Thursday, November 16, 2017

Luye Highland and Biking in Chishang

Third Day on Trip Around Taiwan

Very famous tree
I’m now on my third day as a solo traveler around Taiwan using public transportation and as someone who cannot speak any Chinese. My second day was spent in Taroko Gorge with a night at the very nice Silks Place resort hotel. Today will be a little different as I am meeting up with friends at Luye about 2 train stations before Taitung and they will have a rental car. Even though we had a car, many of the places we visited are reachable with the Taiwan Tourist Shuttle bus.

From Silks Place in Taroko Gorge National Park, I took a local bus to the Hualien train station. Not a pretty station and it appears they are doing construction to enlarge it. I got a reserved seat on one of the express trains going through Luye. Since this was a holiday weekend, I had my friends purchase the train ticket in Taipei about 2 weeks before. Taitung seems like a very popular place with local tourists during holidays and weekends.

The favorite pastime for locals on a nice holiday weekend is to enjoy biking on paved farm lanes among the recently planted rice fields around Chishang about 30 minutes north of Luye.  But not any ordinary bike will do, these had to be quad electric bikes! The experience was unlike one I have ever had. Effortless biking on smooth roads where all around are lush green fields with stalks gently swaying in the wind and mountain ranges in the front and back. It was beautiful, serene, and culturally very interesting because there were a lot of us.  Most the locals were young couples having a nice “date” among the pretty fields. 

Apparently, this area became very popular after Eva Airlines used a scene in one of their commercials and my understanding is that the model was a famous movie actor. That explains the large crowd taking selfies around a large tree used in the commercial that unfortunately was badly damaged in a recent Typhoon. That one tree is worth many thousands of tourist dollars, so everything is being done to keep it alive.

Spot where Eva Airlines "I See You" commercial was filmed

Right here was the shot

After the wonderful “bike” ride in our electric bikes, we headed to the Luye Highlands which is a flat plateau where Taitung has their hot air balloon festival. Our October visit was too late to see the festival and the balloons, but we had fabulous views from the plateau to the valley below and the Central and Coastal mountain ranges. To calm a morning chill, we had coffee at a little shop on the Highland called Lao Wang Coffee. The homemade pastries also hit the spot.

Too late for hot-air balloons, but beautiful none-the-less

Let those kids run and work off their energy!

Taiwan Tourist Shuttle bus comes up to Luye Highland

Camping on the Luye Highland

Nice place for a cute coffee shop

Later in the day, my friends dropped me off in Taitung before they headed back to Taipei. I stayed at the new Gaya Hotel in downtown Taitung. Somewhat of a boutique hotel with amazing views from the infinity pool on the roof. My next post will be what I did on a rainy day in Taitung. 

Friday, November 3, 2017

A Luxury Resort Hotel within Taroko Gorge National Park, Taiwan

Silks Place, Tianxiang, Taroko Gorge National Park, Taiwan

Taroko Gorge is an amazing natural wonder and why would you not want to stay there, at least for a night? At the junction of two rivers in Tianxiang, 18 km from the Taroko Gorge National Park entrance is the Silks Place resort hotel, a historically significant hotel built supposedly at the insistence of Chiang Kai-sheks son, Chiang Ching-kuo.

There are many options to get there, car, taxi, the hotel’s shuttle from Hualien, Taiwan Tourist shuttle bus, or what I did, the local bus from Xincheng, the closest train station to Taroko Gorge National Park. After an exciting and not too long of a ride on the narrow Taroko Gorge road, we arrived at Tianxiang right in front of the Silks Place hotel.

I arrived too early to check-in, so reception took my bag and said they would email me when the room was ready (amazingly, I had a strong 4G in Tianxiang).  It would have been nice to wait in a lounge and have a drink, but I did not find one, so I got my Taiwan beer at the stall across the parking lot. With time to kill, I decided to climb to the Tianfeng pagoda and when finished there I found a park and some other trails (uphill) behind Tianxiang. When I was totally exhausted from climbing and hiking, I got an email saying my room was ready.

What would a resort hotel be without a great pool? Silks Place has one. It’s a large outdoor rooftop infinity pool or check out the indoor pool which is more kid-friendly. Near the outdoor pool are several hot tubs for soaking. A rooftop tennis court is also available.

Daily activities

Locations of the different facilities

Need some pampering, then leave the kids at the Kid’s Club and head to the spa. Afterwards, in the evening watch an aboriginal performance and a movie.

I reserved the Garden View King room. It was a good size with a nice view of the river. Like most Taiwan hotels there are different room sizes. When you book just specify what you want.

There were some snack biscuits and the mini-fridge had a couple of free items in it including a facial mask. Nice little details. The room is somewhat dated but still shows nice.  I had wished the bathroom would have contained some marble from the area but instead had a pinkish color tile.

Facial mask

Since there is not an abundance of good restaurants in Tianxiang, I highly recommend you book the hotel’s available dinner plans. I purchased the “Western” dinner package which was a very abundant buffet consisting of many stations which I thought was reasonable for NT$880 including service fee. There is a Chinese dinner available which looks to be off a menu.  

Chinese restaurant

"Western" dinner buffet

Dinner fruit station

Beautiful desserts

Breakfast was also a buffet with many stations. If the weather is nice and you are one of the first ones to arrive, you will be asked if you want to sit on the terrace. DO IT! What a treat.

Breakfast outside on the terrace

Breakfast bread station

More bread and pastries

The abundance and freshness are even more remarkable given the location where the hotel is and how food needs to be transported to it.

Not sure the purpose of scales, maybe just decoration

Overall, I really enjoyed my stay at this hotel within Taiwan’s natural wonder.