What is it? Fifteen storeys of urban sophistication on tree-lined Dunhua North Road (above), Taipei’s main boulevard. The Mandarin Oriental opened here in May 2014, in a building erected on the site of the old Mandarina Crown Hotel. Geographically, it has the three most important factors going for it: location (in Taipei’s most established business district), location (15 minutes by car from Taipei 101 and many of the city’s other top attractions), location (five minutes by car from Songshan International Airport, which, unfortunately, isn’t the one Hong Kong flights arrive at).
Beyond the marble entranceway and the magnificent Czech-made lobby chandelier, the hotel consists of 256 guest rooms and 47 suites, each a set of vestibule, lounge, bedroom, “powder room”, walk-in wardrobe and a bathroom that is further subdivided into discrete areas. The warren-like effect is favoured by the likes of Shu Qi and Karen Mok Man-wai whenever they’re in town, apparently. As well as having a “grand salon” for weddings, this MO boasts the largest hotel spa in Taiwan.
Ooooh … do tell us about that. Spread over two floors, the spa has 12 treatment rooms, including four couples suites and two VIP suites (below), a small sauna and a steam room. The signature treatment takes guests on a trip around Taiwan. On the 150-minute Formosa Journey, bodies are exposed to Tainan Qigu salt and Hualien dark jade, but I cannot confirm whether the therapists’ hands “slip and flip over your shoulders […] like butterflies flying across the mountains and descending on the fresh greenery [sic] plains,” as advertised.
After a trip like that, there had better be something good to eat.What do you fancy? Fine Chinese at Ya Ge (crispy mackerel fillets and kumquat-glazed Peking duck, for example); fine Italian at Bencotto (poached lobster and chianti-braised Wagyu ribs) or fine “international” at Café Un Deux Trois, which, inexplicably, has the head of a (fake) rhino coming out of one of its many mirrors. One of a few pieces of whimsy in an otherwise very proper hotel.
Suite guests may take breakfast or, later, cocktails in the hush of the sixth-floor Oriental Club while the great and the good of Taipei sip and nibble at a British-style high tea in the Jade Lounge, fuel their sugar rushes at the Mandarin Cake Shop or discuss the dangers/merits of Donald Trump’s Asia policy at the MO Bar.
What does all this cost? Deluxe rooms (55 square metres) start from NT$10,000 (HK$2,420; plus 15.5 per cent service charge and tax) while the 376-square-metre Presidential Suite (above) would set Tsai Ing-wen back NT$800,000 (plus taxes).