When my friend suggested that we go to the hot springs together I immediately asked “When can we go?”. Situated at the northernmost part of Taipei City, Beitou is an area famous for its hot springs and I’ve heard about it before. For some reason I had this false idea that it’s far from the city and troublesome to get to, but my friend told me it’s just a half hour (ish) car ride away. So I was all like, sign me up pronto!
The Beitou area in Taipei was developed into a hot springs resort during the Japanese occupation era and today it’s a very popular destination for Taiwanese locals and tourists alike. For so many the years I’ve heard a lot about onsen in Japan, the Japanese word for hot springs and bathing inns around the hot springs, and wanted to go but never had a chance to go to one whenever I visited Japan. For a variety of reasons, including not the right season (winter being the best time to soak), not the right town (need to take trains to reach the ones outside Tokyo), not the right itinerary (need to spend at least half a day getting there, soaking, and back), and most crucially, people tell me I won’t be allowed entry because I have tattoos (bleh).
I was concerned about this, but my friend told me not to worry as we were going to a resort and soak in a private tub, instead of a public outdoor one – even though that’s available as an option too for others.
The resort my friend booked is a fancy one inside a massive building. She told me it’s one of the newer ones and had made a reservation in advance because many of these resorts get booked out if you don’t call early.
The private rooms had poetic names inspired by nature, such as “Jade Forest”, “Dancing Spring”, “Calm Water”… you get the idea. They set the tone for a soothing soak and a tranquil time.
Our private room is equipped with a bathtub large enough for four people as well as separate shower, sink, and water closet areas. Booked on an hourly basis, I thought it’d be great to pack takeout and just spend an entire day lazing inside this room next time.
Turning on the faucet yields a steady stream of hot spring water, directly piped from its natural source and rich with minerals. Scientific studies have shown that there are multitudes of therapeutic benefits when it comes to soaking in naturally occurring mineral waters and hot spring therapy is very popular in many cultures. Medical prescriptions are given by licensed doctors for the treatment of a wide range of conditions, and bathing in mineral waters as a part of preventative medicine is widely recognised and encouraged.
My soak was a luxurious treat as it felt like being cocooned by a a velvety blanket and sure, the water was steaming hot, but the sensation of being rejuvenated at the end of the soaking session was awesome.
Curious about the natural source of the hot spring water we were soaking in, my friend brought me on a brief walking tour of Beitou area afterwards. Beitou is supplied naturally by the geothermal energy of neighbouring Yang Ming Shan volcanic mountain. Right in the middle of Beitou hot springs region, Geothermal Valley (地熱谷) is a volcanic valley filled with steaming jewel-hued water and this location is one of the most famous sights there. This natural hot spring is one of the sources feeding hot spring bathing facilities around Beitou.
The day I went, it was a slightly chilly day so the sulfur stench wasn’t too overwhelming. Now that I think about it, back at the resort when we were soaking in the bathtub, I didn’t notice the sulfur smell either. Perhaps it’s been filtered before reaching the resorts?
I was told that all the residents who live in Beitou area get hot spring water piped directly into their homes, so all they have to do is turn on the tap in their bathrooms to enjoy it. =:0 People living there, including in the old apartments that you see above, are so fortunate (and presumably have good skin too). Winter time in Taipei can get quite cold and soaking in mineral-rich hot water after a long day of work is a luxurious treat that can be enjoyed daily for these lucky residents.
Hot spring water flows freely in this area and there are also small streams where the public can access for free to soak their tired feet in.
My first ever experience soaking in a Taiwanese hot springs resort is most enjoyable and since Beitou is conveniently accessibly by Taipei Metro, I’ll definitely return again next time.
Amply detoxified after soaking, it was time to fill the stomachs as we were famished. My friend brought me to Sung Ko in Neihu district, a modest rice and noodle shop that serves Taiwanese food.
In Taiwan, I notice that a noodle or rice item come in small portions and then accompanied by a selection of side dishes, again small. We went straight for the usual suspects:
Red Roast Pork 紅燒肉
Braised Pig Ears 滷豬耳朵
Tofu and Seaweed in Soy Sauce 滷味海帶豆乾
Braised Pork Belly Rice 滷肉飯
Braised Pork Rice 肉燥飯
Poached Squid 魷魚
Milk Fish Soup 虱目魚湯
Loved how nearly everything had julienned fresh ginger on the side. I find that these ginger matchsticks help to stimulate the tastebuds and also cut through any greasy taste. Even though I’m of the opinion that it’s easy to avoid getting fat from Taiwanese food due to the small serving portions, I still ended up gaining an obscene amount of weight whenever I visit Taipei – wtf. I enjoy Taiwanese food so much that I eat more meals in a day than I normally do. *sigh* Can you blame me though? Everything’s delicious!