Naturally, swank addresses across the island pamper in more traditional fashion as well. Among these is The Lalu at Sun Moon Lake, the former summer palace of statesman Chiang Kai-Shek. This secluded central-island getaway was extensively redesigned in 1998 to match the sublime beauty of its location.
Fanned by jade-green mountains as it sprawls along a cliff overlooking Taiwan’s largest freshwater lake, this sleek architectural gem adheres to Zen principles of simplicity and naturalness. It’s void of demarcation lines between outside and in, with no doors to open or close.
All 96 1- and 2-bedroom suites have a private balcony and separate living area. A 2-bedroom courtyard villa escalates luxury with separate living room, dining room, cooking area, and courtyard with private swimming pool and dining pavilion. Feeling more like a secluded mountain lodge, The Lalu serves up modern conveniences like a well-stocked bar, individually controlled central air, Internet access, satellite TV, Bose stereo system, hair dryer and electronic safe.
Running the length of the resort, its centerpiece 200-ft.-long infinity pool seemingly flows into the lake below. Other amenities include four restaurants, fitness club, leisure center, salon and tennis courts. The recreational star, however, is The Lalu Spa, featuring both Eastern and Western restorative treatments, whirlpools, herbal steam rooms, aromatic saunas and plunge pools.
Sun Moon Lake is visit-worthy even when staying elsewhere. The surroundings are a nature lover’s dream, with glorious temples, tribal villages, boat rides and hiking on Maolin Trail. The local government has invested heavily in developing a lake-circling bike path and mile-long cable car line connecting its Youth Activity Center with a Formosan Aboriginal Culture Village.
The Lalu is a 1.5-hour drive from Taichung Airport (TXG) and 3.5 hours from TPE. Half-hourly shuttle flights are operated by Mandarin Airlines between TPE and TXG. Nightly rates are from $478-$2,247 dbl, with spa, wedding and honeymoon packages available.
But for those enamored by Taipei’s fusion of museums, temples, night markets and classy retail, look no further than Grand Formosa Regent Taipei. In the heart of the city’s thriving business and entertainment districts, this 538-room Four Seasons-managed property is 45 minutes from TPE and an easy 5-minute stroll to the dazzling Chung Shan MRT station.
The property’s well-appointed rooms provide all the bells and whistles you expect from the brand, including Wellspring bed, pillow menu, feather duvet, marbled bathroom with deep-soaking tub and separate shower, 24-hour room service, wireless Internet, and satellite TV. Other conveniences include the Wellspring Spa, state-of-the-art Avance Health Club, rooftop pool, Regent Galleria with duty free shops and eight innovative restaurants. Rates are from $370-$925 nightly dbl.
a skip, jump and a hop away While Villa 32 relies on referral and repeat business, both The Lalu and Grand Formosa Regent are among the premium properties included in tour itineraries from companies like New York-based Absolute Travel.
Lisa Sun, preferred client manager, says her company urges its Taiwan-bound clients to explore beyond Taipei City. “It’s a compact island, so traveling around doesn’t take that long once you’re there. Just a few hours on an express train and you’ll see natural jewels like Sun Moon Lake and Taroko Gorge,” Sun explains.
Absolute Travel’s comprehensive 9-day Deluxe Highlights of Taiwan takes in both, plus nights in Taipei. “Taroko Gorge is magnificent,” remarks Sun. With 3,000-ft. marble cliffs, the steep ravine is permeated with a network of tunnels, shrines, waterfalls and grottos.
Rates are from $4,410 pp dbl. The company also provides shorter packages geared to those budgeting fewer days in the destination.
California-based Travel2’s v.p. of marketing, Amanda Behre, agrees most U.S. travelers tend to consider Taiwan a stopover. She also concurs with Sun that this limits their experience.
“Taiwan gives travelers a chance to explore more Asian culture than they could in China, since it’s a more manageable size,” Behre explains. “But the trend we’re still seeing is that U.S. travelers take in two or three different spots, since they’re traveling so far from home.” In fact, she says, “Our Essential Taiwan lets visitors spend a few nights in Taipei, take a tour of the city and then head on to Hong Kong.”
“We know Taiwan’s awareness is not enough, but we’re trying to increase it,” TVB’s Lin explains. “So we’ll continue working with tour operators to increase our awareness. And we hope those coming to Taiwan will tell others how beautiful it is so even more operators will then help us promote it!”