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An hour in Taipei: What to do during a pit stop in Taiwan’s capital

By: Kai Speth (General Manager, Grand Hyatt Taipei)

People want to know lots of different things from a general manager, from the macro to the micro – from ‘What kind of economic trends are you noticing that may have some bearing on my business next year?’ to ‘How much starch will your people put in my shirts?’

 

The Taipei 101 overlooks the Grand Hyatt
The Taipei 101 overlooks the Grand Hyatt

The one thing I find myself urging on every guest with at least one spare hour in town is a visit to our neighbour, Taipei 101, which was, from 2004 to 2010, the tallest building in the world. As you may know, the Grand Hyatt Taipei has stood on its own footprint since 1990. Before us, our district – Xinyi – was in the hinterlands of Taipei. Rice fields dominated the landscape.

When the Hyatt opened its doors, Xinyi became viable in a whole new way, and before not too long, there were plans to reach for the proverbial stars. The builders only got 385 metres of the way there, but what great heights. A skybridge links the hotel to the tower. No matter your enthusiasm for the whisk to the top, do check out the design of this building. Its jade green facade references its roots in Asia, as do the architectural flourishes that enhance the metaphor of a bamboo stock, with one segment sprouting from another as the tower soars for the skies.

Inside, remember that the journey is the destination. The 37-second elevator ride to the top is an attraction all its own. Indeed, an American travel magazine, Budget Travel, recently hailed the trip to the top of Taipei 101 as one of the world’s 12 greatest elevator rides. It’s a journey, Taipei 101 will tell you, that ‘will change your life’.

Once you get to the top, forget what I said about how the journey is the destination because at the top of this tower, it’s clear that the destination is the destination. From this lofty perch, the city sprawls away in every direction, its parks and temples, its monumental spaces and so many other wannabe skyscrapers, hunkered down as if in obeisance to this architectural wonder.

Taipei 101, overlooking the city
Taipei 101, overlooking the city

 

If shopping is your thing, you can do that here, of course, especially if you’re on the lookout for coral or gowns. Go figure. My tour guide, on my first trip to the top, called the 89th floor of Taipei 101 a great opportunity for ‘Buy Souvenirs Tourism’. Indeed. If you have a child in tow, that child may be drawn to the tower’s mascot, the Damper Baby. (The tower’s damper is a device that mitigates the building’s vibration.)

The main thing to do, however, is look. Drink it in. Take all of the one hour you have, and be sure to make sure you have a whole bunch of hours on your next visit because – as the view from Taipei 101 makes clear – there’s a lot to Taipei.

 

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