PREVIOUSLY OVERLOOKED BY TOURISTS, Taichung—Taiwan's third largest city—has suddenly garnered a great deal of attention after the kickoff of Taiwan's high-speed rail. Only one hour by train from Taipei, Taichung dazzles visitors with its giant shopping areas, vibrant teahouses, night markets and two national museums (Natural Science, Fine Arts).
A cross between a boutique and designer hotel, Hotel ONE (www.hotelone.com.tw) has a funky look and cutting-edge sailboat shape. Because the hotel occupies the top 21 floors of the city's tallest building, Taichung Tower, its 202 guest rooms offer magnificent views.
Request a Superior Room, which boasts a high-tech work station with a 37-inch, flat-screen TV, an iPod connector and surround-sound system. Guests can enjoy views of the neon cityscape even from the bathtub, which is beside a window. Attractions
Those who prefer postcard-perfect views of Dadu Mountain should book a Corner Studio. Families, however, might opt for the ONE Suite on the 43rd floor, which has a private kitchen, dining room and living room. Book via the reservations department ([email protected], 011-886-4-2303-1234). Jessica Liao, director of sales and marketing ([email protected], 011-886-4-3701-8888), is the liaison if you're sending VIPs.
Especially useful for business travelers, the hotel's Phone Diverting Service allows guests to retrieve calls to their room via a mobile phone that it gives them. For any request, just push "8" and the service coordinator will provide the necessary translation assistance.
When the business day is done, or if clients are on vacation, they might like a romantic dinner in Top of ONE Restaurant (on the 44th floor), which has a set menu featuring elegant French and Japanese fusion cuisine. Don't miss its signature dish, pan-seared Marieville foie gras. Also try the Tandoori leg of lamb at In Restaurant on the 28th floor, which serves Indian, Thai and Western dishes. Agent Advice
There's no spa onsite, but you can ask the concierge team to arrange a treatment at nearby Dosha Salon Spa (www.dosha.com.tw 011-886-4-2251-0001). This Aveda-concept center is an urban oasis that provides natural, light cuisine and personal secretaries who design customized massages, wraps and facials. The spa's Dosha Classic Retreat Massage with the acupressure technique is very popular with locals and travelers. Guests can also stay overnight in its VIP treatment suites.
Another hotel, the Landis Taichung (www.landis.com.tw), is just a heartbeat from the city's business and shopping centers. With 260 rooms, the cozy hotel exudes a "home away from home" air of simplicity and understated elegance. Deluxe Leisure Suites with views of the swimming pool are a common choice.
Families should request the Penthouse Suite, a comfortable two-story loft with a living room, private balcony and bedroom on the higher floor. The Penthouse Suite on the east side embraces the city views, and the westside suites offer impressive mountain scenery.
Those traveling with children also can take advantage of the hotel's kid-friendly Mandara Life Club. This four-floor modern facility has a playroom with a nanny; a squash court; swimming pools; a sauna; and a yoga/aerobics studio where daily group sessions are held. After a day's work, don't forget to request the club's signature foot massage based on Chinese body-soothing techniques. Reservations should be made at least three days in advance via health club manager Jennifer Lin ([email protected], 886-4-2320-9696, ext. 8801).
Another large accommodation is the 3,700-square-foot Presidential Suite (located on the 15th floor), which has a living room, a spacious balcony and dining area with commanding views of bustling Chung Kang Road. All suites can be booked via sales manager May Yang ([email protected], 011-886-4-2323-0778, ext. 2302). If you are booking VIPs, the special-services team (011-886-4-2326-8008) is a great contact.
For dining, the Landis' Tien Hsiang Lo is popular with visitors and residents for authentic Chinese cuisine. We recommend stewed pork flank with Shao Shin wine.
Just 90 minutes away from Taichung in Nantou County is the Lalu Sun Moon Lake Hotel (www.thelalu.com.tw). This all-suite property sits on the shore overlooking a tranquil lake and the Central Mountain Range. Once the villa of former President Chiang Kai-shek, the hotel turned into a star attraction after a makeover in 1998.
Request a Lakeside Suite, which has a living room, bedroom and large balcony with jaw-dropping views across the lake. Though the secluded One-Bedroom Courtyard Pool Villas don't have lake views, each has its own 40-foot pool, outdoor dining pavilion and fireplace. The Presidential Suite— with its ample living space, a reading room and 600-square-foot private balcony with amazing views of the lake—is a top draw for families, and can be occupied along with a connecting room. A few more tips before booking: Reservations should be made at least one month ahead for summer or weekend stays. Swimming in the lake is prohibited, but thousands of tourists are allowed to do it in late September for the annual Sun Moon Lake Festival's swimming event. All suites can be booked via the reservation department ([email protected], 011-886-4-9285-5313). General affairs manager Jonathan Chuang ([email protected], 011-886-4-9285-5313, ext. 6013) is a good contact if VIPs are arriving.
Active travelers can rely on the hotel for various activities such as boat rides, fishing trips, nearby horseback riding, bicycle riding, visiting Wen Wu Temple and touring Formosan Aboriginal Cultural Village. Want to relax after those excursions? Guests should take advantage of the ayurveda massage designed by yoga master Iyan Soleh Yaspriyana at the spa. Book reservations via spa manager Vera Lin ([email protected]).
For those who want to get a taste of local flavors, the Oriental Brasserie serves local and Chinese specialties; we recommend the marinated baby tomatoes with Shui Li plums. The restaurant's signature Presidential Fish was a big draw at this year's Taiwan Culinary Exhibition. Open only for hotel guests, the Japanese Restaurant offers teppanyaki and contemporary Japanese cuisine.