Now I’m not one to judge a trip based on the quality of the place where you’re staying, but please – on this occasion, allow me to make an exception. I want you to think of an Ewok Village, think of the Shire out of Lord of the Rings, think of a scene from Harry Potter, or a scene from Game of Thrones; now, mash them all together and you’re somewhere close to the magic that is the Ajong Hotel. Nestled deep in the heart of Taiwan’s famous mountainous region, and only 45mins drive away from Alishan National Scenic Park, the location could not be more perfect for the ideal retreat destination and a place to truly become one with nature.
The entire site at Ajong was planned and constructed by the owner and now proudly hosts up to 21 housed guests, and a great number more in the surrounding campsite. The entire hotel area is made of solid oak wood and other timbers from the local area. The hand craftsmanship is mind boggling, with each small wooden home being designed to perfection. The moment you step through the door of your chosen apartment suite, you can almost feel your soul being cleansed and the relaxation kick-starting. These feelings are only intensified when you step back outside and breathe in the spectacular view that bestows you in the grand valley that lies below your feet. Several mountain sides close in around you and it’s hard not to notice the intricate delights that are all part of Taiwanese nature.
As you walk through the grounds of the hotel, you’ll find all kinds of beautiful trinkets and cute little areas. Running water can be found in adorable corners of the grounds and the attention to detail on every carved bit of wood is expertly impressive. It’s hard to feel like this is a hotel, and as we sat with the owner who had invited us to share tea with him, served in the traditional way, he explained that he was born into an aborigine family of traditional Taiwanese folk. With this legacy intact, he then went on to recreate the scenes from how his forefathers used to live, lending itself to the most breath-taking village-esc set up.
In the midst of all the separate apartments lies a huge open fire, which can be used by all guests to cook outdoors and to also boil water. The most delicious hot ginger tea is constantly available which is perfect for the slightly cooler temperatures faced at the higher altitudes of Alishan and the neighbouring townships. Soothing music can also softly be heard on the communal balcony, opposite the reception area, adding to the ambience of peace and tranquillity.
When the cockerels cry as dawn approaches, it’s possible to get amongst the tea leaves that grow close by, and view the sunrise as it peaks over the mountains at around 6am, lighting the entire sky with red and gold in almost record sunrise time. All before being served fresh coffee and a hearty breakfast, in the most unique and boutique fashion. All included in the service and provided by the most tentative and caring staff.
Perhaps the defining selling point for any fans of the feline world out there, is the gorgeous collection of cats that reside in the hotel grounds. All eight of the adult cats come from the same family, and as kittens curl up back in their night-time housing, it’s hard not to coo over the cuteness overload.
I give this place a solid 9.5/10 and it certainly is a place that I will return to many times in the future. My faith in the beauty and charm of Taiwan has been indefinitely restored thanks to the brilliantly wonderful Ajong Hotel.
Advice for disabled travellers
Any time spent in mountainous areas can be pretty tricky for anyone with a disability. If you’re using a wheelchair, beware that the site is not the most wheelchair friendly place on earth. Fortunately there are no stairs within the small accommodation village, but the narrow cobbled walkways make it interesting when trying to get from place to place. There is also nothing in the way of adaptations for toilets and washrooms.
Getting to Ajong Hotel isn’t exactly straightforward. For those unable to use a bus (traditional coach style bus with luggage holds at the sides and several stairs to get on), there’s only the option of taking a car/taxi or the mountain forest railway up to Alishan National Scenic Park and then hiring a taxi for the 45 minute drive to the hotel. Beware, it’s not cheap.
I was lucky enough to be able to take the bus up to the bus stop which is closest to the hotel. It is then a half an hour walk down a windy mountain road before you reach the hotel. Fortunately, a group of locals saw me get off the coach and then proceeded to insist that they call ahead for me and get the hotel to send a driver. That driver turned out to be the owner, and I feel sure that if you arrange with him prior to your stay, he would be more than happy to meet you at the bus and drive you the short distance to the hotel. In our case it was free of charge and I have no reason to believe this would be any different for anyone else wishing to arrange the same.
Link to the hotel: http://www.ajong.com.tw/ajonghotel/index.aspx