Chiayi County, home of the Alishan Scenic area, has more than its share of hiking resorts and trails. One of the best of these and, at less than 35 minutes drive from Chiayi City, one of the most convenient is Doulishan. To get there from Chiayi, head along the No.159 and then No.3 roads to Jhuchi town center, from where you will find the route well sign-posted.
Though there is a path leading to the top of Doulishan, most visitors steer clear and head to Fong tian yen temple 奉天岩 instead. Fong tian yen’s popularity, especially at lunch time, is due to the fact that they offer free gas and cooking utensils to anyone who wants them. At weekends the space in front of the temple is packed with families and groups of friends cooking and enjoying their food, a welcome break before they head back down the mountain.
The Alishan railway track is a recurring feature of these hiking trails. Not only does this make for a number of photo opportunities (who wouldn’t want a picture of the Alishan train?), but with stations near both the temple and the car park at the bottom of the route, visitors could take the opportunity of sparing their legs and riding the country’s most endearing form of transport back down the mountain.
While many do wait around to catch a sight, and a photo, of the famous train; most choose to walk both up and down the route. In truth, the path to the temple is not a difficult one, and even the most inexperienced hiker should be able to do it without too many problems.For those in need of a bigger challenge, the trail does actually continue on upwards past the temple. Slightly steeper and less even, this underused section of the route is more exerting than the comparably leisurely path which leads up to Fong tian yen temple奉天岩. What the trail takes from your legs though, it will more than give back through your eyes.
Due in part, to its higher altitude and also, no doubt, to the fact that it is less often walked, the landscape on this part of your ascent is far richer and more varied. With bamboo giving way to ferns and deciduous trees, there is always something new to look at. Because the pathway is less developed you also get the feeling of walking through the nature, instead of being kept separate from it. Reach the top and you’ll find a tea plantation, some lovely panoramic views, and a guesthouse where you can stay the night. The owners, very friendly people, assured me that sunrise is beautiful.
For a hiking locale that is fit for the novice walker and serious hiker alike, you shouldn’t look too far past Doulishan.