Sunday, June 11, 2017

Beitou and Tamsui – Your New Favorites in Taipei

For my last five days in Taiwan, I decided to explore cities around New Taipei like my previous hike around the mountainous area of Daxi, Dali and Fulong. My agenda that day were the popular cities of Beitou and Tamsui, situated up north of Taiwan. These places are usually visited together due to its proximity to each other.


My first stop is Beitou 北投區, a well-known getaway spot for its thermal hot springs. The area has two districts – Old Beitou, which is mostly residential and New Beitou, an area that experienced a boom in hotel and resort construction during the Japanese occupation until the 1960s. Most of the cultural attractions are in Xin Beitou (New Beitou), so when going to the area by MRT, you should not alight at Beitou Station, but instead transfer again to Xinbeitou. The government decided to give the area a face lift during the early 90s to improve the neighborhood’s image, which resulted to the development of its own train line.

Taiwan building

Taiwan library

It was a hot sunny morning in November, so I trashed my original plan of trying out the public bath facilities and decided to just roam around the vicinity. I went to the Beitou Hot Springs Museum not only because I wanted to learn about the history behind Beitou’s famous hot springs, but also to see building’s beautiful Euro-Japanese design.

Beitou museum

Also located in Qinshui Park (親水公園) is an outdoor hot spring. Swimsuits are required and of course following proper etiquette must be taken in mind such as thoroughly washing the body first before entering the bath. Entrance is only 40 NTD for adults and half the price for kids. I wasn’t able to see how the bath looked like from the outside, so I’m not sure if they were the Japanese-style bath or not. If you have money to splurge, then there are numerous hotels that offer traditional baths and private pools.

Traditional bath
traditional bath at Beitou Hot Springs Museum

The one-of-a-kind Geothermal Valley 地熱谷, or Hell Valley for some, is another well-known for its searing aquamarine water that spans about 3,500 square meters. The water that comes from the crater is sourced deep inside a volcano and is said to reach about 90 degree Celsius, definitely not meant for bathing. A rare mineral called hokutolite has also been discovered here but access to public is prohibited due to the presence of Radium, which is highly radioactive. You’d know you’ve reached your destination once you smell the sulfur.

Taipei hot spring

Taiwan hot spring

My top pick of all the places in Beitou is the Ketagalan Cultural Center, and that is because I love learning about indigenous tribes. Though information in English is limited, the museum had plenty of artifacts on display like models of traditional houses, colorful clothing and accessories, woodwork, and potteries. I learned that there are actually numerous aboriginal groups in Taiwan, which can be distinguished from the garments that they use.

Taiwan costume

Taiwan Aboriginal clothing
my favorite out of the bunch
Taiwan product

I was also able to watch a musical performance featuring ethnic music, I am not sure if I was lucky enough to be able to chance upon this, probably because I came on a weekend. I think they played about 4-5 songs, and after that, we were even allowed to try out the musical instruments by ourselves! Wonderful!

Taiwan musician


New Taipei has tons of unique surprises in store for its visitors, and the picturesque district of Tamsui 淡水 is surely not an exception. It is often visited by locals during the weekend since it is accessible by MRT and is only 30-40 minutes away from Taipei. Because of its location, this area used to be a center of commercial activities with foreigners such as the Dutch and Spaniards in the 1600s, so the European influence in its architecture is quite evident. Like other places in Taiwan, Tamsui has a variation in pronunciation. Locals would call it Danshui, just like how Keelung is pronounced as Jilong so don’t be confused if you see weird spelling in maps and you get quizzical looks from people when you say it differently.

Taipei church

As I went out of the train station, not only was I surprised by the number of people around the area (I’m not exaggerating, it’s not super crowded but you’d really see why it’s regarded to be popular with tourists), I was also overwhelmed with the choices of where to go first. Should I take my lunch at one of these fancy looking cafes? Get a take-away and eat out along the waterfront facing Tamsui River and Bali or roam around its interesting streets?

Tamsui old street
it seems to be hot spot for families to unwind over the weekend 
Tamsui food

I just couldn’t resist and headed for Tamsui Old Street 淡水老街, there were just too many exciting street stalls and my stomach seemed to agree. I think I must have bought four or five different items but then you see something new and you just wanna buy some more. Anyway, aside from street food, there were also clothing shops, arcades, souvenir and handicraft stores.

Taipei street food
fried shrimp sticks

Taiwan food

I was just walking aimlessly, I felt that at every turn I make, I see something that would make me curious. It was upon seeing some random murals that I stumbled upon The Former Residence of Tamsui Township Head Tada Eikichi. It is said to be the first place to receive tap water in the country. The Japanese-style house is at a fantastic location with stunning views of the river and Guanyin Mountain.

Japanese house

Bali taiwan
exquisite view from the porch

En route to my next destination, I noticed these colonial-style buildings that seemed to still be in use. I walked further and saw that it was actually a university! The Altheia University 真理大學 is considered as one of the oldest in Taiwan founded by Dr. Mackay in 1882, which was then known as Oxford College. Along the complex, I was also able to see Mackay Memorial Museum and The House of Maidens, similar structures with notable architecture. No wonder you’d see lots of people having their pictures taken here.

Taiwan church

Taiwan building

Taipei architecture

I was alone, taking a picture of this cat, and these hordes of tourists decided they wanted to take a snap too!
Taiwan university
small garden at the university

Another picturesque building in the area is Fort San Domingo 紅毛城, which was originally made out of wood by the Spanish in 1629. It was continuously rebuilt first, when an angry mob destroyed it in 1636, and when the Dutch successfully ousted the Spanish in 1642, then building a new fort made with bricks and stones. It was then locally called as Hongmao, referring to the Dutch as the red-haired people. When the British took over in 1868, they decided to paint the whole place red. The government categorized the area as a historical site reopening in 2005, now also regarded as the Former British Consular Residence.

Fort San Domingo

Taiwan fort

I had to hurry to reach my last stop because it’s about to get dark and I had to witness the famous sunset of Tamsui, and according to many, it is best enjoyed at Tamsui Fisherman’s Wharf 淡水漁人碼頭. The place has trendy cafes and food stalls, but walking along the long boardwalk is enough if you just came here for the scenery. Lovers flocked the area to observe as the sun went down over the horizon, absolutely stunning. I thought we had the best sunsets in Manila, but Tamsui could also bag that title.

Taiwan sunset

Taipei sunset

Tamsui fisherman's wharf

As it got dark, bright colors would pop up from The Lovers Bridge, a pedestrian bridge that is illuminated every six in the evening. It is shaped like a ship’s mast, I felt like this would be a perfect location for a romantic scene in a TV drama. Perfect spot to conclude my day trip in the northern districts in Taiwan.

If I had more time, I would have also tried to see the Baishawan, which I heard is an amazing beach and Bali for the Waziwei Nature Conservation Park. However, I felt happy to see such amazing places in one day! Relaxing hot springs, inspiring cultural performances, gorgeous architecture and dreamy views and landscapes. I had nothing more to ask :)

More of my 16-day exploration of Taiwan here:








New Taipei

1 comment :

  1. This place interests me. Bookmarking for future reference! Thanks Mariane!


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