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Mon, Aug 21, 2006 - Page 11 News List

Small Path Hotel calms urban stress

By Jackie Lin  /  STAFF REPORTER

Sean Lu and Kili Cheng are quite content running Small Path Hotel.

PHOTO: KUO FANG-CHI, TAIPEI TIMES

More than two years ago, Sean Lu (呂東育) quit his job in Taipei and moved back to his hometown in Kenting (墾丁) to build a fairytale-like guest house. This was a dream he had long shared his girlfriend, and subsequently wife.

Spending NT$14 million (US$428,000) and a year's work, the two refit the Lu family's beachfront villa, transforming it into a boutique hotel with five guest rooms, a living room, a kitchen and a room reserved for themselves to enjoy their new home in the south of Taiwan.

So began the much-talked-about Small Path (小徑) hotel, which opened doors for business in January last year.

Dubbed "the dream house," Small Path is located in an alley opposite the Chuanfan Rock Beach (船帆石沙灘) and has earned a warm response from patrons for its Mediterranean-style decor and furnishings.

A popular venue for wedding photos, Small Path has also appeared on the TV soap opera The Prince Turns Into a Frog (王子變青蛙).

"Every corner, every bit of the hotel was designed by my wife and me," the proud owner of the hotel said in a recent review.

Lu, 32, used to wear a suit and tie while working at Taiwan Financial Asset Services Corp (台灣金服公司). Now polo shirts and sandals are his attire of choice. His wife Kili Cheng (鄭淑菁) is an interior designer and worked as an architect before switching jobs in 2000 to teach art at an elementary school in Kaohsiung.

The couple now devote all their time and energy to running this eye-catching hotel, distinctive from afar by its striking color combination -- pure white, bright yellow and shining blue.

The five rooms each have a distinguished theme -- four double rooms under the names of "boathouse," "sea view," "Greek style" and "star gazing," and one family room for six people has walls painted with white Greek paleography-style patterns.

Room rates are not outrageous, ranging from NT$3,000 to NT$5,400 on weekends.

As the saying goes, "Great minds, think alike." Small Path's unique style has attracted a select clientele -- mostly professionals under the age of 40.

"We have a very different schedule with check-in at 6pm and check-out at 2pm and this was decided by our 4,000-members of our Web site," Lu explains, adding that the hotel doesn't offer breakfast as do most competitors.

He said this is based on their own travel experiences, where Lu and his wife usually slept through the free meals offered in early morning. Here, room guests can forget about alarm clocks. After having a late brunch at a nearby restaurant, they still have time to take a relaxing stroll before returning to pack.

With the small number of rooms, Lu said they are able to maintain a close relationship with their customers, some of whom have become good friends who return to the hotel when life in the big smoke is getting them down.

Lu remembered a woman, whom they called Auntie Huang, who returned to the hotel nine times in three months.

"She is a social worker in Taipei and her job is to counsel juvenile delinquents. But sometimes she feels frustrated when the students she helps lose their way again. That's why she came down quite often to revive her confidence and passion," Lu said.

With many interesting stories to share, Lu and his wife are quite content with their lives now, financially and psychologically. But the truth is, it will take at least 10 to 12 years before their investment breaks even, Lu says.

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