A Twofer in Northern Taiwan
Two things that have been on our wanna-see-do list: Cloud Gate’s Spring Riot, Taiwan’s anticipated annual modern dance event (tickets secured) and a National Park on the northern point of the island known for its hot springs (located near said dance performance). It was an unlikely combo, but as we often say here, “WHY NOT”? We packed an overnight bag, road snacks* and hit the road in our sweet-ass mini van.
* Snyder’s of Hanover, Honey Mustard & Onion pretzels, the crack cocaine of my home state Pennsylvania… now available in Taichung (in maddening tiny bags).
Hiking amongst the Fumaroles
Yangmingshan National Park is one of 9 National Parks in Taiwan. It’s about a 30 minute drive north from Taipei, the capital. It’s famous for its cherry blossoms, hot springs (more on that later), sulfur deposits (obvious if you have a nose), fumaroles (the steamy, hot sulfurous gas pumping put of the earth) and venomous snakes (fortunately, no encounters).
The park also hosts Taiwan’s tallest dormant volcano, Mt. Qixing or Seven Star Mountain (1,120 m), which we hiked. In typical Taiwanese hiking fashion it’s a steep and stepped hike on mostly stone steps. We don’t recommend this hike in wet weather.
Solo Singer Inn
Nestled in a narrow alley in Beitou is the wabi-sabi Solo Singer Inn. Next door they have a cozy cafe and a house cat named Lai Fu which means “bring luck”. It was purr-fect so we booked a night.
Soaking in Radioactive Waters
Beitou is famous for its hot springs, which were established during the Japanese era (1895-1945). I imagine there are some nice hot springs to be soaked in, but the one we experienced didn’t float my boat. I admit it, I’m a hot spring snob. I spent 10 days soaking in Japanese onsens with my sister in December. The bar is set high now. This is what Japanese hotsprings look like and they’re a dime a dozen this nice. Accessible, beautiful, outdoors, uncrowded and sparkly clean. Ahhhh… back in Beitou…
In Beitou’s defense, we did ask our inn where the locals soak and that’s where we went. We were warned it was simple and that is was. Think dingy old YMCA. The waters also happen to contain a radioactive mineral called hokutolite, which contain radium. It’s only found here and at the Tamagawa Hot Spring in Japan and people seek it out for the health benefits. In Japan, people spend their time lying on slabs of hokutolite, which are believed to help sweat out heavy metals, toxins and carcinogens.
Apparently the amount of radium exposure is not enough to cause harm to one’s health. We reserved a private hot spring room for 1 hour and told to only sit in water 5 minutes, get out for 5 minutes and repeat (as we understood in our beginner’s Mandarin). Not exactly a relaxing experience. We lasted about 20 minutes and then went out for a beer.
Being a hot spring and onsen connoisseur I plan to continue my research on Taiwan’s steaminess. I remain hopeful.
Cloud Gate Dance headquarters
Located north of Beitou and west of the Yangmingshan Nat. Park, it sits on a beautiful, wooded property that’s worth exploring pre/post show. Aside from the modern architecture, the building hosts an art gallery in the basement and outdoor sculpture art. Here’s the google map pin of the location.
Cloud Gate 1 & 2
If you get the opportunity to see Cloud Gate 2 – Spring Riot, do it. It’s phenomenally modern and edgy and 100% entertaining. Could Gate 1 is the more conservative side of the dance company, also worthy. Cloud Gate 2 on Facebook.
Pickles & Passionfruit
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