This morning saw us having a relatively good start on the morning and having our last breakfast at the Dandy Hotel Daan Park with an extra surprise. A live violinist. As Nick said it only in Asia that you could have a live violinist play for you over breakfast at a 3-star hotel.
It was a wonderful way to start the morning and I was chuffed that I recognised most of the songs he played such as “New York, New York”, “Kiss the Girl”, “Let It Go” and “My Girl” – unexpected, but soothing! Breakfast was also really nice as we had managed to get there early enough for the first time to have watermelon readily available – I had 4 slices in addition to a salad, other fruits and the lovely breads on offer. Nick had several plates of breakfast including cereal, fruit, salad, toast and hot foods.
All in all, we were quite satisfied with breakfast. I made one more discovery that delighted me, rose-flavoured mouthwash. They had it on offer in the bathroom at the hotel restaurant so I pinched a pack and took it back upstairs.
One other thing which had me in stitches was when I went to grab a pair of room slippers in the hotel room, I spied something I had missed previously – hotel supplied condoms. Ours was a triple share (family) room. I couldn’t imagine anyone seriously using these in the family rooms and how much would you trust a hotel provided condom seriously?
Still full of mirth, I finished packing and we ended up relaxing in the room for a while before checking out and heading to our next destination, Beitou.
Beitou is in the northernmost region of Taipei City. As I would soon find out from visiting the local museums, the historical spelling of the district is Peitou which originates from the Ketagalan (local aborigine) word Kipatauw, meaning witch. This is because the aborigines thought the steam rising off the water due to the geothermal springs was the result of witchcraft. Beitou is famous for its hot springs and the area was initially mined for sulfur by the Dutch before becoming a popular tourist spot due to the high number of hotsprings which the Japanese encouraged during their occupation of the country.
We arrived in Beitou via the MRT following a 25 minute train ride from Daan Park.
We caught the free shuttle to our hotel following a scouting mission in Beitou town for some snack-ish lunch (which ended up being from 7-eleven). On arriving to our hotel, the Grand View Resort, we were advised our room wasn’t ready and we would have to kill a couple of hours.
We left our heavier luggage at the hotel reception and freshly unencumbered, started to explore our new home for the night. We first visited the Thermal Valley which boasts a small lake which has thermal waters around the 80-100°C mark. Of course, this is much too hot for people to swim in. In fact, there were signs all around the townships warning people not to put their feet in certain streams or waterways for fear of burning. Nick and I could even feel the heat generating up from grates in the street. Impressive!
It was at the Thermal Valley that I learned that the water, in addition to sulfur and other minerals that keep the waters a jade-green colour, contains a radioactive element which is thought to promote healing. Interesting, but not quite sure how the science there works!
After this visit, Nick and I went to check out the Beitou Hot Spring Museum. Originally the Beitou Public Baths, this was East Asia’s largest hot spring bathing area when it was established in 1913. Now it displays important relics linked to Taiwan’s hot springs, including Hokutolite or “Beitou stone” – a mineral discovered here which can withstand temperatures of up to 2000°C. This stone is used in the construction of kilns in addition to being used for hot spring bath stones. The Roman-style arches and columns in the large baths on the first floor and the Japanese décor in the Tatami Hall on the second floor were both really interesting to look at. We read a lot about the local history at this small but significant museum.
Our next stop was the Plum Garden which is a mansion that was built in the late 1930s. It was once the summer retreat of Mr. Yu You-ren, who was the “cursive calligraphy master of his generation”, and is now a municipal heritage site due to its stunning Japanese architecture.
We then headed back to the hotel to complete our check-in. I have to say, we have stayed at some very nice places so far in our trip. But this place has been the absolute icing on the cake. It was also the first hotel to note our ‘honeymoon’ status and presented us with some incredibly cute towel swans for our stay.
Aside from the sheer luxury of the room itself, we also have an amazing private mineral water bath in our apartment which pumps up the same jade-green waters of the local springs. Once we were settled, Nick and I decided to go and check out the on-site pool which also boasted a hot spring pool and mineral water pool.
We had to check in to the pool reception and purchase some swimming caps before we we allowed admittance. Nick was incredibly reluctant at first to get in the hot spring pool but weirdly, after being submerged in the cooler mineral water pool for a while was able to tolerate, and even enjoy, the hot spring water. Supposedly the green water denotes a hydrochloric status but it didn’t sting my skin at all like you would expect even a weak acid to do. It was actually very soothing and ‘soft’.
After plunging ourselves from the hot pool to the cold several times, we headed back up to our room to shower off and relax before dinner. The hotel surprised us by delivering us some (very strong and delicious) plum wine free of charge to celebrate our honeymoon as well. We drank that and had some of the complimentary snacks to go with it. I very much enjoyed writing this blog post on our private balcony overlooking the mountain ranges as the sun began to set. The balcony also has a very cute tea light lamp which I was able to light and type by.
As our last ‘proper’ dinner in Taiwan, we had decided to have a meal at one of the resort restaurants which is very highly rated. We chose the ‘Chinese Cuisine’ Restaurant to dine at over the European one, as it has a very interesting sounding set menu. Despite the name, I would say that the menu is more Western fusion. We had a fantastic view from the restaurant window as well which was lucky for us!
The appetiser was a very well presented grilled scallop with a salad.
The next course was a pumpkin bisque which had a ‘ball’ of seafood submerged in it which the menu called a ‘scallop hydrangea’. Despite how odd this sounds I actually really enjoyed this dish!
Following this we had a main meal – mine was a spicy pan fried chicken stuffed with shrimp paste and Nick had a traditional boiled pork rib in Taiwanese sauce dish. This also came with a plate of stir-fried vegetables including bok choy and mushrooms.
Next was steamed Grouper with a small noodle soup accompaniment.
Dessert was a plate of cut fruits and a ‘dessert’ soup which was super interesting. It was like a cold sweet tea/syrup with seaweed and sweet red beans. Very different and interesting. Not too sweet but it was very light.
After dinner, we decided to try the in-room hot spring baths. We filled up both the tubs and bravely jumped in. This felt much hotter than the downstairs pool and it took ages for us to acclimatise to the heat. Happily there was also a cold bath right next to the hot one which we took turns jumping into.
While we were soaking there was a knock at the door which surprised us. Nick quickly jumped up and put on a bathrobe and answered. Turns out the hotel had one last honeymoon surprise for us. A lovely little glazed cake for us to share and a handwritten card for us to take home as a souvenir wishing us congratulations.
It was such a lovely gesture and I wasn’t expecting it. I was quite moved! After we spent a bit more time in the tub, we ate the cake and it was lovely. Filled with cream and jam and a couple of layers of a light sponge it was the perfect way to cap off the day.
This is going to be one of the highlights of the trip honestly. I can’t remember another time when I have felt so happy and relaxed. Getting to share all this with the man I love (who organised this amazing journey for us both) also makes me feel very blessed.
I can feel the trip dwindling down to a close but I think we will manage to sneak in a few more exciting and fun stories for you before the journey is over so please stay tuned!