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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Places: Yonghe

On a cold, rainy Taipei day, I decided I’d had enough of just sitting at home, writing postcards & watching AFL (Aussie Rules Football) on the TV.  So I picked up my Olympus Pen EE-3 and decided to head to Yonghe, just to have a look at a part of Taipei that I’d never been to.

Okay, so there’s nothing special about Yonghe actually.  I know a few people who live there, but that’s about the only connection I have with the place.  It’s very much a residential area, though there is a fairly big market at Yongan Market, as well as the 823 Memorial Park & Taiwan National Library (get off at Yongan Market MRT Station for all these).  Other than that, there’s plenty of small alleys to lose yourself in, you can always go to the riverside park, and as always there’s plenty too eat too!

My excursion took in the three places I mentioned above.  I started with a quick visit to the National Taiwan Library, and a stroll around 823 Memorial Park.  The park is actually quite nice, and I can imagine it would be a really great place to unwind on a sultry summer’s afternoon.  Even on the rainy, miserable Sunday that I went, there were still plenty of old folk gathered to do various activities, especially playing mahjong (and drinking too, go them!)  From there, I just made it my mission to get lost in the maze of alleys that surround the Yongan Market.  The market itself is quite large & you can find almost anything you would need there.  It’s well worth a stroll, especially if you’re looking to find something “different” to include in your next meal.  The alleys around Yonghe are peaceful, and it’s very easy to just keep wandering.  It’s a very different place to the hustle & bustle of Guting or Gongguan, which I am now used to in my day-to-day life.

Yonghe may not even feature on any tourist to-do list, but if you have a day or two free in Taipei, it’s somewhere that you could pay a morning visit to, just to see a slightly different aspect of Taipei city life.

Sight: Yehliu GeoPark

This trip to the Yehliu GeoPark was my first trip to the North Coast of Taiwan.  Getting to the Park is extremely easy from Taipei, however it is one of the “must see” places in Taiwan, and is often crowded with tour groups.  That said, it’s big enough that it’s easy to lose the crowds after some time.

I would really recommend the park for anyone travelling to/around Taiwan with kids – they’ll have an awesome time running among the strange looking rock formations.  It would also be a nice day trip idea for couples looking to get out of Taipei easily.

Entry to the park will set you back NT$50 (students can get in for NT$25).  You can walk all the way to the tip of the peninsula, which stretches out some 1.7km into the Pacific Ocean.  I’m sure it looks amazing on a clear, sunny day (unfortunately I went on the cold & windy type of day).

Neil Wade has listed several ways to reach the park on his blog.  A few other details below:

  • Park Entry: NT$50
  • Bus (from Taipei): NT$96
  • Train (Taipei – Keelung): NT$41 + Bus (from Keelung): NT$30
  • To get to the park from the bus stop takes about 10 minutes walking through a small fishing village.  Follow the blue path.

There’s also Ocean World park next to the park entrance, which has regular shows featuring different sea creatures.  There’s also a good looking market/souvenir place next to the park entrance.