Or shall I say get really really hot? Only 20 minutes away from downtown Taipei, Beitou neighborhood is (not well) known (enough) for its incredible hot springs. Up to 100 degrees Celsius water boiling underground.
Much loved by the Japanese who installed public baths during the occupation era, this also former red light district has been revamped and offers quite a few hidden gems. So jump on a scooter taxi (Beitou is the only district in Taipei where you can find some), ride through lush green sceneries, and soak into those hot springs believed to carry healing virtues.
Where to stay...
Solo Singer - One of a kind in Taipei
Nestled between narrow back lanes and old houses, Solo Singer is a “Slow Life” hotel with a warm feeling. The curators have preserved the original space of what used to be a 1960′s Inn, and kept vintage items from its previous life. Rooms inspired by Virginia Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own were designed by 18 different artists, we can’t thank them enough for having created such unique shelters.
Solo Singer is not only a hotel, but a café as well (Solo Singer Life), hosting local and cultural exhibitions. B&B concept has never felt so good, and creative. And in matter of good (food) advices, friendly Heather, Anny & Co would be your best partners in crime.
ASK : For a non Japanese room if you’re not used to lying down on a wooden floor with a very (very) thin mattress.
What to do...
On your way to (or on your way back from) Beitou Spring, grab a drink at the Cai Yuan Yi stall. There’s always a little line of people waiting to get one of the best sweet and refreshing black teas in town.
Nothing fancy in here, but the place is better maintained than Long Nai Tang (the oldest hotspring in Beitou). There’s a complementary fish spa upstairs and not so cosy private bathing rooms. So I’d recommend to jump into the public ones downstairs for a true local experience. You’ll have to go naked, girls and boys separated of course.
If you’re not into hot springs, but more into books and/or architecture, another good reason to go to Beitou is to visit its public “Green” library. Get your hands on one of the few books in English and relax on the open air balcony.
Beitou Hot Spring Museum
In the Hot Spring Park you’ll also find the Hot Spring Museum.
Originally built to house Beitou’s first public bath house, this “Taisho Roman” historical monument officially reopened as the city’s hot spring museum. Relics found by the locals before renovation are still displayed in the pool. Architecture lovers here’s another one for you.
Take a walk around the Thermal Valley or so called “Hell Valley” where you can watch sulfur water steaming out of a volcano’s crater.
Millennium Hot Spring
If not discouraged, you might want to take another bath. Head to the outdoor Millennium Hot Spring then, where you’re obliged to wear a swimsuit this time. Plunge into various pools which temperatures increase as you get to the top. I confess not being able to stay more than one minute in the 45 °C one. A fun experience though.
Marshal Zen Garden
If you’re looking for something posher, Marshal Zen Garden located next to the Beitou Museum on top of the hills has a wonderful view. Former residence of military leader Marshal Zhang Xueliang, this property now offers fine dining and luxury private hot spring rooms overlooking the valley. But if you only want to get your feet wet, it’s possible.
Not quite the same atmosphere, but if you’d rather stay in Beitou’s bustling area, there’s a free public foot bath in Fuxing Park.
That would give you the opportunity to stop by North Pole Soft Ice and taste one of Ashin’s (the famous taiwanese lead singer of the rock band Mayday) favorite sweet treats.
Wu’s beef noodles
Whereas most of the restaurants close early in Beitou, Wu opens daily from 12 am to 12 pm. It’s crowded during peak hours but that would be the right moment to go, to mix with the locals. And to meet Kerry, the lady’s whose family have been owning this restaurant since 1980. Indoor or Outdoor, the place is bursting with energy. I have a preference for the outdoor tables, as you can watch the cooks prepare fresh noodles.
ASK : For some Wanton as well. In their own style, they’re as good as the beef noodles.
Another side of bustling Beitou, the market with its street food and the famous local tempuras. Not to be mistaken with the Japanese ones, the Taiwanese tempuras are more “fish ball” like.
From Beitou Market, on your way to A-Jen Bakery, catch a glimpse of what used to be old Beitou on Zhong Zhen Old Street.
A bakery helmed by 2 lovely sisters, making delicious Cheesecakes, Tiramisu and must-eat pineapple cakes.
This beautiful café located in a renovated barn has a micro coffee roastery. Their delicious cakes are baked in house.
People looking for hipster vibes, here it is…
ASK : For their homemade Gao Fei coffee to bring back home.