Travelling overseas on business is always an ordeal. Despite the potential for exotic locations, the challenges of staying at the top of one’s game whilst battling jet lag, extreme climate changes, the stress of navigating airports, immigration and the actual flight itself can leave one feeling pretty awful at the best of times. This is what I was faced with one weekend this spring, but with one extra complication: for reasons beyond my control, I was unexpectedly encumbered with children, namely my daughters, aged eight and 11.
Thankfully, what could have been a disaster turned into a wonderful experience, thanks to the tremendous staff at the Grand Club Grand Hyatt, on the 22nd floor overlooking Taipei. From the moment we arrived we were made to feel not just at home, but as honoured guests. Christine Sun, head of VIP services, presented each of my daughters with a stuffed bear, winning her their instant friendship. She then led us to the lounge, a quiet, well-appointed oasis of calm that immediately puts one at ease.
The first thing you notice is that the clatter and hustle and bustle of normal city life, even the busy-ness of the ground floor, is replaced by a soothing feeling of relaxation. There are newspapers and periodicals available, as well as a well-appointed coffee station, various snacks throughout the day and buffets at dinner and breakfast. More on that later.
After my daughters had taken advantage of the fresh juices available and I had fortified myself with an espresso, we went up to our room. And what a room it was.
We had the good fortune of being booked into the Deluxe Suite, with stunning views of Taipei 101 to the east and the peaks of Yangming Mountain to the north. The suite also comes equipped with two large screen televisions, a beautifully equipped coffee station and minibar, a guest washroom off the main living area and a beautifully appointed bathroom off the master bedroom, which includes dual sinks, an immense tub, a separate toilet enclosure and shower enclosure. On the table of the living room there were some nice personal touches, including a selection of fresh fruit and a handwritten note from the hotel manager.
After getting comfortably established, we went to take advantage of the hotel’s swimming pool on the fifth floor. Although the weather was perfect, with blue skies and not a hint of air pollution, the cool breeze made us grateful for the heated pool and plush towels supplied to all guests.
We could have had dinner at the complimentary buffet provided to Grand Club guests on the 22nd floor, but my daughters had already caught sight of the even more extravagant buffet at the Hyatt Café on the ground floor of the hotel and made the decision for me, a decision that was not regretted.
First of all, if you think you’d like to try a little bit of everything at the buffet, you can give up that idea from the start. It’s simply impossible. The buffet has everything you could possibly want, with cuisine from every corner of the world, but I must give kudos to the hotel for its incredible seafood selection and for what was a remarkably authentic Indian food experience. I wanted to save my appetite for the seafood, so I only sampled the Indian curries on offer, but they were distinctive from each other and didn’t cut corners on the spice factor. And the naan bread was fresh-from-the-oven and continuously refreshed.
The seafood was where I put my focus and the fresh crab, shrimp, sushi and sashimi were so delicious, that I ate past the point of satisfying hunger, just so I could experience as much as I could. A special note of appreciation for the small touches, like fresh wasabi, the green horseradish that complements Japanese seafood so well. Just as there are different varieties of mustard, there are also different varieties of wasabi and it was encouraging to see that even in small things like this, the Grand Hyatt made excellence a priority.
In the interest of quality control, I sampled my daughters’ dessert selections and found that their delight was well justified. A matcha-chocolate fountain, abundant ice cream selection, pastries and cakes, and toppings of all sorts were there to tempt and lead one astray.
That night we slept very soundly, in exceedingly comfortable beds and with the automatic blinds down and curtains drawn, were undisturbed by any encroaching rays of sunlight. Once awake however, we pressed a button, the curtains pulled to the side, the blinds opened and we were treated to a glorious morning vista. After getting up we made our way to the complimentary breakfast buffet at the Grand Club and availed ourselves of the substantial offerings. Although not as robust as the Hyatt Café offerings downstairs, this buffet had everything: a full coffee bar, selections of tea, many pastries to choose from, an egg station, fresh fruit and salad, pancakes, bacon, congee, even those traditional Taiwanese breakfast favourites, soy milk and youtiao, the deep fried cruller-like pastry that starts the day for so many local residents. And of course there was a selection of daily newspapers to read while drinking one’s morning coffee.
Immediately after breakfast I had some business to attend to, so my daughters took advantage of the free DVDs available for Grand Club guests, made a selection and headed back to the room. Two hours later, I came back to the room to find that my shoes had been shined and my suit pressed, both services provided gratis to Grand Club members.
Following my meeting I returned to the hotel and took advantage of the surprisingly well-equipped health club and spa. The health club has everything you could possibly need, free weights and weight stations, yoga mats and medicine balls, treadmill and spinning machines. And the spa was a true oasis, with a comfortable magazine lounge, steam room, sauna and both hot and cold jacuzzis. While it may seem like an extravagance, a savvy business traveller knows that good health and exercise are every bit as important to overcoming jet lag as a good night’s sleep or a well-cooked meal. In this respect, the Grand Hyatt Taipei’s facilities are an integral part of the experience.
Alas, all good things must come to an end and when we left, there was more than a little reluctance to hit the road again. The three of us were unanimous – we would definitely return, next time for a longer stay.
Finally, in their own words, a brief endorsement from my daughters.
Trudi (aged 11): The Grand Hyatt is super-awesome. I like all of the food, the swimming pool was amazing and the food is all really, really good.
Isabel (aged eight): I liked the teddy bears they gave us. And the bathtub with the bath salts. And the DVDs were all good. Oh, and the bed was more comfortable than my bed at home. Do we really have to leave?
2 SongShou Road, Taipei, Taiwan, 11051
Tel: +886 2 2720 1234