Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Hot spring getaway in the summer

Seems like it’s a silly idea to go on a hot spring holiday in the middle of summer when it’s 30-degree plus out there in Taiwan, but it is what it is - let's just say it's not exactly my idea. The hot spring resort town of Beitou turned out to be much closer to the city than I thought – in fact technically it’s still within Taipei city limit and is easily reachable by MRT, their metro train system. While many opted for a day trip to Beitou from Taipei, we decided to stay there on our first night of our vacation at one of the newer resort hotels built in the mountains, with a car arranged as we landed in late morning which took us into Beitou right on time for check-in at the resort.

Despite the somewhat generic name, the Beitou Asia Pacific Resort (北投亞太飯店) looked amazing already from outside, with the zen-like décor up on the hills away from everything, one that reminded me of those grand onsen resorts found in Japanese towns. Inside it was modern and family friendly with ample facilities for the younger guests including a playroom, indoor pool, and even an AR arcade.

Our room on the higher floor features a pretty decent view of the mountain covered with trees, plus the private hot-spring bathroom with water drawn directly from the hot-spring source not far from the resort. The public hot spring bath was exactly like what one would find in a Japanese onsen ryokan, clean and quiet and huge, with both indoor and outdoor bath facilities plus the sauna room in both gender’s sections – and the best of all, when we went for a dip at night after dinner there wasn’t anyone so we basically have the entire facilities to ourselves.

Before dinner we decided to drop by the spa for a quick massage, and while the spa facilities may not match those of the top ones in the more luxurious hotel, we had a relaxing time with the treatment. Our hotel room-and-board package came with both dinners and breakfast – the food was passable (both served buffet style with more than adequate selection) but the setting was nice with great view outside the window and excellent service.

A quick 10-minute shuttle (which runs regularly during the day) brought us down into the town center area and back. Well, with the temperature soaring to 35 degrees under the blazing sun and many major sightseeing spots were under renovation, we just spent time walking around a little bit and went on a mini food crawl. The shop of Wu’s Beef Noodles (吳家牛肉麵) was only a quick 10 minutes away from the train station and seems to be one of the more popular joints for the signature Taiwanese street food of Beef Noodles. My half-tendon-half-meat bowl of beef noodles was rich in flavor and I love the tender meat and the soft tendon, and the restaurant also had a good choice of side dishes, including the slices of pig’s head, well marinated with a crunchy texture.

Closer to the train station in the residential neighborhood sat a little café called Sheme House (拾米屋). Converted from an old barnhouse, the café was surprisingly spacious and airy, and offers a wide menu of snacks and drinks including a cabinet full of cakes and desserts, and a full range of coffee using beans roasted in-house (the place doubles as a roastery) It is a perfect place to hide away from the heat with a cup of iced hand-drip coffee.

The only outdoor activities we managed to do was a casual stroll of the weekend outdoor market right next to the old train station, with scores of craft stalls selling everything from leather goods, lacquerware, ceramics and other fashion accessories. We didn’t manage to buy anything, but we love the laid-back vibe walking and looking around.

I still don’t believe a hot spring holiday in mid-summer was a good idea, but I do admit it’s relaxing just to be away from the city and the crowd. Would love to be back some time when the season’s more suited for a dip in the hot bath.

Asia Pacific Resort Beitou: www.apresort.com.tw

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