Missing the hot springs of Taiwan (and Japan)

A long cold winter has me pining for the wonderful warmth & relaxation that comes from a day visiting hot springs.

My first exposure to hot springs was the onsen culture of Japan.  Starting slowly, at an indoor facility in Osaka called Spa World (check out Mike’s review here), both Mike and I quickly got over our reservations about being naked in (gender segregated) public, and became onsen converts!  After Spa World, we took every opportunity we could to relax in the lovely hot water.

Taiwan is very tectonically active, and one of the consequences of this is a multitude of geothermal hot springs, and a hot spring culture that is very similar to that in Japan.  A visit to the steamy waters is especially welcome during the rainy winter.

Beitou is one of the most famous examples of hot springs in Taiwan, and Mike and I really enjoyed our visit there.  It was especially fun, because not only can you enjoy a soak in wonderful warm water, but you can take a walk down to the geothermal pools of the Thermal Valley, something we weren’t able to see for ourselves in Japan.  The hot spring pool is stunning, with temperatures reaching 100°C, and pH values as low as 1.2. You can smell the sulphur well before you can even see the steam rising from the surface of the hot spring pools.

The valley is the discovery site of hokutolite, a variety of the mineral barite.  Hokutolite was discovered in 1905 by a Japanese mineralogist, and it only forms in hot spring environments.  The mineral gained a reputation for having curative powers, and was removed from the valley in large amounts.  Unfortunately, while it doesn’t have any curative powers, it does precipitate at a very slow rate. It was removed in such quantites that the mineral is now protected, and the best examples in Beitou are at the Beitou Hot Spring Museum.

On our visit to Beitou, we first took some time to walk around the town, and then we rented a spa room for a couple of hours for a mid day soak and rest. Beitou is a really enjoyable and easy day trip from Taipei – the Xinbeitou station is within easy walking distance of all the fun. I highly reccomend a trip to the area for anyone who hasn’t experienced hot springs, or is looking for a neat day trip away from Taipei.

And as for me, perhaps there will be a visit to the Scandinavian Spa at Blue Mountain in my future…

Last Days in Japan – Hiroshima and Fukuoka

We have safely arrived in South Korea, and I’m sitting in our hostel in Busan, writing up this account of our last few days in Japan. I found Japan to be an amazing country, and everywhere we went, I discovered even more things I wanted to be able to see, but couldn’t in the time that we had! I can definitely picture myself returning soon. Our last few days here were filled with nice surprises – Hiroshima and Fukuoka both turned out to be way more interesting cities than we expected they might be!

Continue Reading

Kansai Region Part 2 – Osaka, Nara and Lake Biwa

Well, our time in Japan is drawing to an end, and I feel like our vacation is coming to an end. Normally, I would be starting to stress out about getting back home and back to work, but this time it’s only our time in Japan that is ending, and a new adventure will be starting in South Korea. We are both loving being in Japan, and see ourselves coming back here in the future.

But we’re not quite done with Japan yet, although we have said our goodbyes to the Kansai region for now. Here’s how we wrapped up our stay there:

Continue Reading

Kansai Region Part 1 – Kyoto and Osaka

We’re spending about 10 days in the Kansai region of Japan. We have been having a hard time deciding what we should do and what we should leave for next time because there is so much to do in this part of Japan! We have had a pretty packed itinerary since arriving from Tokyo, and we have a little more to squeeze into our last few days here before we move on to Hiroshima and Fukuoka. Here’s what we’ve been up to lately!

Continue Reading

Tokyo: Food, Shopping, and People Watching (and a day trip to Nikko)

When I left you last time, we were on our way to meet a friend Atsushi for a dinner cruise on Tokyo Bay. Here’s what we did in Tokyo since then:

Friday June 8 due to my misguided estimation about how long it would take to reach our pre-determined meeting place with Atsushi, we missed the shuttle bus from the station to the pier, and nearly missed the boat launch too! Thankfully Atsushi called the company to let them know we were still coming, and we jumped in a cab (something not reccommended except for occasions like this as the cabs are very expensive here). Thankfully we got in just in time to get on the boat. It was a fantastic expereience – all you can eat monjayaki and okanomyaki (oishii – delicious!) and all you can drink beer! Yum! The cruise was intended for Japanese people, so Atsushi was our very own translator and tour guide. It was fun to learn how to cook the dishes, and to see Odiaba and the rest of the Tokyo skyline all lit up too. What a great way to wrap up a week!

Continue Reading

Tokyo: The First Few Days

Today is our third full day in Tokyo, and we’ve just checked in to our second hotel.  We have had some exciting days with lots of walking, sightseeing and good food!  Tonight we meet up with a friend for a dinner cruise on Tokyo Bay, and until then we thought we’d put our feet up, upload photos,and check in with the rest of the world.

To summarize the last few days:

Continue Reading