Beitou is accessible by the (clean, convenient, and affordable) Taipei metro system, but feels very much outside of the city, with lush foliage and paths that weave over a river flowing from a hot spring.
We visited on Saturday with a couple from Europe who are also on an extended trip around the world. As evidenced by the photo below, Theo adored them.
Theo wanted to throw things off of every bridge we crossed. Inspired by Winnie the Pooh, we played “pooh sticks” by each throwing a leaf or stick off one side of the bridge and then rushing to the other side to see whose came out first.
As tourists, alas, we were not allowed to go in the river. (Really, to be clear, I think that no one is allowed to go into the river. Maybe only tourists are crazy enough to try.)
We also passed a small temple on our way to the hot springs lake.
The source of the river was super steamy. Apparently, you could previously use the water to soft boil eggs, but it’s been stopped because of safety concerns.
There are quite a few places to bathe in the hot springs, including private tubs in many of the nearby hotels. After lunch, we went to the public baths, along with many, many other people.
(No pictures allowed, so you can look at the above sculpture from the metro instead.)
The baths were nice, though even the coolest of the hot pools was still pretty hot, and we had to hop in and out a few times to keep from overheating. The atmosphere at the pools was much more serious than what I’ve experienced at previous hot pools. For example, in Iceland where we went to the hot pools a couple of times a week, even very young children felt welcome as they bounced between the senior citizens, gaggles of teenagers, and other pool-goers of all ages.
Here, there were a few other children, but not many, and they all seemed at least a few years old than Theo. A man with a whistle patrolled to make sure that people were sitting properly along the edges of the pools and that children weren’t on the stairs. (As Theo was, at one point. Oops.) The woman we were with put her head under a waterfall at one point, and was quickly reprimanded by at least three other people. (I’m still not quite sure why, but apparently it was a no no.)
People were still very nice – from the woman who gave us rubber bands to tie up our long hair to the many, many people who chatted with Theo, asked his age, and declared him cute. I did still feel a little on edge trying to keep an active four-year-old still enough to match the more solemn atmosphere.
When it was time to go, Theo started feeling very, very itchy from the minerals in the water (I felt itchy too), and I couldn’t get the hot water in the shower to work. So, we had somewhat of a traumatizing cold shower (still less traumatizing than the itching), quickly pulled on our clothes, and then headed out for some post-bathing ice cream and pearl milk tea.
On the way back to the metro, we passed this musician. Once he saw Theo watching, he started playing songs like Frere Jacques, Baa Baa Black Sheep, and Jingle Bells.
Overall, we had a fun day, and having extra arms to corral (and swing) our kid made it less tiring than some of our mini-adventures. I definitely spent more time with other travelers on solo trips of the past than I do now during our more residential, slow-moving family trip. I wouldn’t trade it – I love that the people we spend the most time with are long-term residents – but it was still it was lots of fun to hang out with other travelers for a bit, especially this super friendly (and kid-friendly) couple.