When the Republic of China general Chiang Kai-Shek retreated to Taiwan in 1949 and began plotting an eventual takeover of China, he wanted a place where he could impress his guests and host foreign dignitaries. So his wife Soong Mei-ling commissioned the Grand Hotel—a stunning 12-story building and one of the finest classical Chinese buildings in the world.
Established in 1952, the hotel became a Taiwanese landmark with its gilded tiles and red vermilion columns. Standing at 87 meters (285 feet), it was the tallest building in Taiwan for a number of years. In 1995, a fire broke out and destroyed most of the roof and the upper floors. During the repair process, workers discovered a hidden feature tucked underneath the hotel—a two-prong tunnel system complemented with a 229-foot-long escape slide for those with disablities. There were also bomb-proof light bulbs to light the way.
Built to accommodate up to 10,000 people, the tunnels are air-raid shelters that lead out to nearby parks, intended for government officials and important heads of state to escape during the event of war. Tight, claustrophobic, and meant to only accommodate one person at a time, the slide was at one point considered the longest in the world.
For years, the tunnels have been largely closed to the public—save for an occasional private tour or two—but the hotel recently opened them up for guided tours. There are four time slots per day, and the tour itinerary takes guests through the tunnel as well as to the former residence of the hotel’s first general manager.
Know Before You Go
Reservations have to be made ahead of time; there are four showings a day, at 9:30 a.m., 11 a.m., 2:30 p.m., and 4 p.m. The tour is only in Chinese, so plan for a translator if necessary.