Taiwan and Japan

2015 - 2016

Day 5


After a late night last night, we left a little later than usual and the first thing we wanted to do was sort out our train tickets for tomorrow. Amy had booked these back in Australia because the train we needed was not part of the standard rail network and our guide, Tonny Teng suggested to book in advance. We ordered the tickets, but then we had to pick them up from a local train station, post office or convenience store.

So first thing in the morning Amy and I went to our local family mart to try to get our actual tickets, but they didn’t know what we were asking for, so we decided to ask the hotel staff if they could help. The lady at the desk was so helpful, she walked over to family mart with us and helped us organise our tickets. There was a ticket machine in family mart that we needed to use but it was all in Chinese. Even the hotel lady got confused for a little while there, ran back to the hotel, then back to us again and used our booking reference to get another receipt that we then exchanged for our actual tickets. Quite a confusing process, but we got there in the end! Not sure we would have been able to do it without our friendly concierges help!

Now that all that was sorted, we headed out for breakfast. We went to the same cafe around the corner and after Chris gave such a good review of the peanut butter eggs, I wanted to try it but due to our late start we missed breakfast which closed at 11am, next time! We quickly went down to Citibank to get some more cash out and started our journey to Beitou.

We took the train to Beitou station and then another train to Shin Beitou. This place felt like more of a country town that the urban city area we were staying in. You could smell the Sulfur in the air and there were quite a few people around. There is a river with the natural hot spring water flowing right through the town with a tourist friendly path along it with signs and little wooden bridges, very picturesque.

After a nice walk through the town we arrived at the thermal springs. Its really mesmerising to watch, like watching a fire. The water had a green tinge to it, which is meant to be fairly rare and there were clouds of steam pouring off the surface of the water. Every now and then the wind would pick up the steam and blow it over the crowd, we could feel the warmth on our skin and got a stronger whiff of the sulphur, all adding the experience.

We were going to go to the hot spring museum but it was closed so we started looking up where we could go for a hot spring bath. There were some fancy spas in the area and there was also a public foot bath within walking distance, so we thought we’d give it a shot. As we walked along the road there was a small canal along side for the water to continue to run down hill. It was cool to see natural hot spring water at the perfect temperature everywhere we turned!

Rob led the way with Google Maps at hand and before long we had left the crowds of tourists and were walking up fairly steep paths in what looked like country suburbia. The public foot baths were something I had never seen before. In Australia if you go to a local suburban park you may find a playground and an area to play sports within the park and this was exactly like that but right next to the basketball court there was a long, snaking pool built in to the ground with a hand water pump to wash your feet and a temperature gauge on the wall to tell you how hot the water is. Today it said 57.9 degrees!

We were the only tourists here and definitely got some strange, but not unwelcoming looks. I guess this isn’t really a tourist attraction, just something the locals do. Pretty good way to kill time while you wait for your kids to play around the park! We took off our shoes and socks, washed our feet and found a spot to sit. The spot we found was right near the outlet and the reason that spot was available was because it was too hot! We couldn’t handle the temperature there and had to go a little further downstream which makes quite a difference!

After drying off in the sun for a little bit we packed up our stuff and headed back towards the main town. We were googling a hot spring to go for a proper bath and found Marshal Zen Garden and navigated there. It was a bit of a hike but the view along the way was really nice! We arrived at the spa and there were tiny, winding paths leading between what looked like small huts amongst the trees. When we reached the desk there was some confusion as the staff barely spoke English and they were pretty busy. It took a while, but we eventually worked out the prices and timeslots available. Unfortunately I can’t remember the prices, but they were what you would expect for a mineral spring in Australia, not super cheap. Sarma wasn’t interested in participating so Chris kept Sarma company and they headed back to town for dinner. As it turns out there were only two spots available and they were the last timeslots for the day, which also meant we had some time to kill. Just down the path was a tea house, so Anth, Amy, Rob and I went to get some much needed food and some tea.

After a nice relaxing break we finally got to the spa and soaked for about an hour. Although a bit of our allocated hour was spent filling the bath, it was worth the wait. It was a good way to end a day of walking and a great start to the year. I had actually never been to a mineral spring spa before, but Amy assured me my skin would thank me for it and I can see why people make an effort to go to these on a regular basis! Our time was eventually up and we met in the lobby where an assistant was waiting for us with fresh tea. By this stage it was dark and the courtyard was lit up by little lanterns. In a relaxed state of mind, we slowly snapped a couple of photos and made our way back to our hotel.

We met up with Chris and Sarma and traded storied, found a place for dinner, ended up getting more cash out and called it a night.