hot springs (onsen). Three hot spring areas near Taipei are Beitou, Wulai and Yangmingshan. It was my friends' first visit to Taiwan. I think we should enjoy hot spring at least once. We opt for Beitou as it is easy to reach from Taipei.
Beitou is a city of hot spring and history. It had once one of the largest hot spring spas under Japanese rule. The area was initially army nursing homes, and then opened as Beitou Park in 1911. The park's current size is 1/3 of the former size, is still a lovely wooded space, filled with old stone bridges and heritage buildings. Hot spring stream runs through the centre.
We travelled from Alishan to Taipei Railway Station, switched to Beitou and then Xinbeitou MRT station. Taipei station was full of people. Once we were in the MRT to Beitou we could enjoy the ride in the less crowded train compartment. Passengers heading to Xinbeitou need to change at Beitou station. The train to Xinbeitou was very colourful and so as the doors. The MRT station also has special decorations to show its outstanding characteristic: spa, hot spring. A group of carton children is enjoying the fun of spa.
I sent email to request for hotel (Double One) pick up but was not able to get into touch. We took taxi to reach the hotel and were told that we've got an upgrade to the most expensive room. Very nice! We were driven to Marshal Zen Garden for our afternoon tea. Only guests dining there, enjoying spa are admitted to the garden. Easiest is to take the afternoon tea set. Sumptuous!
On the way back we passed by Beitou Museum. It is a wooden Japanese-styled house dedicating to cultural exhibitions and performances.
Our room was comfortable, luxurious, with a big pool of hot spring and even a sauna room. It's amazing! The hotel services were outstanding, best of best ever. Breakfast was fantastic. They offered to transport our luggage to the MRT station after we have finished the sightseeing. Just make a call and they would deliver.
The next morning we were ready for our sight visit. We began with the Hot Spring Valley / Thermal Valley 地熱谷. It was humid and had a strong smell of sulphur. Blue water with rising steam in the nature. We enjoyed it It recalled my walks in Waiotapu Thermal Wonderland and Kuirau Park in Rotorua. Yes, they are of much bigger scale and stunning.
Our next visiting point was Plum Garden 梅庭. It was the home of a former famed calligrapher and political leader Yu you-ren 于右任. The house was built in 1930's and opened to the public in 2010. It is a fine example of traditional Japanese wood framed architecture. The many exhibits of the calligrapher, elegant wooden architecture and airy house gave a tranquil feeling. But we needed to move on......
Hot Spring Museum. It was once the biggest public bath house in East Asia but abandoned after the World War II. It was restored in 1998 and opened to the public as a museum.
A large part of the museum is dedicated to its history. Local stones and materials are presented. Photos of the past are showcased to aid visitors creating an impression of the old look and the gradual evolution.
You would not have missed out the library in the area. The wooden architecture is fitted with eco-friendly features and settings to make it as one of the most energy-efficient and environmentally friend building in East Asia.
Last but not least is the Ketagalan Cultural Centre. It features indigenous people, culture and art. On a dedicated floor it shows the costumes, social structures, traditions of the Taiwanese aboriginal people. The colourful clothing reflect the fine weaving techniques in the old days. The more colourful clothing, the more cheerful tribe is, my opinion.
Various cultural and historical artefacts are shown to give a glimpse of the development. They are beautiful. Already in the old days people were very concerned on decorating them nicely and enjoying life with fine utensils and gorgeous art.
It is much to see in Beitou. But the key sightseeing points are clustered close together. Hope the map below will help you orient yourself and facilitate your planning. Enjoy!