Sunday, January 02, 2011

Taiwan -- Day 7 Cont'd Taipei, Bike Shops and Palais de Chine

We visited the Merida store (apparently this brand is not sold in the USA), the Giant store and Obera. Whee, what fun!  I say that in jest now because it was really quite interesting. I wish I had of had more bike knowledge before going on this trip as I would have appreciated the stores much more.  Since being back in Canada and touring a few bike shops I can really see the difference. These stores are to bikes what bridal stores are to wedding dresses.  They had beautiful displays and rows and racks of supreme bikes. I sat and relaxed while I waited for my newfound friends to get over their orgasms at all the bikes, parts and accessories.

GIANT Store, Taipei, Taiwan

Obera Store, Taipei, Taiwan

Merida Store, Taipei, Taiwan

Merida Store, Taipei, Taiwan

For lunch we headed down the street to a Japanese restaurant. The décor of the restaurant was gorgeous. It was dark and shiny with banks of show bulbs and a large meditation pond in the middle. Continuing with my effort to try new foods I ordered a scallop and salmon bowl.  This came with steamed rice, miso soup, and various other accompaniments. It looked delicious when it arrived, the salmon was a gorgeous color, but when I bit into it, it was raw.  The seafood had been treated like ahi tuna and just seared.  It was too raw for me so I had to give it to John.  I ate my rice, which was great and tried some warm sake (which wasn’t too my taste either).

Ahi Tuna Lunch Box

Scallop and Salmon Lunch Box

Seafood Mix Lunch

Next stop was the Grand Victorian Hotel, Taipei.  We drove through the city to the DaJhih Miramar Business area in Chungshan District.  The Grand Victorian is a beautiful red-bricked building with lovely ornamental gardens.  The lobby is large, bright and inviting. It has some great pieces of furniture and beautiful elevators. We got to enjoy this area for quite a while due to a booking error. It turned out that our booking for this hotel was for the next night and they were already sold out.  John the amazing tour leader that he is was able to sort it all out and get us rooms at the Palais de Chine across town.

The Grand Victoria Hotel, Taipei, Taiwan

This turned out to be a fabulous piece of good fortune. All the cycling and exploring of Taiwan that we had been doing was leading up to the Taiwan Cup 2010. The Palais de Chine just happened to be the hotel where all the pro-cycling teams, including Rabobank, Team Marseilles, Team Romania, Team Ukraine and GIANT Team Asia where staying.

We took an elevator up to the main lobby. It is exquisitely decorated and has the most gorgeous upholstered ten seat sofa in the middle.  Actually all the furniture in the hotel would make your head turn; dazzling seating vignettes were all around.  Again the Tourism Board outdid itself and showcased another fantastic hotel in Taiwan.  The Palais de Chine is a brand new Five Star hotel operated by the L’Hotel de Chine Group. It is located above the Taipei Bus Station. After a very quick check-in we were ushered to the sixth floor and a deluxe king room.

Outside the Palais de Chine and the Taipei Train Station

My room at the Palais de Chine

Seating for 12 in the Lobby of the Palais de Chine, Taipei, Taiwan

The library nook across from the entrance to my room.
Palais de Chine, Taipei, Taiwan

You do have to be careful on the way to your room as the carpet is so plush you could sink into it and get lost. The room itself was open concept with the bathroom, shower and bath on the right and the closet and coffee station on the left.  Ahead of you was the vanity backing up to the large marble worktop and desk.  Beyond the vanity was the king bed, velvet chaise lounge and a view of the entire city below.  It was a fabulous and comfortable room with wi-fi and a large flat screen TV.  Across from my room was a lovely library and cozy seating area.

The Palais de Chine was also the first hotel were I ran into a TOTO washlet toilet. What a modern marvel. It seems to be a combination of toilet; bidet and hairdryer rolled into one and topped off with a heated seat.  It was a definite treat that all the controls where in Chinese as well.  All trips to use the facilities were an adventure, as you never knew what would happen when you pressed a button.

View from my room at the Palais de Chine, Taipei, Taiwan

View from my room at the Palais de Chine, Taipei, Taiwan

I relaxed and enjoyed some downtime before getting ready for dinner.  This particular evening we were going to walk to a local night market and a teppanyaki restaurant.  Since I had no dry shoes except for four-inch wedges I thought the safer option would be flip-flops. I was wrong. Taipei was still being gripped by rain, which made its mainly tiled sidewalks and paths into ice rinks.  I could barely walk without losing my balance and in the end alternated between grabbing someone’s arm and doing the Geisha shuffle.  Great, even without a bike I was managing to hold up the group. Again I can’t stress enough; all visitors to Taiwan should bring a comfortable pair of nonslip waterproof or easy-to-dry shoes with you.

The Night Market or street markets are generally operated in the evening.  They are a mix of stalls, booths and stores that feature fashion and food.  Some of the best-known Night Markets in the world are located in Taiwan.  The night market should be experienced by leisurely strolling through the lanes and paths while sampling the food on offer.

Night Market Sign, Taiwan

Bev, John and Mark wandering through the food aisle

After walking by several stalls offering an incredible variety of food we arrived at a tiny hole in the wall restaurant.  This was an entirely different style experience to teppanyaki restaurants in Vancouver.  Teppanyaki in Vancouver is mainly in mid to high-class restaurants, where dinner is a “show”. This particular eatery was small but packed.  The chefs prepared the food efficiently but without the pageantry used in BC.  I had the salmon, shrimp and beef dinner.  It was delicious and a generous portion. Afterwards the group walked and I shuffled back to the hotel, with the obligatory stop at 7-11 to purchase a nightcap. 

Food stall at the Night Market, Taipei
Fish Stall, Night Market, Taipei

Food Stalls, Night Market

My teppanyaki dinner

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