Day trip to Wulai (part 1): Hot springs
I have been in Taipei for almost 6 months, so it was about time that I go on a day trip to Wulai. It was a sunny day today, so I was hoping to tan a little bit. People in Taiwan don’t really like the sun (understandably, it can get so hot during the summer) and they always hide from it, so I thought it might be a not-so-easy kind of mission. Indeed.
Now it’s spring (mid-February) so the temperature is getting warm again, yet very comfortable. It was 27 Celcius degrees today, but it was very comfy. I was looking forward to try hot springs in Wulai, in part because I read they are odourless (as opposed to the ones in Beitou; they kind of stinks over there, from the sulfur in the water).
To get there, I took the bus 849 from Xindian MRT Station just besides the taxi stand. I’m not gonna lie: it was a scary ride. The bus was PACKED and the driver was going ridiculously fast in all those very narrow and curvy roads. With all the people standing up, it’s a miracle that nobody went flying through a window. It was like a cartoon scene, except not really funny…!
It was very cheap though: 17NT$ (so… about $0,65). By the way, my references to prices are in Canadian dollars.
First thing I did when I got out of the bus (alive, thank God), I went for a little stroll on the Old Street, because it’s a must if you want to sample some aboriginal specialty food.
Once I crossed the bridge and passed those impressive aboriginal representations, the food stalls where just everywhere.
Zoom on the right one, just because I found it kind of scary (the way it seems to be looking straight at you). Spooky.
One of the classic snack that you have to try here is the boar sausage. I can confirm: it’s delicious! I also got one of those rectangle things in the picture. I understood from the guy it was made from millet, but I might be wrong – sorry for the lack of precision. It’s kind of sticky and a bit gelatinous and honestly, I thought it did not taste much. I would not have it again.
Those little fried fishes and shrimps sure are popular. There are loads of places where you can eat them.
Another specialty is the thousand years eggs. They are also called preserved eggs. After the process, the yolk becomes dark green or greyish, with a creamy consistency and strong flavour, while the white becomes a dark translucent jelly (greenish or brownish) with a salty flavour. It’s not very pretty to look at! I did not have any this time but I tried it before. You should definitely try it if you never have!
There are endless snack options you can choose from. I even found strawberries (not so common here…)! Below, tomatoes, olives and little bananas.
Ok! Enough with the food and back to the hot springs. I wasn’t sure where to go. I just read they are everywhere in Wulai, but where exactly? I only had a few hotels’ names to look for. There are also outdoor hot springs one along the river if you want to explore down there and others in the mountain if you want to hike, but I wasn’t feeling that adventurous today and just wanted something easy.
There are a three options for hot springs. There’s the mixed public hot springs, where men and women are mixed and obviously are wearing a bathing suit. There are others where bathing suit is not allowed, you have to go in naked, so men and women are in segregated areas. Finally, you can rent a private room with a hot spring bath, often by the hours.
I checked out 4 different places today and I wanted to share my impressions with you, in case you are also looking for a specific place to go to.
Yen Town was directly on the Old Street (on a side street). It’s the only one I saw today that was mixed (so you’ll need a bathing suit). It’s the only place I saw with long chairs to sunbath. I saw three of them; not a lot, I know, but it’s more then all the other places!
One of the pools seemed to be in full sun (I check from the window above so I couldn’t see perfectly) and the others are covered. The lobby of the hotel was quite nice and the staff, very friendly. It was also the cheapest option I saw today : 400NT$ (so about $16). I will definitely try it with Ethan next time we come here together.
FULL MOON SPA
Next, I checked the Full Moon Spa, because it is also by the Old Street (on a side street though, but just a few steps away from the corner).
You have to go to the 5th floor for the reception. I found that the staff was not particularly friendly there. Maybe it was just the one I talked to. It was also pretty cheap, at 460NT$. The thing with this one is all the pools are inside. It might be open on one side, but since it was so nice and sunny out, I really wanted a chance to get some sun of my skin so I moved on. A good option to try when it’s raining though.
This one has segregated pools so men on one floor, women on the other, and you must go naked – no swimsuit allowed.
PAUSE LANDIS RESORT
To get here, I had to come back towards the bus stops and walk a little bit further It’s about 1km to walk here from the Old Street, so about 15 minutes. This place was enchanting. It’s modern and elegant and the staff were by far the most polite, pleasant and welcoming, as well as very friendly. Of course, you are in a luxury hotel here so expect the prices to go up. I was there on a Holiday and the price was 900NT$. It might be cheaper on a normal week day.
The pools look beautiful (they showed me pictures at the front desk) and the whole place has such a great vibe, but again, there is nowhere to sit in the sun and the pools are inside, with one wall open on the outside (but you cannot go outside, from what I understood). The men side have outside pools.
I will come again hopefully on a less sunny day and tell you more about it when I do.
VOLANDO URAI SPRING SPA & RESORT
This one is only 3 minutes away from the Pause Landis. I thought the place looked very beautiful. They are a member of the prestigious Relais & Châteaux network of luxury establishments, therefore more expensive. You can expect to get top service. The pools are segregated and you have to go naked.
The price was 1000NT$ (around $40) for a Holiday. You should double-check, but I thing on a normal week day it’s 800NT$ (so about $32). It’s still cheaper then a luxury spa in Canada!
This one had one outside pool (although it is covered) and 2 chairs to sit in the sun. I was IN.
Everything is included : locker, robe, towels and flip flops. Oh and also, the mandatory shower cap!
The wonderful thing about this outside pool is that you get a beautiful view of the emerald green river through the tropical leaves. It’s truly beautiful. After 4pm or so, the sun hides behind the mountain. Before that, it’s full sun!
Nobody else besides me was interested in sitting in the sun and that was great because I got the two chairs for me and made myself quite comfortable!
In the inside part of the spa, there are two hot pools, two smaller cold pools (the temperature is quite comfortable actually), a dry sauna and a steam room. In addition to this, you have showers (sitting showers..!) with salt to exfoliate your skin, as well as shower gel, shampoo and conditionner.
A little bit of essential oil would have been nice in the saunas, I must say.
You can stay up to 4 hours in the spa. I really enjoyed it and I will hopefully have the chance to come back!
After the spa, I went for the afternoon tea (still at the Volando). In one of the restaurants, there is a musical performance on the water. It seemed lovely but on a busy day, you need to make reservation to make sure you have a table. I didn’t, so I will definitely have to come back!
There is another restaurant with a nice view on the river. They serve the afternoon tea for 360NT$. You’ll get a pot of tea and a snack assortment, of savoury and sweet treats. I’m not sure I would do it again, but it was quite nice to sit by the river, have a nice tea, little snacks and just relax.
There was so many people in Wulai that day that I was a bit worried about how I’d get back to Xindian. I was so happy to learn that the Volando had a shuttle bus that takes you straight to Xindian MRT Station for 50NT$. You need to reserve in advance to save yourself a spot though, and don’t forget to check the schedule, they are only a few departure a day. Mine was at 5pm.
From there, it was a nice and smooth ride back home through the beautiful mountains, in the golden light of the sunset (literally)! Quite a splendid end of the day!
You have recommandations to share for a day trip to Wulai? PLEASE let us know in the comments below!