Chihpen, on Taiwan’s east coast, is famous for its hot springs. However, we didn’t have to venture far as our hotel, the Hotel Royal Chihpen, had its own large springs. As soon as we’d completed the check-in formalities we donned the robes and slippers provided and headed out in the drizzle to explore. There are two outdoor springs (one for bathing suits and one for the more adventurous nudists) and a further nudist one inside. We had to wear swim caps which we bought for a reasonable NT$50 or £1. Some of the pools were too hot for us, but we tried ones with wonderfully coloured scented water: pink rose, purple lavender, green herbs and yellow chamomile. There were also a number of jacuzzis with jets at every angle (including one that tickled my feet) and others where you laid on a flat bed. As advised, we spent no longer than 45 minutes in the pools so our skin was left soft and fragrant rather than dry and shriveled.
The hotel has three restaurants and as with many Taiwanese hotels, two sittings: 5.30pm and 7.30pm. The Da Da La Italian was our first choice, but was sparsely furnished with absolutely freezing air conditioning: the only other customers were a family of five who sat in coats. Still the food was good and we shared a salad with a generous portion of salmon, a rather thick-crusted four stagionni pizza and an interesting beef Thai curry with pasta.
On our second night we tried the Japanese and this time, were the only people in the Teppanyaki restaurant and so we sat around the hot grill plate and had the chef to ourselves. We started with tea and vinegar juice. First of all we were brought hot towels, and then a dish of XO sauce, a white raddish type veg and fried onions. Then it was on to an appetizer of salad with figs in Japanese dressing, beef and tomato soup, crostini and crabmeat, pan fried prawns, white fish with a honey mustard sauce, followed by two mains of matsuzaka pork and chicken. The cooking was very theatrical and our meal was finished with a platter of fruit and a brownie in the lobby area.
An extensive buffet breakfast was served in the third restaurant. Although the bar didn’t open until 5.30pm, the wine was some of the cheapest we’d had in Taiwan at NT$600 (£12.60) for a reasonable Sauvignon Blanc.
Our room (619) was very unusual with two regular double beds and an open plan bathroom although there was a separate loo. Its best feature was a large, square deep marble Jacuzzi bath which was filled with gushing hot spring water and a sachet of healing salts. At least here we didn’t have to wear our swim caps.
There were a number of other activities on offer, particularly for children, and we booked an archery lesson. It was well organised with a demonstration followed by three attempts with five arrows each. Each evening the XunWu Dance Troupe provided a display of aboriginal dancing in the open air theatre but unfortunately because of the wet weather, they had to relocate to the lobby.
“Hotel Royal Chihpen”:http://www.hotelroyal.com.tw/chihpen/EN/