It’s a quite chilly Saturday in February. I need something to warm up a bit, so what’s better than a hot spring. The metro takes me to Beitou (metrostop Xinbeitou), an area of the city Taipei. It is pretty touristic, with lots of people with cameras around their necks.
Beitou has natural hot springs. In the old days they believed it to be inhabited by witches. When the Japanese were in the country, they turned it into a fancy place with spas and hotels. You can still see part of that and it is still a place for people to bathe in the warm water. The water is heated by the Datun volcanoes, which are not active anymore.
As you approach, you can smell the sulfur in the water. Some damp is coming from the river flowing through the area, but the real hot water can be seen in the thermal valley. The water is 90 degrees Celsius and thus you are greeted by an enormous cloud. If you want to test the water for yourself it is better to go to the public hot springs. They’re cheap and it’s quite the experience. You do have to adhere to a few rules, otherwise the supervisor will clap his hands and point at you, the stupid tourist that can’t adapt.
Don’t put your hair under water
Do enter the water with any open wounds
Sit still and don’t splash water around
Don’t stare at others
Don’t make noise
… and the list continues. Everything is outside and there are few private places to change. When I enter the coldest bath I got the feeling I was defrosting, like when you enter a warm house on a snowy day. I use the bucket to pour water over my back and slowly get used to the temperature. You are not allowed to stay in a bath for too long, so after 15 minutes I decide to get out and get dressed. In the February air it was only 12 degrees Celsius. It was worth it though. If only that sulfur smell would come out of my bikini.
Don’t expect a tropical paradise. Beitou is in the city and although there are some trees, it is surrounded by buildings. There are also some museums you can visit for free. Learn about the area, the aboriginal people and the hokulite, a stone indigenous to the area. You can easily spend half a day here.