Monday, December 8, 2014

Beitou [Taiwan Day 463: A Warm Welcome To Winter - Dec. 7, 2014]



It’s winter time again in Taiwan and as the temperature drops people are looking for places to warm themselves and have fun. Beitou is the best place to go during this time. This northernmost district of Taipei is located along the Datun Mountains and it boasts a number of hot spring hotels that will definitely warm your winter.
 




I have a Travel Buddy but he doesn’t want his photos posted in fb. Let’s just call him Travel Buddy ‘X’. We boarded the MRT from Taipei Main Station and we alighted at the Beitou Station. We then transferred to another MRT train that took us to Xinbeitou Station where the hot spring town is located. The Xinbeitou line is a small branch line of the Taipei Metro System which contains only one station which is Xinbeitou. Going to a hot spring resort became easier due to this one-station branch of the Taipei MRT.

Taking a bath is a normal thing that people do everyday. But here in Beitou, taking a bath is something special. It is not just for hygienic purposes but also as a way to socialize with other people. The Japanese introduced this bath culture to Taiwan when they annexed the island as part of their empire. The original inhabitants of Taiwan just ignore the hot springs and they thought that the fuming hot springs were poisonous. They even regard Beitou as the ‘Valley of the Witches’.






The Japanese developed the place and a lot of hot springs sprouted near the Beitou Stream where the greenish warm water comes from the Thermal Valley or Hell Valley. I went down the stream and dipped my feet into the water. The water was warm! There are some things that I can do in Taipei that I can’t do in Manila and this is one great experience. The water is rich in sulfates and I can even smell the pungent order of sulfur gas coming out of the districts sewage canals. Just imagine a canal along a road steaming with white sulfur gas!









Hokutulite



Along the Beitou stream was a Victorian style building. It was the Beitou Hot Spring Museum and it was formerly known as the Beitou Public Bath. It was a second generation public bath built by the Japanese. The building was adorned with stained-glass windows which makes the place more beautiful. We went inside and we were instructed to leave our shoes just like what people do in the old days of Beitou. We were given slippers and we toured around the place. Japanese mats called “tatami” were in the second floor while the radioactive mineral called ‘Hokutolite’ was displayed in the first floor as well as East Asia’s largest public bath.
 

Thermal Valley aka Hell Valley
It was said that only men can use the large public bath while women can only use the smaller pools. Women can’t even go to the beautiful building without their spouse! It was a patriarchal society during the Japanese occupation of Taiwan. Travel Buddy ‘X’ and I followed the source of the water of the Beitou Stream until we found ourselves in a hot and steamy place. It was the Hell Valley. I was reserving this place for Taiwan Day 666: Drag Me to Hell but it will be best to feature this place in my “Decembest” series. The hot spring is mixed with volcanic gasses and some spots can reach a temperature of up to 98 degrees Celsius. Once you fall here, it will definitely drag you to hell!
 






Taipei’s Beitou district still has a lot to offer and this adventure was just a teaser about the place. Soon, I will try the hot spring hotels and the public hot spring areas. I can’t wait for that to happen!


When you come to Taiwan, put Beitou in your itinerary next to Taipei 101. A warm welcome awaits you in Taipei’s hot spring town whether it’s winter or not.
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