Helen Van Berkel checks into a large, centrally-located Taipei hotel suite

Getting there:

A three-hour flight to Sydney followed by a nine-hour flight to Taipei and a half-hour bus ride.

Check-in experience: The Grand Hotel presents an imposing nine-storey face that lets you know you can't be anywhere but China. A coterie of smiling doorkeepers are lined up at the door as you arrive and within minutes you have your room card and are making snow angels on the white linen of your double bed.

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Room: My fifth floor pad was about half the size of my house. A balcony overlooked downtown Taipei and even offered a view of the world-famous 101 building. The bathroom is an elegant marble; the floor a somewhat scratched parquet. It reeks of imperialist China's power but also love of beauty.

Noise: The occasional plane thundering into the airport across the river.

What's in the neighbourhood: The night markets are a short taxi ride away and there's a pleasant river walk close to the hotel.

Food and drink: An extensive breakfast buffet offers everything a Westerner would want for breakfast, as well as a range of popular Chinese selections.

The bed: Two king-size beds.

Bathroom: Large, with a high-tech toilet that had a flight-deck of options. The seat was always disconcertingly warm. A range of toiletries and accessories from toothbrushes to razors and a choice of burgundy or white slippers.

Free Wi-Fi? Yes

Exercise: The fitness room was on the ground floor but didn't open until 7am — too late for my 8am bus schedule so I had to satisfy myself with a morning river walk.

Would I return? Prime ministers, presidents and former political prisoners have all laid down their heads to sleep here, cocooned in Chinese culture and surrounded by dragons — so it's good enough for me.

So what is in the basement? Two escape tunnels, each 180m long, stretch to a local park. They can hold up to 10,000 people at a time and there's a slide for faster access and a bit of fun as you flee for your life.

Checklist

The Grand Hotel can be found at No.1, Section 4, Zhongshan N. Road, Zhongshan District, Taipei City, Taiwan. Phone: +886 2 2886 8888.