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Blink, and you just might miss it: Nearly inconspicuous amid densely forested bluffs is Silks Place Taroko, the one and only lodging option inside Taiwan’s Taroko National Park. But a closer glance will reveal the depth of care that went into the hotel’s contemporary design, with the intent of doing little to disturb the untamed landscape.
Indeed, all other accommodations in Hualien County are set outside the national park’s roughly 355-square-mile expanse — another decision made to respect the area’s natural ecosystem. Still, the 160-room Silks Place Taroko is by far the most sumptuous of any properties near and far, thanks to top-notch service and amenities such as a spectacular rooftop pool, aboriginal dance shows and outdoor movie screenings.
The five-star hotel’s inclination toward grandeur is also rooted in its history. In 1961, the property first opened as Tian Hsyang Lodge, a secluded retreat that welcomed high-ranking Taiwanese government officials. Thirty years later, FIH Regent Group acquired the hotel, changing its name to Grand Formosa Taroko, before it was eventually rebranded and remodeled in 2010 as Silks Place Taroko.
Renowned Taiwanese architect Irving Huang and interior designer Nancy Hu breathed new life into the property, drawing from modern Chinese influences and colonial motifs. They also emphasized local materials — such as wood and marble — in homage to the surrounding environment. Today, the property continues to maintain an ethos true to its origin; it puts a premium on quality and caters to a discerning clientele.
Today, the property continues to maintain an ethos true to its origin; it puts a premium on quality and caters to a discerning clientele.
To reach Silks Place Taroko, most guests take a train to Hualien City’s main railway station, like I did during my visit in early December. From there, the property offers an hourlong shuttle service for a small fee. (The shuttle operates on a set schedule and also stops at Hualien Airport.) Throughout the drive, which is marked by hairpin turns, I was stunned to silence by the shifting scenes outside my window. White marble spires stretched far beyond my field of vision one moment — some as high as 9,840 feet — and the mighty Liwu River rushed between craggy, tree-lined cliffs the next.
The Liwu River is what has shaped the chiseled magnificence of Taroko National Park over millions of years, along with sustained geological uplifting and erosion. Its turquoise water flows adjacent to Silks Place Taroko, too, below the maraschino-cherry-red Pudu suspension bridge. During one early morning walk on the bridge — under the watchful gaze of a white statue depicting Guanyin (the Buddhist deity associated with compassion) — I spotted a rowdy troupe of locals. In search of breakfast, Formosan rock monkeys swung and leapt down toward the rocky riverbank, chattering to one another along the way.
Other opportunities for scenic strolls are manifold, including hiking trails that crisscross the national park. To help guests get their bearings, Silks Place Taroko offers half-day tours in the morning and afternoon, in addition to a full-day tour. A bilingual guide shares history about each attraction in Mandarin Chinese and English, and tour-goers mostly travel by shuttle from point A to point B (though some stops require exploration on foot).
A favorite experience during my midday excursion was the idyllic, 2.5-mile Shakadang Trail, which curves beside its eponymous river and presents a tasty surprise at the halfway point: aboriginal hawker stands selling boar sausages and winter melon tea. Fireflies flit around the trail in March and April, while May sees blooming tung trees.
Although competing with all this natural splendor seems like an impossible feat, Silks Place Taroko rises to the challenge. A rooftop tennis court is open for reservations, and if the rooftop swimming pool and three mini Jacuzzis are too crowded, guests can take a dip in the indoor pool instead. At the on-site Wellspring Spa, treatments alleviate tension via herbal remedies, tapotement (a Chinese massage technique) and more. I personally sought repose in the fully equipped fitness studio, and then wound down in the airy yoga space next door.
Accommodations are split into two categories: Retreat Floor, featuring rooms as large as 2,583 square feet, and Resort Floor, where guestrooms are more compact. My 753-square-foot Garden View Suite on the Retreat Floor included a long balcony overlooking the hotel’s courtyard.
View this post on Instagram A post shared by Silks Place Taroko 太魯閣晶英酒店 (@silksplacetaroko) on Dec 12, 2018 at 5:47am PST
A post shared by Silks Place Taroko 太魯閣晶英酒店 (@silksplacetaroko) on Dec 12, 2018 at 5:47am PST
Neutral hues and subtle textures — including oat-milk walls, abstract art, linen daybeds and light-wood furniture — contributed to the soothing ambiance. Topping it off was the bathroom’s standing tub and rainshower, coupled with hydrating sheet masks tucked into the complimentary minibar.
Staying on the Retreat Floor also grants access to the Retreat Lounge, a tranquil, open-plan space accentuated with picture windows that look out into the gorge. A complimentary array of snacks (such as tea eggs and shrimp-and-rice balls) and nonalcoholic beverages are served all day, whereas a happy hour, held from 5-6 p.m., features wine. Clients can also enjoy a beautifully plated breakfast in the quiet lounge, or spring for a Chef’s Table dinner highlighting intricate dishes inspired by Hualien’s indigenous tribes.
Meanwhile, a variety of international cuisine comprises the buffet-style Wellesley Restaurant, which buzzes with diners in its indoor-outdoor setting. A more upscale culinary experience awaits at Mei Yuan Restaurant. (Note: Reservations should be made at least a week in advance for both restaurants.)Though famished from a day of exploring the national park, I was still not prepared for what lay ahead: a seven-course meal heaping with flavor, from red quinoa radish cakes drenched in a seafood sauce to deep-fried squid generously seasoned with salt and pepper. It was a superb feast of grand proportions — true both to Taiwanese culture as to the very beginnings of Silks Place Taroko.
Taiwan is currently closed to U.S. travelers. Silks Place Taroko is taking reservations for future trips once tourism reopens.
The DetailsSilks Place Tarokotaroko.silksplace.com