Taipei is slightly over four hours away from Singapore by plane and it offers some of the most delicious food and nicest people that I have ever met in my life. When I visited Taipei in April 2017, I caught flight BR226 from Singapore and I was seriously impressed by the Royal Laurel product on EVA Air - the seats on the 777-300ER were extremely spacious and personalisation of service is truly something to remember. I was also excited to check out the tallest hotel in Taipei city - the Shangri-La's Far Eastern Plaza Hotel, Taipei which is famous for having the best view of Taipei 101 and the surrounding city.
Uber was banned in Taipei during the earlier parts of my trip (although the ban was lifted towards the end) so I ended up catching a taxi from W Taipei (where I spent a couple of nights in) to the Shangri-La's Far Eastern Plaza Hotel, Taipei. If you are coming here directly from the Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport (TPE), a car ride should take approximately 45 minutes - the hotel is able to send you a BMW 7 Series for NT$ 2,900 (S$133) but I generally go with a company called Limolimo who will pick you up in a BMW 7 Series from the airport for NT$1,300 (S$60). If you prefer, CitiAir Bus 1960 which departs from the airport every 20 minutes will take you directly outside the hotel for NT$ 145 (S$7) but this may take up to 80 minutes so I would personally not recommend it.
Upon arriving at the Shangri-La's Far Eastern Plaza Hotel, Taipei, I proceeded directly to the check-in area in the lobby and after looking up my reservation on their system (and realising that I was booked into a Horizon Club room), I was quickly invited to check-in at the exclusive Horizon Club Lounge which is located on Level 36 instead. After checking-in to the hotel, I was escorted to the Horizon Club Premier Room where I was given a quick tour on key features and operations. The luggage was also promptly sent up within 10 minutes but since I got there on a relatively gloomy and rainy day, I decided to leave the photos until the next morning.
I stayed in one of the iconic Horizon Club Premier Rooms at the Shangri-La's Far Eastern Plaza Hotel, Taipei during my visit and these rooms have only quite recently (back in 2015) been refurbished. Offering 58sqm of living space, the Horizon Club Premier Rooms feel a lot more like a Junior Suite than a club room - you will also find two massive windows on the side which will allow you to take in the magnificent sights (particularly in the evening) from the comfort of your own bedroom. There is also an additional window located towards the back of the room but it faces an office building so there's really nothing much to shout about - I left it closed for most parts of the stay as I did not want to worry about having any privacy issues.
The other thing you will definitely notice in the Horizon Club Premier Rooms is the ceiling height - with almost 3 meter of vertical space, there is plenty of room to take in the amazing view. Two rotatable chairs and a small coffee table is also placed directly in front of one of the large windows for you to enjoy the view while sipping a cup of coffee (there is a Nespresso coffee machine in the room!) or tea. There is also an adjustable 40-inch flat screen television in the room with plenty of cable and satellite channels - because of the room layout, you can watch this from the spacious seating area (photos below!), from the bed or even from one of the lounging chairs by the side.
I go on quite a bit about the view from the room but if you have been to various city hotels in Taipei, you will understand how the view is almost not that impressive - you are typically too close to the Taipei 101 to capture a good photo but check out that beautiful canvas from the Horizon Club Premier Room! As mentioned earlier, you will find two rotatable chairs in front of one window and on the other one, you will find a large work desk with a range of connectivity options by the side - it is difficult to concentrate on work when you have got such an amazing view in front of you.
In case you cannot already tell from the photos above, there is also a spacious living area in the Horizon Club Premier Room which is located directly in front of the work desk. The two-seater sofa was probably where I spent most of my mornings in (after enjoying a delicious breakfast at the Horizon Club).
As a Golden Circle Jade Member, I got the welcome amenities that I have pre-selected. As I have mentioned on multiple occasions, all the Shangri-La hotels that I have been to seem to get this absolutely right - I have never been to a property where this was missed out so that's definitely quite impressive especially when you consider how Jade is not even the top-tier in the Golden Circle loyalty programme. I do not even get a welcome letter in some Hilton properties as a Diamond Member. As nominated, I received a cup noodle (complete with a proper bowl and chopsticks on the side), a box of chocolates as well as cookies and milk (Diamond members will also be able to select Red or White wine as an amenity).
All Horizon Club Premier Rooms are equipped with a Nespresso Coffee Machine where you will be able to enjoy a decent espresso in the comfort of your own room - if you are a Jade member in the Golden Circle program, I would recommend selecting cookies and milk as one of your welcome amenities since that opens up more coffee options to you considering how you now have complimentary fresh milk in your fridge! There is also a variety of wine and whiskey glasses here but I did not manage to use any of them since I had Horizon Club access during my stay.
The Horizon Club Premier Room here at the Shangri-La's Far Eastern Plaza Hotel, Taipei has a pretty interesting room layout and in order for you to get to the bathroom, you will have to walk through a corridoor which functions as a walk-in wardrobe - this is also where you will find the safe, laundry bags, irons and hangers.
The bathroom in the Horizon Club Premier Room is a luxurious affair. While you do not get a freestanding tub, the bathroom is filled with intricacies and gadgets that truly sets the hotel apart from the competition. I do like the look of marble but I did think that the design of the bathroom conflicted somehow with the room design - the room features a relatively more contemporary design and cleaner lines but the bathroom feels a little cluttered. Obviously the differences are not a big deal at all but I just found it to be slightly strange.
Apart from the deep-soaking tub which looks out to the very safe office building next door (so make sure you lower the privacy blinds!), you will also find a huge shower area which is complete with rainshower towards the back of the bathroom. Consistent to the Horizon Club rooms that I have experienced in Penang, bath amenities are provided by L'Occitane en Provence and you will actually find two sets here in the Horizon Club Premier Room.
While double-sinks are generally impressive, I have gotten quite used to them recently in my travels so they do not wow me as much anymore. With that being said, the one thing that truly impressed me here in the Horizon Club Premier Room is the automated toilet - there is even a dedicated controller by the side for you to control things like the flush, the warmth of the seat and various cleaning functions. Much like what I have experienced in W Taipei, the toilet seat is automatically lifted as you approach it - this one even has some kind of blue light! You might notice that the bathroom also comes with a 12-inch flat screen television but honestly, you could barely see it from the tub (or while using the toilet) so the only time you can truly utilise it is when you are brushing your teeth. It is a nice idea but probably a little too wasteful for that sole purpose.
Alcoholic drinks and canapés are served every evening in the Horizon Club and if you are booked into a Horizon Club room or suite, you should have access to this. Running from 5:30PM to 7:30PM each night, enjoy free-flowing beers, wines and spirits as you watch the sun go down from the comfort of the Horizon Club. In fact, on one evening, one of the bartenders from the Marco Polo Lounge was actually making up really delicious bespoke cocktails in the Horizon Club but I do not think that happens very often.
The food served during the evening cocktail hours are definitely sufficient for a light dinner - you will find a selection of hot food items, soup, salads as well as desserts here in the Horizon Club - if you are thinking about heading out to a bar, I highly recommend the Fourplay Cuisine and Bar but make sure you ask the concierge to make you a reservation because I had to wait almost 3 hours for a table (granted I could leave the area and come back later).
I went back to the my room after having enough drinks and food at the lounge and was rewarded with this beautiful view of the Taipei 101 and the city lights from afar. This photo was taken using a telezoom lens and it is definitely worth noting that the Taipei 101 is at least 2km away on foot so most people would not actually walk there (but it is possible and I have done it!). Honestly, having stayed in a number of luxury hotels in Taipei, I dare say that the Shangri-La's Far Eastern Plaza Hotel, Taipei has indeed, the best view of this gorgeous city.
As a Horizon Club guest, I had the option of having a full buffet breakfast down at the Café at Far Eastern or the much quieter Horizon Club Lounge. While I generally do prefer a wider spread and selection, passing by the Café at Far Eastern the day before has convinced me to have breakfast in the lounge instead. No doubt, the Café at Far Eastern has an extensive spread (probably one of the best in terms of variety for hotels in Taipei) but the overall ambience just did not appeal to me. To put it very simply and crassly, it reminded me more of a food court than anything else. Therefore, if you do have Horizon Club Lounge access, do yourself a huge favour and have your breakfast here instead - the food is excellent, the coffee is delicious and the staff are attentive enough to get to you before you can even raise your hand.
Something that I order at almost every club lounge is the Eggs Benedict - I personally love it and the version here in the Horizon Club Lounge features beet-marinated salmon and dill cream cheese under the poached eggs and delicious Hollandaise sauce. Get it and you will not regret it!
Apart from a limited continental selection available in the pantry, you will be able to order items off an a la carte menu - I also ordered an egg white omelette with fillings of my choice while I was there. Other items on the menu include (but not limited to) French toast, wanton soup, congee and waffles. I believe there is also a special that seems to rotate on a daily basis so make sure you ask one of the friendly lounge staff on its availability.
Also, how can I forget about crispy hash browns that are fried specially for you - they are available on the menu but it is easy to miss them if you aren't looking hard enough. To avoid the fear of missing out (FOMO), I highly recommend for you to ask for hash browns wherever you go (regardless of whether it is on the menu or not) - rejection is the worst thing that could happen in this situation.
If you are looking for a highly-rated Japanese restaurant to check out during your visit to Taipei, the ibuki by Takagi Kazuo (located within Shangri-La's Far Eastern Plaza Hotel, Taipei) is Taiwan's very first Japanese restaurant that is operated in concordance with Michelin standards.
After spending a week in luxury hotels like the Grand Hyatt Taipei and the W Taipei which are located right smack in Taipei city, the Shangri-La's Far Eastern Plaza Hotel, Taipei does feel away from the action. However, it is due to the very same reason that I think this property would appeal to travellers who wish to spend plenty of time within the hotel and to make full use of its facilities (this property has a truly impressive rooftop pool which I did not manage to use unfortunately). While the rooms do not come cheap here (it is after all one of the best luxury hotels in Taipei), what you get out of the space, food and service here will truly be something you will remember in years to come.