Shangri-La, living the Far Eastern luxury in Taipei

I KNEW it was a long shot that I’d end up staying in a luxury hotel in Taipei, but on the third day in the city I was in one. One dressed in classic Oriental chic reminiscent of the Sung dynasty.

It was a busy day at the Shangri-La’s Far Eastern Plaza Hotel lobby when I arrived. But on my turn for check-in, I was immediately whisked off to the 36th floor to a more private and personalized reception at the Horizon Club Lounge. There, I sat sipping coffee by a picture window that frames the Taipei 101 while waiting for my room keys.

Maybe I wished really hard because the spacious with high ceiling and exquisitely-appointed corner room I was ushered to also had the image of the city’s tallest tower jutting from the skyline set in one of the three large windows. In fact, it was what I woke up to as the morning light seeps into the room and the sight that lulls me to sleep at night. It was a very homey space.

The 43-storey tower of luxury I was in was the most celebrated in Taiwan when it opened in 1994. Shangri-La, the chain’s first property in Taiwan, soared above the Taipei’s landscape as the tallest hotel in the capital city.

Today, more than two decades after, the Shangri-La rooftop, where the highest pool in Taipei is, still affords a breathtaking panorama of the capital as it did more than two decades ago.

The face of Taipei may have changed with a taller structure in place, but Shangri-La’s Far Eastern Plaza Hotel is still one edifice many look up to. It maintains its status as one of Taipei’s most luxurious hotels after 22 years in the business. In the hospitality arena where competition is stiff, this is no small feat.

To stay on top, Shangri-La adapts with the changing times, the needs and comfort of its growing clientele included. Thus, recently, the hotel completed a NT$ 1.5 billion (approximately US$ 50 million) renovation program in May 2015, upgrading all 420 guestrooms, including 37 suites, all with picturesque views of the Taipei skyline, with some showcasing Taipei 101; the Horizon Club Lounge; lobby; driveway as well as Lobby Court and The Cake Room.

“The refurbishment is in keeping with the hotel’s elegant surroundings that have warmly welcomed guests since 1994,” shared Gloria Wu, director of communication for Shangri-La’s Far Eastern Plaza Hotel.

Custom artwork created for the property includes “Along the River during the Qing Ming Festival,” an installation depicting the ancient capital of Kaifeng by famous Taiwanese artist ShenCheen. It stretches across two silk scrolls, each measuring 7.2 by 1.68 meters and frames the reception area embellished with natural amazonite gemstones and equally stunning art inspired by classical Sung dynasty pieces.

Taipei is a gastronomic paradise and guests need not leave the premises to bask on various cuisines. The hotel offers Shanghainese cuisine at the Shanghai Pavilion and Cantonese at the Shang Palace; modern Italian at the Marco Polo Restaurant; a Michelin star resto, ibuki by Takagi Kazuo, serving Japanese; and a mélange of cuisines served buffet style at Café at Far Eastern.

Shopping? The Mall with an array of luxury brands is annexed to the hotel. Within walking distance is the Tong Hua Night Market, which features various local street food and goods.

If you need to explore further, not far are the popular sites, like the city’s landmark Taipei 101 building, Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall, Song Shan Creative Park and the beautiful Da-an Park.

After a day of touring the city, enjoy more of the hotel’s facilities. Take a dip on any of the two pools or visit the Health Club for the dry sauna, steam room and Jacuzzi, if you’re not up to burning a few more calories at the state-of-the-art pumping machines before heading to the Qi Shiseido Salon and Spa for a pampering therapy to end a long day.

Me? I basked in the luxurious comforts of my room, dined in a Michelin starred restaurant, had breakfast, afternoon tea and evening cocktails at the Horizon Club lounge with Taipei 101 to keep me company, shopped at the mall next door and had a relaxing massage at Qi on my last night in the city. It was a wish granted.

Shangri-La’s Far Eastern Plaza Hotel is situated at the heart of the city’s flourishing business Da-an district and is an integral part of the Taipei Metro Complex.

Situated on the fashionable tree-lined Tun Hwa South Road, the hotel is convenient five minutes from the Taipei World Trade Convention and Exhibition Center, 15 minutes from Taipei Songshan Airport and 45 minutes from Taoyuan International Airport. Two Mass Rapid Transit stops are located within walking distance, while a main bus stop is right outside the hotel.

Visit their website at www.shangri-la.com/taipei/fareasternplazashangrila

Email me at jinggoysalvador@yahoo.com. For more lifestyle & travel stories, visit http://apples-and-lemons.blogspot.com and http://jeepneyjinggoy.blogspot.com.

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