In the center of Peitou there is a pond, filled with boiling steaming waters. A strong smell of sulphur permeates the air.
The pond is encircled by lush vegetation and old fashioned Japanese inns. A small outlet runs downhill in the middle of the hot springs area. Most of the spa hotels are here, aligned along the steaming creek.
Di-re Pond in Beitou-Taiwan.
No, we are not in Japan. Peitou (also written as Beitou) is in the northern outskirts of Taipei, on the southwestern flank of the Yangmingshan volcano.
Japanese cherish hot springs. So it is not surprising that in 1896 - just one year after the Japanese takeover of Taiwan - the first Japanese spa was established in Peitou.
Later, during WWII, many inns were used as resorts for Japanese Army officers. Kamikaze enjoyed their last life pleasures here (this also means that Peitou was Taipei "red lights" district).
Old picture of Peitou Hot Springs in Japanese time.
Peitou was a real heaven 70 years ago as you can see from the old pictures displayed in the Hot Spring Museum. The area has changed a bit, now Peitou is part of Taipei and some parts has been heavily "developed".
So there are still many charming spots but also some eyesores. It seems the development has not stopped and many constructions are ongoing uphill - Peitou hopes to attract Mainland Chinese tourists.
Beitou hot springs are connected to the volcanic activity in Yangmingshan, the mountain on the north of Taipei. Yangmingshan is an active volcano yet no eruption took place in the last few thousand of years.
Beitou hot springs waters are milky white, sulphuric, acid, the water temperature is around 55-65 °C.
Actually we enjoyed and liked Peitou and we will come again when we will have things to do in Taipei.
The hot springs area is quiet and definitively much greener than Taipei. Beitou should not be missed by hot springs lovers and by whoever seeks traces of the old "japanese" Taiwan
Peitou is very well connected with Taipei: Xinbeitou MRT station is close to all the hotels and spas - 10-15 minutes maximum walking distance.
Yangming Mountain is very close too so Peitou is a convenient base to explore both Taipei and Yangminshan National Park.
My suggestion: if you stay in Taipei you don't really need to spend the night here, your money will be better spent on a day trip.
The Public Hot Springs are the budget outdoor option. You cannot miss them as they are on the roadside just after the Hot Spring Museum.
Pictures of Ma Ying-jeou (i guess when he was still Taipei mayor) chatting with some foreigners in the hot waters welcome the visitors at the ticketing booth.
The admission fee is just 40 NTD (1.25 US$), you have to add 20 NTD if you need a locker. The pools are communal (men and women together) so swimsuit, cap and towel are de rigueur. Good value.
Asia Pacific Resort offers different choices, from public to private outdoor and indoor hot springs. The prices are affordable. They also provide very frequent shuttle buses from Beitou and Xinbeitou MRT stations. We did not try the resort this time.
Shuido (Spa Spring Resort) has been recommended to us by a Taiwanese couple we met in our hotel. They told us the hot springs on the roof have the best view in Peitou.
The public spa costs from 360 to 460 NTD (10.60-13.60 US$), a private hot spring from 880 to 980 NTD (2 hours/26-29 US$).
A private hot spring room (including the bed) will cost 1380 NTD (40.90 US$) every 2 hours, they also have rooms for the night (4000-8000 NTD / 118-237 US$).
Hotels: they normally offer private spa in the rooms and public pools, often open to non-guests, see below.
Walk to the Geothermal Valley.
Geothermal valley (Di-Re Gu), or Hell Valley, is the pond, about 4,000 square meters large, where the hot springs waters gathers. It is an impressive place indeed, as you can see from the pictures.
The water is really hot (from 75°C to 90°C) and acid (1-2 Ph), so Hell Valley is really more a lake of scalding hot sulphuric acid than water. Don't do stupid things there, a dive in the lake is really fatal!
The lake is surrounded by lush vegetation, thanks to the high humidity of Yangminshan area. The contrast is great to see.
Geothermal Valley from the I-tsun Inn.
Experience the Japanese nostalgia of the Hot Springs Museum.
The original Japanese public bath are now the site of the Hot Springs Museum. The museum, a lovely Japanese-European building built in 1913, has been skillfully restored after years of neglect.
A strong Japanese nostalgia pervades the museum, a feeling quite common in Taiwan. Not to be missed are the large tatami room on the first floor and the pool on the ground floor. Admission is free.
Beitou Hot Springs Museum.
Enjoy the Zen beauty of the Folk Arts Museum.
The Folk Arts Museum was closed for vacations in the cold days just before the Chinese New Year, so we missed one of the best attractions in Beitou. The museum is set in an atmospheric Japanese inn, that has been beautifully restored and open to public at the beginning of 2008.
The building is an attraction on its own and the exquisite tatami rooms also host cultural events as Japanese tea ceremonies and Fujian nanguan court music. I found these informations in the excellent book "Taiwan,une bonne surprise" written by Mariko Poimboeuf (the book is in English and Chinese).
Folk Arts Museum.
If you already stay/live in Taipei you don't really need an hotel in Peitou since it can be easily reach from the city. Besides, the hotels are quite pricey, even compared to downtown Taipei.
Staying in Peitou is an interesting option if you come to Taipei for business or leisure. After your business meetings or Taipei sightseeing you can end your day soaking in the hot springs.
We spent a few nights there so this is the only hotel I can give my personal opinion.
Spring City Resort is a modern hotel on the uphill side of Peitou - we had a nice view from our room. We paid the weekdays discounted price of 4,399 NTD (130 US$ - including breakfast), your rate could be higher.
The not so good:
Spring City Resort.
We heard great things from our Taipei informers about this ultimate resort. The daily rate is "great" too: from 16,000 to 25,000 NTD (470 to 740 US$) per room.
The rate for a private hot springs suite starts from 6,000 NTD per 3 hours (180 US$).
Their italian restaurant should be one of the best in all Taiwan (Alba white truffles here!). Enjoy if you can afford it! Everything on their website.
Whispering Pine Inn - (Yi Sung Ge)
This is an historical Japanese inn just opposite the Spring City Resort. Apparently they don't have a website (and the rooms - tatami and western - have no internet or phone).
The tatami rooms provided with stone paved bathrooms should cost about 3,600 NTD (106 US$). Opinions about this hotel are mixed.
For sure it is an interesting place: one evening we noticed big black cars parked outside the inn and men dressed in black guarding them - it looked like a Quentin Tarantino movie.
Whispering Pine Inn from the Spring City Resort - Peitou.
It is a historical Japanese inn too. They offer tatami japanese rooms for 3,600 NTD (106 US$) and western for 2,800 NTD (83 US$).
We could have a look at some pictures of the rooms. The rooms seem spacious and clean, even if a little bit basic. Tatami rooms have a private hot spring bath with mosaic tiles, there are also communal men and women pools.
The inn overlooks the Hell Valley. We are quite interested in this inn, it could be our next hotel when we will come back to Peitou.
I-Tsun Inn in Beitou-Taiwan.
Most of people eat in the hotels. All the hotels listed above have very interesting restaurants.
Shann Garden is an alternative and usually cheaper choice in Peitou.
The restaurant offers Mongolian barbecue and buffet with a little bit of everything .... local dishes as stewed pork rice Beitou style, chinese dishes, sushi, salad bar. Soft drinks included, all for 580 NTD (17.20 US$) ... a good value.
There is also a teahouse. Shann Garden is located in the old Xing Gao Hotel (originally another Japanese inn) on the hill, very close to the Folk Arts Museum. The view from this restaurant is good.
The place has a historical value, it was the "golden cage" where Chiang Kai-shek kept Chang Hsueh-liang for more than 40 years. Chang Hsueh-liang, "The Young Marshal" has been one the most interesting (and loved) characters of the Chinese history in the 20th century.
The easiest way is to reach Xinbeitou (Hsinbeitou) MRT station. From there you can walk or get a free shuttle to the Spring City Resort or Asia Pacific Resort. The shuttle bus stop is on the left side of the station, where the taxis wait for customers - there is a sign.
You can also stop in Beitou MRT station, on the Danshui line, that has much more frequent trains than Xinbeitou. From there you can catch the shuttle bus (on the right side, coming out of the station) or the bus #25.