There’s often little time in the event schedule to see the destination, but Taipei is a compact city that lends itself well to even the briefest of explorations. We talk to Taiwan’s first lady of events, Kitty Wong, about her top tips for visiting groups with tight schedules.
“Culinary is still top of the list, but you can do so much within this,” says Wong, president of K&A International, founding member of the World PCO Alliance, Taiwan ICCA representative, and executive supervisor of the Taiwan Convention & Exhibition Association.
Indeed. The arrival of Taipei’s own Michelin Guide edition in March confirmed what many have long known – the city is a culinary paradise. However, the level of recognition came as a surprise.
“There was one restaurant awarded three stars, two awarded two stars and 17 awarded one star,” says Wong. “To our surprise really, it was our first Michelin Guide and we already have a three-star restaurant.”
Upmarket Cantonese restaurant Le Palais took the top honours, with RyuGin (contemporary Japanese) and The Guest House (Chinese) each taking out two stars. But for groups wanting a taste of modern Taiwan, two dynamic restaurants each bagged one star with their innovative celebration of local produce.
Taïrroir is a stand-out for groups. Some of the dishes have their roots in Taiwanese family cooking, but the modern techniques and Instagram-worthy presentation take it to a whole new level. Think barley velouté served with Périgord truffle and a mustard green brioche.
It’s also well-versed in hosting events. “We have a private dining room for four to 18 people or you can take over the restaurant for 40 people,” says rep Amanda Tsai. “We usually provide a customised menu based on customers’ specific requests." Brands launching new products or engaging with their target audience often request a themed luncheon based on the concepts involved such as 'spring' or 'white'.
RAW is hometown hero André Chiang’s latest offering. Despite handing back the two Michelin stars he received for his much-loved eponymous Singapore effort — and his request not to be included in future Guides — the inspectors could not go past the “back-to-nature feel” and “stimulating blend of flavours, textures and temperatures” at 60-seat RAW. And nor should you.
Snack and stroll
If budgets don’t stretch that far or you have a big group, consider recommending some of the 36 establishments that were awarded Bib Gourmands – the Guide’s nod to outlets offering a tasty meal for under US$44.
Three entrants can be found at Raohe Night Market: Chen Dong Pork Ribs Medicinal Herbs Soup, Fuzhou Black Pepper Bun and Shi Boss Spicy Tofu. Wong suggests pairing the indulgence with a stroll along the scenic riverbank.
“After dark it’s good to go to the Old Town and stroll along,” she said. “Dihua Street has so many little shops and Mazu Temple looks beautiful, and you get to know the locals.” It’s often these unexpected surprises Wong says groups remember most.
By day, Wong recommends letting delegates explore (with or without a guide) the Old Town by YouBike, the city’s widely available bike-sharing service. With such a rich history of bicycle manufacturing and plenty of cycle-friendly routes and scenic spots, it’s a must for groups in Taiwan.
Soak it in
With wellness high on the agenda of the modern attendee, the island’s famous hot springs are also an obvious win – and all are within 30 to 40 minutes of downtown.
“You can go to Beitou or Yangmingshan or out to Wulai – there are so many,” says Wong. “You can go to a luxurious one or pay NT$20 (less than US$1) to go to the public hot spring – you just have to bring your own bathing suit and towels.”
In Beitou, delegates can visit hot springs for less than US$30 per person including tea. In Yangmingshan, Wong recommends the China Yangmingshan Hotel. The Gaia Hotel is also well-equipped for groups.