Taipei's hot springs, and other tantalizing Taiwanese pursuits
Last weekend we recommended the snowy slopes of Vancouver, to take in the unbelievable sporting genius of those competing at the Winter Olympics, as well as the unbelievable fashion disasters. So we think its time to thaw out, with a trip this coming weekend to the gloriously hot springs of Taiwan.
If you're already in Taiwan, you'll have discovered the Winters can get a little chilly. So why not warm up at one of the many hot springs in or around Taipei? Located just outside of Taipei city and easily accessible by taxi or bus from Xindian MRT Station, Wulai offers a pleasant escape from the big city. Here you can immerse yourself in Atayal aboriginal culture and enjoy a pleasant soak at the Spring Park Spa Resort. There are other, less expensive springs too, including the free public hot springs at the other side of the Nanshih River from the tourist street in Wulai. Telephone: +886 (02) 2661 6555.
In contrast to Wulai’s clear and odorless springs, Xin Beitou’s sulfuric springs discharge, along with the bathtub-warm water, some rather strong smells. Visitors with sensitive nasal cavities may want to try somewhere different, or bring some nose plugs. A short walk from Xin Beitou MRT station will take you past East-Asia’s most eco-friendly library on the way to the Hot Spring Museum to learn about the history of the area’s hot springs at this former Japanese colonial era bathhouse. Further up the road is Hell Valley, a natural sulfur hot spring where the temperature can reach over 100 degrees Celsius. While in Xin Beitou soak at the elegant I-Tsun Hotel or visit a public outdoor hot spring. Telephone: +886 (02) 2891 2121.
While in Town
Take a stroll through meticulously landscaped gardens at one of the several sites hosting the Taipei International Flora Exposition, which will be held from November 2010 to April 2011. General admission NT$300 (US$9.3), free shuttle buses from Minquan West Road and Jiantan MRT Stations.
Check out artwork spanning the 5,000-year spectrum of Chinese history at the National Palace Museum. Open 9am to 5pm with extended evening hours every Saturday till 8:30pm, general admission NT$160. Telephone: +886 (02) 2881 2021. Visit the beautiful and controversial Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall, dedicated to Taiwan’s longtime authoritarian leader. Open 9am to 6:30pm. Telephone: +886 (02) 2343 1100. Or try the bustling and historic Longshan Temple.
You can also ride the fastest elevator in the world to the viewing platforms atopTaipei 101 for a 360-degree panoramic view of the Taipei Basin and beyond. Open from 10am to 10pm, adult admission NT$400. Telephone +886 (02) 8101 8899. Shoppers will enjoy the numerous malls surrounding 101, while Ximending is a popular spot for Taipei’s hip and trendy youth.
For the outdoorsy types, the city boasts several recreational trails such as the Elephant Mountain Trail, which awards hikers with a stunning view of Taipei 101. The whole trail can be completed in about two hours. To get there simply walk along Lane 150, Section 5 Xinyi Road. If you have a little more time on your hands you may want to consider a trip to Yangmingshan National Park, which is accessible via the Red #5 bus outside Jiantan MRT Station. There you may spot a few majestic Formosa Blue Magpies or walk alongside easygoing water buffaloes that populate the park’s tranquil Qingtiangang Area.
Where to Eat
No trip to Taipei would be complete without a stop at Din Tai Fung for their fabulous steamed dumplings. The now international chain has four locations in Taiwan; the original is located at No. 194 Xinyi Road Sec. 2. Telephone: +886 (02) 2321 8928.
Sample the multitude of choices at Shilin Night Market, Taipei’s biggest night market. Try such specialties as oyster omelets, stinky tofu, and fried chicken fillets bigger than your head. Don’t worry about the calories, the night market sprawls across several blocks and requires a lot of walking to see everything. Located near Jiantan MRT Station, it’s impossible to miss. Stalls start opening in the early evening and many don’t close until past midnight.
Where to Drink
The young and the beautiful flock to Room 18; telephone: +886 (02) 2345 2778, or Spark 101, telephone: +886 (02) 8101 8662. Jazz lovers will enjoy Blue Note, Taipei’s oldest jazz club; telephone: +886 (02) 2362 2333. While budget-minded travelers will enjoy the Taiwan Beer Bar for a uniquely Taiwan drinking experience. Open noon to 1 am, telephone +886 (02) 2771 9131.
Where to Stay
Due to its lack of five-star hotels when Chiang Kai-shek retreated to Taiwan to assume the mantle of president, he had the extravagant Grand Hotel built to host foreign guests. Telephone: +886 (02) 2886 8888. For a more modern stay, check-in at the Tango Hotel in the city’s Xinyi District. Telephone: +886 (02) 2528 8000.