Two days of VIP Treatment in Taipei’s most luxurious location
Right now I’m back in my regular stomping ground of SE Asia for a couple of weeks. First stop: Taipei, capital of Taiwan. I’ve actually been to Taipei twice before, the last time being memorable for all the wrong reasons when I stupidly decided to break up with my ex-girlfriend in a hotel room on the last day or our trip here. Not something I recommend: an awkward bus back to the airport followed by a frosty flight home to Tokyo ensued!
This time around, however, I’m having a blast in Taipei, all because of a different hotel experience – Shangri-La’s Far Eastern Plaza Hotel. If you followed my travels last year, you may recall I stayed in some very memorable places, including the Dwarikas Hotel in Nepal and Jetwing Vil Uyana in Sri Lanka. I never ever take the opportunity to stay in any of these places for granted, but like anything in life, the more you experience something the more you look for things to elevate it to the next level. Virtually all five-star hotels are going to be good. And so because of this, it’s the little extra things that a hotel provides that makes it stand out from the rest. For my stay at the Shangri-La in Taipei, I was given Horizon Club privileges and so if you are thinking of booking here, I highly recommend you choose this package. It’s what will turn your amazing stay into an incredible one.
Arrival & Horizon Club
After a 4am start, a two-hour train ride to Narita Airport and then a three-hour flight from Tokyo to Taipei, I was looking forward to checking in and basically doing nothing for two days. When I arrived I was taken straight up to the Horizon Lounge on the 36th floor for check-in and offered a cappuccino, fruit juice and assortment of hors d’oeuvres. I thought this was an amazing feature of check-in but as it turns out, if you have access to the Horizon Lounge you will be able to enjoy these offerings all day long. What’s more, between 5pm and 7.30pm you can drink beer, wine and other cocktails – as well as eat some incredible little dishes – all included in your room rate. The food isn’t an afterthought either, it’s been thought about: from rare steak skewers to scallops wrapped in bacon. As I sat there sipping a glass of Johnny Walker, life was good.
That View. No Seriously… That View.
Ahhh, now I see why they call it the Horizon Lounge. And what a horizon it is: a skyline framed by skyscrapers and mountains – with the centrepiece of Taipei 101, formerly the tallest building in the world until architects over in Dubai started defying logic and sense with some of their creations. From my Horizon Premier King room I had a direct view of Taipei 101 from my bed – and I purposely left all the blinds open so as to be woken by the misty sunrise over the city. Breakfast in the Horizon Lounge continued the view, as did the swimming pool on the roof – another Horizon Club treat.
Room & Food
My room (3104) flowed effortlessly, guiding me through to the main living area and smacking me right between the eyes with that view. The design is minimalistic, yet warm. Walking past a huge wardrobe area led to the bathroom, complete with tub that looked out over the city. The welcome platter of deserts waiting for me in the room when I arrived went above and beyond what you would even expect from any five-star hotel. I had never seen anything like it before, nor do I expect to anytime soon.
While breakfast is served on the 6th floor for all guests, Horizon Club members are given the choice of eating up on the 36th floor and the atmosphere is noticeably different: quiet, calm, relaxed. On my first day I had the daily special of Indian style coconut curry with seafood, tomato and steamed rice; on the second day I went for a western choice. Both were excellent. Alongside this there was hands-down the freshest looking buffet selection I have ever seen. The whole area almost looked like a work of art, right down to the two-ft slab of real honeycomb that was dripping down into a little bowl for people to eat. This place is next level. The hotel has no fewer than seven restaurants, and at its Japanese restaurant, ibuki, guests can even dine in room overlooking a Japanese garden inspired by Kyoto.
I’ll be honest, on this trip I did virtually none of the touristy things you would expect a first- or even second-time visitor to the city to do. I was perfectly content to enjoy the hotel’s facilities, write, use the health suite (fully equipped gym with a large weights section) and chill. However, on my daily wanderings around the surrounding neighbourhood I was reminded once again by how much life there is in Taipei. Its markets are always bustling, and it seems like food is being cooked on each and every corner you turn. On past visits to Taipei I took the gondola up to Maokong, a quaint village that sits on top of a mountain. I also visited Juifen which was the real-life inspiration for Studio Ghibli’s Spirited Away. Taipei is a vibrant – often overlooked – city which most definitely deserves more attention from the mainstream travel media.
My stay at the Shangri-La’s Far Eastern Plaza Hotel in Taipei has totally redefined my expectations of what a guest should expect from a five-star hotel. Quite frankly it sets a benchmark for all other hotels to aspire to.
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