The roiling hot waters of Geothermal Valley
Beitou 北投區 (Peitou in Wade-Giles) is a northern district of Taipei famous for its hot springs.
Beitou has two faces. Old Beitou is the area where the local people have lived and worked for over a century and is located around Beitou MRT Station and Beitou Market, while Xin Beitou (New Beitou) is the area around Xin Beitou MRT Station and Qinshui Park that was developed as a hot spring resort during the Japanese era (1895-1945). In addition to the waters, Xin Beitou's other attraction was the girls, and the area had the dubious distinction of being one of Taiwan's largest illegal red light districts.
During the 60s, many characterless concrete hotels were built around the park area, and these structures remained the dominant feature of Beitou's landscape for over twenty years.
The late 80's and 90s, however, ushered in a new era. The government made a concerted effort to clean up the area, and the MRT line reached Beitou. As a result, the concrete hotels were either demolished and rebuilt or totally refurbished as luxury spas. In addition, many new apartments were constructed to accommodate young professionals with families who were drawn to the Beitou area because of its good environment and convenient transportation links to downtown Taipei.
Like a phoenix rising from the steam of the scalding waters, the Beitou of today is characterized by its high quality spas, good hotels, excellent living accommodation and green and lush environment.
Due to the smell of sulphur and the constant rising of steam, the Beitou valley had the appearance of a witch's cauldron, and so the Aboriginal inhabitants of the area named it paktaaw, meaning 'witch'. Beitou is the Sinicized form of this name.
MRT: The MRT red (Xindian-Danshui/Nanshijiao-Beitou) lines both stop at Beitou MRT station. From Beitou station a one-station branch line runs to Xin Beitou station, which is near the hot springs area.
Beitou Hot Springs Museum
- Beitou Hot Springs Museum: Built during the Japanese occupation, this beautiful Euro-Japanese style building was once the main public bath in Beitou. It has been lovingly restored and was re-opened in its current form in 1998. Through the twelve rooms, the story of Beitou's romantic years of steam and mystery are revealed in interesting displays. The museum is located in Qinshui Park.
- Ketagalan Cultural Center: This ten story building is dedicated to the Aboriginal culture that once flourished in the Beitou area. The center is located at 3-1 Zhongshan Road (next to Qinshui Park - when coming from Xin Beitou MRT Station, keep the park to your right) Tel: 2759-5565
- The world-famous Yangmingshan National Park covers the volcanic mountain range behind Shilin and Beitou. There are hiking trails, hot springs and numerous areas to relax and fill your lungs with fresh air. Within the mountain range, there is also a cultivated area famous for its flowers, which are especially stunning in the spring. Bus 260 leaves from directly behind Taipei Main Station for the park every ten minutes, traveling along Zhongshan North Road and turning right onto Zhongzheng Road in Shilin. From Beitou, bus 230 plies the route every thirty minutes. It is a short walk from the bus terminal station to the cultivated area of the park. Hikers will enjoy the walk up to the peak of Qixing-shan (Seven-star Mountain).
- Beitou Hot Springs Park (Qinshui Park) (北投溫泉親水公園), is a long, narrow park located directly across the road from Xin Beitou MRT Station. Within the park are fountains, the Beitou library, the Beitou Hot Springs Museum and an outdoor hot spring. Due to its central location, the park is a useful landmark for locating Beitou's other attractions. The park is also featured in the Hong Kong movie Turn Left, Turn Right, starring with Takeshi Kaneshiro and Gigi Leung.
- Geothermal Valley (地熱谷), also called Hell Valley, it is located at a valley near the end of Zhongshan Road on the left-hand side next to Qinshui Park. This is one of the most famous spots in Beitou, a natural sulfur hot spring where water temperatures can reach 100°C (212°F). CLOSED MONDAYS.
- Puji Temple (普濟寺) is a wonderfully preserved Japanese temple. The temple is located across from 'Hotel Kyoto' on Wenquan Road. Walk up flight of stairs to right.
Traditional public hot spring etiquette requires that bathers thoroughly wash and rinse off their bodies before entering the bath, do not wear clothing (including swim wear) in the bath and tie up their hair so that it does not touch the water. Finally, people with high blood pressure, heart disease or open wounds should not enter the baths.
Most of the public outdoor hot springs In the Beitou area are modeled more after European spa centers and require swimsuits since you will be bathing in mixed company. Finding a real traditional Japanese style public bath is increasingly rare. Take a peek and check before peeling off all your clothes.
Places to bathe
There are many hotels and traditional baths located around Qinshui Park (previously called Xin Beitou Park). This park is located directly across from Xin Beitou MRT station (Danshui line). Xingyi Road, the main road from Tianmu to Yangming Mountains in Beitou, also has many hot-springs-cum-restaurants, plus a couple of free public baths (at the top end where the bus turns back). For Xingyi Road, take bus 508 from Wenlin Road, Shilin (from Shilin MRT station exit 1, follow the overhead tracks and turn left at Zhongzheng Road and right at next crossroads [with pedestrian overpass], the 508 stop is on the right). On its way to Xingyi Road, the bus makes a stop opposite the Veterans Hospital in Shipai. Note: The spring water in Beitou is acidic, so don't wear anything that could be damaged by acid, such as pearls.
- Spring City (see 'sleep' section) only has private rooms or an outdoor swimming pool-type pool for non-guests.
- Beauty Age Hotel (美代) (see 'sleep' section) offers private of family size baths. The family baths are as low as ~NT$600 for 2 without accommodation or NT$1,000 (NT$1,200 at weekends) per room (irrespective of the number of people) - this is a well maintained hotel offering a very relaxing environment.
- Sweetme Hot Spring Resort (Shuimei) - see 'sleep' section.
- Millennium Hot Spring is an outdoor public hot spring. At NT$40 (plus an additional NT$20 if you store your stuff in a locker), it's a great choice for the budget minded. After exiting the Xin Beitou MRT station, you'll see a park across the street. Walk up Zhongshan Road, along the left side of the park. On the way you'll pass the Hot Spring Museum. After the Museum, you'll come to a fork in the road. The entrance to the hot spring is on the right. As with most outdoor hot springs in Taiwan swimwear is required. Do bring your own swimwear, purchase it on-the-spot is available however limited choices and it can be quite expensive. They have a number of rules, available on English signs; it would behoove you to follow them lest the guy in the red shirt blow his whistle at you.
- The internationally well-known Ch'an (Zen) master Ven. Sheng-yen has a monastery, publication house, Buddhist University and several meditation centers in the Taipei area. The umbrella group is called Dharma Drum Mountain, and the administration center and university are located on a hill side in Jinshan, Taipei County. The main monastery, Nung Chan Sz (Nongchan Monastery), is located in Beitou (nearest MRT station: Qiyan on the Danshui line) and holds weekly meditation classes with English instruction. For information, check their English web page: .
- Outside of the hotels, Beitou has a dearth of good restaurants. However, a few can be found around Qinshui park.
- Lian-Hwa, 110-2 Wenquan Road (top of Qinshui park, turn right, the restaurant is immediately on the left). Tel:2892-7611 - an excellent vegetarian restaurant with reasonable prices.
- Xinbeitou has, visible from the MRT station, McDonald's, KFC, Starbucks, the local Mosburger, a sushi bar, and various Taiwanese eateries.
- Studio Rental, . checkin: 2:00 pm; checkout: 12:00 noon. This is a fully furnished private studio rental located 5 mins walking distance from Shipau MRT station. Facilities include Wi-Fi, 42” LCD TV, Office equipment like computer, printing and faxing and house keeping facilities. 81 USD.
- Beauty Age Hotel (Meidai), 281 Guangming Road (top end of Qinshui Park) Tel: 2898-6768. Double rooms from NT$1,920 (NT$2,560 at weekends) to NT$3,150 (NT$4,200 at weekends) - this hotel offers a very relaxing and pleasant environment.
- Spring City Resort, 18 You Ya Road, Beitou. Tel: 2897-5555 - a five star hot springs resort overlooking the Beitou valley.
- Sweetme Hot Spring Resort (Shuimei) 224 Guangming Road (across from Xin Beitou MRT Station overlooking the park). Tel: 2898-4506. Despite the hotel's rather uninspiring English name, the resort offers a pleasant environment to relax and unwind, and is conveniently located within a two minute walk from Xin Beitou MRT Station.
Beitou Library has public Internet terminals. Located in Qinshui Park.