By Michael Karlo Lim
COMING in from amba Taipei Songshan in Eastern Taipei, we moved to the “West Gate Town,” Taiwan’s shopping district and source of fashion & subculture, Ximending. The amba Hotels’ oldest sister, amba Taipei Ximending, happens to be right smack in the very youthful neighborhood.
Located within the Pedestrian Area, the hotel is part of the fashionable Eslite shopping complex on Wuchang Street, and just a five-minute walk from the Ximen Metro Station. From the sleek and chic Songshan, this property was just as artsy and design-focused but decidedly young and very appealing to that demographic with its décor and palpable energy.
Whichever way you turn, the hotel is just chock full of Instagrammable and playful features like artwork, installations and wall murals by Taiwanese artists. The seventh level guestroom floor even features a 14-meter wide painting of the Ximending neighborhood.
Our Extra Large Room, indeed, was. Entry leads straight to the fused anteroom and lavatory area. The adjacent shower room, separate from the toilet, features dual rainforest and power massage showerheads to enjoy with all-natural, ginger rejuvenating bathroom amenities by Taiwanese brand, Two Acres. Curtained off is a king sized bed and even more space in the sitting area with an oversized day bed. It’s definitely a plus that the bed was extra comfortable with natural, unbleached linen, hypoallergenic pillows, and 3M Thinsulate-layered blankets but it posed a threat to the rest of our travel plans with the lure to just stay and tuck ourselves in. Amenities include all the in-travel necessities with options to borrow a number of household appliances and extras during one’s stay.
On board the pro-Earth and glocal movements, the chain consciously veers away from single-use items and sources locally. No flimsy, disposable paper slippers here as they provide Taiwan-made, trendy amba-branded flip flops for guests to wear with the encouragement to take these home.
These hip design hotels under the amba Hotels & Resorts brand are the boutique babies of the first international-standard luxury hotel in Taiwan, Ambassador Hotel Taipei. Taking the first two syllables of their mother’s name, they take it further with “ba,” as in the adverb, to, in wordplay used for various hotel features.
“Chi” meaning “eat” figures into their all-day café and restaurant, chiba. As Ximending is the go-to for movies and pop culture experiences, displays upon displays of collectibles, memorabilia, and books surround the large, communal space. The international fare is inspired by authentic American and Italian preparations and caters to the varied tastes of the varied clientele. To note is a special feature from the DIY section of the breakfast buffet, “Salted Soybean Milk Soup” with Fried Dough.
In the PI, we are familiar with the often too sweet soy milk and soy products. Dou Jiang You Tiao is apparently a favorite breakfast item across Sino countries. Soy milk soup is curdled slightly with white vinegar, seasoned with pepper, drizzled with chili oil and flavored with scallions, sesame oil, pickled radishes, and dried shrimp with crispy fried dough thrown in for heft. Other ingredients like peanuts, pork floss, and salted eggs may be added to taste.
Enjoy a hip selection of contemporary tunes and the adjacent retro chic music lounge, tingba. “Ting” or listen to the latest music curated exclusively for amba by Street Voice, a famous Taiwanese youth cultural platform, while enjoying signature cocktails, created by internationally renowned mixologist Jean-Marc Nolant. Walls covered with more than 300 vintage denim jeans, classic vinyl records, and furniture from repurposed items make a solid case for upcycling and add to the brand’s eco credit.
As with all other hotels in the amba group, amba Taipei Ximending features free self-service laundry on its sixth floor. One doesn’t even have to worry about laundry with shopping options available at the Eslite Mall occupying the first four floors of the building. Outside, your bank account is the limit with hundreds of choices across both big international brands and local favorites standing shoulder to shoulder with endless food shops and restaurants.
Nearby, the historic Red House Theater houses a museum, café, gift shop and a two-level space for local artisans and their wares. amba Taipei Ximending’s location near the Ximen station on the blue line makes for easy access to other places of interest like Taipei 101, Shilin, Beitou, and more, as well as connections through the Taipei Main Station and the Taoyuan Airport MRT.