Sulphuric steam as hot as the rising sun. All it takes is a dip in the springs to melt all worries away…
So far, I can’t complain about the weather here in Taipei. A few scattered showers here and there with one major sub-tropical downpour. Sun out in the afternoons with a slight breeze and very comfortable evenings. That is until today. Boy is it HOT! Sun is blistering down on me and the humidity could be cut with a knife. It wasn’t Japan in the Summer bad, but coming from a Toronto ice storm a week ago, it is taking some getting used to.
Without checking the weather beforehand, I decided today was a hot springs kind of day. Note, “hot” springs.
Beitou Hot Springs Resort
Slightly to the north of downtown Taipei is the famous Beitou Hot Springs Resort Area. Famous for their natural hot springs heated by the Volcano in Yangmingshan, Beitou is as much a local hotspot as it is a tourist one.
Given the scorching weather, my lack of sunscreen and an intolerance to heat…I still decided going into the outdoor public hot springs. Crazy? Probably. A must? 100%.
I couldn’t compromise my first natural hot spring just because I might get a little heatstroke. Jokes aside (well, half-joking,) it was well worth the sunburn.
At Beitou, you can either opt for the outdoor public hot spring which costs 40 NTD ($2 CAD) or you can choose one of the many resorts in the town which range from 300 NTD to 1000 NTD ($15 CAD to 45 CAD).
I chose the most affordable option and apparently the most popular option amongst locals.
NOTE: There is a specific “type” of bathing suit you need in order to use the hot springs. For women a standard bikini or one piece will do. But for men it was a little more tricky. The shorts had to be non-beach or casual shorts with no pockets. The shorts I had were considered “beach shorts”. Luckily they sell shorts “proper” shorts for as little as $150 NTD ($13 CAD). Not sure if these strict requirements are to capitalize on shorts sales or for health and safety measures (If you know why, I’d love to know in the comments down below.)
After getting changed, locking my stuff up and showering off (a requirement to use the hot springs,) it was time.
The outdoor area was a fairly sizeable space, secluded from public, there were about 7-8 different pools, all at different temperatures. The idea was to start in the least hot and slowly transition to the hottest. I made it to about number 6, as the last couple pools were just too hot to the touch.
Once I got to the mid area, I was in total relaxation. All my aching bones immediately became one with the water. There was something so pure and relaxed about this experience. I had only done something like this once before and that was in a Japanese Onsen (that one had far less people, was not naturally heated, indoor and I was buck naked.)
It was very surreal, I actually felt like I was inside Pokemon Ruby. When I went to that particular town, this is exactly how I imagined it to be.
As I laid my head back and let all my soak the natural steam, for the first time ever, I felt serenity.
During my experience I exchanged stories with a few keen locals. A learned a little more Mandarin and I helped then with some english words (though there english capability far outweighed my Chinese.)
Oh, I also got stung by some sort of bee….it hurt…a lot.
Beitou Thermal Valley
Don’t mind the face, I was trying to stay as composed as possible on the outside, when on the inside, I was slowly melting.
After about an hour soak (that is all I could physically handle,) refreshed and recharged, I took a stroll to the Beitou Thermal Valley. The sun and humidity had only gotten worse as the journey to the green sulphuric spring (sounds as epic as it looks) began. I could tell I had arrived when I saw hot steam clouding in the sky above.
I was pretty impressed by the natural deep green hue to the water from the hot sulphur. The steam on the other hand was extremely sizzling. Even the slightest breeze blasted the steam towards the crowds.
After I sweat out pretty much every drop of sweat my body had to offer, it was time to recoup with some good drink and food at a night market…