Taiwan is an island located about 100 miles off mainland China. The capital city, Taipei, is one of Asia’s greenest and most harmonious urban centers, surrounded by lush mountain forests and quaint villages.
The popular saying here is: “Everyone knows Taiwan, but no one really knows it.” MEET TAIWAN is trying to change that by luring more North American groups with the country’s modern meeting and incentive-specific attributes. Western visitors will find a destination that’s English-friendly and easy to navigate. It’s incredibly urbane and sophisticated but not too hectic or polluted. Art and culture play an important role in daily life, and health and wellness have always been a societal and business priority.
In effect, Taipei was a “city of tomorrow” decades ago.
“From Taiwan, meeting attendees can access other parts of Asia very easily too—it’s only 80 minutes to Shanghai or Hong Kong,” says Shih-Chao Cho, director general of the Ministry of Economic Affairs, which oversees Meet Taiwan. “We also emphasize sustainable practices that make our meetings and conventions more green and energy efficient.”
HISTORY + CULTURE
The signature attraction in Taipei is the National Palace Museum. It is the foremost Asian art museum in the world with more than 670,000 pieces of ancient Chinese artifacts and artworks spanning over 8,000 years. It takes days to view the entire display. Like others, our group focused on just a few collections for a greatest hits guided tour. Though I could’ve easily spent hours admiring even a small selection of artworks, such as a series of carved ivory pieces and nested puzzle balls so stunningly intricate that they took generations to complete.
For groups staying at the downtown properties, many nearby venues not only provide a uniquely Taiwanese experience but they also double as event space. Two prime examples are the 1,522-seat National Theater and 2,074-seat National Concert Hall. Both are similar in design—grand, traditional Chinese palaces—sitting across from each other on the city’s famed Liberty Square adjacent to the popular Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall. The performance halls at both venues can be rented for private events with additional meeting rooms and lounges available for smaller breakouts.
A guaranteed opportunity for wowing a group is an event at the top of Taipei 101, which until 2010 was the tallest building in the world. With the recent LEED Platinum certification, it is now the tallest and largest green building in the world. Step into restaurant Shin Yeh 101 on the 85th floor, and watch clouds pass below while enjoying stunning views of the city and surrounding mountains. Shin Yeh 101 offers several private rooms for groups and a set menu of traditional Taiwanese fare as memorable as the view. Sample dishes include tender braised abalone, steamed scallop dumplings and soft, sweet taro cake.
As with many large Asian cities, shopping is a popular activity in Taipei. Options abound, ranging from the simple and inexpensive street vendors, to luxury brands in gleaming malls, to trendy boutiques hidden down side streets and alleyways.
Taipei’s famous night markets are a uniquely Taiwanese experience, which open after dark for leisurely strolling, shopping and eating. Locals and visitors alike throng to these nightly pedestrian-friendly events, especially the Shilin and Shida night markets near downtown. Members of our group enjoyed browsing the colorful clothes and sampling xiaochi (small eats) at the street-side stalls, such as oyster omelets, tempura fish and veggies, and pearl milk tea. With a local guide helping you through the menu, it makes for a fun group activity.
While shopping malls can be found throughout the city, just off the downtown commercial street of Chung Shan North Road is an area of quiet tree-lined lanes with a number of hip boutiques and trendy cafes.
At two neighboring boutiques, Booday and Lovely Taiwan, we find interesting crafts, wares and clothes from local designers, and handmade products and teas from the island’s indigenous tribes. Nearby, Chung’s Silver Work Studio sells an array of handmade silver jewelry and artwork, while the chic Melange Café serves Belgian waffles and manual-drip coffees.
Perhaps the best melding of business, pleasure and Taiwanese history is Marshal Zen Garden—a restaurant, tea house and hot springs complex located in the hills on the outskirts of Taipei. Built in the 1920s by the ruling Japanese, and used to entertain kamikaze pilots during WWII, the complex was later used to confine Marshal Zhang Xueliang, the one-time leader of Manchuria and northern China.
The restaurant offers beautiful sunset views of the Taipei basin and features a set menu inspired by Marshal Zhang’s own healthful dining habits, including a refreshing rose vinegar tisane, fresh fried foie gras and mussels and a savory, revitalizing ginseng root soup.
Most of Taipei’s upscale group properties are located in the city center, such as the 538-room Regent Taipei, with 21,100 sf of meeting space. A Four Seasons property until 2010 when the hotel completed extensive renovations, the Regent Taipei offers a grand and stately experience, from the opulent lobby to wood-grains and brown tones throughout the public spaces decorated with fine Asian artworks.
The guestrooms are sleek and contemporary with deep soaking tubs, advanced Electronics, directional lighting and floor-to-ceiling windows with sweeping city views.
“Most of our groups come from Asia, but more and more are from the U.S. and Europe, especially IT and pharma,” says Han Chiang, senior convention sales service manager. “Our typical conference size is 300-600 participants, but we can accommodate up to 1,000.”
Consistently rated the top hotel in Taiwan, the Regent Taipei has hosted a range of VIPs from foreign dignitaries to Lady Gaga. But its best known feature may be its unparalleled service.
“One of the main reasons groups choose us is our high reputation for quality service,” says Han. “We can customize rooms for any kind of theme or party, and we have an excellent location for attendees to easily experience the local lifestyle and access hot spots around the city.”
The Regent’s upper-tier Tai Pan Club is designed for business travelers with curbside escort, in-room check-in, and a 24-hour butler that seemed to anticipate our every request. Tai Pan’s exclusive lounge is open 24/7 and offers complimentary breakfast buffet, snacks and evening cocktails, as well as a conference room for board meetings.
The hotel has eight high-end restaurants, including Mihan Honke, a 5-star Japanese char-grill, and Silks House which features modern updates of classic Szechuan and Cantonese cuisine. It offers 10 private dining rooms for groups up to 24.
You’ll also find a “mini-mall” at the hotel with 54 luxury boutiques such as Hermes, Bulgari and Bottega Veneta.
Also located downtown, the 286-room Palais de Chine is a designer hotel and urban oasis open since in 2010. The property melds classic French design with an uber-modern sensibility that has guests uttering “wow” the moment they step off the elevator into the 6th floor lobby. Whether it’s the 300-year-old French tapestries or back-lit gold mirrors floating above the front desk, the exposed stone walls paired with velvet drapes or classical statuary gracing the hallways, the careful attention to the smallest details is designed to impress. It’s like a Versailles estate blasted into the future. Total meeting space is 7,700 sf.
“We cater to groups typically between 100-150, and mostly pharmaceuticals, luxury brand companies and governmental agencies,” says Patsy Chen, director of VIP services. “Another part of our appeal is our superb location directly across from the city’s main transportation hub.”
The hotel’s exquisite design extends to the guestrooms as well, which include hi-tech flatscreens and Bose audio systems, and with judicious layouts and well-placed mirrors that give a sense of much greater space. The executive VIP lounge, Le Salon, provides complimentary breakfast buffet and evening cocktails.
Only an hour drive from downtown, the Wulai District in the mountains south of Taipei offers various hot springs resorts that feature private and group baths. Our trip to the area began with a nature hike with members from the local indigenous Atayal tribe. We stopped to cook skewers of wild boar over a fire while drinking sweet and flavorful tribal rice wine from bamboo cups.
After a relaxing bath in the hot springs at the nearby 20-room Volando Urai Spring Spa & Resort, we were treated to a moving and dramatic performance of the Miling’an musical theater by local Ayatal singers and musicians. The resort has several meeting rooms for groups up to 60, with views of the lush Nanshi River. The same riverside view is available from the dining area that offers both a classic French fare and an Ayatal-inspired cuisine, including local seasonal vegetables and fruits