Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Travel: Bunking in Taiwanese love hotels - Part I

We were guys staying at the same hotel with our mistresses.

He looked like a Taiwanese gangster, with permed hair, black suit and pointy knockoff Italian loafers. It was 5:30 a.m. and he was renting a room for a few hours with a woman in a leather mini skirt, fishnet stockings and the longest false eyelashes I've ever seen. They had no luggage.

My mistress was my climbing bike, and I was carrying her out of the hotel lobby for a morning workout when I passed the couple as they were checking in.

It must have been a surreal sight for them, a tall Western guy in a red polka-dotted jersey and black biking shorts, lugging a magenta road bike and clip-clopping out the door in cycling shoes.

I was doing what I love to do: taking my bike on a business trip and staying at an inexpensive, no-frills hotel close to some spectacular cycling terrain.

This time, I was bunking at the Feeling Hotel _ one of the numerous "love hotels" in Taiwan's capital, Taipei. They are cheap places often used for lunchtime flings and one-night stands in crowded Taipei, where privacy can be hard to find. The establishments are designed for discretion, often located in alleys or backstreets. Rooms can be rented by the hour, and no questions are asked. A complimentary condom can usually be found in the bedside table.

Best of all, you can roll a bike through the lobby and wedge it in the elevator without anyone hassling you. The staff is used to weirdness.

Although they may sound seedy, establishments like the Feeling Hotel are clean and well-run by professional and friendly staff. They're usually small and only offer bare-bones amenities, but that often means the rooms are inexpensive, about US$50 a night at the Feeling Hotel. This makes them popular with families and business travelers during these hard economic times.

The biggest plus for me was that the Feeling Hotel is at the base of the spectacular mountains of Yangmingshan National Park, just outside of Taipei. The hotel in the suburb of Tienmu _ long popular with expats _ is also surrounded by great restaurants, stores, decent bike shops but few standard hotels.

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