SPRING OF PARADISE

Written by root. Posted in Featured Article, FEATURES

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Published on November 02, 2019 with No Comments

Just 30 minutes away by subway from central Taipei is Beitou where the therapeutic powers of a hot spring awaits. This old village is popular not just with tourists but also the locals seeking respite.

Words ASHLEY M.
Images TAIWAN TOURISM BUREAU, MALAYSIA

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Beitou bubbles straight out of the ground – literally. Take a walk around this picturesque old village and you’ll notice steam coming out from the many streams along the way, with bubbles rising as a result of the hot spring water that surrounds it.

It adds to the atmosphere, giving Beitou this mystic charm to its quiet nature. Don’t mistake it for a sleepy town though; young locals flock here during the weekend to roam the streets and quaint cafes in downtown Beitou, and of course, to soak away ailments and fatigue after a long week of working.

One of the 400 hot springs scattered across Taiwan, Beitou is the perfect getaway that’s the quickest, nearest and accessible from Taipei for you to sample these healing waters. You have the Japanese to thank for Beitou. During the 50 years they colonised Taiwan, the Japanese built this little town right at the foot of the Yangminshan National Park. Aside from building railroads, schools and roads, the Japanese set about to build baths surrounding the hot springs having discovered its therapeutic benefits when Japanese soldiers wounded in the Russo-Japanese War in 1904 soaked themselves in the sulfurous waters to heal and recover.

There are two ways for you to enjoy the hot springs in Beitou. Do it like the locals and soak in one of the many public hot springs, like the Beitou Outdoor Public Hot Springs. This is definitely the cheaper option (often at just
40 Taiwan dollars) but know that it will be crowded with families, young and old, in all shapes and sizes.

For a more modest option, try one of the many hotels lining up the streets of Beitou like Guangming Road. Many of them offer hot spring packages by the hour where you get to soak in an oversized tub with faucets spewing out the health elixir or price-per-entry packages to their communal baths, many of which are sex segregated. If you want to give yourself a real treat, you may want to consider staying a night or two to soak away whenever you want.

Enough of soaking? It’s time for a different kind of soaking – one that involves culture, heritage and nature. To get up close with Beitou’s sulfurous hot spring water, head to Thermal Valley, the source of it all. Surrounded by trees and the smell of “rotten eggs” in the air, this valley was created long ago by a volcanic burst.

You’ll come face to face with large pools of water that bubbles and spits, with steam filling up the entire valley. Whip out your camera to take photos of the jade-green water caused by the green sulphur of the hot springs – it’s almost otherworldly-like with the steam, the fog, the sulphuric scent and bubbling water. What’s interesting to know too is that the Thermal Valley is also known as Hell Valley thanks to its scenery that is comparable to the afterlife.

If you’re still on a hot spring field trip, you won’t want to miss the Beitou Hot Spring Museum. Previously a public bathhouse built in 1913, the Beitou Hot Spring Museum houses everything you’d ever wanted to know about Beitou and its hot spring history. It’s also like a blast to the past in this museum as the original bathing pools still exist with old photos from when the pool was in use.

Apart from being famous for its hot springs, Beitou is also home to Taiwan’s first “green” library, the Beitou Library which is next to the Beitou Hot Spring Museum. The structure is built mainly of wood, blending in with the surrounding environment almost like a large treehouse. It’s no wonder why it’s been listed as one of the world’s most beautiful library.

Still feeling relaxed from your soak? Don’t immediately jump into the action downtown; instead take a leisurely stroll in the Plum Garden, an ancient summer residence of former political leader Yu You-Ren. Just beside the Beitou Garden Hot Springs, this 1093s building is home to a collection of beautiful Japanese wooden architecture. You can choose to relax in the quiet house or stroll through its beautifully manicured garden. Or visit the Beitou Museum where over 5,000 items are on display including folk arts, aboriginal arts, and traditional costumes and embroideries.

And finally, the favourite part of your Beitou trip – food time. Your best bet for choices is at the Tamsui Old Street. Tamsui is a stop away from Beitou on the metro and it takes 20 minutes to reach (just take the pink line back to Beitou or the red line towards Tamsui).

Once at the Tamsui station, take a short seven-minute walk and you’re in Tamsui Old Street. Here, you’ll be spoilt for choices. For starters, the seafood is amazingy fresh thanks to Tamsui’s location next to the sea. Other Taiwanese delicacy not to be missed? Ah-gei, a Beitou speciality that consists of fried tofu stuffed with glass noodles and sealed with meat paste, fish ball soup and of course, for an amazing treat the Tower Ice Cream that goes all the way up – a perfect end to a perfect day.

WHERE TO SOAK
Here are a few public hot baths you can find in Beitou:
Beitou Hot Spring Museum (Zhongshan Road, Beitou; 886-2-2893-9981). Admission is free.
Beitou Outdoor Public Baths (886-2-2893-7014). Entry, 40 Taiwan dollars.
Lengshuikeng Hot Spring (886-2-2861-0036; ymsnp.gov.tw). Free.
Yangmingshuwu (12 Chungshin Road, Yangmingshan; 886-2-2861-1444; ymsnp.gov.tw).
Admission, 50 Taiwan dollars. Call ahead for English-language tours.
Yangmingshan National Park (886-2-2861-3601, ext. 271; ymsnp.gov.tw).
Call well in advance for English-speaking tours.

 

Royal Brunei Airlines flies Taipei 4x weekly for easy connections to Beitou. Discover things to do in Beitou in www.muhibah.com.bn

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