Silks Place Taroko, Taiwan
Taiwan’s most famous natural site was formed by a river called Liwu. In the course of millions of years it continuously has worked its way down, sharply cutting through the granite and marble of the island’s Central Mountain Range. The Japanese once named the canyon Taroko and therefore it is generally known by Westerners as the Taroko Gorge. Chinese call it Tàilǔgé (太鲁阁). The gorge itself is characterized by a highway that was built in the 1950s – mainly for defense reasons – by 40,000 soldiers, and which nowadays can become especially crowded on weekends. To experience the most scenic parts of the area, people can hike on the numerous trails along and around Liwu River (立霧溪). The area has the status of a national park that covers 27 peaks over 3000 meters (9842 feet) above sea level.
Hardly any buildings had been allowed to be erected in this area, which is why accommodations are rare. Not surprisingly, however, they did an exception for Taiwan’s longtime dictator Chiang Kai-shek, who had a villa right on the picturesque spot where the Taisai River flows into the Liwu River. Like other similar residences this site was finally democratized by building a hotel in 1997. Being part of the Gran Formosa hotel group, it is today called Silks Place (晶英酒店).
Throughout the hotel I noticed a certain, somewhat muggy smell that seemed to originate from the cream-colored carpets. That’s why the next time I would rather choose one of the so-called Honeymoon Studios which have wooden floors as part of an emphatic minimalistic design. They are part of the more expensive Retreat Floor, which means that guests also have access to the Retreat Lounge and hence to its 24-hour beverage service.
The Silks Place includes some very special venues and services, like an ample kindergarten, the Kid’s Club. On the Roof Floor guests can attend Yoga classes in the morning, and at night there are complimentary dance and music performances on the terrace. I especially liked the elegant white marble sculptures by Tsai Ming-guan (蔡明冠). The sculptor personally changes and rearranges his artworks from time to time and hence adds an arty touch to the hotel.
The Mei Yuan restaurant is said to be very good. It derived its name from the plum garden in front of the hotel and serves Chinese and other Asian food, using local ingredients. Don’t ask why, but I had dinner in the Western cuisine restaurant instead. It’s called Wellesley and serves “steaks” without distinguishing between beef types, cuts or even the gradation of doneness. My colleague, to be fair, was extremely happy with his salmon.
All in all I would say that the Silks Place is a very simpatico hotel with a great location.