W Taipei

Prologue

Back in 1998, Starwood’s W Hotels launched as a refreshing change to the mundane, cookie-cutter hotel landscape. Flamboyant, flashy and colourful, the brand showed that hotels could be cool to attract a younger demographic. 18 years on and with a series of competitors from rival companies, does the world’s first hotel brand for millenials still have the vibrancy that stood it apart from the rest? We spent a night at the W Taipei recently to find out.

 

Location / Accessibility

Set in the trendy Xinyi district, the W Taipei occupies the upper floors of a modern steel and glass tower in the shadow of the landmark Taipei 101 skyscraper. Conveniently above the Taipei City Hall metro station and coach terminus, the hotel enjoys easy access to Taipei’s other districts and is a 60-minute coach ride from Taoyuan International Airport.

 

Arrival Experience

   

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The airport coach dropped us off at the coach terminus, from where a short walk around the corner brought us to the hotel’s expansive driveway and ground floor arrival lobby. Like most modern urban hotels, the main lobby was located on a higher floor and we were directed by the lobby greeters to the waiting guest lifts.

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10 floors up, the Living Room (what W Hotels calls its lobbies) was abuzz with activity to the pulsating beats of the brand’s music soundtrack. The Welcome Desk was located by floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the streetscape below, with the adjacent WOOBAR crowded with guests drawn to W Taipei’s afternoon tea. By nightfall, the entire space takes on a different persona with electric neon lights and DJ-spun tunes.

 

We thought the Welcome Desk was pretty small and inadequate for a busy 405-room property, with the line for check-in/check-out snaking to the elevator landing. Despite this, kudos to the reception agents for working as fast as they could to attend to each guest while still maintaining an energetic and welcoming demeanour. We waited in-line for approximately 15 minutes before being attended to by a friendly agent, who worked fast but remained engaging with small talk as he confirmed our room preference and benefits for this stay.

 

Guestrooms

   

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We were booked into a Wonderful room on the 18th floor of the hotel. Like most Ws, the interior decor incorporates whimsical elements paired with hints of the location. Following the design narrative of “Nature Electrified”, the shocking pink lift landing features a LED screen displaying moving images of a porcelain vase as opposed to a traditional display of an actual vase, while the hallways adopted a more subtle wood and neutral design with oriental motif carpeting.

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A stylish 43-square meter guestroom awaited behind the door, which felt bigger than it really was with the open-plan layout, a largely white colour palette and clever use of sliding partitions. Although the view out of the floor-to-ceiling windows was of the Xinyi neighbourhood and adjacent office block (rather than the coveted Taipei 101 view), privacy is not compromised with electronic sheer and blackout blinds.

 

Probably the best part of the room is the pair of very comfortable W signature beds with its 350-threadcount sheets. We had one of our best sleeps in that bed and wished we were staying for more than 1 night. Guests needing some sleep accompaniments will be pleased to find a JBL docking station by the bedside, as well as a fancy white noise machine to lull them to slumber.

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The bathroom is designed as an extension of the living space being open-access, with the water closet (featuring a Japanese Toto ‘smart’ toilet) in a separate room. The cream-coloured marble tiling and various lighting modes created a bright, airy space with thoughtful design details including controls on the opposite wall of shower stall, so guests can adjust the water temperature to their liking before stepping in.

 

As is standard with Ws, bath amenities were from the highly-rated Bliss Spa and there was no shortage of dental and shaving kits as well as other bathroom accessories. Unique to W Taipei was a distinctive bright red, tree-shaped jewelry holder by Taiwanese designer Fanny Kuo, the result of a trash redesign project between the hotel and local design professionals to transform used plastic items (in this case empty water bottles) into sustainable, trendy pieces to be reused in the hotel.

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The room was also very well-appointed when it comes to technology and entertainment. While most guests would probably be out exploring the city, those preferring to stay in will find a large 42-inch wall-mounted flatscreen television with cable and on-demand programming. A Bose 2.1 surround sound system guarantees excellent audio quality, with personal content easily available on-screen via the desktop connectivity panel and supplied HDMI cable.

 

High-speed Wi-Fi is available and complimentary for us as Starwood Preferred Guest members to remain connected with the rest of the world, while useful tips and snippets on the newest happenings in town is supplied by the W Insider. Every room also comes stocked with a selection of fashion and design magazines.

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The hotel’s munchie box goes beyond the usual refreshment center and minibar combination with ingredients (and recipes) for a DIY cocktail and an array of  curiosities. Among the more quirky items we found were stockings and a pinball toy (another product from the trash redesign project).

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Completing the guestroom fittings is a spacious wardrobe that is cleverly built to open on both sides, accessible from the bathroom or living space. The laptop-sized electronic safe and DVD player was also found here.

 

Dining

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It was a rainy day in Taipei during our time in the city. With the weather scuppering our plans to head out, we chose to instead relax over drinks at Yen Bar on the top floor of the hotel. Enjoying unblocked views of Taipei 101, the chic space was packed with guests enjoying high tea and drinks on a wet Saturday afternoon.

 

The decor follows the same eclectic style found around the hotel, with a feature wall behind the bar showing different angles and shots of a human eye complemented by seductive purple lighting as well as an impressive bar menu, easily one of the most comprehensive in the city.

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Choosing from the array of drinks available proved to be a challenge with many interesting brews and concoctions. One that particularly caught our eye was the 5BEER, a brew crafted exclusively for the hotel by North Taiwan Brewery. Smelling of roasted malts with a hint of citrus sweetness, the beer is unique in that it undergoes a secondary fermentation in the bottle similar to the process in champagne-making.

 

We ordered several items from the extensive Asian tapas selection to go with the drinks. Prepared at the show kitchen separating the bar with the main Yen Restaurant, we had savoury items including a unique gin-infused pork and the exotic beef tripe steamed with XO sauce. Pictures do not do justice to how these dishes tasted and our only complaint was that the portions were not bigger.

   

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Breakfast the next morning was served at The Kitchen Table, W Hotels’ all-day dining restaurant. The Taipei iteration reminded us of a vacation home with its bright yellow tiles and gorgeous poolside setting, with an equally extensive buffet spread to match. We counted no less than 10 separate buffet lines and live stations offering a selection of Asian and international foods.

 

These range from the staples including cereals, salads, cheeses, cold cuts and hot savoury items to the unconventional pizzas and ice cream, while the bread station featured assorted breads and pastries paired with rich truffle butter and preserves. A fresh juice station provided for a healthy start to the day and eggs were made fresh by the chefs at the egg station, although they did not offer fried eggs sunny side-up, an abundance of caution against avian influenza.

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A leading nightlife venue in the city, WooBar transforms from a sedate lobby lounge in the day to an electrifying nightclub after sundown popular with the Taipei social scene. Unfortunately we did not manage to visit this time owing to our short 1-night stay.

 

Facilities

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Like a shimmering blue sapphire, the WET pool is another feature of the hotel where we enjoyed a relaxing morning swim before our departure later in the day. The space is also the venue for numerous summer pool parties attracting partygoers from Taipei and beyond, while the winter months sees it transformed into an ice skating rink. We thought having just 2 rows of daybeds line both sides of the swimming pool was rather inadequate and some guests that came later in the morning had difficulty getting one, although the pool attendants tried their best to accommodate.

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There was also a very large and well-equipped FIT gymnasium, as well as the highly-rated AWAY spa.

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Business guests will find a compact WIRED business centre, together with an array of flexible event space.

 

Service / Staff

Like most Taipei hotels, service standards were high at the W Taipei and the staff were always polite and efficient. Perhaps due to the eclectic and trendy nature of the brand, we felt that they were full of energy and enthusiasm, which was a refreshing change from the reserved nature of service staff at more mature and stoic establishments. We were made to feel totally at home (albeit an indulgent and electrifying one) during our short stay, with the staff accommodating to requests and unpretentious in their interactions.

 

Verdict

It was a fantastic short stay at the W Taipei and we only wished we stayed longer. As one of the early properties for the brand in Asia (opening on Valentine’s Day of 2011), it has and continues to promote W Hotels’ fun, energizing attitude to travellers in this part of the world. We could not help but feel the hotel is a personification of the city itself, constantly growing in sophistication but also remaining true to its hospitable nature and friendly demeanour.

 

W Taipei

10 Zhongxiao East Road Section 5

Xinyi District, Taipei

Taiwan 110

+886 2 7703 8888

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