If you are after a budget hostel in Hualien that offers unbeatable location, the stylish Wow Youth Hostel located two minutes away from Hualien Train Station will be your best option. Converted from a historic hotel that had been around for 33 years, Wow Youth Hostel is the result of the efforts of some young people, who are the third generation of the family who owns the property. They didn’t want to see this building lose its shine so decided to give it a new life, and Wow Youth Hostel was therefore born. The original layout of the old hotel has been retained, but the hostel itself is very industrial chic in a sleek and modern setting.
The vibrant hostel might look a bit more like a trendy coffee house at the very first glance. Backpackers from all over the world gather in the communal area on the second floor, sitting on the bar chairs by the enormous floor-to-ceiling window and looking out at the busy train station that transports travelers from different parts of Taiwan. As a matter of fact, Wow Café & Bar on the ground floor does provide beer, beverages and all kinds of tourist information for those who just arrive in Hualien. Two shared computers are available by the reception desk, and the language setting is at both Mandarin and English for the convenience of local and international visitors alike. The communal area is where like-minded travelers exchange stories and ideas. From time to time, there are even some seminars, mini concerts, movie nights, seasonal event and parties being organized here. The common kitchen and free breakfasts are quite a rarity at most local youth hostels, but the manager Howard strives to create a homey backpacking experience in Hualien. He brought back the concept of backpacker hostels while he was on the road throughout Canada. To balance the desire to get away from it all with the need to feel at home, the hostel is well equipped with a kitchen and loads of sofa, making everyone being far away from home feels exactly at home — but with all the fun of a hostel!
二樓大廳的落地窗邊，背包客們一個個坐在高腳椅上，面對熙來攘往的花蓮火車站以及壯麗的山景，談笑風生，讓人頓時搞不清這究竟是間青年旅舍或是時尚咖啡廳。而事實上，「洄瀾窩」的一樓便是自有的複合式café & bar，提供啤酒與飲料，以及各種當地旅遊資訊，讓剛抵達花蓮的旅人有個地方喘口氣、歇歇腳。二樓大廳接待櫃檯前映入眼簾的是貫穿一、二樓的巨大植栽綠牆，宣示了永續經營與環境友善的企業理念。旁邊的兩台公用電腦，貼心地分別設置為中、英文系統，方便本地與國際旅客使用。而放眼望去，入住「洄瀾窩」的旅客，的確是來自世界各地，寬敞的交誼廳也成了大家交流旅遊心得的好所在，有時也會舉辦講座、小型演唱會、電影之夜、及其他各種因應台灣節慶而生的活動派對。花蓮多數的國際青年旅舍不提供早餐，公用廚房更是少之又少，但曾在加拿大當背包客壯遊的旅舍主人Howard，原汁原味地將國外背包客棧的概念帶回家鄉，並堅持「金窩銀窩都不比自己的狗窩」。為了成功創造家的感覺，且秉持青年旅舍真正的精神，吸引真正的背包客，「洄瀾窩」瀰漫著自家一般的私密感，有早餐、有廚房、有沙發，期許帶給國外旅人一個「窩」的溫馨氛圍。
Wow Youth Hostel offers a number of room types to accommodate different party sizes from private rooms to shared dormitory rooms with either single or double beds (ideal for couples, family and friends). Guests don’t have to wait forever to take a shower as all rooms include modern en-suite bathrooms, and there is even additional shared bathrooms on the fourth and fifth floors. Understanding that metal bed frames with the squeaking noise can be really annoying and may even deprive you of sleep, the hostel uses the bunk beds with pine frames to make sure that every guest has a good night’s sleep. Every bunk has its own reading light, privacy curtain, universal socket and electronic locker.
The management team ensures that the hostel is jam packed and full of fun loving travelers and that creativity can be spotted around every corner. Entering the train-themed elevator puts a smile on your face and gives you a sense of embarking on an unknown adventure. The hostel is never short of interactivity. Upon stepping out of the elevator, you will find a giant map of Hualien City covered with sticky notes with recommended attractions/restaurants/secret spots written on them, and these are all contributed by the travelers themselves. The blackboard on each floor serve as a canvas for creativity, where guests are more than welcomed to get their creative juices flowing. 54 rooms are spread over 9 floors, but the hostel encourages the guests to reduce carbon emissions by taking the stairs instead of the elevator. Therefore, a local mural artist was invited to paint the staircases on each floor with impressive 3D images of seven wonders of Hualien, including Qingshui Cliff, Taroko Gorge, Qixingtan, Lintianshan, Mataian Wetland, Xiuguluan River and Liushidanshan — all the way from the north to the south of Hualien. Even though you don’t get to visit every single attraction in Hualien, a tour around Wow Youth Hostel will make up for it. The rooftop is another highlight here, which allows you to appreciate the beauty of the surrounding lush mountains as well as some F-16 Fighting Falcons tearing up the sky if you’re lucky enough.
On the second floor, you will find a “honest shop” that offers soft drinks, beer, snacks, cookies and instant noodles, but the cash register is nowhere to be seen. Instead, there is only an old farebox for shoppers to put the amount of money that corresponds with the value of their purchase. The result? According to the manager Howard, the honest shop (almost) never takes a loss ever since its existence, and Wow Youth Hostel continues to have faith in the basic goodness of people even in this immense and fast-growing world.