Review: Spring City Hotel, Beitou, Taipei

There are a number of hotels in Beitou, the popular hotspring destination on the northern outskirt of Taipei. These hotels range from wooden inns from the Japanese occupation era to modern glass and steel modern hotels. However, most hotels seem to have been around for a number of years and are mostly of the 3-4 stars category.

I stayed at the Spring City Hotel when I was in Beitou recently. Again, I took the recommendation off the internet which mostly gave it favourable reviews and put it as a 4+ star hotspring hotel.

The Spring City hotel is located nearly a km up the narrow Beitou hills. It is too far to walk and you’ll need to wait for the hourly shuttle bus at the subway or hail a taxi. I took a taxi up to the hotel.

The Spring City hotel entrance

The hotel has a modern facade

The hotel certainly look like a better class hotel compared to the other hotels at Beitou. However, at the time that I check-in, there was a horde of guided tourists who were waiting to check out, making the small reception area seems chaotic and noisy. (Over the next 2 days, I realised that the majority of guests in the hotel are mostly from Hong Kong and mainland China).

The rooms are spacious and offer a tea-drinking table and hot spring water piped directly to the bathrooms. Unfortunately, the rooms do not offer good views of the surrounding hills which was a big disappointment given it’s uphill location.

The hotel also offer a Japanese and Taiwanese restaurant as well as a gym, a spa, a swimming pool and a hot spring communal pool area. However, the gym and swimming pool were under maintenance during the period that I was there.

I was tired and late in checking into the hotel and was glad to soak in my personal  hotspring pool at the bathroom. Most, if not all hotels in Beitou has hotspring water piped to their bathrooms Рdo note that hot spring water in Beitou has a slight sulfuric smell. I also wanted an early night as I wanted to wake up early to catch the sunrise at YangMingShan the next morning. (See earlier article)

A tea drinking corner is available in each room

Hotspring water is supplied to each bathroom

The next morning, I spend several hours climbing up the hills and had a wonderful time taking photographs. I came back for breakfast at the hotel. Breakfast is modest with more Taiwanese choices than international dishes. International tourists who are expecting a sumptuous international breakfast spread may be a little disappointed.

I rested a little while before hitting the communal hotspring area. This is a little garden area that had several whirl pools, still pools, showers and rest area supplied with hot spring water.

Just tell the reception that you are a guest and you’ll be supplied with a basket containing shower caps, towels and slippers. Day visitors who are not hotel guests will need to pay a fee to use the facilities.

Nothing beats soaking in the various hotspring pools with the mountains in the foreground. A massage spa is available just across the road and what better finale than to finish the hotspring visit with a massage. Unfortunately, my time schedule did not allow me to do that.

The communal hotspring area

Various hotspring facilities set amongst lush greenery

I love standing under the hotspring waterfall

I checked out from the hotel and took the hotel shuttle to the subway station. From there, it was a train and airport bus trip to the airport and home.

Will I stay at the Spring City hotel again for my next visit?

I doubt so. The hotel price is steep compared to many other hotels available in Beitou. I had mistakenly thought that hotels higher up the hills would offer a better view and hence was prepared to pay the premium. Not exactly an accurate assumption!

There was absolutely no view at the hotel. The view was much better only when I climbed YangMingShan. I could have stayed at a much cheaper hotel and climb YangMingShan if I wanted the view. The hotels at lower Beitou were also nearer to restaurants, amenities, subway station and guests did not need to depend on the hotel shuttle to get around.

Otherwise, I think the hotel is decent and in fact, I would recommend this hotel if you are bringing children or older folks as I’m sure they would enjoy the various convenient hot and cold pool facilities. (I find it heartwarming to see many mother-daughter couple enjoying the hot springs – seems to be a perfect mother-daughter bonding kind of activity)

If you’re an independent adult, try the cheaper options at the base of the hills and spend the extra money on good food or a massage!


BeiTou hotspring area, Taipei, Taiwan

I had planned to spend a leisurely 2 days in the Wulau Hotspring area on my last visit to Taipei, Taiwan. Unfortunately, luck was not on my side as my visit was disrupted by Typhoon Fanapi, which caused 2 deaths, hundreds of injuries and millions worth of damage to property and farmland across Taiwan.

Although the drive to Wulai was only 1 hour from Taipei, I was advised against visiting it as the drive was mostly through mountainous road, which was prone to landslide and avalanches, whenever there was a typhoon. I had no choice but to sit out the trip by staying in my hotel room as Typhoon Fanapi lashes across Taiwan. Luckily, the hotel at Wulai was gracious enough to provide a refund.

The typhoon died down considerably the next day. It was alright to move about but I was still advised against going to the mountains. Instead, I decided to visit the Beitou Hotspring area, which is within the suburbs of Taipei and did not involve driving across mountain road. In fact, the Taipei subway system will bring you right to the foot of the Beitou hotspring area.

A natural hot pool at Beitou. Note the steam rising from the water

Signboard points to yet another hot spring

An old communal hotspring bathhouse from the Japanese occupation era
– it’s still operational and open to for public use

Beitou is a historical hotspring area which was first visited and popularised by the occupying Japanese at the start of the last century. In fact, several Japanese style public hotspring bathhouses and wooden inns remain to this very day.

Today, Beitou is popular with locals and tourist alike. Locals tend to come over the weekend for a short break while most tourists may stay a day or two. The entire Beitou area has the feel of a tourist resort with fast food joints, hotels and restaurants dotting the area.

Beitou is also the gateway to YangMingShan, which is a Taiwan National Park.

You will get a cluster of hotels that offer hotspring at the foot of Beitou; about 200m after you get off the sub-way station. Most of the hotels here are relatively inexpensive; I was even quoted less than 50USD per night. Of course, this was during the summer months on a week day. I hear that prices shoot up over the winter months especially over the weekend.

These hotels are relative clean and neat. Most will offer hot spring water in the bathroom and some hotels will also have communal hotspring pools. Also, some will offer private hotspring rooms for 3 hours for day visitors. The hotspring water come from underground all around Beitou and you can see these hotsprings simply by walking around.

Even the subway station is designed with a hotspring theme

Signboard points to the various area of interest outside the subway station

As you go up the Beitou steep and narrow road uphill, you will come across more hotspring hotels. In fact, the higher you climb, the more expensive and ‘exotic’ are the class of hotels.

The roads are too small and steep if you are carrying luggage. You should pre-book your hotel and arrange for hotel transport or get a taxi to pick you up at the subway station. If you visit during off-peak season, you can shop around for your hotels but it is best to pre-book during peak periods.

The entire Beitou area is a tourist area. Visitors will find plenty to do or nothing to do at all times. I was told that many couples and families spend their entire time at the hotels; either at the hotspring bath in the privacy of their rooms or the communal hotspring in their hotel; if there is one. This is followed by a sumptuous meal at the hotel restaurant; after all, people come to Beitou to relax, rejuvenate and re-charge.

On the other hand, you have the entire YangMingShan to explore if you are so inclined to wake up early and join the numbers of morning strollers, joggers and cyclists. Many local residents will climb early to enjoy the cool morning breeze and catch the morning sunrise.

Steam from a hot spring fault on the way to YangMingShan @6am

The entire mountain area is dotted with
geothermal faults that spout hot steam all the time

You can’t get lost; there are signboards all over

Spectacular view from the near peak

I woke at 5am to walk up YangMingShan. It is not really steep and there is a spectacular view as you climb higher. Steam from various geothermal faults dot the climb and equally early strollers and joggers greet you as you pass them by. Even as a first time visitor, I was not afraid of getting lost as there were signboards all over the hills.

However, I was no where near the peak even after climbing an hour or two. It was then that I noticed that there were small buses going uphill and I decided to catch one. It was a long drive and even then, the bus only reached and terminated somewhere at the middle of the peak. It was good enough for me as it offered some spectacular photography opportunities.

The climb downhill was relatively easy. In my haste to rush back to my hotel for breakfast, I took a wrong bus and ended up at the subway station. No problem; I just retraced my steps back to my hotel.

I may have lost the opportunity to visit Wulai but Beitou was certainly not a poor substitute. I had the opportunity to enjoy hot spring water bath, a climb up an interesting mountain area and wonderful photographic opportunities.

All in, a great holiday indeed! I will be back.


Review: Tango Hotel, Taipei, Taiwan

Taiwan and Thailand remain my favourite countries for hot spring and massage holidays respectively. Of course, both countries are also well known to be great food and shopping destinations as well.

I was in Taipei, Taiwan recently to visit Wulai – a well known and popular hot spring destination near Taipei. I spent a few days in Taipei and stayed at the Tango Hotel. Just in case you’re interested in visiting Taipei, this is a good hotel you can stay while in Taipei.

Tango Hotel room

Tango is a boutique hotel chain with hotels in various parts of Taiwan. I stayed in the Tango, Xinyi branch in Taipei for this visit.

I’ve never stayed at the Tango hotel previously in my visits to Taipei. However, I decided to check out this hotel for this trip based solely on hotel recommendations and reviews from the internet. I’m glad to report that the recommendation was generally spot-on and I have no regret choosing this hotel.

Firstly, the hotel was offering a birthday special package. For anyone showing proof that they are staying during the month of their birthday, one can get a ice cream/fruit plate, free laundry (socks and undergarments only) and a special 2 day stay package.

Breakfast is included with the stay although if you’re used to sumptuous hotel buffet breakfast, you’ll find the breakfast here weak. Breakfast choice changes daily but are typically 4-5 Taiwanese porridge choices and 2-3 western bread and fruit choices. Supper is also served on Fridays and Saturdays but are very similar to the breakfast choices.

The geographical location of the hotel is also good especially if you need to visit Taipei 101 – which is a short 5 min taxi ride away. Alternatively, you can take the sub-way, which is a 3 min walk from the hotel. The subway system in Taipei is fast, convenient and serve a comprehensive section of Taipei. The nearest subway station to the hotel is known as the YongChun station.

Guest reception and service at the hotel is also good – as is typical of service oriented Taiwan. Guests are always greeted cordially and service is always prompt and unobtrusive. The hotel is too small for tour groups but apparently enjoy a good international reputation – I can see and hear guests that are from all corners of the globe.

There are 3 LCD TVs in the suite

There’s even an indoor garden in the bathroom

There’s a jacuzzi in the bathroom; with it’s own LCD TV of course

What differ this hotel from most other is the design of the guests rooms. I will hesitate to describe it as avante garde but it is definitely modernistic clean-cut design.

We had been upgraded to a suite because of the birthday package. The suite is not big as far as suites go but it had a separate work area, 3 LCD TVS, a jacuzzi and a hi-fi system. I’ve never seen so many TVs in a hotel room. There was even a TV in the toilet area!

The other interesting aspect of the room is the bathroom area. It is almost as big as the bedroom and is separated by a sliding glass door. There is a jacuzzi, a TV, a rain shower and even an indoor garden.

What was lacking in the room is a window. You are absolutely boxed in and there are no windows to let in any natural light. The entire room and corridor tend to be darkly lit as a result and I suspect the lighting was also designed to be dim.

There is also no light or AC switches in the guest room and everything is controlled via a remote control box. I had read in reviews that many guests had problem figuring it out but we had absolutely no problem with it.

I had also read in reviews that there were many shops and eating places near the hotel. I was disappointed that this was not true; most shops were catering to the local residents and were closed over the weekend. Other than a couple of high-end restaurants, there were only a McDonald and Starbucks nearby. Obviously, the reviews must have been written by Westerners who consider McDonald and Starbucks as ‘food’ places.

All in, I am satisfied with this hotel and will not hesitate to recommend it to anyone visiting Taipei, Taiwan.

Location of hotel:
297, ZhongXiao East Road, Section 5, Taipei 110, Taiwan


Foot Massage in Hua Lien, Taiwan

Foot massage
Foot massage at Hua Lien, Taiwan

Have you been to Taiwan; a lovely country located between mainland China and Japan? A tourist impression of Taiwan is that it is full of friendly people, hot springs and night markets (street bazaars). Yes, besides friendly people and hot springs, almost all Taiwanese towns, large and small, will invariably have a night market where small stalls sell all sorts of food, tidbits, clothes, home accessories, comics, DVD and CDs and others.

Crowds gather whenever there are night markets and where crowd thrive, there will always be a foot massage parlor or two. After spending a night of shopping at a busy night market in the city of Hualien, Taiwan, I visited the foot massage parlor, pictured above. (Note the large foot on the bright neon signboard)

This foot massage parlor has a unique, simple and clean zen design concept. Like all foot massage parlors in Taiwan, a foot massage always start with a hot foot bath and this is where this parlor is unique again with it’s specially designed hot water tubs.

Hot Tub
Foot bath area

Perhaps because of it’s prime location in a busy night market zone, there was a queue for available massage therapist. Luckily, due to the large numbers of therapists, it was soon my turn after a 15 minutes wait.I started with a 15 min foot bath in the hot tub. Chinese medical herbs were added to the hot water and my tired and sore feet quickly turned relaxed. My feet were then dried and my foot massage in an extremely comfortable soft chair started.

Hot foot bath
Fancy foot bath chairs and tubs

I had been to many foot massage parlors and the chairs here must surely ranked as one the most luxurious and comfortable that I have ever sat on. It was full leather with a 14″ LCD TV attached for my viewing pleasure throughout the foot massage session.

One of the thing I noticed in Taiwan is that a large ratio of foot massage therapists are male and they tend to exert stronger strength during a massage session. In fact, according to reflexology principles, a foot massage that is not painful is not effective – literally a case of no pain, no gain. I personally realise that the harder strength a masseur use, the lighter and more nimble one feels on the feet after a foot massage session is over.

However, if you do indeed feel too painful, you should ask the foot therapist to ease off on the strength. Compared to a body massage, there is more pain during a foot massage and your pain threshold during a foot massage will need to build up as your feet slowly become familiar with foot massage. Many people on their first foot massage session will literally scream in pain!

Leather seats and TV
Comfortable leather chairs with personal LCD TV

My foot massage session ended with a hot towel wrap. That totally took all the tiredness and soreness off my feet and body. Having had a rest and my sore feet restored by an invigorating hot herbal water bath and a good foot reflexology session, it is now time for another hour or two of intensive night market shopping!

Location of Spa: Zhong Hua Rd, Hualien, Taiwan
Size of massge parlor: About 20 massage chairs
Facilities: Hot water tubs, leather massage chairs
Pricing: NT600(US$18) for a 45 min foot reflexology, NT1200(US$37) for a 60 min Body TuiNa session


Family oriented Hot Spring Spa amongst the mountains, Taiwan

One of the fascinating features about visiting earthquake-prone countries such as Taiwan or Japan is that hot springs can be found almost anywhere in the country! It is not too difficult to spot hot-spring signboards while driving through the countryside in either country.

Hot spring visits in Taiwan and Japan are traditionally family or communal events; where entire families or communities share a hot spring. Of course, in recent years, many communal hot spring facilities have converted themselves to private room resorts to cash in to the younger population who are more willing to pay for privacy, comfort and exclusivity.

Entrance to Bunan Hot Spring
The hot-spring retreat is set against the green mountain

The Bunun hot spring spa is one of the hot spring spa in TaiDong(or Taitung), Taiwan that has kept true to the communal spirit of a hot spring spa. Despite being situated and surrounded by scenic mountains, it has remain a communal hot spring spa that caters to the young and old, rich and poor alike.

Bunun hot spring spa is more like a communal swimming pool complex than a relaxation spa. The only key difference perhaps is that instead of being in a man-made building and supplied with chlorinated water, Bunun hot spring spa is located in green nature and supplied by natural mountain hot spring water.

Hot Spring
The hot spring is set in a series of swimming pool

There are two main pools and several smaller pools with fountains and slides which you pay a NT150(US$4.50) entrance fee to enter. The water is clear, slightly warm(40C) and only a mild mineral smell and taste. To be honest, I had to double-check with the spa attendant that this is indeed hot spring water!

Away from the pools are the public access area which includes changing rooms, a garden terrace cafe, a BBQ area and a public tent area. The garden terrace is a nice area to relax away from the pool and have coffee amongst the hills.

This is a great hot spring to take your family to because the children will love frolicking in hot water with the slides and fountains but you may want to give this hot spa a miss if you are a alone, with close friends or a couple hoping for some private time in your own bubbling hot spa tub and a relaxing massage from skilled masseurs afterwards.

You will need to take a taxi or a public bus from TaiDong city. There are 4 buses a day and the journey is about 40 mins. (Bus company: 089-333023) You can also get a taxi (Call: 0932-664938). Private pickup from TaiDong airport or railway station can also be arranged at NT$500 for 4 people (Call: 089-561211 x 200)

Location of Spa: Bunun Village, TaiDong (Taitung), Taiwan
Size of Spa: Two large pools; several small pools with children slides and fountains Friendliness: Friendly
Facilities: Changing room, coffee house terace, BBQ and tent area
Pricing: NT150 (US$4.50) for all facilities. Swim cap and swim wear are compulsory and may be purchased at the gift shop.


Hot footbath and massage for tired shoppers in Taipei, Taiwan

Ximenting Taiwan
Bright and busy Ximenting, Taiwan

Have you ever been to Ximenting (or Ximending), Taipei in Taiwan? Well, this is a pure shopper’s paradise with streets upon streets of both Taiwanese and International clothes, fashion accessories, shoes and cuisine. Shopping and dining here can be fun and of course, tiring, especially if you have bags and bags to carry about especially late into the night.

Well, within the vicinity of Ximenting, lies a massage parlor, ready to lure all Ximenting shoppers to it’s offering of a hot foot bath and soft massages after a hard day of shopping, dining or clubbing! You can’t miss their large neon signs, especially at night, with their name of Royal Bali Massage Parlor in large fonts. More importantly, the sign also says that it is opened until 3 am – an important consideration for late night shoppers and clubbers in this area.

Royal Bali
The bright lights at the entrance entice late, tired visitors

Most massage parlors in Taiwan are designed with an Oriental theme but this parlor stands out with it’s tropical Balinese theme. What attracts one most to this parlor is it’s attractive hot foot bath pond done up complete with volcanic stones, koi pond and tropical foliage. You put your foot into a ‘hot water hole’ just besides the Koi pond and relax alongside this tropical theme. This is as as interesting and as creative a concept I have ever seen with any massage parlor anywhere else in Asia!

Services offered here includes foot reflexology, manicure, pedicure, facial treatment and partial and full body massage. Prices are reasonable and all services comes with a hot foot bath and hot tea.

I opted for a 90 min aromatherapy massage and was pleased to find out that the massage comes with a free facial service! This was a nice upgrade and a terribly attractive head to toe offer for a very tired shopper…

Koi pond footbath
Dip your tired feet into the ‘rock pond’

I started with a hot foot bath. Check out the photo above for their very creative concept of having a footbath besides a Koi pond and tropical foliage. Note the Koi fishes in the pond and how even the water pipes are hidden and hot water looks like it was actually flowing from the pond onto my feet… Yes, I can sip hot tea and feel myself recharged for another round of shopping just by sitting here for 20 minutes… What powerful recharging capabilities a hot foot bath in a conducive environment can do!

After about 20 minutes, I was lead to a 2nd level to do my aromatherapy massage. There were about 10 small private rooms done in Balinese theme at the 2nd level. The massage was performed by a middle-aged Taiwanese woman – and for a moment, I was disappointed that it was not a real Balinese woman. However, I did not really had to worry because the massage was performed just as well by a Taiwanese lady and it was not long before I was quickly convinced of her aromatherapy massage skills.

One interesting addition was the use of hot pads for the back while massaging the arms and legs. The use of the heat pad keeps the back relaxed at all time and soothe the back while other parts of the body was being massage. What a good idea!

All too soon, the massage came to an end and I was lead to another room for the facial treatment. It was a normal facial treatment but what was different was that the facial therapist is a young man rather than a lady. I have never seen a man doing facial treatments anywhere else in Asia!

Location of Spa: Ximenting, Taipei, Taiwan
Size of Spa: About 12 foot massage chairs, 4 manicure tables, 12 private massage rooms and 1 facial room over two levels
Friendliness: Friendly
Facilities: Individual treatment rooms, hot water pond
Pricing: NT2,000 (US$70) for a 90mins aromatherapy massage with free facial cleaning