It is 2017 and I think we can all admit to something.
The days of words being the catalyst for grand trips are almost behind us. It is all about pictures now. What heavily filtered ‘gram is going to sweep us off to a foreign land next?
This doesn't bother me too much. Pictures are great. My issues just rest with that fact that some places are really photogenic... but don’t have a lot of substance.
This is the story of one of those places.
I am willing to admit it - I was seduced by a photo on pinterest of the Beitou Hot Spring, located an hour outside of Taipei.
Beitou wasn't some secret pinterest find on my part - it is commonly hailed as a Taipei “must visit.” Lonely Planet. Anthony Bourdain. They are all going to tell you to visit Beitou. So Beitou was already on my radar…
…and then I saw ~the~ pinterest photo. It depicted massive puffs of steam rising from a jade pond nestled between two foliage covered mountains.
It was all over.
I bumped Beitou to the top of my list, despite the fact that I do not care about hot springs. At that time it was also so hot and humid in Taipei, time that I didn’t literally have an appetite (yeah, apparently that is a thing).
Unsurprisingly, the MRT ride to Beitou was simple and hassle-free (gotta love Taipei). It took a little less than an hour. Also, the train was covered with a festive design. This would end up being the best part of the experience.
As soon as I got off the train in Beitou and the pungent perfume of sulfur hit me, I knew I had made a big mistake.
It wasn’t the smell. That part didn’t bother me. The massive hoards of tourists? That part bothered me.
I have a rule about tourists. If they are there, and there are a lot of them, whatever we are seeing needs to negate their presence. For example: The Uffizi museum in Florence? Obviously worth the tourists. Times Square in NYC? Not at all worth the tourists.
Entering Beitou, the stakes were high.
To get the full “hot spring experience” that Lonely Planet and Anthony Bourdain describe, you need to go to a private spa. There are several spas in Beitou that use water from the mountains within their compounds. Their prices range anywhere from average, to infinity-pool-overlooking-the-mountains expensive.
For the most part I was interested in taking a dip in the public hot spring, seeing the Hot Spring Museum, and walking the Hot Springs Valley.
I saw a large group of people crowded around a map. Bingo. Directly next to it was the entrance to the Hot Spring Valley.
The Public "Hot Spring Valley":
I entered and after walking for a few mins, I confronted my first hot spring.
It was alright. Steam rose, sulfur filled the air, and I observed it all, sweating heavily. Within moments I was swarmed by tourists taking selfies. I took that as my cue to move on.
I walked to other other side of the spring, ready to continue down the path to more springs when I realized the path was done. It was a dead end. That was it. One spring. One tiny hot spring swarmed with tourists was the entirety of the "Hot Spring Valley."
Next up was the Hot Springs Museum. This was the best part… but take that with a grain of salt. It was about as cool as a hot spring museum can be.
Public Hot Springs:
After this I went to the public hot springs. The public springs were the reason I never seriously considered booking a treatment at one of the private spas - it only cost 40 TWD (less than $2 USD) to take a dip.
I dragged my exhausted, sweaty self to the public spring viewing platform and observed the crowded, steamy pools. That is when it hit me - I was already miserable. and nothing on earth was getting me in that spring.
My worst fears were confirmed - this trip was a gigantic waste of time.
That singular spring was fine, but in no way worth 3 hours of my last day in Taipei.
Is the trip worth it?
PERHAPS, the hiking trails in the area would be worth the visit, but I cannot speak to that. I tend to think there are probably better trails in the region considering Taipei is surrounded by mountains.
So are the Beitou Hot Springs worth the hype? Nope! Spend your time getting a second round of dumplings, or wandering a new part of town.
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