Taiwan! "Feel Good" Country
Enhance Your Health and Your Knowledge on a Grand Island Tour
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.
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.
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
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
Spring City Resort
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.
Naruwan Resort Hotel
Add: 33 Pubu, Wulai Village, Wulai Township, Taipei County
Tel: (02) 2661-6000
Everybody in the Pool!
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.