Has anyone stayed at the Grand Formosa Taroko Hotel, and if so, how do you rate it and do you have any particular comments about it? I’ll be heading there for a couple of nights the week after next and I’m wondering what to expect of it. I’m especially interested in the pool, access to places of interest and pleasant walks around the hotel, the looks and attitude of the receptionists and other female hotel staff, and whether there’ll be much choice of vegetarian food available in and around the hotel.
The pool’s just an ordinary indoor pool – nice enough, but nothing special. We didn’t stay there but had their buffet dinner, which was good but meat-heavy. Don’t know about their other food offerings.
One or two delicious dark-skinned lovelies about the place.
Anyway, fuck the pool. Drive up the few klicks to Wenshan hotsprings, where you can soak in the heat and swim in the river. Much nicer. There were fireflies buzzing around the hotspring area last time I was there. Magical, specially if you take some whisky and some tarry up there with you…
Thanks, Sandman – helpful and to the point as always.
Wenshan sounds great, but I have to ask: Were there lots of other people there, is the river accessible to those environmentally-destructive 4WDs and the idiots who drive them where they’ve absolutely no business to be putting any kind of vehicle, and was everywhere strewn with litter and other less-mentionable filth?
Vegetarian food: I went with my vegetarian aunt, uncle and three cousins, and they weren’t too pleased when they saw the buffet with the tiny vegetarian corner. However, as soon as we told the staff that we were vegetarians, they offered to prepare some extra vegetable dishes for us, and we had a real hard time finishing all of them, so maybe you should try that, too. I think my relatives also enjoyed the breakfast which wasn’t special but okay for Taiwan. There isn’t much an opportunity to grab some food around the hotel, iirc.
Iirc (my uncle paid), we got quite a discount when we first got there. We had two rooms, and the first night, my cousin and I had a spacious room but view right onto a wall (it was dark, anyway). We got a better room the next morning, with such a nice view onto the mountains, pavillions, creek and all, that the others got jealous.
Attitude of the staff was okay, and we spent quite a while talking to an aboriginal woman who was weaving and selling her products in the main lobby.
We didn’t exactly do any tours in the vicinity of the hotel, we had a car and looked for some spots that were not too crowded. When we left early on the last morning, we didn’t go back to Hualien but went west right into the mountains. We didn’t have much time to stop for longer. But that trip and the beautiful landscape of Taroko make up some of my nicest memories of Taiwan so far.
I think you’ll like it very much. I’ve stayed there several times and have never been disappointed. We get the special train tix-package deal… train to Hualian and then bus thru the gorge to the hotel. If I go with my brother or buddies, we get off the bus at the entrance to the gorge and walk to the hotel.
From the hotel its an easy walk to the hotspring baths that are absolutely wonderful. Its also close to the trail that leads through several tunnels to some spectacular waterfalls.
The hotsprings are not 4WD accessible. There is a small parking area off the road by the springs, but then you must walk down a bunch of steps and cross a small suspension bridge to get to the river below and the springs. If you go in the evening, take some candles to stick on the rocks by the springs. There is a big rock overhang that covers much of the springs.
Have a great time.
I always feel like I have to watch my grammer and spelling when I address a post to Omni!
Thanks for the useful information, Iris. I’ll be sure to speak up about the buffet, and hope we’ll get a similar response.
Thanks, Tigerman - that’s exactly what we’ll be doing, too.
[quote=“tigerman”]From the hotel its an easy walk to the hotspring baths that are absolutely wonderful. Its also close to the trail that leads through several tunnels to some spectacular waterfalls.
I’m glad to hear it’s walkable, as we won’t have any wheels of our own there. And I’m very excited at the prospect of those waterfalls.
Omni, was it you asking about naked bathing? I’ve had many a skinny dip in those springs. On a weekday night you can have it to yourself. The sound of barbeques being hauled down the steps gives ample warning of people arriving.
There are many trails - the water curtain walk that Tigerman mentions is very scenic. If you get off at the entrance to the gorge, the visitor’s center there has maps with other trails marked.
I think the Grand Formosa is grossly overpriced and the service and food poor. I much prefer staying at the Catholic hostel.
Yeah, we stayed at the Catholic Hostel – I think it was NT$800 for a tiny room with a double bed, attached bathroom, mouldy and rotten tiles on the ceiling. I liked it, but it was very spartan indeed, to my mind. I couldn’t imagine taking, for instance, my parents and asking them to stay there. How much is a double room at the Regent? I bet there are specials that would make it worthwhile.
No food whatsoever at the hostel, though, and only very basic noodle-type slops at the bus station.
We had the all-you-can-eat Western-style buffet at the Regent, which, at NT$600 per person, didn’t seem excessive to me – prime rib, smoked salmon, good sushi, wild boar, venison, etc.
The service we got in the dining room was very good indeed, but I can’t speak for the rest of the facilities.
On weekends the Grand Forumosa is usually NT$5000~$6000.There are discounts during the week. The dorm at the Catholic hostel is NT$200/person. It’s been empty the last couple of times I stayed there. The China Youth Corps hostel near the Catholic hostel is might be a better choice if your parents are in town.You can always go eat at the Grand Formosa if you want to splurge.
Up from the hotel about a kilometre on the left is a tunnel. Tigerman mentioned that this takes you to a beautiful waterfall. It seems no (foreigner) one knows this but that waterfall is home to one of the most spectacular natural bathing spots you could ever hope to find.
When you get to the fall (after crossing the suspension bridge) you’ll find yourself standing on a large wooden platform or lookout. Go to the back right corner (as you face the waterfall) and climb over the railing. You’ll find a sort of trail leading up over a grassy mound. Climb over this mound and down some old ropes. You’re now at the edge of a natural pool formed by the waterfall. The pool is large, maybe 10 meters across and deep. The water is very calm as the fall water reaches it via a natural chute of sorts. If you swim to the far edge of the pool you can work your way up this chute (worn smooth on the bottom by the flowing water) to the waterfall itself.
The fabulous thing is no one can see you swimming from the lookout. The mound covers the entire pool. Whether you want to swim naked though is up to you. the first time their my wife and I did. The second time we didn’t which was a good choice as a young Taiwanese couple came over the mound just as we were getting in the water.
Anyay, this is my favorite spot on this whole island. It feels like an absolute paradise there.
Have you stayed at the CYC hostel? I came back from Taroko last time and discovered after I returned that because of my work, I could have stayed there – for FREE – goddammit! Feiren, next time you go, take one of the rooms at the Catholic Hostel. Twice the price, but MUCH nicer than the dorms. I just wish the Hualien county authorities would get their arses into gear and provide some incentives to get some better restaurants up there.
[quote]It seems no (foreigner) one knows this but that waterfall is home to one of the most spectacular natural bathing spots you could ever hope to find.
This one does and has done for years. Its also one of my favourite spots.
Excellent. But was that you who peed in the water last time?
Salmon and Mucha Man, that’s great information about the swimming – finding places like that to swim is always a top priority for me when I travel around Taiwan, so I’m delighted to hear that it’s going to be so good (as long as no typhoon blows in to spoil things).
Is the water icy cold, or does the sun get to shine in the valley and warm it up a bit? I don’t mind if it’s cold, but my girlfriend is a wisp of a thing and feels the cold very easily, so she’s not too keen on taking a dip if the water temp. is less than 20C.
I remember that Catholic Hostel – it’s where I stayed the last time I visited Tienhsiang, something like 15 years ago. I remember having expected the worst and finding it pretty decent for whatever it was one paid in those days. Also, given the name, I was surprised they allowed me to share a room with my girl companion – I’d feared they would ask for proof of our being married and send us off to separate rooms when we couldn’t provide it, but there wasn’t any problem at all. As we only stopped there for the night on our way across the island, we didn’t get to do much exploring, except to pop down to that hot spring in the cave beside the river. We certainly didn’t get to see any of those waterfalls and pools. From the way you guys describe them, if I had known about them before, I’m sure I would have gone back many times in the intervening years.
Although the standard room rates at the Formosa are rather high, there are cheap enough weekday packages available. We’re paying a very reasonable NT$8,700 for two nights in a double room plus transport (on the Hualien tourist train), hotel pick-up, and breakfast.
No the water is very comfortable. It might nip a bit when you first get in on a really hot day but you’ll be used to it in a minute or so.
The Formosa Regent is great and everytime I have been to Taroko I have stayed there. I think for the comfort it is great and the price isnt that bad. With return tix from Taipei-Hualien and 2 nights the most I have ever paid is 5,000 pp.
The last time I was there we headed thru the long tunnel to the waterfall just on dusk. Hung around the falls as night fell… was pretty magnificaent if not a little scary. To top it off there was a modertaely large quake as we were ambling back along the path.
There is so much to do up there… and I have heard that there is a hiking/slash biking trail that parallels the highway?
I don’t suppose there are bicycles to be rented there, are there?
I had a very pleasant stay in the Grand Formosa Taroko, and would recommend it to anyone else who is heading that way. It’s not by any means an outstanding hotel – certainly nothing special to look at, either inside or outside – but the staff are extremely polite, helpful and eager to please, our room was large and well-furnished, and the facilities meet all the basic requirements well enough.
Here are a few comments to add to what has already been said in this thread:
The hotel does have a fairly decent outdoor pool, on the roof, as well as the indoor one in the basement. And because most Taiwanese invariably choose to swim in heated water indoors, you can be pretty sure of finding the outdoor pool empty. My gf and I had it completely to ourselves a couple of times (even though the hotel was full), and there were never more than two or three others in the water. It also offered a lovely view to enjoy while swimming.
There was no chance of skinny-dipping in the Wenshan hot-spring baths – there were crowds of people there, and I’m sure it will remain crowded at all times throughout the summer. There’s a car park near the steps to the springs, and it seems to have become an essential stop for every passing tourist, including a steady stream of coach groups. When I looked at the map, I realized that this was where I bathed when I visited the area as a newcomer to Taiwan in the mid-1980’s – but it has changed out of all recognition. Then, it was just a small natural cave, at the same level as the river and separated by a low wall of rocks, with the hot-spring water no more than thigh-deep and cooled by inflowing river water. Now there are several large concrete pools, raised well above the river, and this splendid natural resource has been thoroughly tamed and remodeled in true Taiwanese fashion. I’m not quite sure whether the changes are for the better or worse – but I suppose, grudgingly, I have to accept that it’s now more accessible and can be enjoyed by more people at the same time.
That walk through the tunnels to those waterfalls was very pleasant, but because of this year’s dry weather, the river level was very low and there weren’t any curtains of water along the way. When we reached the platform described by Mucha Man, we found that a group of students had already made their way over the back and down the ropes to that pool. It looks as if a lot of people know about it now – the path is well trodden and there are sturdy new ropes in place for climbing down. However, we weren’t able to enjoy a swim there, because the water was extremely low, stagnant, and covered in a layer of green slime. I waded across and climbed up to the waterfall, but that was reduced to little more than a trickle. I was rather disappointed, but will look forward to going back when the rains have replenished the stream. At least we had a swim at one decent pool back near the start of the trail.
One last thing: I’d strongly recommend that anyone staying in the hotel indulge in a treatment or two in the hotel spa. The staff there are super-friendly and the treatment rooms are splendid. I’d never tried any of these kinds of places before, as I thought they were just for women – but I discovered that they’re really good for couples, too. My gf and I were led to a double room with a pair of massage tables, and after we’d been left to soak in the jacuzzi for a while, a couple of lovely young xiaojies came in and gave us a wonderful hour-long slathering and kneading – it was absolutely heavenly. My gf reckoned the girls were young (not more than 20), but they were very skilful, thoroughly charming, and had an exquisitely sensual touch. It was at least as good as any of the much naughtier massages I’ve had in Thailand and elsewhere. It was also very reasonably priced – with a voucher giving us a discount of NT$1,100, we only had to pay NT$1,700 each. I definitely want to go back for more of that (and it makes me wonder about other spas in Taipei, and whether they likewise cater to couples and offer equally reasonable prices and excellent service – but that’s a subject for a separate thread).