Taiwan is known for its natural mineral hot springs. Taipei even has a special area dedicated to hot springs and spas ranging from the very cheap to the very, very expensive. I’ve been to one of the local springs before, but this Sunday I had a great time trying out some all natural hot springs in Yangmingshan National Park.

These springs are very local, very wild, and totally unsupervised. They are a bit of a local secret and I was glad I could be part of the adventure.

We started out by taking an hour-long bus ride out to the park. Then we had to hike in about half a mile. I couldn’t help but noticing  that all along the trail there was a litter of shoe soles.

Like these:

What is this doing here?

It was strange. We had to have passed at least twenty different pieces of plastic soles on our way to the springs. Why they were there I have no idea. I mean, what were people thinking? “Hey, I just lost the entire bottom of my shoe! I guess I’ll just leave it there and be on my merry way”.

Soles aside though, the trail often passed near a rapidly moving river and from time to time we were able to snap some pretty sweet pics. We also had a chance to cross a very safe little wooden bridge.

The weather was pretty awful. It couldn’t have been more than in the 50s, and it had been raining for the past I don’t even know how many days with Sunday being no exception. It was only drizzling when we started but by the time we got to the hot springs it was full-out raining.

When we got there the springs were already full of locals all hanging out in the rain.  We knew we were getting close when we started to smell the sweet scent of the sulfur springs. That is…the smell of egg flavored fart bombs. Thankfully, it wasn’t too bad, though my swim suit still smells gross even after being washed.

As with most springs there are several pools of water that range from boiling hot to freezing cold. I tried out several  including getting under the freezing cold water fall. It was quite a rush! The water was freezing and it felt like  being hit with a ton of stones rather than water.

Then I got into the super hot pool which felt awesome. At first. Until I noticed the water kept getting hotter and hotter and  in the blink of an eye I felt like I was being boiled alive. That’s when I realized I was leaning up against the part of the pool where the boiling hot water was being fed in from a stream coming down the mountain side. Whoops! You should have seen how fast I moved.

After trying out another pool or two, most of us settled on one of the hot pools where we didn’t feel (quite) like lobsters being prepared for the slaughter. Incidentally, it was also the pool that had amazing silt at the bottom that some of us plastered all over our bodies (even after the locals yelled at us not too). The silt is supposed to be very good for the skin, and I can’t deny that my skin felt amazing afterwards.

We spent a few hours there before we got sick and tired of being alternately too hot and too cold. The rain had not tapered off at all but we had to start  back.  Some thoughtful person had put up some sort of plastic cover against a tree and I’m glad they did, as this is gave us girls a chance to change without flashing everyone in sight. Even so, it was miserable trying to  change. Everything was wet and covered in dirt.

I had brought along a cheap little raincoat (picture a yellow trash bag with a hood) so I felt pretty smug on our walk back. That is, until I realized all the rain was collecting on the raincoat and then dripping all over my jeans. By the time we got back to the road my jeans were completely soaked from the knee down and the rest of me wasn’t all that dry either.

It was a miserable and cold bus ride back. None of us were dry and sitting in an air-conditioned bus (because they never turn the a/c off here, even when its 50 degrees out) with soaking wet jeans, purse, and backpack was not an awesome end to the adventure.

As soon as we got back to Taipei half of the group took off but a few of us diehards stuck it out and warmed up by going to a hot pot restaurant. Hotpots are amazing, by the way. Each person gets to choose their own flavored broth and assorted meats or seafood and veggies. The food is boiled on a hot plate in front of each person.  I chose spicy chicken and let me tell you something: they don’t mess around when it  comes to spice here in Taiwan. My scalp was sweating and my sinuses were clear by the time I was done. Still it was delicious and I have to say, while hot pot isn’t my most favorite type of Taiwanese food, it’s certainly up in the top ten.

By the time I got home I was exhausted. A hot shower never felt so good and I didn’t leave my place for the rest of the night. I haven’t had a better night’s sleep in a long time.

All in all, I’m really glad I went. It was a great way to spend a rainy Sunday afternoon. Next time though, I’m gonna hold out for one of the tame local spas, with showers and changing rooms.

Pics are  below, I’ll apologize in advance because  I couldn’t seem to get them arranged in the correct chronological order.

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