“Is Taipei rather a new territory for many business travellers? Maybe, a little – in any case it is a surprisingly relaxed destination that makes you want more.“ Kai Böcking
To be honest, Hong Kong or Shanghai are no longer a challenge for business travellers. The Chinese mega-cities are modern, orderly and western, and sometimes a bit too much of everything. Taiwan, on the other hand, the breakaway brother south of the mainland, with its capital Taipei, is still a relatively undescribed travel area for numerous business travellers. The island location gives the country on the one hand a certain distance from China, but also leads to the fact that many business travellers do not have this destination on their radar. Taiwan is one of the most stable economies in the world and my visit to Taipei is in many ways more relaxed than I ever expected before my first visit. The view from above, from the 500 meters high Taipei 101, lulls everyone into a state of deep relaxation. With a clear view, one looks from the highest building of Taipei, which presents itself as a landmark like a bamboo stick, far into the mountains. Like a ring, these enclose this metropolis of millions.
Almost all major hotel brands are represented in Taiwan, many of them also in Taipei city. My favourite is the Shangri-La’s Far Eastern Plaza Hotel with a room view of the towering Taipei 101. Fans of the Asian Superluxus toilets with their light show and warmed up glasses can test the latest models in the huge bathrooms here. The spa is also considered one of the best in town. The bar on the top floor of the hotel offers a magnificent view of the nightlife, the rooftop pool is spectacular, and the hotel’s Chinese, Japanese and Italian restaurants are all delicious. Of the five restaurants, the Shang Palace is particularly recommended for business lunches. The traditional Chinese restaurant, which is decorated in dark colours, offers private rooms for undisturbed conversation in addition to high starred food.
More than 20 restaurants in Taipei adorn themselves with a Michelin star. Chef Chan has received the only three stars at “Le Palais”. This top chef serves Cantonese cuisine to perfection, his Dim Sums and his banquet cuisine, which is particularly popular with large companies, are regarded as the best in the country. But despite all the stars, Taipei can also be summed up with two other culinary terms: the Night market and noodle soup, because both are more than plentiful here. The soups alone are a round-the-clock hit, regardless of the type of inlay. The longer the queues in front of the small soup stands, restaurants or cookshops are, the better and more traditional the dish is. I have never paid more than two euros per huge soup bowl. After sunset I go to the night markets. Neon light, crowds of people, street traders – it’s as if these streets put on a new robe in the evening hours. Despite the narrowness of the hundreds of shops, the flow of visitors is much quieter and more relaxed than in Thailand, for example. Screaming street vendors who loudly advertise their goods are not found here.
There are about two dozen night markets in Taipei city, the one in Raohe Street is my favourite. Adventurous people can try snails and spit-roasted innards, dim sums, oyster omelets and all kinds of undefinable things. Those who don’t trust the street kitchens one hundred percent can also sit down in one of the many small restaurants and watch the busy cooks cooking live on hot Teppanyaki plates.
Taiwan’s national drink is without doubt Oolong tea. On many plantations all over the island, this semi-fermented tea, highly appreciated by tea lovers, is cultivated and later processed. Like many locals, I don’t take the opportunity to “feel” the tea in the mountains around Taipei. I take the cable car up to the Maokong district. Here at the beginning of the many trekking routes dozens of tea houses wait for the visitors from the valley – not cheap and very touristic, but the Oolong tastes nowhere better than here with its view of the valley.
If you have even more time for bleisure, the rest of the island is at your feet as a tropical paradise. In only 90 minutes I take the express train to the south of the country and experience the former island capital Tainan which is even more relaxed than Taipei. Besides its many historical buildings and about 300 temples, one also finds here the origin of many localdishes of the region: Hsiao Chih, for example, are small snacks that are offered fresh everywhere.
The Taroko Gorge (photo) on the east coast and the beaches on the orchid island Lan Yu are also absolutely worthwhile for hikers. The Yamis have lived here peacefully for many generations. Besides fantastic beaches, the tropical rainforest and amazingly steep mountains, you can also get “flying fish” on your plate, a speciality of Taiwan.
Kai Böcking …
still can’t get out of his raptures about Taipei and Taiwan – that starts with the exciting, delicious food and doesn’t end with the relaxed Taiwanese. A trip to Taiwan doesn’t just mean breaking new ground, but also getting involved in a completely different way of living together far away from the nearby Chinese mega-cities.
Fotos: © iStock.com/GoranQ, Shangri-La’s Far Eastern Plaza, © iStock.com/PonAek, © iStock.com/stockinasia, © iStock.com/fotoVoyager