May 11, 2006 - Thursday
Chiayi, TW to Alishan, TW

Well, the plans for the Alishan Scenic Forest Train have changed a bit. The suggested time is the 9:00 am train as the 1:30 pm train often encounters fog, limiting visibility to the views. I had planned on taking the 9 am train up and then turn right around and take a train back down. Both will not be the case. I will be taking the 1:30 pm train up as the 9 am only runs on the weekends. An overnight stay is then required and I'll take another 1:18 pm train back down. The trip takes about 3-1/2 hours each way. Looking at the times, the available New Taiwan Dollars I have on hand, the expenses I expect the next day or so - I should be able to do it with enough pad remaining.

There are "ample" hotel spots and a hostel in Alishan so finding a spot to stay should be OK - hopefully the hostel will be open (less $$). I should get back into Chiayi about 5 pm Friday afternoon and this should allow me enough time to trek down to Kaohsiung about 80 kilometers to the south, 1-1/2 to maybe three hours. This time I have a waypoint to a hotel so no routing about to find the right spot!

With it being about 10 am I have some time to kill before the 1:30 pm train. Water purchased from a generic vendor (looked like a pharmacy and each time I go there for water they seem to make some comments - perhaps they think it odd for a traveler to purchase water from them?). Over to MickyD's for some food and laptop work. While there is a wireless Internet spot here I would need to have a HiNet account to use it. Maybe next time. There's a "24H Internet Cafe" on level B1 so I figure I might be able to get some photos uploaded before I board the train.

I'll prep stuff on the laptop, transfer it to a USB memory "key" and head down there. If I'm lucky they will have wireless I can use, paying them a fee, right from the laptop. [Edit: time was spent editing pictures and pages - I didn't get connected though I did go down to see what the place was like - a computer gaming room - rows of PC's, nice screens, comfortable chairs, snacks]

A note on TV: The content seems universal. Sex sells. Songs (MTV) have the same "pop jitter", love, love lost. Morning daytime has soap operas. Evening has news. I don't understand a word said - but the general theme is visible.

No map today as I wasn't on the bike. The GPS didn't want to find a satellite signal in the train either.

A couple pictures of the bike where I left it at the hotel.

Over at the train depot, where I worked the ticket issues out, this lady approached me (probably seeing I was in the "Alishan" ticket line) and was asking were I was to stay. She wanted me to stay at this one particular hotel. I was hoping for the hostel. She kept pressing all morning. In the end I didn't stay at "her" hotel even though the hostel was closed.

Some train stuff (not much) - crossing sounds, rocking cars
MPG, 1.9 MB, 27 sec

Platform 1 at the train station. This services "standard" commuter trains traveling up and down the island and my "special" train that goes up to Alishan. The standard trains are standard gauge track whereas the "forest line" is narrow gauge.

My train is down at the end of Platform 1 - on a line all to itself.

Here's how they do the "end of the line" restraints - just bend the rail and paint it.

The hotel "tout" took this photo for me. She had a problem with the camera - one that I noticed many minutes earlier - the LCD display is not turning on when flipped to the common use position. Hmmm....

On the train and we're moving!

The first stop since leaving Chiayi station. This station is the "popular choice" as it is newer, cleaner, and close to some attractions - but was out of my way.

This tower looked out of place - no wires connected to it. It was just standing there holding out its arms.

Darn big towers they have. And if the location puts it in the river then you build one big platform for it to sit on.

All wires end here.

One of the many stops - a nicer one.

Construction area - hill slide area.

This lady got on at the beginning (and a guy even asked her to move as she was in his seat - there were plenty of empty seats about).

Four cars moving upward. The engine is behind me - pushing.

Each tunnel had a placard - Tunnel number (15), length (176 meters), altitude (?).

This might take the cake for the smallest station. No idea where this lady is going - not much of anything around.

Also frequent were kilometer markers. 31.3 kilometers from Chiayi (about 77 kilometers total)

Station name and altitude

Halfway point. Station stop. The other train is coming down.

We left Chiayi at 1:30 pm and were about half-way at 3:12 pm.

Nicer station. Stainless steel doors - polished or not - are common.

Bamboo trees

Yea, real safe. There was one spot that was worse - not something I'd want to travel over after a heavy rain.

A fair bit of "down"

Evidence of the zig-zag sections. We came up the rails on the left, stopped, threw the switch and continued up on the right.

At Alishan. The engine kept a steady speed through the complete climb - no "grunt" sections noticed.

The steam unit sitting nearby. Vertical side cylinders with side, flex coupling, drive. This configuration is used on tight mountain rail lines where a "conventional" steam locomotive design couldn't navigate the tight turns.

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