February 18, 2014

Hotsprings. Is there any better way to warm up?

Hotsprings - another good reason to be in Taiwan

Taiwan is cold.

If you don't believe me, visit Taiwan in the winter.

It fascinates me how 13 degrees in Europe can be warm while 13 degrees in Taiwan makes you shiver – the simple answer to why is that wherever you are you are close to the sea – the humidity and the wind from the sea goes through everything. The stone houses and the lack of insulation like in most of South East Asia doesn't help either.

Yes, of course, it's not cold ALL the time, the winter short and you get gorgeous days too, but the nights, oh, the nights. They are not always fun. Better be prepared!

When it was really cold just before Christmas and temperatures at night dropped to around 10 and the temperature inside the houses was about the same a woman from Canada who lives in Taichung, said:

"I opened my fridge and thought it was broken because it felt warmer in there than in the room"
It's no wonder that the hot springs in Taiwan are so popular! Partly an inheritance from the time Taiwan was under Japanese rule the bathhouses are common and spread over at least the main island, but particularly common on the east side, where the majority of the natural springs are.

In Taipei the most known and most easily accessible hot spring area is in Beitou, 北投, in the north of the city. Technically Beitou at least used to be a separate town but nowadays at least the tourists and travellers don't know how to tell the difference.

Beitou is very green, and lush, not just because it is Taipei, which is probably the rainiest corner of Taiwan, but mainly because the hot springs, full of natural minerals. There are a lot of very nice hotels in the area, just like everywhere where there are hotspings, with fantastic spas and excellent service, but this is not where the average Taiwanese goes, especially not to warm up in the winter; Going to the hotel spas is not cheap, if you are on a Taiwanese budget. But there are options everyone can enjoy.

Public baths.

Millenium Hotsprings - a public bath
In Beitou I went with friends to what in English is called Millennium Hot spring on Zhongshan Road number 6 - 中山 (just be careful with Google Maps and other tools, there are several Zhongshan road throughout Taiwan so you need to make sure you are in the right town/city).

Millennium Hotsprings is an excellent little public bath. For 40 NT, about a Euro you get to come in and use the baths for two hours (although the hot spring closes in between every 2 hours and everybody have to leave so check how much time  is left when you enter, if it's about to close for cleaning you may just as well go for a tea and come back when the next bathing time starts. Or go twice, it's so inexpensive that the only annoying thing about that is having to get dressed in between.

When you go to a public bath remember the following:
  • Towel
  • Swimsuit
  • Coins for the lockers – and for the hot showers or you will have to shower cold; And shower you have to, before you get into the bath.

Map over Xinbeitou Area - lots to see here
And leave the camera at home, you are anyhow not allowed to take photos. Flip-flops may be good, especially if it is cold. Because yes, the hot springs are outdoors and even if the hot springs are very nice and warm, walking between the shower and the hot spring may be chilly.

A lot of people also wear swim-hats, the ones that both protect your hair and protect the water from getting full of hairs, but in the public it's not mandatory, you don't dip your head anyhow, and you wash properly before getting in the water. They do do a good job on keeping your head warm if it's a cold day though!

And remember one more thing: Bring a bottle of drinking water. You will need it after the baths, or even during. It is WARM (and the closer to the source, the higher up, the warmer it is, remember you can try the different levels.)

How to get there?

Once in Taipei, take the MRT, the metro, to the Beitou station. Change there and go to Xinbeitou - 新北投. Millennium hotsprings is just a short walk from Xinbeitou station, look at the map. When you get to the Hotspring Museum you will know you are on the right way. Look at the signs and you will soon find it!  

Just remember what I have said before; It is always useful to write down the name in Chinese as well, at least the street name. 

Oh, and the morning pass is the best, say the people that come often; Less crowded and you have the whole day ahead of you when you finish. 

View Spots in Taichung and in Taiwan in a larger map


Rachel said...

I haven't tried the public baths in Taiwan and neither in Japan, well I didn't have much that time when I visited.. hopefully my next visit would be long enough to check out the hot springs, cause you make it sound really interesting!
Thanks for posting! :)

TravellingAK said...

Definitely worth a visit, Rachel! And if you want to spoil yourself the spas are worth a visit too, although that's a different experience.