Train (Alishan senlin tielu – 阿里山森林鐵路), that normally goes all the way to Alishan - 阿里山. The railway was destroyed in a big typhoon some years ago, but part of it has been reopened. You can take the train to the Jiaoliping station, 交力坪火車站, if you have arranged with someone to pick you up there. 

You take the train from the Chiayi train station. The Alishan Forest Train has it's own platform, but it is the same station as the main station in Chiayi (which, I might add, is different from the station where the High speed train stops, the main station is where the normal trains have their end station).

If you don't want to take the train, there is also a possibility to take the bus. Regular buses go from Chiayi Station as well.

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