Following the CNY trip to Ipoh, we flew to Taiwan with family on the very next day. A favourite travel destination revisited, it was a vacation to slow down pace, relax, and for retail therapy and mouth-watering local food.

Sometimes holidaying abroad means to luxuriate in a good hotel strategically located so that we don’t have to travel much. (Pamper yourself once in a while without burning a hole in the pocket!) Thanks to Palais de Chine, a member of Preferred Hotel Group,  we had a wonderful stay in Taipei. The hotel is located at the transportation hub – Taipei Railway, Taiwan High Speed Rail, Taipei Bus Terminal and Taipei Main Station MRT are all a stone’s throw away. It’s right smack in the heart of shopping area with underground stores and malls such as Shin Kong Mitsukoshi and Q Square Mall which is linked to the building. Popular attractions like Taipei 101, Ximending and Shilin Night Market (Jiantan Station) are just few stops away by MRT.

We took the red eye to Taoyuan International Airport, followed by a pleasant 50-min ride on ‘FreeGo’ bus which stops near Taipei Railway Station located opposite Palais De Chine.

The welcoming hospitality experience began right before we entered the hotel. The concierge helped us with the luggage and would later take it to our room after we checked in. Another hotel staff in crisp uniform walked us to the elevator. The lobby is located on the 6th floor.

We were wowed by the aristocratic atmosphere upon entering the cobblestone lobby that resembles a palace, exuding an aura of timeless elegance and French splendour. The 5-star luxury hotel interiors are focused on the integration of oriental fine arts and western classic aesthetics. It won’t take long to get yourself distracted by the large antique art collections showcased on different levels in the hotel. Many of these antiques are imported from Europe.

As it was still early to check in our room, the hotel receptionist invited us to have some refreshments at Le Salon – the private lounge for Executive floor guests. It’s like a hidden gem in the hotel where you can find hardcover books and magazines displayed on wooden shelves, leather sofas and paintings to accentuate the sophisticated ambience. We were told that it features numerous valuable antique collections so no photo is allowed. (This photo is taken from www.palaisdechinehotel.com)

View of the city, with Taipei Railway Station on the right.

Next to Le Salon, the Vite GYM is not your regular gym. It’s small but designed for efficient workouts. See the state-of-the-art equipment in the centre of the gym? ROM (Range of Motion) has pedals like a bicycle; the recumbent seat and oar-like handlebars look like a canoe for rowing. It works all the muscle groups – 8 minutes is all it takes for a workout equivalent of 45 minutes of swimming or aerobic exercises!

After an hour, we checked into the Executive Deluxe Room located on the 15th floor. Our crib was nothing short of elegance. Very spacious and tastefully appointed with exquisite fittings, the room features a round bathtub, a shower room, marble table tops, a chaise longue as well as a mood lighting system. Even the luxurious line of bathroom amenities such as bath gel and shampoo are contained in aesthetically pleasing snuff bottles commissioned especially for Palais de Chine.

Despite its location at the transport hub, the hotel is a quiet and peaceful oasis. The temperature control of the room was just right to keep us warm yet not too dry, when the outside temperature was 10°c or less. The rest of the story was about pure relaxation on the superbly comfy king bed while watching cable programmes on the wall-mounted flat screen TV.

A pano view of Taipei city from our room on the 15th floor. It was quite misty that morning.

The hotel offers 4 intriguing dining options: La Rotisserie for grilled lobster, seafood buffet and international breakfast; indulge in Cantonese cuisine at Le Palais; Le The for afternoon tea; and go for a drink at Le Bar on the 6th floor terrace.

For lunch on the first day in Taipei, we dined at Le Palais, the Chinese restaurant with interiors of ancient opulence fused with European character. While walking around the restaurant, it felt like we were in a riverside garden with weeping willows. The decorated window panes are installed to resemble those of a traditional wooden boat as if it’s waiting for visitors to board. The dining experience here put an emphasis on not just the taste and smell, culinary art is part of the enjoyment.

Both me and Jacky unanimously agreed that the Crispy Sugar Barbecued Pork Cheek was the best ‘char siew’ we have ever had! Crispy on the oustide, the juicy, lean meat practically melted in the mouth, oozing smoky-sweet and nutty flavour. (NT580)

If you like spicy food, go for the Dry-Fried Spicy Chicken with Dried Chili. This Sichuan ‘mala’ dish comes in bite-size crunchy chicken chunks, so highly addictive that you may find yourself popping in one after another into the mouth! (NT420)

We were a little amused when the waitstaff demonstrated on how to inject vinegar into the dumpling using a mini pump! It’s something we have not seen elsewhere. The Steamed Palais de Chine King Prawn Dumplings (NT180/3pc) contained succulent prawn beneath the thin and smooth crystal dumpling skin. The dim sum dishes at Palais de Chine are adapted from Tim Ho Wan, Hong Kong’s famous Michelin-starred dim sum.

For warm desserts, I like to go for the freshly brewed almond tea.

Another highlight of the hotel stay was having a crabby affair with the Hokkaido Wild King Crab at La Rotisserie! Air flown from Hokkaido, the Wild King Crab is steamed without any sauce or ingredients, so as to retain its naturally sweet ocean-fresh flavour.

The first challenge was to crack open the spiny shell. The waitstaff showed us how to use a pair of scissors to cut open the crab leg, peel the shell to remove the whole chunk of meat inside. The spiny legs may seem intimidating but with the right tool, it’s an easy task as the shell is quite soft, just spiky. You may trim away the spikes for easy handling.

The broken spiny leg now reveals a succulent chunk of fibrous meat with string-like texture, so good on its own. We took almost an hour to finish the King Crab!

For seafood lovers, La Rotisserie is now having Supreme Wild King Crabs promotion during lunch and dinner. For two persons having a whole King Crab and buffet, the price is NT$1,680 +10% per person.

Besides the King Crab, there is a variety of seafood on the buffet table.

Sushi and Sashimi.

And a wide selection of fresh, locally grown salads!

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And they never forget the dessert lovers!

The lunch buffet spread at the restaurant.

The interior of La Rotisserie.

If you like the tea bags, wines, bathroom amenities and other gift sets, you can purchase them as souvenirs from Palais de Chine.

Since Palais de Chine is just opposite Taipei Railway Station, lazy travellers like us decided to take a short train ride to Keelung (基隆) to catch the last glimpse of the giant yellow rubber duck before it departed that day!

I’ve seen the famous giant rubber duck on the news too many times, and didn’t expect to see it right in front of my eyes one day. Many people especially families with young children were at the port city for the giant rubber duck.

After Keelung, we took another train to Ruifang Station (瑞芳), then a 20 minutes bus ride to Shifen Old Street (十分老街), which is an old railroad town, to release the sky lantern during Pingxi Sky Lantern Festival! It was fun and a memorable experience for us to see our lantern with flickering flame floating up into the sky.

Note: Unless you don’t mind to pack like sardine in the train, don’t go there during the Sky Lantern Festival! We took the bus from Ruifang to Shifen instead as we wanted to avoid the crowded train going to Pingxi. On our way back to Taipei, we took the train at Shifen Station as it was less crowded there.

Special thanks to Palais de Chine, a member of Preferred Hotels & Resorts, a brand of Preferred Hotel Group. For more information about Palais de Chine, please check out: http://preferredhotelgroup.com/preferred/destinations/taiwan/taipei/palais-de-chine