On Tuesday, our 3rd day in Taipei, we ventured out to Beitou (北投), a northern district of Taipei famous for its hot springs. I was looking forward to soaking myself in some relaxing hot spring there, to relief myself from the past few days’ lack of rest.
The hot springs resort area is located near Xinbeitou MRT Station (新北投捷运站), which is 1 stop away from the Beitou MRT Station on the red line. We took about 40 min from Ximen MRT Station to reach Xinbeitou. Think it could be faster if not for the snail pace the MRT was travelling at from Beitou to Xinbeitou, fortunately just 1 station apart. We thought we could walk faster than the train haha.
Apparently, the station was specially designed such that the Beitou scenery was carefully reproduced on the floor tiles.
We walked straight ahead on Zhongshan Road (中山路) where on its right is Beitou Hot Springs Park (北投公园), a long, narrow park located directly across the road from the station. Within the park are fountains, the Beitou library, the Beitou Hot Springs Museum & an outdoor hot spring. According to Wikitravel, the park was also featured in the Hong Kong movie Turn Left, Turn Right 《向左走，向右走》, starring Takeshi Kaneshiro and Gigi Leung.
On the left of Zhongshan Road, is the Ketagalan Cultural Center (凯达格兰文化馆), dedicated to the Aboriginal culture that once flourished in the Beitou area. Free admission to the cultural centre, & there are 3 floors of displays exhibiting the different aboriginal groups found in Taiwan. The Amis (阿美族) are the largest tribal group in Taiwan, with a population of about 146,000. Photography is only permitted on level 1.
We were done at the cultural center within half an hour & continued our way within the Beitou Hot Springs Park. At the Beitou Hot Springs Museum (北投温泉博物馆), visitors are to remove their shoes & put on the in-house slippers provided. Built during the Japanese occupation, this Euro-Japanese style building was once the main public bath in Beitou. It has since been restored & was re-opened in 1998.
I read online that the Beitou Park Outdoor Hot Spring (亲水公园露天温泉) is very popular given that it is cheap (only NTD40 admission fee!). However we didn’t see any queue forming outside the hot spring, probably cos it was a weekday late morning? Anyway I didn’t go in as I prefer to soak in a hotel hot spring. 😛
Continuing our way up the slopes of Zhongshan Road past the outdoor hot spring, after about 10 min, we saw a fork in the road to our left. That is the entrance to Thermal Valley (北投地热谷公园).
Thermal Valley is a natural green sulfur hot spring where water temperatures can reach up to 100°C (212°F)! As we approach the valley we could smell the stinking sulfur & it was really hot when we got nearer to the valley, worse that the weather was very sunny that day. -_-“
We got out of the valley within 10 min due to the unbearable smell & heat. Anyway, the valley was only 3,500 feet, not very big.
The next stop was to find a nice hotel where I could get myself soaked in the hot spring at a reasonable price! 😉 I decided to settle on Spa Spring Resort 水都温泉会馆 (located near Thermal Valley at the roundabout where we could head back to the MRT Station) after checking out the rates & ambience of a few other hotels.
As my friend didn’t want to enjoy the hot spring, I went for the outdoor hot spring package on my own which costed NTD320 (about S$13.60), where they had 3 public pools – 2 hot, 1 cold. I went in about 12.30pm & there was no one else using the spa except me till I left at about 2pm, so it was like a private spa experience for me! It was pretty relaxing, especially when I used the cold pool, as the weather was scorching that day. In fact the temperature in the hot pool felt similar to the outdoor temperature haha.
We left Xinbeitou after 4 hours of tour & lazing around (inclusive of the hot spring). It is not a huge place to begin with, but if you want to hop around a few hot springs in the area, do allow more time here to relax. Oh please remember to bring along your swimsuit if you want to go to the hot springs, unlike in Japan & Korea where you go naked.
Overall, I feel that the beitou area is very “Japanese”, largely due to the fact that it was occupied by the Japanese in the past.