Taiwan: Beitou

When I travel to new cities, I often like to visit the libraries. Seattle’s is really cool as is Madrid’s (at least from the outside). I had read online that the one in the Beitou section of Taipei was neat so I thought, Why not? and headed out there. It turned out to be kind of a bizarre little trip.

Getting there

It didn’t take long to get there from my hotel, only about 30 minutes. I ended up getting off a stop too early, but the walk wasn’t far and besides it was fun to see the little town.

While I was walking, I ran into this parade. It had these big — puppets? — that reminded me of the gigantes in Barcelona:

There was also music:

I have no idea what it was for. I asked a girl but didn’t understand her. I suspect it was for a “solar new year” that’s celebrated in South and Southeast Asian countries, but I’m not sure.

Beitou Library

The interesting thing about this library is its architecture. It’s designed to be “eco-friendly” and “energy-efficient.” Moreover:

  • The wood is from managed forests
  • The large windows allow for plenty of natural light and reduced artificial lighting
  • The ventilation decreases the need for fans and A/C
  • Part of the roof is covered with “photovoltaic cells” which convert sunlight into electricity and a thin layer of soil that provides thermal insulation
  • The library captures and stores rainwater to be used for their toilets

I used their toilets on my way in and on my back. The bathroom was very clean. They also had tons of outlets (no need for converters for American electronics) so I spent quite some time charging my phone and reading.

Hot springs

Beitou is most famous for its hot springs. I had no intention of trying them, but it was fun just to walk past the creeks and waterfalls steaming with heat. Even the air felt healthy. I felt like my skin and hair were getting a good dose of vitamins.

Wanting a destination, I headed toward the Beitou Museum. It was a schlep, or at least it felt that way because I kept thinking, Where the heck am I going? It wound up, up, up these hills, past all these hot spring resorts and hotels.

But I made it. The museum was underwhelming. It was in the style of a Japanese bathhouse so you had to take off your shoes, but that was the most interesting part. It seems what they’re more famous for is their traditional vegetarian kaiseki meals. I didn’t have one, but I did use the bathroom.

Liuhuanggu Sulfur Valley Geothermal Scenic Area

Now for the bizarre.

My original intention was to walk to the Yangmingshan National Park. According to Google Maps, it would take just 23 minutes. However, it was all on a highway and there were no signs. I was pretty nervous and ended up turning into this driveway and parking area, but that was a private residence. Oops! But the man was nice and said the park was just further up the road.

That’s when I ran into the Liuhuanggu Sulfur Valley Geothermal Scenic Area. It was so bizarre. Stinky, burbling sulfur pits and a bunch of older people sitting around with their feet and legs in a sulfur bath. I was like, What is happening right now?  

I was so weirded out (and paranoid about my phone running out) I neglected to take any pictures.

I wanted to go farther into the park but quickly realized this was not a good idea. There was no walking path, just more highway, and there were all these stray dogs around. There were two adorable puppies right near one of the sulfur pits, but then I noticed the parents. They kept barking. I took that as my cue to hightail it the fuck out of there.

Ketagalan Culture Center

My last stop before getting back on the subway was the Ketagalan Culture Center, which has four floors dedicated as a museum space on the indigenous people of Taiwan. What was nice was that a lot of the signage was in English (although I can’t remember anything that I read). Plus it was free.

Last entry! Odds and ends.

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