Beitou, Taiwan

Photo: Naplee12 (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons
Taipei layovers are starting to become frequent occurrences. Most of your flights to China, Japan, and even South Korea now stop in Taiwan’s capital. By now, you’ve run around to take in the views from Taipei 101’s observation deck, explore the temples, walk around the Shilin Night Market, and eat your way through the food stalls. So this time, you want to leave the city behind.

Hot springs will be the perfect way for you to relax in between flights. Taiwan sits over the collision zone between the Philippine Sea Plate and the Yangtze Plate. The resulting volcanic activity causes hot, sulfur-scented water to bubble to the surface of the island. It collects in small, jewel-toned pools. Steam rises from them and creates a constant mist for the surrounding landscape. While the water is said to have healing powers.

One of the largest concentrations of hot springs in the world happens to be right outside of Taipei. Beitou is actually Taipei’s northernmost district. It’s just a 20-minute ride on the MRT Red Line. The mountainous land has green valleys and clear streams running through it. Much of it is a national park. Its hiking trails are popular day trips. Temples dot the hillsides. They lure visitors, as well. But most people come for the hot springs. The Japanese first started bathing in them when they occupied the island in the late-19th century. There are now bathhouses, hotels built around pools, and hidden springs in the mountains.

Photo: Villa 32

Since you’ve never been a big fan of public bathing, you opt for a private pool. Villa 32 is tranquil and luxurious. It was originally built as a private home on a hillside. It’s now a small—just five suites—hotel. It features a public hot spring and private hot spring rooms, which people can visit for the day. Two of the suites—the Japanese tatami ones—have hot springs right in them. There’s an indoor tub in the zen room. The outdoor tub is surrounded by a green garden. Both are made from Chinese cypress. While cool air and Evian water ensure that you never feel overheated.

Despite the hotel’s small size, it features a spa and a restaurant, too. An aromatherapy specialist guides you through your Renaissance Journey Treatment, which includes an aroma bath, a foot bath, a massage, and a facial. Apples and biscuits are set out when you finish. Alba truffles, Kobe beef, and seasonal seafood—don’t miss the sweet, rare scallops, if they’re available—are served with Hermes silverware in the restaurant. The entire property looks out toward Yangming Mountain, a long-dormant volcano.

So, after a massage, a facial, and more baths than you can count, are you ready to board your next flight and continue on with your trip? Or did the layover just become the destination?

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