Day 3: Taipei
After a great night of sleep, we were well-rested and surprisingly not jet-lagged. Always try to stay up as late as you can on the first day in a new time zone so you can adjust quickly. We started the day with another great breakfast at the hotel buffet restaurant.
The weather had cleared up so it was a perfect day to go for a walk. We walked south from the Sheraton down to Liberty Square and the Chiang Kai Shek Memorial Hall. This is one of the iconic landmarks of Taipei.
The large open square allows for some great social distancing - especially with minimal tourism. The main floor has a large museum dedicated to Chiang Kai Shek, his life, and the history of Taiwan. On the top floor, there is a changing of the guard ceremony that takes place every hour on the hour.
After this, we walked through the nearby park that surrounds this large complex towards our next destination: Din Tai Fung. This world-famous soup dumpling house originated in Taiwan and we were heading to its original store on Xinyi Road. We are both big fans of this chain, one of our go-to places in Seattle, so we were excited to try it out in Taipei. The original store is fairly small but spread across several floors. We didn’t have much of a wait, and after a quick temperature check, we were seated. I just remembered this was a cash only store and we only took out a bit of cash at the airport. I did some quick math and confirmed we would be okay. Unlike its overseas branches, the Taipei Din Tai Fung is a lot more affordable, with many items priced less than half of their Seattle counterparts.
The spicy wontons are a must-have for both of us.
After this wonderful meal, we explored some of the nearby shops - again impressed with the value of things in Taiwan, from food to clothing to stationery. My fiancée got some bubble tea (with real mango chunks!) at a ShareTea next door for just $2! The exact same shop would charge at least $5 in Vancouver.
We then strolled back to our hotel, while stopping by a McDonald’s to check out the local menu. My fiancée picked up a popcorn chicken snack and some corn soup. The corn soup got some great reviews. I couldn’t resist stopping by the executive lounge for some afternoon tea. The spread was pretty light, with the same desserts as last night, although they were delicious. The attendant made me an iced coffee and thoughtfully left some simple syrup on the side.
I also handled the check-out procedures in the lounge. By now it was about 3pm so we took an Uber to our next hotel, the Grand Hyatt Taipei.
Although it sounds like a hassle, I’m a big fan of moving hotels to take advantage of some great perks. In this case, I picked the Sheraton for the first night because of its executive lounge so we would be able to get 2 breakfasts, a dinner, and afternoon tea. I picked the Grand Hyatt for the second night because of the $100USD property credit given by American Express for each stay at one of their FHR (Fine Hotels & Resorts) properties. You get this $100 whether you stay one night or ten nights, so a single night stay is the best deal.
The entrance to the Grand Hyatt was appropriately very grand. The overall feel was a step up from the Sheraton, which is also reflected in the pricing. Due to the current circumstances, the price had dropped significantly in recent days so I snapped it up.
Booking through Amex FHR gives a small room upgrade, free breakfast, noon check-in, and guaranteed 4pm check-out, in additional to the $100. This is great for staying at hotels without status. The Grand Hyatt has an excellent location, right next to Taipei 101. This was the view from our room.
We then headed out to explore the various malls in and around Taipei 101 and the glitzy Xinyi district. There were a number of small food stalls outside the mall selling local snacks, like Taiwanese sausages and fried chicken. Although we decided not to go to the night market due to the current situation, this was a nice alternative.
My fiancée really enjoyed this so we even came back for seconds.
After some shopping, we went back to the hotel for dinner. To use the $100 credit, we ate at Pearl Liang, a high-end Cantonese seafood restaurant that is well regarded in Taipei. It was actually surprisingly hard to use the full amount for 2 people, even at a fining dining restaurant. We started with some dim sum: radish cake, truffled shrimp dumplings, and abalone siu mai.
These were delicious - I especially loved the truffle in the dumpling. We had a stewed bamboo and mushroom dish for our veggies. Everything was really tender and the flavors were great.
For our main course, we had steamed scallops on tofu with black bean sauce. This was phenomenal - both of us really loved this dish, I think we are going to try to recreate it.
Finally, we finished with an abalone congee. We discovered our love for this dish in a previous trip to Jeju Island in Korea. This version was done differently but tasted just as good, with even more generous servings of abalone.
Everything we ate was so good and we didn’t even use up the $100 credit. This is one of those meals that we will remember.
After dinner, my fiancée still craved some of that corn soup from earlier so we popped back to the mall to pick some up as well as some tea eggs from 7-11. I then relaxed at the Grand Hyatt spa which checks all the boxes with a large jacuzzi, hot and cold tubs, sauna, steam room, a nap room, and a lounge.
We had a fantastic stay over these two short days in Taipei and we will be back.