epaper

Taiwan! "Feel Good" Country

 

Enhance Your Health and Your Knowledge on a Grand Island Tour
Text/Rick Charette Photo/Vision Int'l

This island, floating on the far west side of the grand Pacific, is a land replete with cultural treats for the traveler from distant lands. Taiwan is the truest repository of the ancient ways in Chinese culture, caringly preserved while weakened or lost in other lands in the face of modern pressures and strings of unfortunate events. Part of this repository are age-old health treatments that have stood the test of time while being perfected over the centuries. Health-food therapy, full-body massage, reflexology, herbal baths, Chinese-medicine health examinations, meditation.....vivify your health with one, some, or all while exploring each as a key part in the intricate Chinese-culture mosaic.

Beyond the fruits of cultural nurture, nature has also been kind here in her bestowal of gifts. The forces that have given rise to this land's soaring peaks also cause mineral-rich waters to bubble to the surface. Mineral springs, hot and one - very rare indeed - cold, are found all over Taiwan, near the big cities and in remote places, at points very high and down at the coast, on the mainland and on offshore islands, with facilities and left au naturel. An offshoot of the local passion for hot-spring soaking is the development of spa water treatment, with centers in all tourist-frequented locales.

Finland and Japan have done much in teaching the world the art of enhanced living through mineral-water therapy, but Taiwan is now also a master of the palette. And there are not many lands to which this island can be compared in any discussion of age-old, well-cured health-enhancing practices. Come away to Formosa, the "beautiful island," to explore her cultural and natural attractions and at the same time to bring out the most beautiful in you by exploring her treasure-house of health-related activities. Two trips in one is surely the best of bargains. Keep turning these pages to find out about each type of activity in turn.

Hot-Spring Bathing
One of the Great Experiences of a Visit to Taiwan

Text/Richard Saunders Photos/Spring City Resort, Tienlai Hot Spring Resort, Old Jinshan Governor's Hot Springs, Huang Fu-ren

Taiwan may be a subtropical island, but temperatures can get a little cool during the winter months, so it's a particular blessing that this place has one of the world's largest concentrations of hot springs. The Taiwanese have discovered the true delights of hot-spring bathing, appreciating more and more the subtle pleasures of luxury, with the result that new hot-spring spas appearing around the island can legitimately lay claim to that coveted five-star rating.

Taiwan's position at the edge of the Pacific Ocean puts it slap bang on the so-called 'ring of fire' which encircles the Pacific Rim, following the borders of a series of tectonic plates. It's this geological fact we have to thank for the multitude of hot springs across the island. Two million years or so ago, the Philippine Oceanic Plate (to the east) pushed under the Eurasian Continental Plate to a depth of a hundred kilometers, a depth at which the rock melted to become a huge reservoir of magma. This created the now-extinct volcanoes of Yangmingshan National Park in northern Taiwan. This vast natural boiler still exists far below the surface of the earth, as the subduction continues. Heat rising through the rock towards the surface heats groundwater seeping down through cracks in the earth. This reappears at the surface as either hot springs or steam-spouting fumaroles.

One Century of Hot-Spring Bathing in Taiwan
Taiwan's hot springs were first mentioned in print in 1697, in a book called Bi Hai Ji You; "Small Sea Travel Records"), written by an intrepid Cing Dynasty traveler named Yu Yong-he, who accepted a mission from the Cing government to come to Taiwan to mine sulfur from several hot-spring areas. Indigenous inhabitants made use of the endless supply of clean, hot water from the springs, which were avoided by Chinese settlers of the time, and this marvelous natural resource went largely untapped save by natives until the final years of the nineteenth century.

Surprisingly, although it was the Japanese who popularized hot-spring culture during their occupation of the island between 1895 and 1945, they weren't the first to realize the value of the local hot springs. That honor goes to - of all people - a German by the name of Ouely, who explored the hot springs near Beitou  in 1893 and later opened a bathhouse. When the hot-spring-loving Japanese took over the island two years later, they weren't slow to utilize this plentiful and widespread natural treat, opening their first bathhouse, called Tenguan, in Beitou in 1896. This bathhouse is long gone, but if you want to visit another hot-spring bath from the Japanese period, you can go to the tiny Longnaitang  bathhouse standing beside Beitou Hot Spring Park, a short walk from Xinbeitou (Sinbeitou) MRT station. In no time the Japanese had established hot-spring spas all over Taiwan: in the north at Beitou and Yangmingshan and down south at Guanzihling and Sichongsi. They even established a hospital at Beitou which made extensive use of hot-spring therapy!

With the return of Taiwan to Chinese rule in 1945, hot springs soon fell back out of favor, and it was only in the late 1990s that hot springs once again really caught the public imagination. Nowadays the choice ranges from natural, undeveloped hot springs deep in remote mountain gorges, through simple bathhouses, all the way to luxurious five-star spas with every possible comfort. Although hot springs have popped up all over the island, the majority are to be found around Taipei, Yilan, and Hsinchu  counties in the north, Nantou  in the center of the island and, down south, in the mountains of Kaohsiung and Pingtung. Taiwan's hot-spring waters come in many types, from the sulfuric waters of the hot springs found around Yangmingshan to the sodium-bicarbonate springs of places such as Jiaosi, in Yilan County. What they all have in common, however, is their reputed health-giving properties: a hot-spring bath is said to be good for treating various skin diseases, the gout, arthritis, muscle pains, even diabetes.

Hot-Spring Bathing in Northern Taiwan
Visitors to the capital city of Taipei have a treat in store. One of Taiwan's best hot-spring resort areas is just a 20-minute MRT ride from Taipei Main Station: Beitou. The name "Beitou" actually comes from an old aboriginal word which means "witches' den," probably arising because of the mysterious vapor clouds that perennially drift up from the area's many hot-spring sources. There can be no better introduction to the hot spring than Beitou, which boasts the magnificent Beitou Hot Spring Museum and an immense pool of near-boiling hot-spring water in what is called Di Re Valley (or, more vividly, Hell Valley;). Bathers can choose between (among many others) the old Japanese bathhouse called Longnaitang, and several modern five-star spas such as Spring City Resort, Asia Pacific Resort, and SweetMe, all close to each other.

Spring City Resort
Spring City Resort is widely regarded as the best and most luxurious of all Beitou's hot-spring spas. The resort lies in the cool foothills of Yangmingshan high above Beitou's town section. Opened in 1998, Spring City Resort offers landscaped public pools and private tubs in four classes of rooms, some with beds for those who wish to stay the night. The emphasis in Spring City Resort is on modern, clean luxury, and this is immediately apparent upon walking into the bright and spacious main reception area. The walls are of glass and marble, with fine upholstered sofas and chairs and Japanese-style lacquered furniture along the walls. This sense of style is continued in the outdoor communal pools, which are tastefully landscaped with rocks, foliage, and wood, and in the rooms with bathtubs made of fine red-cypress wood and from a form of volcanic andesite called Guanyin Rock, which retains heat well.
Add: 18 Youya Rd., Beitou District, Taipei City
Service Hotline: (02) 2897-5555
www.springresort.com.tw

Tien Lai

North of Beitou and downtown Taipei City, Yangmingshan National Park boasts no less than eighteen hot-spring sources, the highest concentration on the island. Many of the traditional hot-spring facilities in the mountains here are very simple in design, but of late much more luxurious spas have opened. The finest of all, Tien Lai Hot Spring Resort, is a luxurious spa with a fantastic view over the unspoilt crests and slopes of north-side Yangmingshan; it features sixteen pools, including a number infused with the aromas of various herbs and Chinese medicines. Tien Lai is quite a long way from Taipei City, about an hour's drive over the mountain massif and down the far side towards the coastal town of Jinshan, but the mountain views, especially enjoyable while bathing in the open-air pools, are mesmerizing. Although it is a little remote, visitors without their own transport can easily reach Tien Lai by a regular service (Royal Bus Co.; www.royalbus.com.tw) between Taipei and Jinshan, which has a stop right in front of the spa.

Follow the highway past Tien Lai down to the north coast and East China Sea at Jinshan, which doubles as a seaside resort and, courtesy of the rare seaside hot-water springs found here, as a spa. There's a wonderful hot-spring swimming pool close to the main beach in town. Bathhouses here are for the most part fairly simple, although several comfortable mid-range places have sprung up in the past few years.
Add: 1-7 Mingliou Rd., Chonghe Village, Jinshan Township, Taipei County
Service Hotline: (02) 2408-0000
www.tienlai.com.tw

Wulai

The hot-spring baths at Jinshan have an advantage over Yangmingshan - sulfur-free, odorless water - but the best hot springs in northern Taiwan for those who object to the mild pong of Yangmingshan's salubrious sulfuric vapors are at the aboriginal village of Wulai, deep in the mountains about an hour south of Taipei City, easily reached by car or a regular bus service. The hot-spring water gushing forth at Wulai is completely clear, odorless, and tasteless, and has been piped into a variety of bathhouses and spas. Adventurous souls can join the locals in the outdoor hot-spring pools down beside the river below the big bridge. What these simple pools lack in privacy and style, they certainly make up for in scenery, offering an unhindered view of the mountain gorge and rushing river which have made Wulai such a famous local tourist attraction. For something more elegant, try one of the contrasting top-end choices in the village. Naruwan Resort Hotel uses the local aboriginal presence for inspiration in everything from its architecture to the patterning on the room bedspreads and curtains, while Pause Landis  goes for a more minimalist, modern style, all straight lines, smooth stone, and rich, dark wood.
Naruwan Resort Hotel
Add: 33 Pubu, Wulai Village, Wulai Township, Taipei County
Tel: (02) 2661-6000
www.clr-naluwan.com.tw

Pause Landis
Add: 61 Yanti Rd., Jhongjhih Village, Wulai Township, Taipei County
Tel: (02) 2661-8000
www.pauselandis.com.tw

Everybody in the Pool!
Hot-spring bathing is one of the great experiences of a visit to Taiwan. It's far more than merely taking a bath. Visiting a spa or bathhouse is one of the best ways to see how an activity originally so very Japanese has become a part of Taiwanese culture. This is especially apparent in the simpler bathhouses dotted around Beitou, Yangmingshan, and Wulai. It may take a little courage to 'take the plunge,' but there can be few better ways to really get a feel for the local culture, and is bound to result in a memorable experience. And with more than a hundred spring sources, various types of spring water, and countless spas and bathhouses nestled around the island, there's no better place to try it than Taiwan!

 

Before You Plunge into the Pool

There are a few things to look out for when taking a hot-spring bath, especially in a communal pool. The Taiwanese are scrupulous observers of personal cleanliness and always wash before entering the pool; the more basic places may only provide a bucket and water scoop, while more swanky places and spas will have showers. Shampoo and soap should never be used inside the pool, and locals prefer not to take towels in either.

Once inside the pool, move slowly. In the really hot pools especially beloved by Japanese bathers, making waves can make life very uncomfortable for yourself and other bathers. As a rule of thumb, don't soak in the baths for more than five or ten minutes before getting out and taking a rest. Many Taiwanese swear by the salutary effects of alternating short soaks in the hot pool with short, sharp dips in the cold pool to be found nearby at all hot-spring baths and spas, although it's a bit of a shock to the system and definitely something to work up to slowly. People suffering from heart problems or high blood pressure are not advised to take a hot-spring bath without consulting their doctor first.

 

Through the Grapevine

The Tatami of Dongshi

Lacquerware

Lion’s Head Mountain and Beipu

Exploring the Valley of the Glowing Sky

Fruit of the Angels

Its Cake Culture

The Amazing Bamboo

Yilan’s Kumquats

Lovely Nanzhuang

The Sea of Flowers in Xinshe Festival

Healthful Eating and Delicious Flavors

The Black King Kong of Yuanchang

From Art Brush to Beauty Brush

A Strange Fruit

The Sound of Drums

Zuoying Wannian Folklore Festival

The Hot Springs of Beitou

Simakusi (Smangus)

Meinong

Water Frolics

Overnighting on the Northeast Coast

Giant Buddha, Old Temples, and Glass Art

Mt. Beidawu

The Most Joyous Thing in the World is Music

Taiwan Fun on the Tropic of Cancer

FUN WITH CHINESE - Men in the Fields during Rain

NK 101 Tea @ Style

Taitung Backpack Bus Trip

The Life of Pi

Taipei’s East District Where the Art of Shopping Is Serious Business

Spring Onion Country Yilan's Sanxing Township Offers Ideal Conditions for Cultivating Scallions

Sandy Beaches, Rocky Coastline, Quiet Country A Whirlwind Tour Round Hengchun Peninsula

What Happened at Wushe

Confucius Day

Keeping It in the Family: I Wan Jan Puppet Theater

Taiwan Has a Unique Culture

Welcoming the Year of the Rabbit and the ROC's 100 Years

All the Flowers You Can Dream Of

Music from the Marshland

Pristine Scenes

Fierce Faces

Following the Tide

A Wonderful World Out There

Off to the Beach and the Rocks

Taiwan’s Easy Rider Goes Into the Wild

HAKKA TUNG BLOSSOM FESTIVAL

Taipei Int'l Flora Expo

HIDDEN HOT SPRINGS & LANDFORMS

JOURNEY into the PAST

YOUNG, GIFTED, AND DEAF

Taiwan's Ultra Man Going Beyond Extreme

Rice by Any Other Name

Taiwan is Beautiful!

TAIPEI EYE

Slate Houses and Mud Rivers

From Fir Formosa

Touring Kaohsiung by KMART

TOURING TAIWAN

Taoyuan HSR Station

Taking Taiwan's Slow Train

Bus Trip to Central Taiwan

Establishing a Beautiful Taiwan

High Mountain Ecology

Exploring High Mountain HighsTaiwan at Her Peaks

Cultural Tourism in Taiwan:What's in It for You?

Getting to Know Taiwan's Indigenous Cultures

Leaving Stress Behind

Taiwan! "Feel Good" Country

Exploring Taiwan's Rural Side

Aboriginal Tribes & Festivals

The Famous Lantern Festival in Taiwan

Night Markets in Taiwan

Great Arts, Culinary Exhibitions and Events in Taiwan's National Palace Museum and Other Places

Mountains in Taiwan

Water Fun in Taiwan

Taiwanese Arts, Arts Festivals and Interesting Artifacts

"Taiwan's Ghost Festival and Other Religious Events"

Dragon Boat Festival

City: The Tallest Building Taipei 101 & Kaohsiung's Love River

National Scenic Area (IV)-Dapeng Bay National Scenic Area, Penghu National Scenic Area, Matsu National Scenic Area

National Scenic Area (III)-East Rift Valley National Scenic Area, East Coast National Scenic Area, Maolin National Scenic Area

National Scenic Area (II)-Sun Moon Lake National Scenic Area, Alishan National Scenic Area, Southwest Coast National Scenic Area

National Scenic Area (I)-North Coast & Guanyinshan National Scenic Area, Northeast Coast National Scenic Area, Tri-Mountain National Scenic Area

Offshore Islands- Penghu、Kinmen National Park、Matzu、Green Island(Lyudao)、Orchid Island(Lanyu)

Eastern Taiwan- Taroko National Park、East Rift Valley、Rueisuei & Hongye、Jhihben

Southern Taiwan- Alishan、Tainan、Kaohsiung、Dapeng Bay & Little Liouciou、Kenting National Park

Central Taiwan- Miaoli、Taichung、Changhua、Nantou、Yushan National Park

Northern Taiwan -Taipei City、Yangmingshan & Beitou、Danshuei、Wulai、Jioufen & Jinguashih、Yilan、Taoyuan & Hsinchu