Last Friday I decided to pay the Beitou district a visit. It’s located in the northern part of Taipei, and its famous among tourists and locals as a place to go relax on weekends.
First, a little background information: Japan occupied Taiwan from 1895 to 1945. During that time, much of Japan’s culture was integrated into the land. Since both Taiwan and Japan are located near the edge of tectonic plates, earthquakes and volcanoes are pretty commonplace in both lands. Hot springs are formed when underground water is heated up by the magma and it forced up near the surface of the earth. When the Japanese came over to Taiwan, they also brought the activity of bathing in hot springs.
Of course the water has to be treated before people are allowed to bathe in it. I went to an area where the water was left
untreated and rose to form a lake. A nearby sign said that the water is about 90 degrees C (194 degrees F) and had a pH somewhere between 1.2 and 1.4 (pretty darn acidic).
In years past, the only way to bathe in the hot springs was in large, public baths. Nowadays most of the hotel in the Beitou area get the spring water piped straight into indoor pool, or even into your room’s bathtub depending on how much you’re willing to spend. I feel like that sort of takes away from the experience, though.
The hot spring I decided on was outdoors and public, and cost 40NT to get in (about 1.50 USD). There we were several different pools, each one higher than the next. The pool with the hottest water was on the top; water from that pool would flow down into the pool below, creating a waterfall, and thus each subsequent pool got cooler and cooler. There were also two other pools not connected to this string, which I later found out were cold pools.
I decided to start at the bottom most pool. The water was nice and warm, just about body temperature. It also circulated a bit, because of the water flowing from the pool above. Overall though, nothing really special. It felt about the same any ordinary hot tub. So, after about 10 minutes, I headed up to the next pool up. It felt about the same, and I didn’t stay long (I had somehow managed to visit the hot springs the same day as an entire school of children, there for the day to celebrate graduating middle school…or something). The aforementioned children were staying in the warmer pools, so I thought it would be a great idea to jump straight on into the upper pools.
I got to the hottest pool and there was a little bit of steam rising from the surface, sort of like the lake I saw earlier. There were also a bunch of old ladies and men lounging around in the water, so I thought, “well, if these old-timers can stand the heat, it can’t be so bad”
Well, it was soo bad. Luckily I put my feet in first and stayed near the edge of the pool, so after the initial numbness passed and I realized my legs were on fire, I was able to escape without making too much of a scene.
After that I tried the next pool down. It was a little better, and I managed to get my entire body in the water for a couple minutes at a time.
The cold pools were pretty interesting. At first, the water was so cold that I didn’t want to go under, but I eventually did. I found out that staying still for a couple of seconds made the water feel almost warm. I ended up spending most of my time at Beitou alternating between the cold pools and the 2nd hottest pool, because apparently it makes you lose weight (according to one of the hot spring veterans). He also mentioned that spring water’s chemical composition changes from place to place, and the water at this particular hot spring was good for your muscle and tendons.