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…

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