Sleep, Eat, and Buy Options in Alishan’s North Sector
Text: Rick Charette
High Up and Away from the World
Though isolated from the national scenic area’s main tourist corridor, and birdsong quiet, Alishan’s northern part presents many pleasant choices on where to roost at night, fill growling tummies, and hunt for gift and souvenir gems.
The way to go in the hushed, serene north is the homestay/B&B. The warm and inviting A-Han’s Homestay is perched up on a mountain slope just east of Ruili village, overlooking a deep valley, forest closing in on three sides. Nearby are two key area attractions, the Youth Ridge Trail below and Green Tunnel above (see main Feature article). The complex is a little bit of Europe in Taiwan’s high mountains – at its center is a pitched-roof wood cottage, to one side is a tall chalet-style building, and on the other is a cluster of wood cabin-style rooms and a detached cabin. Before the cabin cluster is a large partially covered deck perfect for stargazing; on the night I stayed Orion rolled slowly by just above eye level, twinkling in full glory. Directly before the cottage is a capacious wood patio, tea-drinking pavilion to one side, A-Han’s rustic restaurant on the other.
A hearty, filling Chinese-dish dinner showcasing fresh local ingredients is available for NT$300 per person, and the convivial wife in the owner-couple invites diners to the tea pavilion afterward for locally grown high-mountain Oolong tea. A-Han’s provides basic-English service and set tours are offered, introducing either Alishan’s north or the main central tourist corridor. This is a peaceful place – you’ll be serenaded to sleep by a cricket chorus, and awakened by the cheerful singing of early birds. (Rooms start at NT$2,400; full breakfast included.)
The Lan Hou Homestay, in the Tsou-tribe village of Laiji, is a collection of large homes arranged in a rough “L” shape. The homes are compellingly eclectic, most with exteriors that look like curious European mountain-village transplants, featuring combinations of wood planking, cut stone, and/or stucco. The local Tsou men are accomplished wood- and stone-workers; the ultimate inspiration for the designs dreamed up by the owners, most members of a single clan, was the European-style cut-stone Presbyterian church next door.
Reflecting the different ages of the buildings, each having numerous dedicated guestrooms, rooms vary from small and ultra-spartan to large, chic, and ultra-modern. Within the crook of the L, from which views of the rugged Alishan River are enjoyed, is a covered open-face restaurant area with performance stage (check ahead to confirm whether Tsou-culture song-and-dance shows are scheduled), grassy leisure area with patio tables, a replica of a traditional Tsou-village lookout tower, and other amenities. (Rooms start at NT$1,500; simple breakfast included.)
Note that homestay accommodations are also offered at Bihushan Tourist Tea Garden. And check out our January 2011 and March 2014 Alishan features for accommodation options in Fenqihu and elsewhere. For other ideas, visit the Alishan National Scenic Area website.
The freshness of the local produce pretty much guarantees great tastes and a happy experience any time you sit down to a meal in Alishan’s north, but on this trip meals at two spots were outstanding. Lan Hou Homestay prepares an exceptional dinner feast for NT$350 per person. The food, the proprietors assured us, is exactly what the Tsou eat at their own festive repasts. The highlight for me was the chewy, delectable stone-grilled boar; the animals used are bred from captured wild boar. The meat is dipped in a wonderful heady horseradish powder/black pepper mix. Also especially noteworthy was the bamboo-tube rice, silky-smooth steamed bamboo shoots, and healthy, rich-flavor soup made with mushroom, spring onion, pork chunks, and other mountain produce – including daylilies! The significance of each dish in the local culture is explained (in Chinese) upon serving.
The Village Kitchen is ensconced in a fabulous location, up alone in a narrow side valley overlooking the broad Alishan River valley between Inner and Outer Laiji, green all about, a pedestrian suspension bridge long used by locals strung out high above directly ahead, disappearing into the thick forest cover at both ends. This wood-built eatery is a kiosk-style operation fronted by a breezy open deck with long wooden tables and bench seating. It is run by the bright-spirited Hanna, who has come here via a small village in Namibia, then South Africa’s Capetown, then Taiwan’s west coast, marrying into a local family.
Her menu is a mouth-watering tour of local and Western culinary ideas, with an emphasis on Laiji-area ingredients. Be sure to try the rich, aromatic fresh-brewed Laiji coffee, home-crafted cherry and plum wines (based on local recipes Hanna has researched), and red-chili jam. All of these are also available as gift/souvenir purchases. Of the numerous robust entrees tried (we could not resist going back a second time, so we could try everything), best in my books were the stew with red-wine sauce, Italian pizza, and homemade breads with cheese platter.
Bihushan Tourist Tea Garden has a range of packaged loose-leaf high-mountain Oolong teas on display at its visitor center/restaurant. The bestsellers are the charcoal-roasted spring harvest Oolong and honey-fragrance Oolong.
Production of local coffee beans has exploded in Taiwan since the late 1990s, and Alishan has become a significant player, producing Arabica beans. Tsou communities are avid producers, and Laiji’s Alishan Little Girl café, part of the Lan Hou Homestay cluster, sells Tsou-cultivated Alishan Little Girl organic light-roast beans and stand-up pouches.
Unique wild boar-theme and other native-theme artworks are crafted and sold at Laiji’s PU-U Workshop. The village is also home to numerous other arts & crafts studios, selling such treasure as indigenous-theme leather goods, wood sculptures, woven baskets, and paintings.
A-Han’s Homestay (阿漢的家民宿)
Add:No. 79, Borough 5, Youyelin, Ruili Village, Meishan Township, Chiayi County (嘉義縣梅山鄉瑞里村幼葉林5鄰79號)
Tel: (05) 250-1011
Lan Hou Homestay (蘭后民宿)
Add:No. 11, Borough 1, Laiji Village, Alishan Township, Chiayi County (嘉義縣阿里山鄉來吉村1鄰11號)
Tel: (05) 266-1172
Website: (02) http://www.lanhou.idv.tw
English and Chinese
|Alishan Little Girl||阿里山小姑娘|