spunktitud3

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Japan – Hokkaido: Noboribetsu Hot Spring 登別温泉

nooboribetsu

Located directly south of Sapporo city, Noboribetsu is one of Hokkaido’s most famous hot spring resort areas surrounded by a virgin forest 200 metres above sea level. Noboribetsu is a part of Shikotsu-Toya National Park.

One of the best things to do during the cool Autumn weather, is to indulge in a hot spring bath while taking in the majestic sight of nature’s red plumage of autumn leaves, and I was blown away by the scenic view that greeted me at the hot spring town of Noboribetsu (登別温泉).

While Noboribetsu comprises the nearby towns of Noboribetsu, Horobetsu and Washibetsu, most visitors (mainly Japanese) flock to the hot spring town of Noboribetsu Onsen 登別温泉, 6 km inland (15mins by car) from Noboribetsu itself. Founded on 13 September 1869, it has a population of 54,000 with a total area of 212.11 km2.

Noboribetsu

Noboribetsu

Noboribetsu

The hot spring resort area is renown for its wide range of hot springs – it boasts 9 kinds of hot spring baths incorporating different qualities, including a sulfur spring (most popular), a ferruginous spring and an alum spring which makes the skin beautiful (I agree!). This much variety is hard to find in hot springs anywhere else in the world, and the quality of the minerals together make Noboribetsu one of the world’s most exceptional hot springs.

Noboribetsu

Mesmerizing foliage for an urbanite

Noboribetsu

This, is not a huge drain – it’s hot spring water. I felt like jumping into a drain for once.

Noboribetsu

Do I still need to say – it’s autumn ;)

Noboribetsu

Even the roadside flowers are growing so prettily, must be the spring water

Noboribetsu

Takinoya
An awesome accommodation choice at Noboribetsu

Noboribetsu

Noboribetsu

Kumabokujo クマ牧場 Bear Farm
One of the tourist attractions at Noboribetsu. I would rather see bears in their natural habitat than caged up to perform tricks, so I gave the place a miss.

Noboribetsu

Sengen Park features a geyser that erupts from beside the hot spring water stream flowing from Hell Valley
Visitors can experience the eruption of the geyser at intervals of approximately three hours. There is the sound of pressure building, followed by the eruption of the geyser, which is accompanied by a cloud of steam. With such an angry eruption, I shudder about seeing the Valley itself.

Noboribetsu

The most impressive scene at Noboribetsu is Jigoku Valley 地獄谷 (Hell Valley), a 450-meter-diameter mouth of a volcano which produces 3,000 litres of hot water per minute. Yellow volcanic gas seeps out from the surface of the rocks and it is this strong smell of sulphuric smoke that gives it an image of hell.

Noboribetsu

I find it a miracle that something as beautiful as these berries can still grow out of hell. It shows there is always hope in life :)

Noboribetsu

A customary “been-here” shot ;)

Noboribetsu

The barren landscape does resemble hell
You can experience the dynamics of jigoku, or “Hell,” named as such for its strong smell of sulfur while hot water, vapors and volcanic gas escape from the crater, formed approximately ten thousand years ago.

Noboribetsu

Enter and be scalded – or cooked

Noboribetsu

It’s quite amusing how every tourist treats a hole with water in it as a wishing well. One thing for sure – no one is going to fish the coins out of a 90 degrees Celsius pond!

Noboribetsu

Awesome landscape. I stood still for 5mins, taking in the sights.

Noboribetsu

Even the toilet signs are represented with Hell Valley’s mascots. Question is – which is the Ladies?!

Noboribetsu

Oyunumagawa Natural Foot Bath
Throw off your shoes and enjoy a hot relaxing foot soak after hiking your way to this hot spring stream.

Noboribetsu

Even the rain couldn’t dampen our spirits and excitement!

Noboribetsu

Nightfall soon came, and we hurried back to explore the town. Being a resort town, it was relatively quiet with some shops selling seafood produce and tourist souvenirs.

Noboribetsu

Noboribestu is well-known for flower cod roe, salmon roe and onikama (boiled fish paste). Souvenirs include carved wooden bears/dolls, and various candies.

Noboribetsu

Getting acquainted with the local deities

Noboribetsu

The Silence of the Lambs
From being squashed by a big buffalo.

Noboribetsu

The chill soon got the better of us, and we headed back to our hotel in anticipation of a hot midnight onsen soak.

Noboribetsu

We chose a Japanese-style room

Noboribetsu

Having tea prepared for us

Noboribetsu

しあわせ (happiness!)

Noboribetsu

Dinner time!

Noboribetsu

All decked out in a yukata and enjoying my crab

Noboribetsu

I couldn’t get enough of my seafood dinner, I had to share fish with the bears.
And off to enjoy my onsen! You cannot follow! :)

Noboribetsu

Get a cute Noboribetsu souvenir home before you leave – Whadda hell! :D

Noboribetsu brochures

Getting to Noboribetsu
By Train
Take the JR Muroran Line to Noboribetsu Station from Sapporo. The jorney is approximately one hour and costs about ¥3850. Board the bus from JR Noboribetsu Station to the final bus stop, Noboribetsu-onsen (13 mins).

There are several limited express trains to Noboribetsu as well:
– Hokuto and Super Hokuto (between Hakodate and Sapporo costing about ¥4160)
– Suzuran (between Sapporo and Higashi-Muroran costing about ¥6500).

Overnight trains
– Cassiopeia and Hokutosei trains to and from Ueno Station in Tokyo
– Twilight Express to and from Kyoto and Osaka in Kansai
– Hamanasu Sapporo-Aomori express (Aomori-Sapporo Hamanasu does not stop in Noboribetsu)

By Bus
A cheaper alternative than the train, Chuo (中央) bus and Dounan (道南) bus offer cheap, ¥1900 yen (one-way) trips to Noboribetsu in about 2 hours. There are eleven direct buses per day and boarding is at Hakodate Station and Chuo Bus Terminal [中央バスターミナル).

By Car
If driving from Sapporo or Shin Chitose Airport, the fastest way is the Doo Expressway, then taking the “Noboribetsu Higashi” exit.


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Taiwan – Urban Respite at Beitou Hot Springs 新北投溫泉

Beitou Hot Springs

A good reason to get hot in Beitou – hot springs!

For the weary city dweller – or over-shopped traveller – staying in the midst of Taipei’s crowded business districts, Beitou at the northernmost district of Taipei City is the ideal escape that is perfect for a relaxing day trip. Locals and travellers alike come here for a quick soak in its hot springs, whose sulphurous waters have lured pleasure-soakers for centuries. It is also the closest hot spring resort to Taipei conveniently located by train (just 30mins away).

Beitou Hot Springs 北投

Getting to Beitou is a piece of cake
Take the Red Line subway to Beitou station (heading towards Danshui) and change trains at Beitou Station to the Pink Line Xin Beitou Station just one stop away. The journey from Taipei Main Station will take 30 minutes and cost about NT30.

Beitou Hot Springs 北投

Never leave home without a good travel guide, and an even better travel companion :)

Beitou Hot Springs 北投

Beitou Station
Go down one flight of stairs and up another to change platforms to the Pink Line to Xin Beitou.

Beitou Hot Springs 北投

Look out for the cute decor while waiting for the Xin Beitou train – great photo op!

Beitou Hot Springs 北投

The train to Xin Beitou reminds me of the Disney train – it comes with touchscreens in the form of hot tubs providing information from sight-seeing, food to hot springs. A good way to do some last-minute research ;)

Beitou Hot Springs 北投

Directional signs are aplenty at Xin Beitou – you’ll not worry about getting lost.

The name Beitou originates from the Ketagalan aborigine word Kipatauw (“home of witches”) due to the smell of sulphur and the geothermal steam from the hot springs which resembles a witch’s cauldron. Beitou was originally an infamous red light district where men would go for the hot springs and women. The government cleaned up the area in the late 1980s, and today the hot spring town is one Taiwan’s major tourist attractions.

Beitou Hot Springs 北投

Beitou Public Library 北投圖書館
Apart from its famous hot springs, Beitou is also home to Taiwan’s first “green” library with its use of solar power and natural light. You can spot it on your way to Beitou Hot Spring Museum. It is also the first building in Taiwan to receive the “Green Building” certification.

Beitou Hot Springs 北投

Lovely lotus pond in the park just behind the library

Beitou Hot Springs 北投

Beitou Hot Spring Museum 北投溫泉博物館
Housed in Victorian-style public hot spring bath built during the Japanese colonial era, this museum is a good spot to learn about Beitou’s rich hot spring culture and history. You will need to remove your shoes before entering the building.

Beitou Hot Springs 北投

Learn all about Beitou’s hot springs
Hot spring sources here originate from Datun Mountains. It is one of the earliest hot spring sources found in Taiwan and the water’s pH value ranges between 1.2 and 1.6 (i.e. very acidic). Sediments in the water crystallize into a rare mineral hokutolite which were unfortunately plundered, and only a few stones remain in the museum.

Architectural Model of Beitou

Architectural model of Beitou Hot Springs
Beitou’s  waters contain radium, which is said to be beneficial for fertility, long-term illnesses, rehabilitation and skin beauty.

Beitou Hot Springs 北投

The former baths feel almost Roman in their construction

Beitou Hot Springs 北投

Entertainment room where the men gathered to chill out after their hot spring bath. Women were not allowed in this room.

Beitou Hot Springs 北投

Geothermal Valley 地熱谷
Also known as Hell Valley, the hot spring was named one of Taiwan’s eight great natural beauties in the Japanese colonial era. The mineral composition of the rare green sulfur waters can only be found in two locations in the world, Beitou and Akita, Japan. Being a hydrochloric acid spring that can reach 100°C (212°F), it is unsuitable for body contact unless you are intending to cook yourself. In the past, visitors were able to boil eggs at the valley but not anymore. It reminded me of Jigokudani (also called Hell Valley) in Noboribetsu, Hokkaido.

Beitou Hot Springs 北投

A destination stamp to mark my visit!
It’s quite a small place covering an area of 3500 square feet, so 30mins would be sufficient for some eisurely sight-seeing. Besides – you want to save most of your time to soak in the hot springs!

Beitou Hot Springs 北投

Everybody can afford to enjoy the hot springs in Beitou
For a totally free experience, you can soak your feet at the public hot spring foot baths along a stream in Quanyuan Park

Beitou Hot Springs 北投

Beitou Garden Spa 北投親水公園露天溫泉
Beitou’s outdoor public bath is one of the cheapest options from NT20 to NT40. It has 6 outdoor pools ranging in temperatures from scalding hot to frigging cold. There are 6 entry time slots from 5:30AM to 10:00PM and can get crowded especially in the evenings or during weekends (well, it’s dirt-cheap afterall). Bring a swimsuit or buy one there, no au naturale pls :)

Beitou Hot Springs 北投

If you like a bit more privacy, there are very affordable indoor baths all around with signboards shouting their prices for a hot soak.

Beitou Hot Springs 北投

Since we were rather shy, we opted for a private soak in one of the hot spring resorts.

Beitou

Off we go!
Most of the hot spring resorts were clustered together along the road

Beitou Hot Springs 北投

Which one should we go to? Hmm…

Beitou

You can opt just for a hot spring bath or choose to rest for a few hours or stay the night.

Beitou Hot Springs 北投

One interesting thing which I noticed in Taiwan are the electrical boxes – they are all very prettily decorated!

Beitou Hot Springs 北投

We opted for Spring City Resort cos’ it’s one of the few with outdoor baths. There were some really nice ones along the way to the resort, but it was a pity they only had indoor baths. They also provide a shuttle bus to Beitou/Xin Beitou train station, so it saved us some precious time after we were done.

Beitou

The resort has nine outdoor pools with water of varying temperatures. The entry fee is NT800 for adults/NT550 for kids and free for hotel guests. They have indoor hot spring rooms too costing NT600 for adults/NT400 for kids per hour.

Beitou Hot Springs 北投

Time to play with water!

Beitou

SO good to have a warm soak!
That said, I still prefer the hot springs in Japan where the water feels ‘softer’ and you feel your skin go silkly smooth after a soak.

Beitou Hot Springs 北投

The package we took came with a buffet which was okay but nothing to shout about.

Beitou Hot Springs 北投

Beauty Food
I ate a lot of this fish skin for its collagen.

Beitou Hot Springs 北投

This heart-shaped biscuit looks more like a bum to me.

We left Beitou about 4.30pm for Fisherman’s Wharf and Danshui Old Street. If you are not intending to soak in a hot spring, you can plan about 2-3 hours in Beitou and leave more time for eating and shopping at Danshui Old Street. It would be ideal to visit Fisherman’s Wharf during sunset or night time for its scenic sight and then spend the rest of the evening at Danshui Old Street. More on that later! :)

More on Taiwan:
Taiwan: Blooming Delights and Cultural Richness in Daxi 大溪
Taiwan – Nature’s Wonders at Yehliu Geopark 野柳地質公園
Taiwan – Jiufen’s 九份 Golden Nostalgia
Taiwan – Tamsui 淡水:Of Romantic Sunsets & Tantalizing Snacks
Taiwan – Jingguashi 金瓜石:Goldmine of Yesteryear
Taiwan – SHIFEN十分放天灯: Sending Wishes to the Sky
Taiwan – Sun Moon Lake 日月潭: Picturesque Nature

Explore Taiwan with Spunktitud3!


Getting to Beitou
Take the Red Line subway to Beitou station (heading towards Danshui) and change trains at Beitou Station to the Pink Line Xin Beitou Station just one stop away. The journey from Taipei Main Station will take 30 minutes and cost about NT30.

Attractions

Beitou Public Library 北投圖書館
Address: No. 251, Guangming Rd, Beitou District, Taipei City, Taiwan 11246
Tel: +886 2 2897 7682
Opening Hrs: 8:30AM-5:00PM (Tue-Sat); 9:00AM-5:00PM (Sun & Mon)
Free Admission
Website: http://english.taipei.gov.tw/ct.asp?xItem=1100571&ctNode=30280&mp=100002

Beitou Hot Spring Museum 北投溫泉博物館
Address: No. 2, Zhongshan Rd, Beitou District  Taipei City, Taiwan 112
Tel: +886 2 2893 9981
Opening Hrs: 9:00AM-5:00PM (Tue-Sun); Closed on Mon
Free Admission
Website: http://www.taipeisprings.org.tw/english/scenic/hotspring-museum.htm

Geothermal Valley 地熱谷
Address: Zhongshan Road near the entrance of Wenquan Road中山路靠溫泉路出口, Beitou District, Taipei, Taiwan
Opening Hrs: 9:00AM-5:00PM (Tue-Sun); Closed on Mon
Free Admission
Website: http://english.taipei.gov.tw/ct.asp?xitem=1104691&CtNode=30688&mp=100002

Beitou Garden Spa 北投親水公園露天溫泉
Address: No. 6, Zhongshan Road, Beitou District, Taipei City, Taiwan 112 (台北市北投區中山路6號)
Tel: +886 2 2897 2260
Opening Hrs: 5:30AM-10:00PM daily (6 sessions daily)
1st session: 5:30-7:30AM
2nd session: 8:00AM-10:00AM
3rd session: 10:30PM-1:00PM
4th session: 1:30PM-4:00PM
5th session: 4:30PM-5:00PM
6th session: 5:30PM-10:00PM
Admission: NT$40 for adults, NT$20 for students and seniors
Website

Spring City Resort 春天酒店
Address: No. 18 YouYa Road, Beitou District, Taipei City, Taiwan
Tel: +886 2 2897 2345
Website: www.springresort.com.tw

I find this detailed map from Escape2Taiwan a useful guide of what to see and do in Beitou.