by Terence Baker | November 01, 2005

Taipei 101, the world’s tallest building

Sky high: Taipei 101,
the world’s tallest building,
overlooks downtown Taipei.

Taiwan is full of surprises, not the least being that English is widely spoken in its principal cities. The island, 100 miles off the coast of China, also offers a 10,000-year-old culture, safe streets, lots of golf (about 70 courses dot the terrain) and gorgeous scenery, with distinctly high mountains some rising more than 13,000 feet stretching along the eastern coast.
    In 2002, the Taiwanese government began a special effort to promote tourism, including conventions and incentives. By 2008, the plan is to welcome more than five million visitors per year. In the United States, this effort is spearheaded from new offices in New York City (212-867-1632; About 50 direct flights service the island from the States every week.

New sensations
On Jan. 1, 2005, the latest claimant to the title of world’s tallest building, Taipei 101, opened in the capital city of Taipei. The building rises, indeed, 101 stories (or 1,670 feet) and includes an observation tower, upscale shopping and a series of meeting rooms on the 84th floor. Adjacent is the Taipei International Convention Center and its Grand Reception Room, which holds up to 3,100 people.
    Year’s end will mark the much-anticipated debut of Taiwan’s revamped Rapid Rail System, which will cut the time journeying from Taipei (at the northern tip) to Kaohsiung (near the southern end of the island) from four hours to 90 minutes.

On the hotel front
Popular properties in Taipei include the 539-room Grand Formosa Regent; 856-room Grand Hyatt; 422-room Shangri-La’s Far Eastern Plaza and 288-room Westin.
    New hotels in the works include the 180-room Sheraton Yilan Resort, on target to open in 2006; 250-room InterContinental Taichung City, opening in 2007; and Hyatt Regency Hsinchu City and Park Hyatt Taichung City, both to celebrate grand openings in 2008 (no room count for either Hyatt is available as of yet).

Extra special
Designed by Adrian Zecha, the 98-room Lalu Resort, which opened in 2002, is a sybarite’s dream. On serene Sun Moon Lake in the heart of the island, the prevailing textures are teak, stone and glass, and lures include an infinity pool, colorful pagodas, immaculate service and boating on a pristine lake often carpeted by delicate morning mists.
    Nearby is the 88-room Hotel del Lago Sun Moon Lake, which opened this past September with two restaurants and a well-stocked, glass-sided wine cellar.
    One must-see site is the Taroko Gorge, a lush 25-mile long canyon laced with caves, pagodas, delicate bridges and villages populated by the local Ami people. The hotel of choice here is the 212-room Grand Formosa Taroko, which this year introduced a climbing wall and several Spa Aroma guest rooms.
     A Taipei highlight is the National Palace Museum, which contains 655,000 artifacts. To celebrate its 80th anniversary this year, the facility’s Ming Dynasty-style main building was renovated. A new satellite museum, housing the National’s non-Chinese/Taiwanese collection, will open in 2008 in Taibao City, which will be serviced by the new rail system.

Island dining
A dine-around in Taipei can be organized to cover a rich and savory variety of cooking styles such as Fujian, Hakka and Hunan, as well as indigenous menus. The comfortable Pearl Liang restaurant at the Grand Hyatt, featuring five private dining rooms, is an excellent place to start. n