Sunday, December 3, 2023

The Perfect Retreat

The Silks Place Taroko Hotel (太魯閣晶英酒店) team certainly made a great first impression when they arranged an elaborate picnic experience for our group at the beach along the coastal front of Hualien County, before we headed up to the resort in the mountainous area further in. 

A quick plane ride got us from the south of Taiwan (Kaoshiung) to the east, in Hualien County in slightly more than an hour. The beach they brought us to, the “Chongde Beach” 崇德海灘, was known to be a “secret” scenic spot with the long coastline, perfect view of the Pacific and the rock pattern off the Qingshui Cliff from afar. That’s also the spot where many tourists came for the “sky mirror” shots that are often seen in social media. 

The picnic experience, which is also one of the optional package the hotel guests could book, included the set up of a tent by the beachside in an exclusive and secluded area with food specially prepared by the hotel kitchen team. I was so impressed by how elaborate the set-up was, and the food was super delicious too, including dishes featuring many of the locally produced ingredients like the mini burgers with chicken and Alianthus Prickly Ash (刺蔥an indigenous herb known for its unique aroma), onigiri with mahi-mahi (a.k.a. dolphin fish, a common fish species found in nearby waters), or pineapple cake with Maqaw spices (馬告 mountain peppercorns)

Then we moved on to a car ride along the winding uphill road into the hotel, located right in the middle of Taroko National Park 太魯閣國家公園, one of the handful national parks in Taiwan, best known for the stunning landscape and indigenous culture. The ride took us a good one hour – yes it’s pretty long but the route was scenic, through the gorge and valley and rivers and sometimes under the overhanging rock cliff. That got us to our main course of the hotel itself. Silks Place Taroko is the only 5-star hotel in the national park area with the property started as the summer vacation house for the Chiang family who ruled Taiwan for decades before turning into a resort facility to “commoners”. It’s very unlike the Silks Place property we stayed in Tainan just a couple of days ago, and it reminds me of one of those countryside resorts in Europe, well-blended in with the tranquil surroundings with the 5-story building completed with a courtyard, rooftop lounge, outdoor pool and jacuzzi and less than 200 rooms and suites.  

The Garden View Suite they put us in was listed as 700 square feet in size but it did feel more spacious than on paper – maybe because of the large window and terrace on one side of the room overlooking the central courtyard and letting in plenty of sunlight during the day. I like the wooden theme of the room and was most impressed by the bathroom facilities (the free-standing bathtub, Dyson hairdryer and Aesop toiletries was just part of the example) We also have access to the Retreat Lounge on the top floor, with snacks and drinks served in the morning and afternoon – that’s the best place to enjoy some quiet moment with the gorgeous view and plenty to munch on. 

Later in the evening they arranged the Chef’s Table dinner at the Retreat Lounge for us too featuring a series of well-prepared, delicate dishes using more of the local ingredients and served western style. The “Millet Sparkling Wine”, based on the traditional fermented millet liqueur, served as a nice aperitif. The bowl of corn potage and sea urchin was a nice combo, with intense sweet and umami flavor, and I also enjoyed the picked rock crab meat served with bamboo shoot cream sauce on the side for the refreshing taste. There’s no lack of seafood produce in the Eastern Taiwan region with its long Pacific coastline so there’s no surprise they are featured in many of the dishes – like the sturgeon fillet battered and deep-fried, rock lobster and mussels served with rich bisque-like sauce, or the sea eel seasoned with maqaw and served with local rice and sweet potatoes. The main course was a surf n turf combo, with wagyu tenderloin seared and finished with hay smoke and charcoal-grilled giant wild-caught prawns. We were also given a special treat of plum wine they fermented in-house using the plum harvest off the tree within the hotel property, plus the bubble milk tea. 

I was also touched by the excellent service we got to enjoy during our stay. Every staff wore a big smile all the time, and they certainly did everything they could to make us feel welcomed and pampered, whether that be the little gift they prepared for us or the snacks placed on our room when we returned from the big dinner feast (a pot of warm corn potage with vegetables kept in the vacuum flask with the note “just some little snack for sweet dreams”), or the events and activities they have prepared for all hotel guests, like the evening concert performance showcasing the indigenous culture with dance and music. They truly made this a perfect spot for retreat, recharge and relaxation, and to escape from the busy urban life. 

There are more photos in my Flickr photo album:

Silks Place Taroko 太魯閣晶英酒店:

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