I took this photo while we were on our way to the Dragon Valley Resort & Paradise. The name of the game is Xiangqi (Chinese Checkers). I’m not sure how to play or who is winning, but my friend here looks a bit concerned. They were great sports about the game and us snapping pictures of them. Their taxi-driving friend (not shown here) even shared his chicken skewers with us before we gave a ‘jia you’ cheer and parted ways.
I’m not really a huge fan of hot springs. I mean, I like them enough. They’re relaxing and rejuvenating and don’t require any physical exertion. It’s mostly that I can’t manage to stay in them longer than five minutes because of the sweat that begins to pour down my face, coupling with the steam rising off the water, that leaves me with dried-out, sticky contacts.
That being said, Dan and I just got back from a hot spring hotel in Central Taiwan, and I loved it—blurry vision and all. It probably helped that we had a private hot spring bath in our room, overlooking the adjacent valley and mountains. And I must admit, even if I don’t normally get excited about hot springs, I always feel amazing afterwards. In Asia, hot springs are believed to raise energy levels while possibly treating chronic fatigue, eczema and arthritis—a pretty good reason to give the popular Taiwanese pastime a go.
There are two main things to remember before jumping right into the hot springs:
1) If hot spring baths are separated by gender, you’re expected to bathe nude. I was bit worried it would be totally awkward sporting by birthday suit with a bunch of old Taiwanese women, but it’s not actually that bad. Plus, these hot springs are typically a bit nicer, with various showerheads, more variety in water temperature, steam rooms, and no obnoxious children splashing sulfur water in your face.
2) You must wear a shower cap before entering the hot springs. Sometimes these will be provided, other times you are expected to bring your own.
Beyond that, just follow common sense. Don’t bathe if you have any health risks, don’t stay in the hot springs too long, don’t drink alcohol while immersed in scalding hot water, etc.
With the ring of fire rumbling just below Taiwan’s seaboard, there is plenty of lava-heated spring water to go around. Hot springs range from wild and natural baths in the mountains to commercialized spas and resorts. Here are a few of the ones we’ve tried and can recommend:
The hot springs at Beitou are arguably the most frequented by tourists in Taiwan, and easily accessible off the New Beitou MRT stop (from Taipei). Beitou’s history of developed hot springs dates back to the early 1900s and the Japanese era. Today, public and private hot springs are abundant, and easily found via a quick stroll through the area. English signs pave the way.
Located in a small aboriginal village in Hsinchu County, these hot springs are famed for being some of the best in all of Taiwan due to their soft mineral water. We love the rustic feeling emanating from the town, and the beautiful mountain views from the hot springs. After your revitalizing soak, go for a stroll and meet some Atayal people, who will be more than happy to chat with you, regardless of Chinese proficiency.
Dragon Valley (Taichung County)
It takes a lot of work to get here, but the seclusion is well worth the effort. Dragon Valley is about a two-hour bus ride from the nearest train station at Fengyuan, just north of Taichung. It has a similar vibe to Chingchuan due to its location deep in mountain country, which is a welcome relief from the overly congested urbanization that plagues much of Taiwan. With a few sizeable resorts to choose from, including the immense Dragon Valley Resort and Paradise, you’ll be sweating off stress in no time. When you’ve had all you can take of the purifying waters, head down the public hot spring trail to “the ditch”. Here you’ll find a combination of 3 ankle-deep foot-cleansing ponds. Only this time, it’s not the water that’s special; it’s the fish. These hungry little tickle-monsters bite the dead skin right off your feet. Yummy!
Bordering Yilan on the east coast, Jioashi has a high concentration of hot spring hotels, perfect for restoring your wave-beaten body after a long day of surfing. However, if you don’t have the time or the budget to commit to one of these hotels, there are also public and private baths available at a reasonable hourly rate. Unfortunately, some of the private baths here tend to be enclosed by sheet metal, leaving something to be desired in terms of scenery.
While these are the hot spring areas we have visited, there are still over 150 other hot springs all across Taiwan! A map with some of the more popular destinations can be found here.
Prices are hugely variable, ranging from NT$150 for public baths to NT$6000 for five star hot spring hotels (including accommodation). Just be sure to take a peek at the hot springs before paying, as some offer better value than others. It’s never fun to end up squashed in a luke-warm pool with a hundred other people.
We’re especially excited to be visiting Green Island in the next couple weeks, after a three-day cycling trip down the East Coast. (Which, by the way, should be interesting seeing as neither of us has ever taken any sort of cycling trip at all.) Green Island boasts one of the only salt water hot springs in the world. We’ll keep you posted on how it ranks compared to these!
Do you love hot springs as much as the Taiwanese do? Have you ever been to a salt water hot spring? Where’s your favorite hot spring in Taiwan? Don’t forget to leave a comment below!
“Quan Lei Da” (Home run)
“Zhong Hua Dui, Jia You” (Chinese Taipei, Let’s Go)
OOOOHHHH SEE YA (that one’s the same)
Taiwanese people love them some baseball. And even though Linsanity was huge over here for a while, baseball still takes the prize as national sport of choice. Obviously there was just a little bit of excitement for the World Baseball Classic, especially when the first round was held in Taichung (about an hour south of us).
I’m not a huge sports person (unless it’s Tarheel basketball) but I can’t deny their incredible ability to foster friendship and unity. The excitement and pride in your team, the pure joy when they win, and the shared disappointment when they don’t—it’s a beautiful thing. And I think we all can agree that no matter how many times you watch Remember the Titans, you always end up holding back tears.
When it comes to baseball and the World Baseball Classic, if anyone knows how to come together and cheer for their team, it’s Taiwan.
A Taiwanese flag in one hand and a Taiwan Beer in the other, we attended the Taiwan vs. Netherlands game just about two weeks back. It was unreal. Normally I don’t find myself completely riveted by baseball, but this time the Taiwanese crowd had me jumping out of my seat and anticipating the next ‘wave’ the entire game. There was barely a moment when the stadium wasn’t erupting in cheers of “Hit a homerun” or “See ya”, while pumping their fists into the air. With a sold out crowd and two noisemakers to each attendee, the thunderous sounds of loyal fans rose into the heavens. Luckily the angels must have heard because they seemed to choose our side. Taiwan took the win with a score of 8-3, and we joined our Taiwanese friends in the celebration of our team.
Sadly the winning streak has come to a disappointing end. In a grueling game against Japan, Taiwan lost during extra innings. Our newfound Taiwanese friends at the bar were understandably upset. What’s more, we were genuinely sad to see Taiwan lose. Although we’ve only been living here for a year and a half, we’ve come to feel a sense of pride for the small island we call home. And we’re incredibly grateful that they are happy to welcome us as part of their family, too.
The other day I was sitting around ‘pinning’. (If you’re not sure what this is yet, you need to get on Pinterest ASAP—that’s all I’ll say.) Anyway, in between pinning pictures of houses I’ll never be able to afford and DIY projects I’m never going to do, I stumbled upon a picture of the Rainbow Village. It looked a little something like this:
How could anyone not be instantly drawn to such a vibrant and cheerful place? I immediately pinned it to my Travel Board and filed the image away for future trip planning. Some point later, I realized that this Rainbow Village was actually located in Taichung City, Taiwan, just about an hour south of Hsinchu. Talk about convenience! In actually, the Rainbow Village is a military dependents village, founded over 50 years ago. It has been transformed into the unique attraction it is today as a result of the talented Huang Yung-Fu, an 86 year old who picked up his paintbrushes just a few years ago and personally covered the buildings with colorful animals and aboriginal-like people.
Military dependents villages were originally built in Taiwan to house Nationalist soldiers when the KMT retreated to Taiwan. Much more information can be found on good ‘ol Wiki if you’re interested. The majority of these drab, concrete houses have been demolished to make way for modern, high-rise complexes so common in cities across Taiwan. Luckily, thanks to the efforts of Huang Yung-Fu, the Rainbow Village will continue to be preserved. We would definitely recommend stopping by if you are in the Taichung area! The actual village is quite small, and although the pictures might appear otherwise, it is a popular and crowded tourist attraction.
The easiest way to access the Rainbow Village is via scooter. Click here for a map of the area.
Still working on getting our blog back to normal, but as you can see we are in fact making progress!