The $50-million dollar renovation at Shangri-La’s Far Eastern Plaza Hotel is taking your five-star experience to the ultimate level.
When I was a young girl growing up in Taipei, my family and I used to dine at upscale restaurants every weekend. By housing some of the country’s best Western cuisines, hotel restaurants became our favorite kind. My mother wanted us to taste the world, and one restaurant we often indulged in was situated at the top of the Shangri-La’s Far Eastern Plaza Hotel 香格里拉台北遠東國際大飯店, where I grew accustomed to using forks and knives – instead of familiar chopsticks – while gazing over the view of sparse city lights.
Until this year, I hadn’t been back to the same hotel since we moved to the United States in 1991. I found myself, now a thirty-five-year-old business woman, sitting in the chic Marco Polo Lounge on the 38th floor, quietly sipping on a pint of Taiwan Beer. Surrounding me were sophisticated Taipei locals on romantic dates and stylish business travelers relaxing over cocktails after a long day of meetings.
It’s evident, Far Eastern Plaza Hotel modernized along with the city’s flourishing skyscrapers and increasing international foot traffic. The view from the hotel’s top tower altered from sparse city lights to splashy LED light installations that blanket Xinyi district. Asia’s tallest building, Taipei 101, was non-existent during my childhood. Now, the famous architecture graces large windows of elegant guestrooms and luscious suites.
The man behind the USD $50 million renovation is Marcel Holman, General Manager of Shangri-La’s Far Eastern Plaza Hotel. Holman wanted the revamp to symbolize a new Taipei, a city he’s been calling home for the last four years. The lavish refurbishment includes 240 state-of-the-art rooms and suites, and the lofty driveway immediately welcomes each guest into an opulent lobby which leads to two food and beverage areas serving fashionable women yearning for English afternoon tea dazzled by live piano performances.
Holman explains the Song Dynasty theme that adorns intricate details within the hotel’s 43 floors:
From the Buddha statue in the lobby, to the exquisite decorations in our elevator, the multi-million dollar renovation is meant to maintain a sense of elegance and timelessness.
Characterizing “timelessness” in today’s Taipei revolves around infusing local culture and internationalism, matching Far Eastern Plaza Hotel’s guests arriving from different parts of the world and Taiwanese locals who make up 90% of its restaurants’ clientele. With an English-speaking staff, Holman’s goal is to compete universally, not solely against this booming city’s current hotels.
Taipei is all about the people. So we focus on the customer experience by offering two Chinese restaurants with two types of cuisines: Shanghainese and Cantonese. We work with golf companies and luxury packages to bring food, hot springs and private jets to fulfill any type of need that our guests may be asking for.
The multitude dining selections at Far Eastern Plaza Hotel is representative of today’s travelers’ appetite: colorful and refined. Head Chef of 39th floor’s Shanghai Pavillion, Tai Chung-Lin creates a health-conscious menu upon the Shanghainese cuisine typically known for overpowering oil and salt (don’t miss: Drunken Chicken with Hua Tiao Wine.) Head Chef Marco Priolo of 38th floor’s Marco Polo Restaurant has been making gastronomic dishes since 14 years of age. At the hotel, he delivers a modern take on traditional Italian favorites (don’t miss: Grilled New Zealand Lamb Chop, “Peperonata” and Soft Polenta.) 7th floor’s ibuki by TAKAGI KAZUO was the first in Taiwan to truly follow the methodology of a Michelin-starred restaurant. Modeled after Japan’s Michelin two-starred Takagi, ibuki features delectable Kyoto cuisine (don’t miss: U.S. Wagyu Sirloin Beef.) 6th floor’s Shang Palace is led by Chef Ip Chi Kwong, who elevates the experience of consuming Sichuan-Style stir-fried prawns with taro balls to a contemporary and polished manner.
In Holman’s eyes, refinement defines luxury. During the renovation, he ensured spacious rooms featuring high ceilings with walk-in closets and large window accompanied by cozy sitting areas. The luxurious rooms include: Superior, Deluxe, Executive, Premier, Horizon Club, Plaza Suite, Specialty Suite, and the Presidential Suite. Technology is well-equipped in each room with high-speed wireless Internet access, flat-screen LCD TV, modern lighting, iPads in all suites (even Wi-Fi in limos for business travelers) and access to PressReader. Luxury, in this case, as Holman puts it, spans truly from “the first to the last 15 minutes of the experience.”
Other amenities include the Health Club with on-site personal trainers, Qi Shiseido Salon and Spa located on the 40th floor, a glamorous ballroom featuring indoor waterfalls as the background to meetings and banquets. The ultimate sumptuous experience is the exclusive rooftop pool on the 43rd floor with a panoramic view of the city that somehow decompresses every ounce of stress.
As I sat in the private Horizon Club admiring the skyline of a city which encloses immense childhood memories, I couldn’t help but recall that little girl who walked through the same doors of Shangri-La’s Far Eastern Plaza Hotel 30 years ago, unknowing that one day I would be globetrotting alongside business travelers checking into similar Executive Suites. In a hotel where my mother wanted to show us tastes of the world, I am living her alluded future.