The Incidental Tourist

Review: Pacific Business Center Hotel, Taipei

Now that I’ve lived in this hotel for a month, I thought that on my last night in Taiwan, it would be a good idea to do a review.  I’ve stayed in hotels all around the world, from cheap 1 and 2 star dives to 5 star resorts and as a business traveler, I’ve come to have certain expectations.  Lets see how Pacific Business Center Hotel meets those expectations.

First, lets look at the staff.  All my encounters with the staff were exemplary.  There’s always someone to call a lift for me, a concierge to assist with whatever I need around town, and the desk staff always say “Good morning!” to me as I make my way through the 11th floor lobby for breakfast.  The cleaning staff are prompt and courteous and the room is always made up perfectly.  The restaurant staff remember your name and after a while remembered my particular quirks, such as having coffee with breakfast every day instead of tea and always sitting with my back to the wall so I can watch everyone.  So all in all, I give the staff 5 of 5 stars.  I’ve also stayed in the Fullerton Taipei and Grand Hyatt Taipei, and the staff at the Pacific Business Center Hotel are as good as any staff at those other hotels.

I mentioned breakfast, so lets consider the food service.  This is one area where the hotel is lacking.  Breakfast is good, but the buffet is not stellar.  It’s not bad, it’s just nothing special.  For Western style breakfasts, there are eggs, meats, bread and cheese, or cereal.  For Asian style, there is a small assortment of dim sum, some fried or steamed veggies, some sort of “Chef Special” which is usually some sort of stuffed pancake or sweet bun.  There is also the typical warm soy milk or congee with typical additions like kim chee, peanut gluten, bamboo and so on.  There are also hard boiled eggs, a small assortment of fruits and cooked sweet potato, a local favorite.  Drinks include milk, coffee, tea and either grapefruit or orange juice.

That may sound like a lot, but by comparison, the buffet at the Grand Hyatt is positively enormous with several different buffet stations and even a desert station that serves Movenpick ice cream for breakfast!  For room service, the menu is even smaller, with only a handful of main dishes and a couple wines, beers and drinks and some small snack type foods.  On the plus side, the room service prices are not outrageous but again, the selection is disappointingly small.  That said, Taipei is a foodie wonderland, so you shouldn’t really NEED to get room service.  I did try it my first night here though, and while the service was prompt, the food itself was only satisfactory.

Additionally, the restaurant itself is only open from 0600 to 1000 for breakfast, and from 1100 to 1400 for lunch.  There is no dinner service in the hotel aside from room service, so plan accordingly.  The restaurant itself gets 3 of 5 stars.  I’ve certainly had far worse food in hotels around the world, but I’ve definitely had better, and points are lost due to the lack of actual evening dining.

After all the eating you do in Taipei, you need to get some exercise, so now lets visit the 11th floor Gym.  It’s small.  In fact, the gym is only a standard guest room with all the furniture removed.  It features some free weights on a stand, a bench against the wall that you can use for workouts if you wish, and a sink.  It also has a bathroom and shower so you can change and clean up after your workout if you wish.  As for large equipment, the gym only features one treadmill, one recumbent exercise bike and one elliptical.  Unfortunately, this means there’s a good chance you won’t get to use the machine you want. On the other hand, in a month I only encountered another person in the gym twice, so maybe it’s not that big an issue after all. Unfortunately, the gym feels more like an afterthought than an actual amenity.  The gym gets only 2 of 5 stars.

Also of importance to business travelers and anyone staying long term is laundry.  Located in the gym is a single washer and dryer.  They hotel also has a laundry service, but it is typically expensive where the machines only cost 30TWD for wash and 10TWD per dryer run.  However, keep in mind that the dryer will most likely take 2 runs at least, maybe 3 for heavy things like jeans. The laundry service in general gets 2 of 5 stars.

Before we hit the room, there are other amenities that I did not really use.  There’s a lounge down the hall from the gym, but that amounts to some chairs in a room with magazines, newspapers and a coffee maker.  They also provide some office space, printer services, mailing services and other business services in their business center, but I did not make use of these during my stay.  There is no massage service, something I did sorely miss.

Now I want to focus on the room.  The room I had was the Junior Room.  The only real difference I can tell between this and the other standard rooms is that mine had a king bed instead of two singles or a queen.  The room is nicely appointed and well lit.  There is adequate desk and drawer space as well as a good size closet with more storage space and a safe.  The sink area has adequate under-sink storage for toiletries and other odds and ends.  The bathroom has a standard western style toilet (no bidet) and a shower stall.  Some rooms (like mine) have a good sized tub, some do not.  The room also has a love seat (that was firm, and not all that comfortable) and a small table.  All rooms have a balcony.  Unfortunately, my room was on the side where the building spotlights were and so every evening from sunset to about 22:00, I couldn’t really enjoy the balcony without fighting the glare of a large bright floodlight until after it had been switched off each night.

The AC system works well and quickly cools the room down, though I had trouble getting it to automatically maintain a certain temperature.  I would set it for about 20C and in the morning, it would be closer to 16 – 18C.  The room have small, battery-operated alarm clocks that are not very loud, so if you need to really be up in the morning, take advantage of the wake-up call service in addition to the clock.

The bed itself is difficult to consider.  It was firm.  Very firm.  But oddly, it was rather comfortable to sleep on.  Far more comfortable than I would have expected after I arrived and first sat down.  The pillows are down and very plush and lovely.  The bed has only a comforter, and while it was nice and soft with high thread-count sheets, it wasn’t enough on some nights after the AC had run a while and chilled the room off.

I have to give the room a 3 of 5 stars.  It’s adequate and certainly comfy enough to live with and better than lesser quality hotels, but I’ve also been in much more comfortable rooms in hotels of similar quality.

Penultimately, the internet.  The hotel features free wi-fi for guests and each room has an ethernet port with a provided Cat-5 cable. I’d suggest either using the ethernet cable or bring along a small travel router (you can buy one for cheap at the Guang Hua Digital Plaza).  The wi-fi access points are accessible, but from my room the two I could see had low signal strength  I sometimes lost the connection, and when I was connected I found it sometimes difficult to use services that required bandwidth like streaming video or even checking email in some cases.  The internet I can only give 2 of 5 stars, because I work for a company with very high expectations when it comes to internet accessibility and the internet access in this hotel is only barely adequate.

Finally, finding the place.  I would imagine it’s easy enough to find, or if you have the address, a taxi should get you there. They do not have an airport shuttle (No one does to Taoyan International given its distance from Taipei City).  The outside is not terribly colorful and the signage is minimal. This means you could miss it if you were just walking by, or driving through the area trying to find the hotel.  As with hotels in any city, be sure you have printed directions and address and phone information before you get here, or call the hotel ahead of time to arrange a private car service which will run you about 1800TWD each direction.

So let’s review:

  • Staff: 5/5
  • Restaurant: 3/5
  • Gym: 2/5
  • Laundry: 2/5
  • Room: 3/5
  • Internet 2/5

Overall, I’d give the Pacific Business Center Hotel 3/5 stars.  The staff is exceptional, the rooms are nice but not stellar. The restaurant service is a major detractor due to the lack of evening dining and drinking facilities.  The hotel is comfortable, safe and friendly.  For a month long trip, it was not a bad place to be and I’d certainly recommend it to anyone looking for a budget stay in Taipei.  For a shorter stay, however, I think the Grand Hyatt provides better value though at a fairly higher price point.

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