Walking out of the subway you see a park with a steaming river running through it. The park has a beautiful new library made of wood and stone, warmly lit with views of the park. I was there at night so I didn’t get to visit the hot springs museum.
There are lots of hotels around the area and I guess some of them have their own hot springs tubs. But on the advise of Lonely Planet I went to the outdoor public bath.
It cost 1$ US. There are booths to change and shower in and a place to leave your shoes. There are also lockers with keys for your stuff but everyone just puts their stuff on top of the lockers, there is very little theft in Taiwan.
There are four large beautiful stone pools in a hillside. Each is fed by a water fall and the two on top are 40 and 41 degrees celsius, Hot! There are also two cold pools, where I spent more than half my time because I was already too hot when I got there.
In a Japanese public bath men and women are separate and naked. Here men and women mingle together and wear bathing suits. I remember a public bath in Japan where I watched a guy scrub his body 8 times in between soaks. These were vigorous scrubs, enough to take off skin. Either he was scraping off layers of skin or his skin was very tough from years of scrubbing. Anyway, scrubbing is against the rules in this Taiwanese hot spring. Any scrubbing you want to do happens in your private booth while you are changing and showering.
The mood is very relaxed and friendly, a couple of young women who were with their mothers decided to talk to me. (Wow, the sexy hairy monkey talks!) The waterfalls are the dominant sound especially in the hotter tubs where people are ‘cooking.’ But this is no new-age hang-up keep-your-voices-down kind of place. It’s all flirting and catching up on gossip. About equal numbers of men and women but no children.
Really worth a visit...perhaps every other day. I saw no evidence of religion, or stretching, but one guy was doing arm exercises while standing up in the corner. They close for 45 minutes of cleaning every 2 hours, so it’s clean.