With Beitou so close to Mono’tel (only a short MRT ride away from the hostel) we decided Valentine’s Day was the perfect time for a trip to Beitou Hot Springs and the Thermal Valley! In the Beitou area there are over 16 certified hot springs, including an outdoor public hot spring, and an incredible geothermal lake which has a temperature of up to 90 degrees Celcius! There are also a number of museums, all of which are free and even hiking trails to great view points. It’s a great idea to take a good look around before soaking in a spring.
Although we have been to plenty of hot springs around Taiwan, none have been as accessible as Beitou. It was very easy to find, and when we arrived in the area, there were loads of maps and signs to guide us to what we wanted to see. The first place we checked out was the Ketagalan Cultural Center. Here you can find out the Aboriginal culture of the area, it was free to enter and has a lot of information and pieces to look at. Only three floors were open when we visited, which was plenty, but normally there is ten floors filled with artifacts from Taiwan’s Aboriginal culture. A little bit further along through the path we got a chance to see the Beitou Hot Spring Museum. The museum used to be a public bath house during the Japanese occupation of Taiwan. It is worth seeing, but is quite small, so it didn’t take us long to look round, before heading onward to the geothermal lake, which we were most excited about seeing.
At the end of the path there is a fork in the road, with the left side taking you to the geothermal lake. We have never seen anything quite like this before. The lake was constantly steaming, and bubbling in places, while the area around was shrouded in the hot steam and the recognizable sulfuric smell of volcanic activity. There are barriers and warning signs around to stop anyone foolhardy enough to try taking a dip, but the moment you look at the lake it’s easy to see that this wouldn’t be a good idea. In fact, the water is so hot locals used to use the place to rapidly boil eggs, but were stopped due to the amount of scalding incidents. The rocks around are stained yellow and green from the sulfur, and when you get a chance to see the water therough the haze, it has a beautiful blue color. The sediment rising from the underground activity crystallizes here to form a rare mineral called Hokutolite. Apparently this is one of only two places in the world where this mineral has been found, the other is in Japan.
After all of our time wandering about Beitou, we were eager to spend the rest of our Valentine’s Day soaking away. .There are so many options around Beitou it can be hard to decide what’s best. For most people the best option is probably the public outdoor hot spring. It is a bargain price of 40 NTD, which is a lot cheaper than many other places in Taiwan. It is also outdoors which is really nice, especially in the evening. The catch here is that you require quite specific swimwear. No baggy shorts or bikini’s, you need to bring tight swim-shorts for men with no pockets, and an all in one swimsuit dress for women. Both of these are available to buy at the entrance, but the cheapest option for men was 250 NTD and for women was over 500 NTD. If you want to splash out on a private hot spring room at one of the many spa resorts around there are a range of other options. Prices for the rest of the hot springs begin at around 300 NTD for a same sex only Japanese style bath house arrangement, and range steadily upward for private rooms. If you decide on a private room, it comes outfitted with a load of nice shampoos and lotions and other essential supplies for pampering yourself, and most places let you stay for about 90 minutes. These resorts are a real luxury and a totally great treat for Valentine’s Day or even birthday’s. The hot spring water is really amazing, and said to be great for your skin and general well-being.
When you have finished at your hot spring of choice, after a short ride back on the MRT you can return to Mono’tel at the heart of the Shilin Night Market, ready to start treating your taste-buds instead.
The MRT costs only 20 dollars for a ticket. From Mono’tel head to the Jianti MRT station and take the MRT to Beitou, where you can change to the single stop train to Xinbeitou, or just take a walk through the area to Xinbeitou if you want to explore.