Jetting to Taipei for business and unsure of where to stay, how to entertain clients and what to wear (don’t worry, we all struggle when it comes to packing for meetings in other countries)? We asked Taipei regular Rene Mayer, Assistant Global Director of Sales at Regent Hotels & Resorts, for his tips on the best lunch spots, how to behave in meetings and more.
1. How often do you travel to Taipei and who do you fly with?
I am based in Taipei and have been here for eight months. Jetstar and Scoot are the only airlines that fly from Singapore direct to Taipei.
2. One thing everyone ought to know about Taipei:
It’s the perfect mix of the new and old. Taipei is slower-paced than Asia’s bustling megacities like Hong Kong and Singapore and more down-to-earth.
3. How quickly can you get a visa?
Save for a few exceptions, most nationalities don’t require a visa for a stay between 30 and 90 days. German citizens are allowed to stay for 90 days.
4. Fastest way to get into the city?
International flights terminate at Taoyuan International Airport. It’s a 45-minute drive by car or a NT$1,000 (S$41) taxi ride to get into the city. The shuttle bus takes slightly longer but costs a mere NT$150 (S$6). The quickest way is via the Taoyuan High Speed Rail (thsrc.com.tw/en), which takes 20 minutes.
Taipei is not a huge city in terms of area, so it’s possible to get around on foot. Taxis are plentiful and the meter starts at NT$70 (S$2.90) so I take them often. I wouldn’t recommend driving in the city, as there are too many scooters on the roads to watch out for. Unless you’re going out of the city, just take a taxi.
5. When are the good and bad times to visit Taipei?
It never gets too cold or unbearably hot in Taipei. May and June are nice and warm but it does tend to rain more. Offices are closed during Chinese New Year so don’t schedule business trips around that time. However, it’s a good time to experience how the locals celebrate the most important holiday on their calendar.
Other major Chinese holidays like the Dragon Boat Festival and Mid-Autumn Festival are also fun and you get to munch on steamed rice dumplings and mooncakes, respectively.
6. Hotels you recommend:
The Regent Taipei (+886 2 2523 8000), where I’m currently staying, for its long-standing history of being the most prominent luxury hotel in the city. The large rooms, convenient location in the city, wide array of restaurants and friendly staff makes it second to none. Just Sleep Hotels are great for those on a budget as they are located near MRT stations and have all the comforts and conveniences you need without the fuss.
Adventurous travellers and lovebirds on a leisure trip can try the wide array of love motels in Dazhi area. Every room has a different theme and is usually ostentatiously furnished with a posh chaise longue, velour curtains and chandeliers.
7. What’s the dress code for meetings?
In Taipei, how formally you dress represents how seriously you take your clients but a suit, shirt and tie is the norm.
8. Any cultural or business etiquette to be aware of?
The Taiwanese are quite similar to the Japanese in that formality is highly regarded. Although they don’t make a full 90-degree bow, a small bow is always courteous before a solid handshake. Many Taiwanese also like to do business over a meal and sometimes even over drinks, so having a good tolerance for alcohol helps.
9. You are taking a client to lunch or dinner, where do you go?
Silks Palace (+886 2 2882 9393) at the National Palace Museum serves traditional Taiwanese eats and Cantonese cuisine. Some dishes are inspired by artefacts from the museum. Robin’s Grill (+886 2 2523 1321) in the Regent Taipei is one of the best steakhouses in the city and has the perfect ambience for doing business.
For an authentic taste of Taiwan, go to Liaoning Street for dinner and drinks with friends. Fresh ingredients are displayed at the entrance and you order before sitting down. The stir-fry dishes usually have strong savoury flavours that go well with beer. Don’t go there expecting a quiet chat; these places are lively and loud in a friendly way, much like the Taiwanese people.
A typical Taiwanese breakfast, which I like, is dou jiang (soy milk) with oily sticks wrapped in sesame pastry or egg pancake. Try them at any Yung Ho Dou Jiang shops. Ten Ren Tea do a good bubble milk tea, which is very filling. Try a stinky tofu if you dare!
10. Casual bars to go for a drink with clients where you won’t get hassled?
I usually head down to Gallery (+886 2 2523 8000) in the Regent Taipei for a casual drink after work. The laid-back atmosphere and live band in the atrium is great for unwinding. An He Road is filled with different bars and lounges and I’m still in the process of exploring them. BarCode seems to have a good expat crowd and serves creative cocktails.
11. Any unsafe areas to avoid?
Taipei is a safe city overall and I haven’t had or heard of any really bad experiences so far.
12. You’ve got some spare time, what’s the must-see?
The National Palace Museum, which houses the world’s largest collection of Chinese artefacts, and Taipei 101, the tallest building in the world until Burj Khalifa was completed a few years ago, are the two must-sees.
If you want to do some deep-sea fishing, arrange a day trip at Keelung Port. Whatever fish, squid and shrimps you catch can be cooked right on the fishing boat and eaten.
13. Gifts to take home for family and friends?
A common and practical gift people usually bring home is pineapple cakes, a sweet square snack with preserved pineapple filling. Go to the eclectic Shilin Night Market for an eye-opening shopping experience where you can find quirky little items like misspelled T-shirts, animal-shaped ashtrays and key rings.
14. How long before your flight do you really need to be at Taoyuan International Airport?
Traffic can be pretty bad on the highway, so I always leave the hotel three hours before my flight departure time. That gives me two hours to check-in, have a coffee and stroll to my gate.
My favourite spot at the airport is Taiwanese Cuisine & Snacks on the fourth floor in the Departure Hall at Terminal 2. It sells great local snacks for visitors who haven’t had a chance to try them all and the buffet is reasonably priced too.