Day 20: Taipei - 15.4.2015
After a basic breakfast at the Via Hotel, which consisted of toast and coffee, we started our first sightseeing day in Taipei. We walked to the nearby Ximen MRT-Station and used our convenient 5-day-pass and took a train to Zhongshan Station, where we changed trains to the Yuanshan Station. We took Exit 2 and then walked to the nearby Confucius Temple. The Confucius Temple offered not only a beautiful areal but also interactive elements like videos from ceremonies and 3-D-glasses.
From the Confucius Temple, it was just a short walk to the Bao`an Temple, which offered views of wonderful ornaments and murals.
On the way back to the MRT-Station we came to a nice park, where we rested and watched some sculptures.
Next, we wanted to see the Beitou area. From Yuanshan MRT-Station we took a train to Beitou Station and changed there for Xinbeitou MRT-Station. Beitou is a hot spring region and I love hot springs. Last year I visited some in Japan, but the Philippines also have beautiful ones, like the Maquinit Hot Springs in Coron, Palawan.
From the MRT-station we walked first to the Ketagalan Culture Center, which offers on several floors exhibitions of aboriginal cultural artifacts and artworks and information on social structures and traditions of Taiwan´s indigenous people. I especially liked the clothes exhibition.
Just a few steps away along the Hot Spring Park was our next museum, the Beitou Hot Spring Museum. We had to take off our shoes to enter and got flip-flops instead. The 100-year-old building was once a public bathhouse and now is used to tell the hot spring history of Beitou.
The most famous sight of Beitou is the GeothermalValley with its steaming water. Lucky for us, it is just a short walk away from the museum and it was indeed quite a sight. It reminded me a bit of Deildartunguhver, which we visited in Iceland. We also visited the shop, where my friend bought hot spring bath powder for his nephews.
We were walking a bit of a round tour in Beitou and next came to the small Japanese Puji Temple.
Of course, we had to visit a public bath in Beitou and based on what we read online before, we chose the Long Nai Tang Hot Springs. When we wanted to enter, we were warned by the employee/owner, that we would have to get naked in there, that it´s very hot and he advised to take a look inside, before we decide. We did and it was small and rustic inside - exactly what we were looking for, which was an authentic Taiwanese hot spring bath. After visiting a rustic mud hot spring on our trip to Japan we were quite prepared.
There were many, mostly older men, who seemed to be locals and attentively watched (and laughed), while we tried to get into the close to boiling water without actually getting cooked. I told my friend that before we go out, we will be cooked foreigners. It took some time, but we made it, after some of the men showed us to the second pool, which may be less hot, although it didn´t exactly feel less hot. When you´re inside the water it gets even hotter the moment you move, so we tried to sit perfectly still... but not for too long. We played it cool though. After a while of getting in and out of the water we actually felt integrated in the bathing community and some even helped when my friend later - at first without success - looked for lukewarm water to shower, instead of the ice-cold, and showed us where to fill the bucket. There were a couple of probably Amerasian guys (my guess is: also tourists) who already half undressed but decided that this was probably not for them. All said, it was really something different and if you´re in Taipei you really should visit!
It was already late afternoon but seemed perfectly fine for a trip to Tamsui at the coast. So we took the MRT to Tamsui Station and walked first to the little Fuyou Temple, but unfortunately forgot to look, if the Fish Ball Museum is still open. It was already too late to take a look at Fort San Domingo, (first built in 1629 by the Spanish) but we were happy to go to the promenade at the water, to watch the sun go down. I also tried some fried shrimps on a stick and was fascinated by the Turkish Ice Cream shop.
We considered taking a ferry to another attraction in the area, the Fisherman´s Wharf, but when we inquired at the ticket office, the lady didn´t speak English and we just thought to have understood, that the next ferry may go to Bali, which is on the other side of the river, but not to the Fisherman´s Wharf. We chose instead to slowly go back to the MRT-Station through the Tamsui Old Street, where we tried not to buy everything of the wide variety of exotic snacks. However, we couldn´t resist some hot red-bean filled cookies. Finally we took the MRT back to the hotel, which took about 30 minutes and we had to stand all the time, because it was so crowded inside. Back in the hotel we fell asleep in no time...