Thursday, August 7, 2014

Taipei Trip Report - The Grand Hyatt is Quite Grand and Has an Amazing Spa

So, continuing on my backward trip report, I'm picking up the thread at the beginning of the weekend trip to Taiwan.  I've decided these weekend whirlwind trips are kind of nice, but they can also be really exhausting and stressful.  I'm still really glad we took the weekend to break out of Hong Kong and escape to Taipei.  I think we had a really nice time overall.  This time, however, there were a few things that made our trip a little more difficult.

Due to the last minute nature of the trip, we had a really hard time getting Michael and myself on the same flight, never mind seats next to each other on the same flight.  The entire Friday afternoon was spent in fits and bursts trying to get onto waitlists and off of waitlists; onto later flights and then onto earlier flights; waiting for the travel agent to get back to me on flight availability; listening to the travel agent tell me there was room for me on a flight that the airlines told Michael was fully booked; etc. etc. etc.

We took China Airlines this time and realized how spoiled we've become (we almost always take Cathay).  Cathay occupies prime space in the Hong Kong airport so a Cathay flight usually has the gate closest to the check in and immigration counters.  Cathay is also so freaking efficient.  They can board a huge plane in twenty five minutes.  Not sure how but somehow it just works here. ...The US have so much to learn. However, I have yet to take a China Airlines flight that departs on time. 

This time, though, it was not really China Airlines' fault because a huge (and I mean really huge)  thunderstorm rocked Hong Kong just as we were preparing to taxi and take off.  The whole plane was shaking as lightning and thunder flashed and rumbled and the rain came down in sheets.  With all the news of plane disasters recently, I admit I was quite nervous waiting for take off.  That little thunderstorm set us back about 2, nearly 2.5 hours.  But I did not get impatient or angry because, well, with all the news of plane disasters recently, I've realized we really need to appreciate safety over anything else!

I tried to use the idle time on the plane responding to some emails and donig some work.  Once the plane took off though, I decided that my efficiency was waning and watching Divergent was a much better use of my time (and it was - the movie is really good)!  They stay very true to the book.  And I'm a huge sucker for a young adult love story, and throw in some dystopian ideals and a futuristic downtown Chicago and, yeah, I was hooked.

When we finally landed in Taipei at midnight, I was pretty weary.  We had planned to take a shuttle from the airport that would drop us off right in front of our hotel (we ended up switching from the Hotel Landis to the Grand Hyatt at the last minute) but due to the late hour we had to take a taxi.

The Grand Hyatt is a really lovely hotel.  I had heard from many other people that the hotel is dated and old.  And it might be an old hotel but the inside has been completely renovated.  Michael and I were really pleasantly surprised by how nice the furnishings were - the lobby, elevators, hallways and rooms all seemed new and clean and very nice.  The room was a little bit cramped, however the bathroom was very big, the TV had good channels and there were all the usual amenities. 

My favorite part of the hotel was undoubtedly, hands down, the spa and pool area.  Wow!  The hotel has a very lovely outdoors lap pool on the fifth floor, surrounded by pergolas and lounge chairs and sturdy umbrellas (we hung out under one of the umbrellas on the first day as a huge rainstorm came and went in the span of about twenty minutes). 

The spa is fantastic. They have an amazing series of steam and sauna rooms - a hot pool with jacuzzi nozzles at about 43C, a freezing plunge whirlpool at about 12C, a steam room at about 46C, and a sauna at about 80C(!).  I spent a good hour and a half in there the first day and came out feeling like a limp but glowing noodle. The spa is also really nice because it has windows, so it's not dark and damp.  It is super clean and just lovely.  It really reminded me of a Japanese onsen.

The gym and fitness area is really nice too - they have a class each day for hotel guests, and then two separate rooms of weights and machines.

Needless to say, given how late we arrived in Taipei on Friday night, we spent almost all of Saturday just lounging and relaxing.  I started (and finished) a book, Michael watched some TV, we ate some food, and just generally sat by the pool.  I had originally had grand plans for a nice sushi dinner, but it turns out August 2 is Chinese Valentine's Day!  That pretty much removed all hope of even landing a reservation anywhere. 

At night, we finally mustered up the energy to go to the night market.  I chose to take Michael to the one in Shilin, figuring he might as well see the biggest one if we were going to make the effort.  Despite my best efforts I could not convince him to try a foot massage (doh) so we just returned to our hotel.  By that time though, I was so tired I could barely stand up straight, so I happily acquiesed.  I will post the pictures from the Shilin Night Market in my next post.

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