6 Things You Must Do in Taipei’s Beitou and Tamsui1 April, 2016
Amidst the hustle and bustle of the commercialised city district of Taiwan, perhaps the natural landscape of Beitou (北投區) and Tamsui (Danshui 淡水) could provide a refreshing change. Beitou lies in the northernmost district of Taipei City and has gained a reputation for being the ideal location for the best hot springs and lush greenery. Apart from that, it is also home to several preserved architectural treasures and historical sites that create a timeless beauty to this district. Tamsui is a sea-side city that became famous for its gorgeous sunsets. Previously an old fishing village, this city has been transformed into the ultimate tourist attraction with its signature local foods including fresh seafood. The awesome hot springs of Beitou and the laid-back nature of Tamsui are definitely one of the best combinations to enjoy throughout a day in Taiwan!
Getting to Xin Beitou (New Beitou)
As far as metro services go, the ones keeping Taiwan connected are simple and should not pose much of a problem. There will be clear signs to guide you at the metro stations. Assuming that Taipei Main Station is your starting point, you can take the Beitou-Xiangshan line (red line) towards Tamsui to Beitou station. Once you reach Beitou station, you will have to change train to take the connecting Beitou-Xin Beitou line (pink line) to reach Xin Beitou station. The difference between Beitou and Xin Beitou? Beitou is the quieter, higher-end district, and Xin Beitou – the busier and more modest of the two.
Top 3 Things to Conquer in Xin Beitou
Beitou has one of the highest concentrations of hot springs across the globe, combined with its many tourist sites as you can see above, short-listing the best picks can be a challenge. Here’s our top 3 choices of Beitou’s must-sees and dos:
1. Enjoy a Soak in a Hot Spring
You can choose to soak in one of the many public hot springs in Beitou, like one of the more popular public baths called Beitou Outdoor Public Hot Springs (露天公共温泉) or if you would prefer to enjoy your hot spring with more privacy, we would recommend you to approach one of the many hotels in Beitou. Most hotels in Beitou offer private hot spring packages that differ in time, services offered and price – you will be spoilt for choice.
The Golden Hot Spring Hotel (aka金都精緻溫泉飯店) offers several private hot spring packages that include:
1. Private Hot Spring Bath (only includes a room with hot spring bath as per picture above): SGD$42 (1 hour) / SGD$50 (1.5 hours)
2. Private Hot Spring Bath – Larger Bath House: SGD$50 (1 hour) / SGD$58 (1.5 hours)
You can also opt for a stay in the hotel if you wish to maximise your day of relaxation:
1. Suite (can take up to 3 persons): SGD$345 (1 night)
2. Family suite (4 persons): SGD$539 (1 night)
Fully equipped with cable TV, internet access and the flexibility of being able to enjoy a soak in your private hot spring at any time of the day, a stay at Golden Hot Spring Hotel will be worth every penny. For more information on the packages and rooms available at Golden Hot Spring Hotel, click here.
Beitou Outdoor Public Hot Springs (露天公共温泉)
Address: No. 6, Beitou District, Zhongshan Road, Taipei City 112
Telephone No.: +886 2 2897 2260
Opening hours: Mon – Sun: 5.30AM – 7.30AM, 8.00AM – 10.00AM, 10.30AM – 1.00PM, 1.30PM – 4.00PM, 4.30PM – 7.00PM, 7.30PM – 10.00PM
Golden Hot Spring Hotel (金都精緻溫泉飯店)
Address: No. 240, Beitou District, Guangming Road, Taipei City 112
Telephone No.: +886 2 2891 1228
2. Visit the Hell Valley
Also known as Beitou Thermal Valley or Jade Springs Valley, this volcanic crater has been heralded as one of Taiwan’s eight natural beauties due to the rare green sulphur that creates almost magical green waters. The natural sulphuric water is so uncommon that it can only be found in two places, Beitou and Akita, Japan, so be sure not to pass up on this! A word of caution: its waters can reach up to boiling point (100°C), making it unsuitable for bathing. Incidentally, the otherworldly steam that it produces is how Beitou Thermal Valley earned its more sinister nickname of “Hell Valley”.
Beitou Thermal Valley (Hell Valley)
Address: Zhongshan Road, Beitou District, Taiwan 112
Telephone No.: +886 2 2720 8889
Opening hours: Tues – Sun: 9.00AM – 5.00PM
3. Take a Leisurely Stroll in the Plum Garden (梅庭)
Just beside the Beitou Garden Hot springs is the Plum Garden, an ancient summer residence of renowned calligrapher and former political leader Yu You-ren. Built in the 1930s, the building had only recently opened its doors to visitors in 2010. It is now home to a collection of beautiful Japanese wooden architecture and design bearing testament to some of Mr Yu You-ren’s calligraphy works. The mandarin words – Plum Garden – is written in his signature calligraphy on the column next to the main entrance. Visitors may choose to sit down and relax in the quiet house or stroll through the beautifully manicured garden.
The historical value in this Japanese-style place of residence lies in the fact that it has survived the warfare and destruction that the country had previously faced. Its unique architectural design has also made it an emblem of ingenuity amongst architects and builders across the globe. The walls consist of carefully constructed moisture-proof compartment mortar walls divided into layers – with wooden frames laid as its foundation, red clay sand decorated with white mortar is spread across the wooden surface.
The Plum Garden is definitely both a place of quiet enjoyment and learning. Admission is free for all!
Plum Garden (梅庭)
Address: Beitou District, 6 Zhongshan Road, Taiwan 112
Telephone No.: +886 2 2897 2647
Opening hours: Tues – Sun: 9.00AM – 5.00PM
Getting to Tamsui from Xin Beitou
After an afternoon of rejuvenation by the hot springs and sating your cultural appetite by exploring the grounds of Plum Garden, it is time to respond to the other half of your well-being: food. Tamsui offers the very best local flavours, and getting there only requires a little backtracking, since it is conveniently located at the end of the Beitou-Xiangshan line (red line). You’ll have to take the pink line back to Beitou station and board the red line towards Tamsui, where the train will ferry you to the end of the line (Tamsui station).
Top 3 Things to Conquer in Tamsui
Upon arrival you will probably notice the picturesque view of the sea and horizon as well as a distinct rustic charm. Here are the top 3 things you will not want to miss out on while you’re exploring Tamsui:
4. Explore and Eat to your Heart’s Content on Tamsui Old Street
When it comes to food, nothing tastes better than the signature local dishes that are rich in flavour and character. As Tamsui is a sea-side town, its seafood produce are extremely fresh and tasty. A short 7-minute stroll from Tamsui station will lead you to Tamsui Old Street. One of their specialty dishes includes ah-gei.
It consists of fried tofu stuffed with glass noodles, sealed with meat paste, typically served with a plain soy-based or a sweet chilli sauce. Ah-gei is commonly eaten with a bowl of fish ball soup in the winter or cold soy milk in the summer. The name ah-gei was derived from aburaage (油揚げ), a fried and stewed Japanese tofu from which this local delight is made.
The signature iron eggs of Tamsui are also a definite must-try. According to old storytellers, iron eggs were created by Huang Zhangnian (黃張哖), who sold noodles by the seaside dock about 50 years ago when Tamsui was a fishing town. Made from either chicken, pigeon, or quail eggs, five-spice powder, rock sugar, soy sauce, and salt, these eggs go through many rounds of braising and drying until the egg white shrinks and turns chewy.
Lastly, Tower Ice-cream is, without a doubt, a must-try; these sweet treats can all be found along Old Tamsui street so be on the lookout!
Tamsui Old Street
Address: Tamsui District, Section 1, Zhongzheng Road, Taiwan 251
Telephone No.: +886 911 111 111
Opening hours: Daily 11.00AM – 7.00PM
5. Catch the Sunset at Fisherman’s Wharf / Lover’s Bridge
You can either take Bus Red-26, 836, or 837 (from Tamsui train station) or a ferry (pier behind the train station) to Fisherman’s Wharf to enjoy the sunset. The ferry costs about 100TWD round-trip, and the journey by both the bus and the ferry is about 15 minutes.
Owing its name to the fact that it was launched on 14th February 2003, Lover’s Bridge has since gained a reputation for being a scenic photography spot popular with lovers! This bridge has also gained popularity because of the beautiful sunsets that create highly opportunistic moments to take a snapshot.
Tip: The best time to catch the sunset is at around 5:47 pm local time.
6. Explore Tamsui’s Fort San Domingo
Known in Mandarin as Hongmao, Fort San Domingo is arguably Dansui’s most iconic historical monument. The sprawling red fortress is a symbol of the different cultures (Chinese, Spanish, Dutch, to name a few) that had settled in Tamsui at some point. It was built in 1629 by the Spanish settlers who had once colonised the area.
As with unstable colonial dynasties, Fort San Domingo was taken over 4 times – by the Dutch, the Chinese Qing Dynasty, the British, the Japanese, and was finally recaptured by the Chinese, who opened the fort to the public in 1984. As you explore its interior, do keep an eye out for its distinctive European architecture, teleporting you through time into its extensive and rich history.
Fort San Domingo
Address: No. 1, Lane 28, Zhongzheng Road, Danshui district, Taipei City 251
Telephone No.: +886 2 2623 1001
Opening hours: Mon – Fri: 9.30AM – 5.00PM, Sat – Sun: 09.30AM – 6.00PM
Beitou and Tamsui have much to offer to travellers from all walks of life, whether you’re a history buff or a food connoisseur, or just a tired soul seeking to enjoy a soak in the hot spa, there is something special for everyone. You can be sure that time spent wandering in these two districts time well spent and they will be etched in your memory.
Feature Image Credits: Shutterstock