Maokong and Beitou Township, Taiwan – Day 10
If you can’t take the heat stay out of the kitchen!
The aboriginal Ketagalan people who used to inhabit this area named Beitou which means “witch” in their language. Why? They believed the sulfur smell and steam emanating from the ground meant sorcery had run amuck in the area. We know now of course exactly where it comes from. Beitou is situated on the dormant Datuna Volcano. This place is considered one of the greatest areas to experience hot springs in the world and as it is considered a must do when traveling to Taiwan, I dove right in…well…stepped ever so slowly in…starting with the tip of my big toe 😉
Beitou Park is a nature lover’s haven with bubbly streams, quaint bridges and numerous hot spring baths – some private, some public. Amazing how such a tranquil place could be a mere 30 minutes outside the happening city of Taipei.
So how do you get there? Take a train ride from Taipei Main Station to Beitou and a quick switch to the pink line onto a cute colorful little train for Xinbeitou (new Beitou) and in 30 minutes you are in another world.
So where to start and what to do? For me, it was Thermal Valley where the water is always steaming and has a greenish jade like hue to it and emits an interesting but not bad sulfur aroma. It’s not like stinky tofu (which is a real thing people) or what you smelled when you burned sulfur in your high school chemistry class. You can walk Thermal Valley and open your pores like never before as the temperature of the hot springs in Thermal Valley reach 90 degrees…Celsius that is! Better not touch that scalding water but instead stop at Beitou Public Bathhouses where it ranges from 35 degrees Celsius up to 45 but be sure and bring a swimsuit. While some of the bathhouses may still separate the men and women and there you MUST be naked like when the Japanese were here, the Beitou Public Bathhouse is coed and requires a bathing suit. Sorry guys! The cost is a mere $40NTS for up to 2 hours if there is a que. If there isn’t, hang out for a bit if you can stand it. There are two cold water bathing pools to cool off in so not to worry. Just deposit coins in the machine out front and retrieve your entry ticket. Note they will check to see if you have a swimsuit and guy’s they won’t let you wear board shorts. See picture below to understand the difference. Of course, they’ll sell you what you need in the adjacent shop so if you don’t have it with you, you can purchase it.
You can also visit the Beitou Museum, Plum Garden, the Beitou Library, the Ketagalan Cultural Center and further up the mountain, the Puji Temple. These activities are all free but it is customary to make a donation at the temple if you want to light incense and say a prayer. It was a lovely leisurely afternoon and just a bit of the relaxation I was looking for today.
I didn’t, however, realize in Beitou I was only 10 minutes from the Yang Ming Shan Park! I’m so disappointed. I wanted to see the Flower Clock there at the entrance and perhaps if I had the time, do some hiking. Supposed to be beautiful so do it if you can. Picture is from thesmartlocal.com.
My next adventure is an MRT ride to Taipei Zoo Station but not for the zoo (as I get to see animals out in the wild on my travels) but for the Maokong Gondola on the opposite side of Taipei. My goal is to make it there before sunset as I’m told that is the perfect time to take the ride. So far so good. It’s about 20 mins to the brown line at Daan Station then to Taipei Zoo Station then exit at exit 2 and walk about 350 meters to the Maokong Gondola. You can use your EasyCard and the cost is $50NTS. In fact, I think you get a discount of $20NTS if you do use your EasyCard.
As you may remember, I missed the Lantau Gondola in Hong Kong. I’m not sure the Maokong Gondola compares but I’m terribly excited to find out and in a Crystal Cabin Gondola too called the Eyes of Maokong. It’s just like the one my friends were raving about in Lantau. There are like 8 regular cabins to each glass floor cabin so there will be a bit of an extra wait but worth it.
This was one of my favorite experiences in Taiwan and a must do. Go up at sunset and come down at night. Think sunsets and gentle sloping hills with tea plantations and green everywhere. Wear a long loose skirt ladies, drop your hair and as you walk, let the breeze flow through your clothes and hair. Listen to some relaxing piano or classical music you love. I recommend Jennifer Thomas or Escala. Breathe in the lilies and pine and incense and tea. Stroll and then stroll and then stroll some more and take it all in. Then how about some diamonds and emeralds and sapphires and rubies sparkling below. Taipei at night from Maokong will not fail you. See Taipei 101 from here. You won’t regret it.
Eat at A-Yi Chef. Get free Maokong tea. Get an incredible view of Taipei from the open air restaurant. Order some tea rice, some shrimp with tea leaves and finish with a free tea popsicle. Again, you won’t regret it.
Make new local friends like Iris, Celine, Thomas and Michelle. You won’t regret it.
But most importantly, when you ride the gondola back down, be as still as a mouse. The overhead lamps in the cabins are triggered by movement. If you want the most incredible views of a city at night, no lights in the gondola cabin will make this possible. You swing with the wind a little and it’s like being in a dream. I had my gondola all to myself on the way down. It was unbelievably special. I’m guessing it is probably pretty spectacular with someone you love as well. But be still! That is if you can keep your hands off each other.
Finally, Taiwan is the safest place I’ve been in the world. Walking alone at night is absolutely okay here no matter what time it is and I recommend it! If not for the night markets or shopping in the exciting Ximen Shopping Area then for the peaceful and cool and breezy strolls through the parks or by the rivers. I even know people who go to places like Party World at 1:00 a.m. to get a private room for singing kaoroke! I did Ximen tonight and even got a foot massage. So cheap here!
You gotta love it here in Taiwan given the beauty, the people, the cost, the safety and the diversity of things to see and do of which 95% is free and the things that do cost are de minimus.
That’s all for now – all smiles from Taiwan.