The last few days we had in Taiwan we spent lapping up the healing hot spring waters of Beitou. This area has a rich history all based around the concentrated springs where the town came to be developed. As soon as you step off the train the sulphur fills your lungs in that special way, leaving you wondering if it is weird that you like the smell.
In ancient days the aboriginal people of Taiwan referred to Beitou as the Witch’s Cauldron. They assumed the foreign boiling smelly waters coming from the earth must have been caused by witches casting a spell- not hard to imagine. The town was only known by locals until the early 1900s when Japanese soldiers began heading to the waters to rest and recover. Beitou became infamous for its “taxi girls” whom were delivered to your door, often with food, on the back of a motor bike, creating a red light district reputation.
Eventually it became a popular spot to film dramatic Taiwanese cinema and almost all films produced in the country in the 50s and 60s had a scene featured in Beitou. Around this time investors were keyed into the potential of this fertile locale and began to clean up the area to transform it into the resort destination it is now.
While in Beitou we did what most do, relax. We set up camp atop the Yangming Mountain at the Boy Scout’s campgrounds outside Yangmingshan National Park. We were a stone’s throw from the park headquarters and were able to gather intel with ease.
After settling in we took the bus down the mountain to the heart of town where we chowed down some Beef Noodle Soup and Taiwan Beer. Apparently we chose a busy time to visit, the annual “Hot Spring and Fine Cuisine Festival” had descended with a vengeance packing streets, crowding restaurants, occupying springs and allowing businesses to gouge prices. When we would ask about rates to the hot springs we were usually given an “uh, this weekend it costs…” and in response we would ask how much does it cost on Monday, the answer was usually half as much!
We spent our time Saturday and Sunday hiking around, visiting the cheap public hot springs- sorry no cameras allowed- and the free museums, library and park that lined the main walk. The Beitou Public Library has received all types of recognition and awards for its green design and is quite an architectural sight.
Once Sunday night arrived we checked into a fancy hotel with hot spring water directly into the room for $40/ night!! Well worth the wait! We both made sure to get our money’s worth and bathed twice a day even adorning face masks we purchased at the local 7-11 for the full spa treatment… what can we say we are traveling on a budget!
The spring water really has healing properties- before the springs I had psoriasis on my ankles and elbows that completely vanished after a few dips. I guess the pH levels of the water complemented the imbalance in my skin!
After leaving Beitou we head back to Taipei to take the speed train to the airport… on to Cambodia!