Places: Beitou

Beitou is a popular stop for Taipeiers looking for a relaxing hot spring escape.  Only about 30 minutes north of the city, it is extremely easy to reach, and makes for a perfect day trip if you don’t have long in Taipei, and want to get your hot spring fix.

I explored Beitou as part of a free walking tour, organised by the team at Topology tours (website | Facebook).  I’ve been looking out for something like this in Taipei for a while now, and this one is the first of its kind that I’ve found.  While travelling around Europe last year I went on free walking tours of every city I visited.  They were a great way to orient oneself with the city, quickly see all the main sights, hear the stories behind them, and most importantly, meet a whole bunch of new people.  The team at Topology hold a free walking tour at different locations around Taipei every Saturday, so keep an eye on their Facebook page for upcoming events – who knows, we may just meet 🙂

The tour of Beitou started at 10:30 at Xinbeitou station.  The group was small, and to be honest, there was actually an equal number of Topology staff & visitors.  That said, the walking tour is actually a form of training for the Topology tour guides, and having so many of them there was good to get ideas & insights into other places around Taipei & Taiwan too.

We started from the station, walking up through the back streets of Beitou, stopping at different houses & streets, and being told of the history of the area, especially during the Japanese occupation of Taiwan, when Beitou’s hot springs were the last port of call for the Japanese Kamakazi (suicide mission) soldiers.  Seeing various old houses in the area, it was interesting to see them juxtaposed with newer buildings, which underline Beitou’s popularity as a retreat for wealthier Taipeiers.

The main hot spring area in Beitou has a mix of high end, expensive resorts, cheaper options, and even an outdoor public pool.  On the muggy day that we went, I wasn’t too keen to jump into a hot spring, though I can imagine they would be very nice on a windy, wet Taipei winters day.  There is an outdoor pool of hot sulphuric water, that you can smell as your enter town, and even a stream running beside the street of the same water.

After a ramen lunch at what seemed like a very popular Japanese place in town (sorry I didn’t take a business card) we made our way to last remaining free stops on the tour – the Beitou Hot Spring Museum, and the Beitou Public Library.  The Hot Spring Museum has a limited amount of English information, but there’s a nice park around it (and the public hot spring, mentioned above, is next door) so you can easily spend a few hours in/around it.

The day finished with a walk to a nearby market for some shaved ice & then saying our goodbyes at Beitou station.  It was a great day, everyone made a lot of new friends, and we all went home with very, very tired legs 😀

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