SHOPPING. It's the favorite pastime for many. Yes, it’s also an addiction, but to each his/her own. If you're happy with it, so be it.

Shopping. It's what to do on the “free time” schedule of Pinoys traveling on a packaged tour to somewhere across the globe, be it the most cosmopolitan city or the an exotic place in some remote corner of the earth listed on the itinerary. You can take them anywhere but never deny them the “free and easy” schedule to go shopping.

For those who personalized their travel plans, anytime is shopping time. Luckier they are, if they can afford to break the bank.

Luxury malls have become a standard in major cities. It’s designed to impress to appeal to the whims of the discriminating clientele even if they are but a slice of the big pie of the shopping bag-toting market.

While I was in Taipei having lunch at Yen, W Taipei’s chic top-floor restaurant ran by a Hong Kongese chef who earned his Michelin-starred culinary experience from Japan, my conversations with Gary Lee, then the Assistant Marketing Communication Director of W, revolved around the history of the city attractions, which can be viewed from the restaurant’s floor to ceiling picture windows—the Taipei 101, Songshan Cultural & Creative Park, Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall, all a short walk away from the hotel.

One interesting story came up about the next-door luxury mall. It's one of those “inside stories” known to locals. No, not the cloak-and-dagger type but one that’s interesting enough, if not amusing, to wow a visitor as to what money can do

How to build a mall in Taipei?

Start with a vision. A modest one will do, like open a coffee shop if you are passionate about food.

Find a backer. A tycoon will do, like C.C. Leung, vice chairman and president of Quanta Computer Inc., said to be the world’s largest contract notebook computer maker. If you’re related to the tycoon, like your husband, better.

If businessman backer/husband shares his vision and puts in his two cents, listen and learn.

Now if he plans to build a mall, a luxurious one at that, nod in agreement. You very well know he can make it happen. But make sure your café is in the blueprint. A big hug and a kiss will be plus points for you.

Now you have a coffee shop, alongside Michelin star-rated French restaurant L’Atelier de Jo? Robouchon, a first in Taiwan, and afternoon its tea salon Salon De The de Jo? Robouchon among others, plus an entire mall at your disposal. After a sip of espresso, you can go shopping at Bulgari, Hermes, Tod’s and other international luxury brands housed in the mall.

Of course, I made the story flowery, but much of it is true.

Bellavita mall on Songren Road on the stylish and upscale Xinyi Ditrict of Taipei is a “bespoke luxury mall” that took five years to build. It’s the concrete manifestation of a vision of S.H. Leung, wife of the computer manufacturer tycoon. Her passion for food and a wish to open a simple coffee café was how everything started.

The “simple café” developed into a stylish bar and restaurant called a3 but housed in European-inspired mall.

Bellavita translates to beautiful life and promises to make shopping a relaxing and pleasant experience “for the privileged clientele”. Its design incorporates natural landscaping, including imported palm trees from the Middle East, in the spacious interior. The nine-level structure holds luxury boutiques, fancy restaurants and arts.

Now that you know the story of how the luxury mall of Bellavita was built, you’ll probably look at the mall in a different light the next time you find yourself in Taipei and enter the Bellavita. Though one thing remains the same -- you need to have the moolah to shop in this one.

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