“Don’t miss the hot springs!” These were the parting words that a colleague of mine left me with as I headed out of the office doors for my first visit to Taiwan.
With this thought still ringing in my ears as I landed, I asked my concierge and all of the locals in my office for as much advice and information as I could get on the subject. Needless to say, everyone raved about them and urged me to try it out.
As my luck would have it, I developed a horrible stiff neck and a skin rash during my first week in Taipei, so the healing waters of the hot springs were sounding better than ever. After scanning several websites and reading reviews on TripAdvisor.com, I decided to try a luxury spa and hotel named Villa 32 in the Beitou section of Taipei. The reviews sounded amazing, and the photos of their Japanese décor really appealed to me. So, I asked my concierge to book a 90-minute private indoor hot spring bath for NT$3,600 (or approximately US$114) the next day at 1p.m. I couldn’t wait to go.
That Sunday afternoon I took a 35-minute taxi ride (which cost a reasonable US$15) into the beautiful hills of Beitou, and finally reached my destination. The ladies at the front desk were gracious and quickly whisked me up the stairs to my private room. Literally, after just a few minutes upon arrival, I found myself alone in a beautifully appointed bathroom suite with hot sulfur infused water filling up a massive stone soaking tub. This was my idea of heaven.
After jumping in and adjusting the water temperature, I began to soak and let my body unwind. The funny thing is that after about fifteen minutes, I felt restless and a bit lightheaded and I wanted to get out. Thankfully, there was a cozy day bed in the room for lounging, which is exactly what I ended up doing for about 40 minutes. I did eventually return to the tub for another 10-minute dip, but before I knew it, my time was up and I had to sadly leave this relaxing oasis.
With this wonderful experience behind me, I have a few tips for anyone interested in visiting the hot springs of Taiwan, or those elsewhere in the world. First, find out if the establishment you plan to visit is a public bath (like a big pool) or if private rooms also exist. If they are only public, ask about the dress code. In Taiwan, the public baths are segregated by gender and you are expected to remove all clothing before entering. If you are not comfortable with this, make sure you find an option with a private room or a place that allows swimsuits.
Second, bring along snacks, water, reading material, or music to keep you amused. Thankfully, I had such a goody bag packed, as it came in extremely handy. Although the spa room I had was very beautiful, there was a generator outside of my window making a very loud buzzing noise. I was able to quickly drown out that annoying sound with my iPod and earbud headphones.
Lastly, read all instructions before jumping into the hot springs. It is very important to drink water before entering, and you should not remain in the water for more than 15 minutes or be submerged above the heart. Had I known this, perhaps I would have spared myself the lightheadedness I felt. Also, if you have certain medical conditions, a dip in the waters may not be appropriate, so be sure to check with your doctor first if you have any doubts.
As always, I wish you all the happiest of travels!