Since ancient times, people of the Orient have stressed "the healthy way." Today, with modern people facing a whole range of new pressures in daily life, a number of healthy prescriptions are being turned to, including spa treatment, aromatherapy, sauna therapy, reflexology, acupuncture, and medicinal food, all common in Taiwan, allowing the tourist to "explore health improvement" during a visit here.
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.
Health and Beauty Spa
Originating in the 16th century, the original meaning of the term "spa" was "health from water," and in the West spas are mainly used for medical purposes. In Taiwan, however, spas are an important part of a new health and beauty trend. Combining body and facial treatment, soothing massage, and aromatherapy, spas are loved by under-pressure office workers and beauty-seeking ladies ¡X sometimes one and the same people ¡X alike.
Spas are the height of current fashion, and local hot-spring hotels and many 5-star hotels have opened swanky "SPA" water-therapy centers. Companies that used to exclusively sell cosmetics now also promote beauty spas, and even gyms and swimming pools have installed spa-massage equipment. Spas come in different sizes and, combining various massage and skin-care methods, can offer up to 50 different treatments, which can be confusing to the uninitiated.
It is suggested that travelers discuss the most appropriate treatment with a beautician. The full-body massage is a favorite with this group. A massage using just the right amount of pressure can ease discomfort caused by jetlag and travel across time zones. Exposure to sun and wind can damage the skin, and many female travelers choose ceratine treatment to keep their skin clear and shiny.
Best of all, Taiwan's massage techniques are diverse. There is traditional Chinese massage, and many establishments also use massage techniques introduced from Japan, Europe, North America, and Southeast Asia, giving alternatives to Taiwan's traditional heavy-pressure methods. Taiwan also has a large number of hot springs, spread widely across the island. At many of the local upscale hot-spring resorts you can take a relaxing hot-spring bath and then enjoy a soothing massage, combining the health benefits of both on your "feel-good" spa trip.
Healthy Medicated Baths
Medicated baths in Taiwan are divided between Western essential-oil baths and traditional hanfang ( Chinese prescription) medicinal-herb baths. The former usually use lavender, rose, and fresh ginger essential oils. The benefits of this approach are softening of the skin, easing of one's mood, and increased energy levels. Some establishments provide an after-bath essential-oil massage, which is especially pleasant.
Tension-relieving hanfang herbal baths go back 2,500 years. The herbs are dissolved in water, using a suitable temperature to allow the essence to be absorbed by the skin, stimulating blood flow and promoting healthy perspiration. The herbs commonly used in Taiwan's hanfang herbal baths are ground artemisia indica , chuanxiong rhizome , Chinese angelica, rhizome cymbopogon citrate or lemongrass , camphor , and mint, among others. Some ease muscle fatigue, some ease back pain, some are said to help prevent colds, and some even give the skin a better tone and are said to help the user slim down.
A selection of health centers and spas offer herbal-bath pools. In Taipei County's Danshuei Town , for example, the Alive Regimen Hotel offers a full hanfang herbal-bath health-tour package, including accommodation, steam bath, herbal bath, and nutritious hanfang foods. In the hotel's red-cypress steam room you can absorb the essence of Chinese medicinal herbs and then soak in a relaxing herbal bath. After this enjoy a nutritious hanfang meal and drink a health tea to top off an authentic hanfang health journey.
Folk Health Treatment
If you want to ease the pressures of hectic modern living and enhance your health, Taiwan also serves up a number of folk treatments to choose from. The most commonly seen is foot massage or reflexology, with qualified practitioners found at tourist spots such as night-markets, at dedicated chain stores, and even in 5-star hotels. The lowest rate is about NT$400 for a half-hour massage. Reflexology can be traced back thousands of years to ancient China, when denizens of the past found that foot massage was an effective way to treat illness and promote health. Foot massage in modern Taiwan was popularized some 30 years ago by a priest from Switzerland, Father Josef Eugster (in Chinese simply known as Father Wu;), who rediscovered and systematically developed the massage techniques. The reason for the effectiveness of foot massage is that it stimulates reflex areas that are linked to every organ and gland of the body. Reflexology can promote blood flow and metabolism, and is ideal for travelers who are on their feet much of the time.
If having comfortable soles of the feet is not enough, you can also try half-body or full-body tui na massage. This method is offered in Chinese-medicine clinics. The masseur adjusts the yin and yang forces and the flow of qi (energy) in the channels of the body. The treatment can also help the recipient recover from pain or injury.
Note that the pressure used in some types of massage in Taiwan is quite heavy and may be painful for someone who is not accustomed. You can always ask the masseur to massage more gently.
If you are bold enough and tired out by your travels, you can also try cupping therapy (baguan;), acupuncture , or moxibustion . Cupping therapy is beneficial because it smoothes flow of energy through energy channels, adjusts energy, and stimulates the metabolism. The cups used in cupping therapy leave temporary red marks; the deeper the color, the poorer the state of a person's physical condition. For these special health treatments it is advisable to go to a Chinese-medicine doctor, who will first take your pulse and then suggest the treatment most suited to your symptoms. Most Chinese-medicine clinics in Taiwan require a National Health Insurance Card, but foreign visitors can use their passports as proof of identity.
Alive Regimen Hotel
Add: 96 Danjin Rd. (Denghuei Boulevard), Sec. 1, Danshuei Township, Taipei County
Add: 1F, 2, Lane 222, Dunhua N. Rd., Taipei City (Qijian Branch)
Foot Massage Center
Add: 76 Nanjing E. Rd., Sec. 5, Taipei City (opposite China Development Industrial Bank)
Tel: (02) 2762-2166