Hotel Dùa Kaohsiung

Prologue

First founded in the 17th century as a fishing village, Kaohsiung has grown over time to become Taiwan’s second largest city and has continued to reinvent itself in recent years, with the industrial centre benefiting from various beautification projects. Hotel Dùa Kaohsiung exemplifies the city’s constant renewal, having been converted from a tired commercial building into a contemporary design hotel by local studio Koan Design.

 

Beyond aesthetics, the name “Dùa” means stay in the local dialect and represents the property owner’s desire for it to be travellers’ home-away-from-home, offering an authentic, indigenous hospitality experience. Read on as we review the boutique property on a recent visit to Kaohsiung.

 

Location / Accessibility

Conveniently located a stone’s throw away from Formosa Boulevard station on the Kaohsiung Metro, the hotel enjoys one of the most visitor-friendly addresses in the city and is easily accessible from the international airport and high-speed rail terminus at Zuoying. Wide avenues and well-signposted streets contribute to a bicycle-friendly culture, with locals and visitors alike riding to many popular attractions, including Sizihwan, Love River and the Sanduo commercial district. Not to be missed also is Taiwan’s famous night market culture, in the form of the hugely popular Liuhe Night Market and Nanhua Night Market, a short walk away.

 

Arrival Experience

   

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Turning the corner from exit 6 of the metro station, we arrived at the semi-outdoor foyer with its Maitreya Buddha statue in a breakdancing pose defining the open space in-lieu of a porte cochere. Strangely, there were no staff members present to greet or direct guests to the reception lobby, located behind nondescript black sliding doors.

 

Being late afternoon, the lobby was quiet with the front desk agents typing away on their computers behind the marble counter. Heading towards one of them, we were asked for our documents and booking confirmation as the agent proceeded with the formalities. While she was polite and efficient, we felt disappointed that the welcome was rather subdued and transactional, contrary to the warmth that Taiwanese are known for.

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The minimal interaction allowed us time to look around the lobby. Wanting to keep a minimalist look, the designers had placed the seating area further behind in a library-type space, complete with black & white photographs and art ornaments. Guests can enjoy complimentary coffee and tea here throughout the day, where the quiet surroundings make for a relaxing space to spend time.

 

With our keys handed to us, it was time to proceed upstairs to our guestroom.

 

Guestrooms

   

We had booked a 12-ping (approximately 40 square meters) room and were assigned one on the 9th floor towards the end of the hallway. Our first impression of the accommodation floors was its lack of lighting, a point travellers should note. While the gray walls and wood grain doors keep to the hotel’s overall design DNA, it made the space darker than it ought to be.

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The guestroom was much brighter in comparison with better illumination and a large window to let in natural light. Our twin-bedded room followed the usual hotel guestroom layout, with the white beds standing out against the gray and dark wood colour palette. We like how the design incorporates oriental touches to give the otherwise standard-looking space character, in the form of the ornamental floral prints and the birdcage-inspired bedside lamps.

   

   

The bathroom was easily one of our favourite features in the guestroom, being very spacious, stylish yet utilitarian in design. White porcelain fittings stood out against the dark gray tiles, enhanced by the fluorescent lights set into the mirror and the amenities neatly stocked on the vanity. The deep-soaking tub made for a relaxing dip after the power shower in the separate stall, a redeeming factor for the lack of a rainforest shower.

   

A wall-mounted 42-inch flatscreen television provided cable and free-to-air programming. There was a sizable selection of channels, although these were largely local and regional stations catering to a Mandarin-speaking audience. International guests may find the content lacking, opting to supplement it with Internet-based media using the complimentary Wi-Fi.

 

Immediately below the television is a spacious workdesk, complete with a lamp and desktop electrical outlet. Beyond the multimedia sphere, every room in the hotel is furnished with a copy of its coffee table book, a collection of short writings aimed at inspiring travel.

   

   

A floral-patterned console houses the refreshment center, comprising bottled water, coffee-/tea-making facilities and a complimentary minibar (although this was limited to 2 cans of soda and a packet of mixed juice). A spacious wardrobe, with ample clothes hangers, electric iron, electronic safe and the requisite bedroom slippers, completed the guestroom furnishings.

 

Dining

   

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Our room rate included daily breakfast, served at the étage15 restaurant. While all-day dining venues at most hotels would be sited on its lower floors, Hotel Dùa Kaohsiung bucks the trend with a rooftop location. Illuminated by natural light streaming in from the panoramic windows, the restaurant offers a commanding view of the city from the indoor and outdoor seating areas as guests indulge in the breakfast offerings.

   

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Spread across a central island-top, we found the buffet items of continental and Asian fare comprehensive and commendable. What it lacks in scale, the venue makes up for in novelty with staple foods such as breads, cold cuts, salads and hot breakfast items complemented by quintessentially Taiwanese foods including roasted sweet potato and steamed buns. Reflecting Kaoshiung’s status as a busy port city, the live station serves up a delicious bowl of “Seafood Rice Porridge”, made with thick fish slices and calamari in a clear broth.

   

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When the sun sets, étage15 takes on a different persona as it transforms into an intimate lounge bar where we enjoyed an after-meal nightcap. The venue is also popular with the local population, with a predominantly Taiwanese crowd occupying the bar, socializing over dinner and cocktails. The cooler evening also saw patrons at the outdoor terrace, where the daytime cityscape has been replaced with thousands of lights from the surrounding buildings under the darkness.

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In addition to its all-day dining venue, the hotel also boasts specialty restaurants Yuepin (specializing in Cantonese cuisine) and Kura Shun (offering exquisite Japanese creations). We had the opportunity to dine at the latter during our stay, sampling its newly-launched business lunch menu. Set amidst sleek, dark and minimalist decor headlined by the open preparation area where diners can see the chefs at-work, this was a recent addition to the hotel’s food & beverage lineup.

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Pickles and a shot of plum-flavoured drink were served to first cleanse the palate, followed by a starter of tuna and soft-shell crab salad. Tempura and steamed chawan-mushi preceded the main course of the chiraishi rice bowl, completed with the requisite miso soup and dessert of cut fruit and macha cake. While not the best we have sampled, we found the quality and taste of the produce here to be satisfactory and good value for the price paid.

 

Facilities

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A compact gymnasium is available for guest use at Hotel Dùa Kaohsiung, although it puzzles us that this was only open from 0600 hrs to 2300 hrs daily as opposed to round-the-clock access via the room keycard as is the case at other hotels. At the lobby, a pair of iMacs provide basic computing for guests, although these can hardly replace a full-fledged business centre and were more often than not unused in this age of smartphones and tablets.

 

Service / Staff

While still of acceptable standards, polite and efficient, we had expected higher service standards from the staff. The staff appear to be more laid back and lacking the energy displayed by their northern counterparts in Taipei. In most cases, we found our interactions with them to be more transactional than memorable, which we regard to be opportunity lost for a boutique property to connect with the guest and build loyalty.

 

Verdict

For its price point, Hotel Dùa Kaohsiung offers good value with a stylish designer hard product and convenient location. The property is however let down by service standards that are in our opinion, mediocre and could use some polishing up. With the advent of international brands poised to enter the market as Kaoshiung seeks to raise its prominence, the hotel will need to work on its soft product to go with its hardware and remain competitive.

 

Hotel Dùa Kaohsiung

165 Linsen 1st Road

Xinxing District, Kaohsiung City

Taiwan 800

+886 7 272 2999

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