The northern Taipei district of BEITOU (北投; běitóu) nestles in the shadow of Yangmingshan, twenty minutes from downtown by MRT. The name derives from “Patauw” or “home of witches” in the Ketagalan language, an allusion to the area’s bubbling sulphur carbonate hot springs. Osaka merchant Hirada Gengo opened Beitou’s first hot-spring inn in 1896, and during the Japanese occupation it became one of the island’s most prominent resorts. The Japanese were particularly attracted to hokutolite, a mineral-laden stone formed by the springs, and bathers still come here to enjoy its therapeutic qualities. Most visitors come for the day, taking a dip in one of the many spas in the area (as in much of Taiwan, you can’t actually bathe in the hot springs at source – water is piped into spa pools and hotels), but it’s also worth exploring a smattering of sights recalling Taiwan’s Japanese past.
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