Taiwan, Travel Diaries

Review: Diary of Ximen Hotel – Ximending

I will be very honest. Diary of Ximen is not our first choice after it has been confirmed that we are going back to Taipei. 

Our heart belongs to City Inn Plus Hotel Ximending, a boutique hotel who captured our loyalty with first class, five star service and personalized approach to guests. However, City Inn Plus was fully booked on the week we were supposed to visit. With our heart set on staying in Ximending district, we had to look for alternatives. 

Diary of Ximen, located on the 11th floor of an aging building a block away from the exit 6 of the Ximen MRT station, served as a good alternative.   



  • Location 

To get to the hotel from the Taipei Taoyuan International Airport, you have two options: 

A. Convenient transfer: If you are arriving on a late flight (or God-forsaken early morning) courtesy  of Cebu Pacific, you have to arrange for transfers from the hotel. Their transfers rate is 1,500NTD for two persons with two luggages (roughly 2,100 Philippine pesos). A bit expensive but worry free especially since the airport Terminal 2 where Cebu Pacific is assigned is unusually quiet and abandoned by midnight. 

B. Cheap transfer: take the KuoKong bus from the airport to the Taipei West Bus Terminal. From the bus terminal, take the MRT ride to the Ximen station. Take exit 6, make a small u-turn to your right, and walk straight heading to the direction of the high way. You will go past 2 Ximending side streets, a Converse and Doc Martens branches. The 12 story building beside the department store is where Diary of Ximen is located. Take elevator to the 12th floor where reception and check in is located. 
Diary of Ximen  shares the building with two other hotels: Muzik Hotel and Diary of Taipei(which occupies many floors), while Ximen has 10th,11th and 12th floor. 
Beyond the reception is an extensive dining floor where the daily breakfast buffet is served: 



  • Food 

The meals can be repetitive sometimes (in a course of 4 days) but the selection is strong and varied – there is bread, choice of spreads, various Taiwanese dishes with heavy emphasis on use of fresh veggies, a salad station, wanton noodle station, congee and fruits. There’s also choice of coffee, juices, tea and water at the many vendo dispensers on the beverage section. You get your money’s worth and you will have a full stomach when you go or to sight-see. The hotel will issue you food stamps which you have to present per day during check-in.

 

   

  • Hotel premises: 

Hotel is situated in the fringes of Ximending – exit 6 where most of the crowd are is just a 5 to 10 minute walk away. It’s along the highway so it’s safe – we usually go out even at 2AM for a 711 or a FamilyMart run and it’s safe and quiet. 

  • Security 

You have to tap your room access card in the elevator in order to get to your floor. So it’s safe and you still get a certain level of exclusivity even if the hotel shares the building with other establishments. 

  • Room Specs 

   
    

  

The room is big enough for two, with enough space to move around and even for me to lie on the floor to rest my very tired feet after a day of roaming around Taipei and the countryside. 

The bed is big and comfy, with enough space for two; pillows are soft and comfy as well as the sheet. Aircon is cold and can be adjusted based on preference. 

Bathroom is situated in an elevated area near the bed; encased in frosted glass. The hotel provides free shampoo/conditioner and body wash plus the usual hotel amenities of comb, toothpaste and toothbrush, shower cap, soap, cotton buds and free bottles of water and tea which came in satchet. 

  • Sound quality 

Our room had no windows so we are pretty much isolated from the craziness of Ximending. There are instances when we can hear people talking outside our door but maybe it’s because our room is so near the elevator. 

  • Transfers 

We arranged our hotel transfers through the hotel and found that we were quoted NTD1500 when it was promoted as NTD1000 on the dining floor. Maybe because we arrived very late  at night? 

  • Cost of stay 

We paid PHP13,000 for four nights stay – roughly PHP3,200 for two people. This already includes buffet breakfast for four days. Considering we were in Taipei right smack in the midst of the Holiday season, this is already a steal. 


My verdict 

Diary of Ximen is a good alternative and good option if you want to stay in the Ximending District. Sure, it sharing a building with other businesses (including an office!), but the safety measures the business has put in place makes up for it. 

We were initially taken aback by ads offering three hour stays for a different hotel in the lobby (its proximity to Ximending where people meet must be a factor) but considered it irrelevant to our stay. 

Honestly, we had the foremost pleasure of staying in Diary of Ximen and will not hesitate to recommend it to friends. 
Disclosure: Nothing to disclose. My stay in Taipei is a personal expense. 

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Philippines

Review: Taal Vista Hotel, Tagaytay City

My absence this past few days was because of the office Strategic Planning held in picturesque Tagaytay. For my non-Filipino readers, Tagaytay is a city located in the south of the Capital. Tagaytay is known for it’s cold climate (it’s up the mountains), delicious food (especially bulalo/stewed beef shank) and of course, the magnificent Taal Volcano, known for being a volcano within a lake within a volcano that is located in a larger lake. The Taal Volcano is also the world’s smallest active volcano and in spite the passing of the years, Taal and Tagaytay remained a favorite vacation spot of many Filipinos.

The Strategic Planning for this year was held in the historic Taal Vista Hotel. This hotel has been around since 1939 and is considered a legend already in the Taal area. A few years back, the hotel underwent a major renovation which brought back the shine and splendor of its amenities. The lobby was located at the English Tudor-style mansion which connects the new wing (the building) to the old wing (where we stayed).

The Old Wing showed hints of its age, yet it is well-maintained and clean that you wouldn’t mind putting up with the occasional hiccups, like a small bit of peeling paint very minor cracks in the bath tub area. Service was also good and prompt, which I think Taal Vista deserves great kudos for.

Room 311, Twin

Room 311, Twin

Access to the room is via key card and should you ever fail to close your door within 2 minutes upon opening, it will emit a high pitched sound, alerting that the door is open. I find this bit commendable since it puts extra emphasis on the guests’ safety.

The room had two twin beds and a well-stocked mini bar which I tried to ignore as much as I can. Of course, seeing a bottle of orange juice being sold at twice its price has a way of bumming the hell out of you. So, even if I was in the midst of pre-dinner hunger pangs, I decided to while away time snoozing on the comfy love seat beside my bed.

photo (6)

photo (7)

I was one of the first people in our group to check in so I had a bit of a time enjoying the peace and quiet in the comfort of my room. I was happy fiddling with my iPhone in bed when I faintly heard a rustle behind the doors. This made my imagination work in overdrive. Office mates kept telling me that Taal Vista had its resident ghosts — which I am glad to report, seemed nothing but just an urban legend. Trust me. This is coming from a girl who spent majority of her stay locked up in the room, sometimes without the room mate, and heard/felt/seen nothing.

photo (5)

Our comfort room is large, airy and stocked with toiletries. The only draw back was that we had to call for the plumber the next morning since our bath tub was not draining water properly. After we reported, maintenance was able to immediately sort the problem easily.

Food was also okay. I like the breakfast better because I felt like there was more selection for the breakfast buffet. Their sweet desserts was also okay, but pastries should be improved since all pastries we’ve eaten are either not moist enough or bland. It’s a shame considering how nice it looked.

lunch - starters

lunch – starters

photo (14)

So if you have plans of visiting the Philippines, squeeze in a quick trip (maybe a night? or two?) to Tagaytay. If you’re up for it — Taal Vista Hotel has its own fireplace, usually surrounded by young preppy types catching on their social accounts while enjoying the camp fire.

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Taiwan, Travel Diaries

Review: Keyman’s Hotel – great location, with really rock-hard beds

Here begins my series of posts for the Taipei trip, which was unfortunately delayed following a death in the family a day after we arrived for Taiwan.

Keyman’s Hotel is a hotel that could have been really great: except for the little hiccups that really add up in the long run. Centrally located in the vicinity of the Taipei Main Railway Station, in a street directly across the Taipei West Bus Station.

To go to this hotel from the Taipei Taoyuan International Airport, you can take the Kuo Kang Bus from the airport going to the bus terminal. Fare is just NTS 135 one-way and will take you 45 minutes to an hour, depending on the traffic. But since my sister and I arrived 12:40 and was able to went out of the airport by 1AM in the morning, we booked transfer services from another hotel. You see, Keyman’s is a last-minute choice since we weren’t able to book the first night with out hotel of choice since all rooms were already fully-booked.

We booked the hotel directly on their website — which is quite fast and efficient, considering that most text are written in Chinese. A confirmation of booking and payment was immediately sent to my email address upon payment and Keyman’s is known to address all email inquiries promptly and efficiently.

The main highway in front of the street where Keyman's is located. Opposite the cab and bus stop is Taipei West Bus Station Terminal A

The main highway in front of the street where Keyman’s is located. Opposite the cab and bus stop is Taipei West Bus Station Terminal A

Keyman’s is the kind of a hotel perfect for those who wanted immediate access to any means of transportation going in and out of Taipei. Directly in front of Huaining Street, where the hotel is located, is the highway as well as the bus stop. A few steps away is the entry to the MRT station which leads to the massive Taipei Main Station where aside from the MRT, you can also board high speed trains for your trip to the Taiwan countryside.

Like I always do, I found this hotel over Trip Advisor and as recommended in other travel forums. Rooms are affordable, starting at NTS1,800 for a “Succint Room” which is I think, their term for a double room. The room rate is already good for two persons, including breakfast served at the hotel’s topmost floor.

In spite the very late arrival (or early morning, depending how you look at it), check in was quick and very efficient. We were given our keys to our room which is located at the 3rd of the eight floor establishment.

The key itself manifests that Keyman’s is a very old establishment. It’s not the typical key cards present now in hotel establishments but a old school key attached to a long plastic key chain. The hallways are wide and pleasant, but you can sense the hotel’s been around for a very long time, judging from the decorations and furnishings adorning the halls and the room itself. Clutching the key, it felt like we were transported to late 1980s Taipei and somewhere around the corner, will come out people dressed for groovy 1980s with their big hair and equally big shoulder pads. In one of the balustrade, a comforter was hanged to dry.

The room, while old, served its purpose well. There was an old television set where many channels can be accessed (yes, there’s CNN) — we flipped through channels serving as background noise while we go about making ourselves comfortable. There was a reusable Japanese-style slippers for our use and a simple coffee and tea making facility on the side.

Keyman's Succint Room -- yours for only NTS1800

Keyman’s Succint Room — yours for only NTS1800

an old lampshade on top of a old-school control panel.

an old lampshade on top of a old-school control panel.

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the window above this love seat leads to nothing -- i.e. the concrete walls of the building beside Keyman's

the window above this love seat leads to nothing — i.e. the concrete walls of the building beside Keyman’s

The lampshade was on top of a very old-school looking console where you can see knobs for turning on the light, controlling the brightness of the lampshade. There were other buttons too, but I was afraid to fiddle with it for fear that I will short-circuit the whole room. Plugs for charging your gadgets are too few and you have to unplug the TV if you want to charge your electronics — that also is a cause of worry since the wirings are quite old. The love seat beside the window is comfortable and the fabric decoration is so spot on 1980s (memories of my grandma’s old sofa set flashed through my eyes). There’s coffee and tea provided and you can get your hot water on the water dispenser located in the hallway.

T&B was dated but spacious

T&B was dated but spacious

Complete bathroom set: shampoo, toothbrush with toothpaste, shower gel, shower cap is also provided

Complete bathroom set: shampoo, toothbrush with toothpaste, shower gel, shower cap is also provided

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The Toilet & Bath was spacious and stocked with complete bathroom amenities. A hair dryer was also provided and which we used liberally in the morning. The bathroom kit (shower gel, shampoo, toothbrush with many toothpaste) was a generic brand but very useful and decent.

In the end, Keyman’s is a good hotel located in a perfect location — albeit one that’s getting on with age and definitely showing it.

And yes, the rock-hard beds.

I would like to believe that my sister and I were used to sleeping on hard surfaces, having our share on sleeping on a thin mat spread to the ground. But the bed at Keyman’s, in spite how nice it looked on picture, was the hardest bed I’ve ever slept on. Doesn’t help really when you are given one small pillow that’s quite a bit thin and hardly useful in keeping your neck comfortable. My sister and I hardly slept at all because the bed was bothering our backs. Though we knew that our stay in Keyman’s was only for about a few hours and we intend to check out early in the morning to proceed to our hotel in Ximending, we ended up waking really early because we hardly slept at all — tossing and turning from 2AM to 8AM due to the unfortunate bed. It was so uncomfortable, I felt like my spine was realigned away from my neck. After having to deal with tossing and turning, we decided to head for the free breakfast and take out our misery on the free food provided on the Restaurant floor of Keyman’s.

free brekkie at Keyman's

free brekkie at Keyman’s

Keyman's "restaurant" at the topmost floor

Keyman’s “restaurant” located at the topmost floor

The breakfast had limited choices but enough to nourish and sustain you for a day of traveling. There were bread, butter and jam for those who prefer western brekkie, and a pot of congee surrounded by traditional chinese toppings (peanut, veggies, chicken or pork floss), sauteed veggie which looked spinach and sunny side eggs for those who want to fill up. Coffee is also provided as well as bottled water.

However, the servers were quick and very efficient and friendly and I noticed them always replenishing the bowls of food to ensure that it’s always filled up.

Frustrated by the need to wake up early due to the hard beds, my sister and I ended up having our fill during breakfast, joking that we are after “getting our money’s worth” since we are due to check out after breakfast and we have been miserable all morning, no thanks to the rock-hard bed.

If you don’t mind sleeping on a hard bed, in exchange for a centrally located, reasonably priced hotel — why don’t you give Keyman’s a try? Service is really good, if only they’d do something about getting more comfortable mattresses.

HOTEL CONTACT INFORMATION:
Keyman’ Hotel
No.1, Huaining St. , Zhongzheng District, Taipei City 100, Taiwan (R.O.C.)  
TEL:+886-2-2311-4811   FAX:+886-2-2311-5212 
http://www.keymans.com.tw/

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