That four letter word, W-O-R-K, meant that my husband and I needed to base ourselves in Taiwan for a while. Foolishly, we relied upon his new local secretary to make the arrangements for us to be met at the airport as well as a hotel booking. Limousines, contrary to popular belief, do not afford Tardis-like quantities of luggage space so our first battle was to wedge our expensive excess baggage plus wheelchair into the brand new limo as if doing some kind of Krypton Factor puzzle whilst the driver had panic attacks about the possibility of scuff marks. Eventually arriving late at night at the hotel the secretary had booked us into, my heart sank: something had got very lost in translation. The hotel had a very similar name to a well-known international chain of serviced offices of which I hold membership. I had thought it a little odd that I hadn’t noticed any publicity about the company diversifying into hotels. Of course, they hadn’t diversified. We checked in. Upon entering our allocated room, I was unsurprised to see the usual complimentary toiletries … but I was surprised to see complimentary condoms and lubricants. Turning on the television, I found it tuned to a number of graphic porn channels. Weary from our journey, we went to sleep. Three times during the night, there were knocks at the door by men keen to join us. In the morning, my husband eventually located breakfast up 2 flights of stairs (no lift) in a room which appeared to have been converted from a bedroom as there was a number on the outside of the door. Meanwhile, I was packing to leave what was clearly a brothel. Indeed, when I checked out the hotel’s website in my husband’s office, it shows, as one of its facilities, a picture of a chair in one of the rooms with stirrups! My husband’s secretary insisted that all the major chains of hotels were full and proceeded to try to prove this by showing me the website of the nearest, the Holiday Inn Express, which was showing as having no availability. Advising her never to rely on this, I promptly picked up the telephone, dialled the number, and made a reservation for us to check in later that day. Location The Holiday Inn Express Taoyuan has 138 bedrooms and is situated in the heartland of Taoyuan City. Taoyuan railway station is 3 km away Taoyuan Shin Kong Mitsukoshi Department Store is 3 km away Taimall is 5 km away Chung Li Industrial Park is 14 km away Taoyuan International Airport is 18 km away Taoyuan High Speed Railway Station is 18 km away Chihu (Chiang Kai Shek Memorial Park) is 20 km away Whilst we stayed there we took a trip to see the iconic Taipei 101, which was, until recently the tallest building in the world. It is possible to do this trip (or access any part of central Taipei) via the 1816 bus that stops immediately outside the hotel. A single fare into Taipei costs $65NT and takes about 45 minutes. We were somewhat puzzled by the fact that many tourists seem to find the allure there to be the cartoon ‘damper baby’ characters and were keen to have their photos taken standing next to various plastic cartoon character models dotted about, whereas we were fascinated by the damper system which weighs the equivalent of 132 elephants! Amenities Helpfully, there is a self-service laundry room in the basement with all the relevant accoutrements (a washing machine, a drier, plus iron and ironing board). The washing machine has instructions in both Mandarin and English helpfully placed on top and the machine takes 5 x $50NT coins (just over £1). Opposite the hotel is a Family Mart convenience store which does sell laundry detergent, although not fabric conditioner. However, please profit by our mistake: the bottle (with a picture of clothes on it) next to the detergent tablets is not liquid laundry detergent but pure bleach. My husband went to a meeting smelling like a heavily chlorinated swimming pool after we inadvertently washed his clothes in this! Despite the copious volumes of people using this hotel, this amenity is a vastly underused resource, although much welcomed by us. There are two laptops securely affixed to a couple of tables near to the two lifts for guests’ use, together with a black and white printer. Photocopying, facsimile and laminating plus courier services can be arranged through the front desk. There is free Wi Fi throughout the hotel, although whilst we were staying there was no service for 2 days. The IT support is outsourced and it took a while for this problem to be rectified and with some persistence on my part. Aside from freely available Chinese language newspapers there are two English language newspapers available from the reception desk: The China Post and Taiwan News. Both have similar content although the former is more useful in that it has fulsome TV listings (as well as a Sudoko and crossword puzzle) which the latter lacks. One can also purchase The Taipei Times from Seven-Eleven stores and they also publish TV listings. The bedrooms are comfortable and we enjoyed restful nights in the beds. Views are interesting (I happened to witness a young lady defecating on one of the roofs opposite) but not scenic. Toiletries in the room are confined to a basic hand wash that is secured to the wall and Lux combined hair shampoo and shower gel that is affixed to the wall and that often the staff, who service the room, tend to forget to replenish. This can therefore lead one to engage in entertaining mimes unless one speaks Mandarin in order to secure replacement supplies. In addition, there are some hygienically packaged toothbrushes and toothpaste, albeit of dubious quality, a comb and a shower cap. Two bottles of drinking water will be left for one’s use as the tap water is not safe to drink. There is a kettle, two mugs and very basic hospitality tray with tea, instant coffee, sugar, sweetener and creamer. Dining Breakfast is from 6.00 am – 10.00 pm Lunch from 12.00 noon – 2.00 pm Dinner from 6.00pm – 9.30 pm Breakfast for up to 2 people is included in the room rate. Whilst we were staying at the hotel there were several articles in The China Post and the Taiwan News about concerns regarding the behaviour of some tourists, apparently from mainland China, in Taiwan. Criticism was expressed, amongst other things, regarding the view that some tourists talked using ‘outside voices’ in hotels, i.e. they had a tendency to shout and disturb others. Indeed, the National Tourism Administration in China publicised its 64 page ‘Guidebook for Civilised Tourism’ on its website in advance of a ‘Golden Week’ public holiday that commenced on October 1st 2013. Vice Premier Wang Yang said in May 2013 that, as Chinese tourists increasingly travel abroad, they have developed a stereotype of “uncivilised behaviour” which the Vice Premier said “had damaged the image of the Chinese people”. The guidebook, complete with illustrations to accompany its list of dos and don’ts, cautioned its readers against picking their noses in public, leaving footprints on loo seats, urinating in swimming pools, stealing airplane life jacket vests, and other such unruly, unhygienic and selfish behaviour. The Holiday Inn Express Taoyuan does a brisk and, not steady, but overwhelming, trade with coachloads of tourists on package holidays, mostly from mainland China. Each day of our stay we observed, and heard, coaches disgorging their passengers into the hotel. Aside from the assault on our senses, there were significant problems at breakfast time on a daily basis. No matter what time we decided to eat breakfast, the ‘Great Hall’, as the restaurant area is known, was heaving with tourists and it was a daily battle to secure somewhere to sit. There are insufficient seats and tables to accommodate the volume of diners. Added to this, we experienced first-hand a mammoth and almost insurmountable cultural divide over etiquette. Most, if not all, of our fellow diners seemed oblivious to my very apparent mobility issues and tended to barge their way past in a rush to get to the buffet. Once at the buffet, overcome with eagerness to eat, diners began to consume the quite average-to-middling fare on offer whilst standing in front of the rank of bain maries, oblivious to food being deposited upon the floor as a consequence of their enthusiastic dining habits. However, a member of staff responded promptly to my request one day that the floor be cleaned and mopped of the copious squashed detritus which posed a serious slip hazard. Those diners who were able to indulge in some delayed gratification and contain their voracious appetites until they returned to their tables in order to commence consumption of their choice of food, tended to use the tables as crockery, judging by the volume of food left on the surface, which staff fought a losing battle to clean. My tolerance of other cultures’ tendency to eat with their mouths full and open was strained to snapping point when one gentleman decided that he did not like the food he was eating and promptly spat it out onto the floor at my feet, narrowly missing them. My husband was also less than impressed on another morning when he got up to get me a mug of coffee and his seat was promptly taken over by a grinning gentleman keen to make my acquaintance over breakfast and, again thereafter, by another gentleman when he left briefly to get some toast. Perhaps they should have booked into the hotel we had left? To be fair, the staff recognise that there is a significant problem and they offered to give us room service breakfast on a daily basis, an additional service which I observed another Westerner staying at the hotel demanding, in no uncertain terms, in view of the unpleasantness of this morning-time feeding frenzy. I have suggested to the management that, aside from this rather labour-intensive offer, they could perhaps consider utilising the somewhat unused meeting room on the second floor for additional dining space as it can accommodate 10 people. Dinner, however, can be a peaceful affair. There is a set dinner offer available which is good value, although the food tends to be rather basic and repetitive. If you are friendly towards the chef you may find that he will produce some of the other Western dishes he has in his repertoire, as he did for us. Driving On our second stay at the hotel, my husband had the misfortune to be involved in a car accident literally right outside the entrance to the hotel, which is also on a very dangerous traffic intersection. Fortunately no one was injured. In addition, the young couple in the other vehicle involved took it all in good part, smiling and bowing to me. Having said that, it was somewhat difficult to tell what damage to their vehicle was new and what was already in existence prior to the incident as it was largely a mobile wreck prior to the accident. Unfortunately for my husband, he had only just taken delivery of a brand new 4×4 at work that day and this was his first journey in it: the embarrassment factor was rather high! The Assistant Operations Manager of the hotel, Eric, deserves huge plaudits for the interpreting help he afforded us when three policemen on motorbikes promptly descended upon the chaotic scene. Part of the problem was that my husband was unable to park the car in the hotel garage as it operates a lift system and the height of the car was too great for the lift. He was about to attempt to park the car nearby when the accident occurred. Parking near the hotel is extremely limited so please avoid using or hiring high 4x4s if staying here as it may be more likely that you will then be able to use the hotel garage. You will need to have a new International Driving Permit though and will only be able to drive for up to 30 days with this if you have a British driving licence and do not possess a Taiwanese driving licence. Disability friendly? Once inside the hotel, all areas are accessible but there are numerous slip and trip hazards immediately outside and if one is using a wheelchair then one will require athletic assistance to negotiate the steep exterior ramp. Recommended? Bernard, the General Manager, and Vincent, the Sales Manager, are very keen to please, as indeed are all the staff. For example, both of them were very solicitous after they heard about my husband’s mishap, sending up fruit to our room, plus a pleasant letter. In addition, the staff assisted with the collection of our damaged vehicle. Accordingly, you are likely to be treated respectfully and well by the staff. This hotel is fine for business stays of short duration or for tourists who wish to base themselves outside for Taipei for a short while and merely wish to have somewhere to rest their heads at night.