If Ocean (Hualien)

June 3, 2014 in Best Of, Reviews, Taiwan, Travel by pacejmiller

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If Ocean

A couple of months ago my family planned a trip to eastern Taiwan’s Hualien. Our aim was to take the kids to visit Hualien’s Farglory Ocean Park and check out the local sights and tastes. One of the big decisions we had to make was accommodation, which we wanted to be not too far from the ocean park but also not too inconvenient to reach from the train station, where we would disembark after catching a train from Taipei.

We had the option of staying at a typical hotel, in particular the massive Farglory Hotel which offers a shuttle service to the ocean park, but in the end we decided to go with a “minsu” (民宿), which is the Chinese way of saying minshuku, essentially a privately owned bed and breakfast. Minsus are huge in Taiwan and extremely popular among travellers, and for good reason. There is an entire industry covering the entire country now, and the standards are incredibly high. The good ones are cheaper than hotels but offer newer, cleaner and bigger rooms with home made meals and hospitable, personable service. It’s no wonder minsus are the popular choice for the average tourist visiting Taiwan these days.

I had never stayed at one before, so after a lot of research we ended up going with a relatively new minsu called If Ocean, which is situated about a five-minute drive from Farglory Ocean Park and has excellent views overlooking the beautiful Hualien sea.

Opened in 2012, If Ocean is family owned and operated, with a little bit of hired help to cater to the three floors and 13 spacious so guest rooms. There are the usual double rooms for couples and also massive family rooms with two king-sized beds. It’s spacious, roomy and clean; the rooms have free wi-fi and bottled water, a large flat screen TV, a fantastic bathroom and even offered cots for those with babies. We were very happy with the choice we made.

Here are some photos of our family room on the second floor, which overlooks the ocean.

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The hooks on the far wall are for hanging clothes

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Quality amenities in the bathroom

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Bathing and showering facilities overlooking the ocean

Here are some photos of the common area outside our room on the second floor, which has a couple of cardboard rocking horses kids can ride (not in photos, unfortunately).

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You can also go up to the third floor balcony to relax in the sun, take in the sea views or experience the ocean breeze.

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Views from the third floor balcony.

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Visitors will also get a hearty breakfast in the morning, to be enjoyed in the common dining area on the first floor. This is what we had.

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Gourmet sandwich, pumpkin soup with garlic bread, fresh fruit and juice

Before arriving at the train station we had asked the minsu to help us arrange taxis to take us there. It was the same thing when we left. While we were there, however, the owners were more than happy to drive us in their car to both the ocean park and to dinner nearby. They only have one car, so sometimes it took multiple trips, but it was very nice of them to do so. They also gave us a free family Polaroid at the end, which was nice.

Price-wise, it’s also quite reasonable. They have two sets of prices, one for weekdays and one for weekends, but it’s only NT$1000 apart at the most. The cheapest room (for 2 people + child) is NT$3000 a night on weekdays and $3400 on weekends, while the most expensive room (for 4 people + child) is NT$5000 on weekdays and NT$6000 on weekends. Breakfast is included.

In all, a fantastic experience. I’d definitely recommend If Ocean to anyone planning a trip to Hualien. Remember to get in early though, as the rooms tend to run out quickly, especially around public holidays.

Details

 If Ocean (如果海)

Website: http://www.if-ocean.com/ (Chinese only)

Address: No. 79, Yanliao, Shoufeng Township, Hualien, Hualien City, Hualien County

Phone: +886 3 867 1017

Price: NT$3000-3800 (double room), NT$4200-6000 (family room)

Lastly, for those interested, here are some pics of Farglory Ocean Park, which I found to be fantastic and generally superior to Ocean Park in Hong Kong. There are live performances throughout the day with dolphins and seals, as well as magic shows and circus acts. Also plenty of theme park rides and other activities.

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Taken from the cable car we took to get to the top of the park

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Dolphin show

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Dolphin show

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Dolphin show