Monday, March 31, 2014

Taiwan Travelogue: Exploring Beitou

Beitou district (北投區), as its name suggests, is located in the northern region of Taipei (Bei  means north in Chinese) and is synonymous with two things; the beautiful nature and the hot springs. Beitou is easily accessible by train or bus; and one can choose to alight at the Beitou station or the XinBeitou station, which is a relatively newer area.
XinBeitou is pretty much a newer version (or face) of Beitou; the keyword here being Xin, as in new, which forms the other younger establishment of the district.

Beitou is known for the years of history and her existence for more than a century; filled with the many stories and local population which formed the original area coverage of Beitou or what is more fondly referred to as the old Beitou. It is not uncommon to see many older buildings from the early eras still preserved in the area, and old Beitou seems to be a town still stuck in the past.
XinBeitou(New Beitou), on the other hand is a relatively newer area; and encompasses from the area of the MRT Station and Qinshui Park which was developed into somewhat of a hot springs recreational area, filled with hot springs resorts and tourism over the years from its early beginnings during the Japanese era (1895-1945).

The hot springs is the trademark of XinBeitou; with the rising steam from the sulphuric waters forming the misty air, taking away the attention from its other less celebrated fame of being one of Taipei's largest red light districts.

With the many things lining up to the name of Beitou, it is no wonder this place has flourished as a popular tourist attraction over the years though mostly due to the hot springs which has drawn locals and returning tourists from nearby countries such as Hong Kong, China, and Korea.
Seems like the sulphuric odor and the misty air from the steamy waters did little to quell the attraction; but rather, attracted the tourists more although it was not the case with the origins of the town.

As the story goes, the natives or rather the early aboriginal inhabitants of the area found the appearance of the sulphur and the continuous steam rising from the streams filling the air everywhere more mystical than pleasing to the sights that they associated it with works of the witches. In fact, the whole area, was referred to as a Witch's Cauldron; with the pungent smell of sulphur and the constant rising steam which is similar to a spell or potion in the making, thus earning it the name of 'paktaaw' in the aboriginal language - meaning "witch". Over the years, the term was revolutionized/sinicized into today's Beitou.

The original plan was to visit the famous Yangmingshan National Park, but due to the bad weather, we just lingered around the Beitou area where we had more time exploring the town and taking pictures along the way.

It was a beautiful and rather peaceful place; filled with scenic and picturesque wonders of nature along our walk. It helped that the weather on that day was perfect for tours on foot; as it was cool and cloudy (which was the reason it dampened our visit to Yangmingshan), but we still enjoyed the scenic tour of Beitou.

There are many who can be seen enjoying the moderately warm waters for free; as they soaked their feet into these water flowing downstream.

There are two museums in Beitou; if you are interested:-

Beitou Hot Springs Museum
This was once a public bath; during the Japanese occupation and the design of the building is uniquely inspired by both the European infused with the Japanese culture at that time.

Ketagalan Cultural Center
This center is dedicated as a tribute to the aboriginal natives and the culture of this area; and is a modernized 10-storeys high building. It is hard to miss along the way.

To be continued...

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