The hour-long drive from Taipei’s international airport into the heart of the city is generally an easy one. The road is smooth, there’s rarely much traffic and it’s satisfying to see the Taiwanese capital slowly take shape around you, the buildings rising higher and higher as you get closer to the city centre. This journey is made even better, however, if you know that the Mandarin Oriental, Taipei is waiting for you at the end of it.
Almost unimaginably luxurious, the Mandarin Oriental, Taipei is a one-stop shop for even the most demanding traveller. Once you’re through the hotel’s imposing front door and in the care of its attentive staff, nothing is too much trouble. If you want to eat breakfast at dinner time, it’ll be cooked up for you – and vice versa, should you want a full dinner spread for breakfast. If you need to book last-minute train tickets for a spontaneous day trip out of the city, the concierge will do it with a smile. If you need suggestions of things to do or see around the city, staff on the front desk will magic up a whole selection of maps and guidebooks, ready to direct you to the best local attractions. Then, before you even ask, they’ll have a taxi outside waiting for you.
But it’s not just the service that’s impressive – the design of the hotel is striking, too. Located in a new and imposing building, which was inspired by classical European architecture, the hotel impresses from the minute you walk into its bright, marble-clad lobby. Taking his cue from the stately exterior, Chris Dewar-Dixon, the founder of interiors firm Four IV and the brains behind this grand entrance hall, decided to travel to Paris during the design process. The results of that six-week-long trip – which saw him spend time in the Palace of Versailles and the most opulent homes and hotels in the French capital – can clearly be seen in the lobby’s bold arches, intricately patterned floor and use of gold.
The rooms at the Mandarin Oriental, Taipei are similarly plush – if a little cosier. These were designed by a different studio, Hong Kong- based Chhada Siembieda & Associates, though the transition from public to private space is so seamless that you’d never guess. Decorated in an elegant colour palette of blue, white and gold, all of the rooms are spacious and filled with refined design details. Among the most arresting of these are the leather headboards that sit behind almost every bed in the hotel, each of which was made by British artist and furniture-maker Helen Amy Murray, who sculpted a peony into the material. If you can, request a room on the 14th (and top) floor; these have soaring, five-metre-high ceilings.
As if two design teams weren’t enough, the Mandarin Oriental, Taipei employed yet another to create three of the hotel’s restaurants – and this designer came from a little closer to home. Tony Chi, the Taiwan-born, New York-based design star, who’s worked on Mandarin Oriental hotels from Guangzhou to New York, was enlisted to design Cantonese-themed Ya Ge, Italian hotspot Bencotto and French brasserie Café Un Deux Trois.
The latter is particularly special and has become popular with locals as well as hotel guests. Chi has plastered the ceiling with hundreds of small mirrors, each at a different angle, which shower the space with light. Yet strangely this feature hasn’t become the restaurant’s calling card – that honour goes to the (fake) stuffed rhino head on the wall.
But however you spend your time at the hotel – whether ensconced in your room eating meals delivered by room service, hopping between the hotel’s restaurants, relaxing in the spa or swimming laps in the pool – one thing’s certain: the drive back to the airport after a stay in the Mandarin Oriental, Taipei is a much less happy one.