Parks and Street Lights Office (PSLO) Director Huang Li-yuan observed that the in the old days, the hot spring streams along Beitou Park used to be open-air bathing spaces, informal and free of charge. But as these places might look messy in the eyes of day tourists, police enforced a ban on these public hot spring baths from 1901 onward. The Japanese love hot spring (onsen) bathing, so the Japanese colonizers (1895-1945) of Taiwan developed Beitou’s hot spring culture as their “slice of home.” Since those days, Beitou developed as Taiwan’s premier hot spring area, strewn with private bath houses and restaurants—definitely worth a trip.
When you exit MRT Xinbeitou Station, you walk straight into Qixing Park. After checking out the Xinbeitou Historic Station, renovated in 2017, you may want to try the temperature of the Japanese-style hot spring hand baths that were opened on November last year – and which are free of charge. As the hands are closer to the heart and brain than the feet are, some argue that hand baths do a better job of warming the body than foot baths can.
In Fuxing Park (Address: No. 200, Zhonghe Street) starts a family-friendly easy trail that winds through the park along Huanggang Creek. The park features picturesque spots like an arched bridge, a nine-curve pathway, and various types of elegant and breezy gazebos. The spring water of the foot bathing pond, large enough for about 50 people, has a quality close to the green sulfur springs of nearby Sulfur Valley and allegedly has beneficial effects on chronic skin problems, sore joints and ligaments, and the body’s metabolism.
Still not done? Get a change of scenery and take bus 230 or minibus 22 to the stop opposite Yifang Elementary School, where you will find Quanyuan Park No. 47 and 48 nestled within a horseshoe of mountains. Sitting in the semi-outdoor foot spa pond surrounded by the verdant slopes, you will feel close to nature. So, roll up your pants and dip into your bit of bliss!
If you prefer a full-body spa bath, then head straight to Beitou Park! The newly made-over entrance area features a Mirror Family Fountain Pond, which greets old and young visitors with a waterfall, waves of mist, and spouting water columns. The cherry trees and peony bushes are also in full bloom now. Passing by the classic and tranquil library, you will see the Beitou Hot Spring Museum, which was once built as Taiwan’s first public bath house. This nostalgic place houses an 800 kg rock of Hokutolite, the museum’s pride and joy. Hokutolite is the only one among the world’s 4000 minerals to be named after a Taiwanese town!
After soaking up some hot spring lore at the museum, it is finally time to take a literal soak in the baths of one of Taiwan’s world-famous outdoor hot springs, Millennium Hot Spring, and wash all your weariness away. The park area boasts six public hot spring ponds with water temperatures ranging from 38°C to 42°C (100-108°F). The overall design, inspired by Japanese architecture, uses natural materials such as rocks and wood for the floors and partitions, while the roofs are covered with classic black tiles, which together evoke a quite Japanese atmosphere. Visitors with enough stamina can hike farther up the mountain to find the hot spring streams’ original wells. They will find the hottest water in Geothermal Valley Park, where mysterious mists linger over still ponds—an enchanting place for young and old.
Yangmingshan National Park Management Division Chief Lin Chao-chia said that the hot spring spas that have been built around the national park reflect the area’s history and thus draw crowds of visitors that wish to experience the culture and the nature of this unique place. Cultural points of interest include the Japanese-style Plum Garden, built by scholar and politician Yu You-ren (1879-1964) as an escape from the summer heat, and the Beitou Public Library, Taiwan’s first energy-efficient green building and voted one of the 25 most beautiful public libraries in the world by US-based cultural news website Flavorwire in 2012. Thus Beitou District makes for a wonderful and affordable hot spring outing destination, offering an abundance of historical, cultural, natural, affordable treats that cannot be found anywhere in Taipei. But fortunately it is near Taipei, so that its residents and visitors can swap the noisy urban jungle for Beitou’s lush mountains and hot springs that restore the body, mind, and soul. So, what are you waiting for?