Grand Hyatt Luxury, Towering Taipei 101 and Stinky Tofu
by John K. Lindgren
We’re finally off to Taiwan ROC (Republic of China) and Taipei 2.6 million inhabitants. The cultural and political center of Taiwan, but also a modern megacity with ultra efficient public transportation and bustling retail centers, museums, mausoleums, temples, night markets and a food lovers paradise.
This is Madame Bunnag-Lindgren, my Thai wife’s first visit to Taiwan. Good news for all traveling Thai citizens: no more visa requirement since August 2016. Also, my first visit to this island state formerly known as Formosa. Population 23.5 million. Myself, about time after all my trips to Singapore, Hong Kong, Seoul, Kuala Lumpur, Saigon and Yangon.
(BKK-TPE) Bangkok-Taipei nine flights a day. We chose the Taiwanese flag carrier China Airlines (CI) perfect DEP time at 11:30. After 3 hours 30 minutes touchdown at Taoyuan international airport with streamlined, fast immigration and customs. At the arrival hall I spot the Grand Hyatt sign “MR LINDGREN”.
Moments later we’re comfortably seated in the black sapphire metallic BMW 7 Series limo with on-board Wi-Fi. Half an hour ride to Grand Hyatt Taipei. “This is a clean city. No litter, no plastic bags,” says Madame. I notice the smooth traffic, good lane discipline. No old diesel pick-up trucks, only small family sedans and compact SUVs. Mostly new cars including luxury Beemers, Mercs, Range Rovers and Jags. Japanese motorbikes are missing from the streets. But Taiwan made scooters everywhere and roomy, canary yellow Toyota taxi vans.
Living the Grand Hyatt Taipei Life
Grand Hyatt Taipei, one of the very best luxury hotels in Asia boasting 853 newly renovated rooms and suites, combines east and west cultural influences with a grand residential touch. Strategically located next to Taipei World Trade Center and Taipei International Convention Center, only a two minutes’ walk from the iconic, towering Taipei 101, the world’s fifth tallest skyscraper.
The hotel’s entrance driveway is palatial and matches the white marble ground floor lobby cum atrium with a feng shui fountain, massive high pillars, spiraling crystal chandeliers and a mega size bouquet of aromatic snow-white lilies. Here we are welcomed the ever so helpful Marketing Communications Manager Paul Ou. Check-in procedure is swift and courteous.
Tired and bored of always waiting for the lifts (elevators)? Not here! Brand new cars and they arrive almost instantly. Our Grand Club Premier King guest room greets us with sophisticated touch of Chinese and western decor elements 50 square meters of deluxe living space with a separate bedroom area featuring a king size bed with cozy duvet and plush feather pillows. From the windows a vista of Taipei and the surrounding green mountains.
On the bedside table a small square vintage analog Seiko alarm clock. Anice touch in this uber digitalized-optimized-touchscreen world. Infotainment: two 47-inch flat screen HD televisionsand high-speed Wi-Fi. The large bathroom in grey marble tiles boasts a big tub plus a separate walk-in high-pressure rainforest shower cubicle (with a seat). On the shelf a collection of delicious smelling June Jacobs bathroom amenities.
Time for dinner: Yun Jin Chinese restaurant on the 2nd floor. The vibrant colors and oriental design create a rich and elegant ambiance with comfortable seating and impeccable service. The gastronomy; a wide range of delectable Sichuan, Hunan, Shanghai, Hangzhou and Taiwan specialities. The menu and wine list provides excellent value for money compared to high-end Bangkok Chinese restaurants. We decide for a Crispy long tail anchovy for starters. Anchovy a la Chinoise – simply delicious. The main course Spicy cooked Taiwanese beef, bean sprout and Sichuan peppercorn. Served in a big red bowl. More than enough for two persons. The melt-in-the-mouth premium beef accompanied by all the good spices. Thumbs up! From the wine list a Masi Agricola Bonacosta Valpolicella Classico 2014. One of the tough guy author Ernest Hemingway’s preferred Italian wines. Cheers! In Taiwan there’s no government tax only a 10 percent service charge. Then comes the dessert: Sesame taro rolls. Coated sesame seeds and thin crusty outer layer. Inside soft yummy filling. Compliments to Yun Jin’s head chef Ben Hsieh and the kitchen and service team.
What is a stay in a5-star hotel without a spa treatment? It’s like Champagne sans bubbles. Grand Hyatt Taipei’s Oasis Spa is a rejuvenation for body, mind and spirit. Our recommendation the Sugar Body Scrub and Polish. This must be the remedy, par excellence for those jet-lagged travelers arriving across the Pacific from LAX or SFO.
Our stay includes access to the 22nd floor swank Grand Club Lounge with all-day gourmet coffee, premium tea and mouthwatering, evening cocktails and canapés. And, of course the daily Asian and Western breakfast buffet. One of our favorites: the freshly pressed 100 percent carrot juice accompanied by crispy Taiwanese bacon and omelette with a half a liter of freshly brewed Italian Illy coffee.
The lounge guests are a mix of Asian and Caucasian, business and pleasure or “BLEISURE” as the affable, tall General Manager Sammy Carolus puts it. Khun Sammy a veteran Grand Hyatt hotelier. Previously with Grand Hyatt Bali, Grand Hyatt Erawan Bangkok and before Taiwan at the helm of the Hyatt Regency Hua Hin.
The Taipei night markets are a not-to-be-missed experience for every visitor. We chose Tonghua market. Walking distance from Grand Hyatt Taipei. This is a pedestrian, bicycle friendly and safe city. Temperature a pleasant circa 25 degrees Celsius. Arriving from the main street you can’t miss the illuminated entrance to Tonghua market. Step right in and immerse yourself in the vibrant busy bazaar with more than 100 vendors offering a bewildering array of foods, clothes, shoes, accessories and all kinds of knick-knacks.
For the foodies, gourmands a must-try is garlicky noodles with black vinegar and chili oil washed down with the Taipei iconic bubble tea i.e. sweetened milk tea chewy tapioca balls.
Then the “Stinky Tofu”, the legendary fermented speciality that actually tastes much better than it smells. In Thailand we have (some say rotten smelling) durian in Taiwan Stinky Tofu. Both “specialities” should be tried on your exotic food list.
Taipei 101 – 508 meters
Last day of our sojourn. The super-skyscraper Taipei 101. Number of floors. 101, of course. Height: 508 meters. Gross weight: 700,000 metric tonnes. With an architectural design similar to that of a growing bamboo stalk Taipei 101 is a superstructure that incorporates many traditional design themes. For example, the dragon-like symbols which are incorporated on the corners of the building to ward off negative energy. Beginning at ground level, you can enjoy five floors of international exclusive designer brand window shopping. But, not to be missed is the basement offering inexpensive lively food courts and a gourmet supermarket.
The 5th floor. Let’s embark the elevator, a record-breaking high-speed pressurized lift which will shoot up to the 89th floor. Acceleration 7.9 meters per second! The observation decks on the 89th and 91st floors boast stunning, sweeping views in every compass direction. While at the top, take a good look at the massive steel pendulum hanging in the center; the world’s largest and heaviest tuned mass damper which stabilizes the tower against big lateral movements from tropical typhoons and earthquakes.
Tempus fugit. Time for DEP in four hours China Airlines (CI) late evening flight to Bangkok. Back to the airport in the BMW 7 Series.
All this is just a Taiwan appetizer, an introduction. We’ll be back! There’s plenty more to see, to do and so much exciting food to taste in Taipei. Not to mention the rest of this enchanting island once a Portuguese colony Ilha Formosa, “Beautiful Island”.
A new must go Asian destination offering value for money and most of all Taiwan’s welcoming acceptance for all visitors.
“TIME for Taiwan,” says Khun John and Madame Bunnag-Lindgren.
Grand Hyatt Taipei
2, SongShou Road
Taipei, Taiwan 11051
Tel: +886 2 2720 1234