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Taipei Adventures, naked - moi?!

I have to tell you all about my little adventure in Taipei recently, naked at the Hot Springs! I can't believe that I have never been to Taiwan, I certainly urge you all to go if you ever get the chance. For me, I loved the combination of influences of two countries I enjoy. 

Street views from Downtown Taipei
The Chinese left some interesting historical influences and stunning architecture, which combined with a Japanese legacy and efficiency in transportation, makes Taipei an easy place to visit, with so much to see. Nowadays, Taiwan has emerged as a thoroughly modern city, I loved my time there. It felt exotic and safe until I had to get my kit off.

It was a spur of the moment decisions to join my husband on his Taiwanese business trip, prompted by the delay in the arrival of our furniture into Bangkok, and ‘no room at the inn’ where we had been staying. Given that I’m commitment and fancy-free in Thailand; there’s no job, no kids, no dog and absolutely nothing in my diary, little old Wren needs no other excuse to make an “I’m coming too” wandering decision. 

Less than 24 hours later, I’m standing in front of Annie, our helpful concierge wearing her ‘my passion’s travel’ badge at the Westin, Taipei planning my couple of days sightseeing.

Having sorted out a pleasant afternoon of Taipei sightseeing on the Hop on, Hop off double decker bus, we move onto my more adventurous request of how does the Spa Queen of Asia get to visit the Hot Springs? I had picked up a brochure at the Tourist Information with a tour to a National Park followed by an afternoon bathing at the Hot Springs. Doesn’t that sound lovely?

Display on arrival at Xinbeitou Station!
Annie was explaining that bathing at the hot springs was 'au naturel' and asking whether I was comfortable with this? And I was having one of those internal conversations with myself that went like this…

‘Naked? What no clothes? Oh no…’

‘C’mon, when in Rome and all that…’

‘Oh Gawd, what after you’ve spent the morning on a bus tour, 
admired the flora and fauna of the National Park and got to know everyone, then you get your kit off together? 
Really? Oh no…’

‘C’mon, travel is about getting out of your comfort zone, 
this could be your be brave bungee jump moment! Face your fears…’

I s’pose if this is part of local Taiwanese culture, then I should try? 
I said hesitantly.

‘What would you do?’ I asked Annie.

Annie explained she preferred to book a private Hot Springs experience and added 

“You don’t need to get naked to experience Taipei Culture!”

Feeling like a right floozie, for even contemplating the naked in Taipei bit, we quickly arrange for me to catch the local public transport the MRT train to Beitou and attend a private spa hotel. It is not possible to book, but Annie rings to confirm arrangements and kindly marks it all on a map and adds all the points of interest, the library, the museum for me to look out for. I am excited for the wonderful day ahead.

The next morning I am feeling very pleased with myself having taken the Tamsui-Xinyi (red) MRT Line to Beitou Station, then transferred to the Xinbeitou Branch Line to Xinbeitou station and having walked with the map and arrive at the rather unprepossessing SweetMe Hotspring Resort Spa reception Yay! I was faced with the same dilemma. The private hot springs spa is apparently only for two people. Cannot book for one. They have public hot springs, men and women separate. Naked.

‘You want?’ The receptionists asks...

Naked? What no clothes? Oh no…’

‘C’mon, when in Rome and all that…’

‘Oh Gawd, S’pose it’s not like I’ll know anyone there… Really? Oh no…’

‘C’mon, travel is about getting out of your comfort zone, 
this could be your be brave bungee jump moment! Face your fears…’

‘Yes please!’

So I am shown into a changing room and given two lockers, one for my shoes just inside the door and one for my clothes further inside, with a shower cap and a large and small towel. 

A Japanese lady just leaving, tells me very firmly to put my shower cap on and to make sure I shower before entering the hot spring pools. The showers, about eight of them, no cubicle of course, are Japanese style with a very small stool in the middle of the hot springs. There is no escaping, everyone needs to shower!

I’m like an awkward giraffe with a shower cap on trying to sit my oversized behind on a tinsy-winsy stool. Forget April the giraffe and her birthing viewing, I’m feeling like the entire hot springs are watching me at this point. But I’ve left my glasses in the locker and so there is no way of knowing if this is what others are doing. Having given myself a ‘that’ll do’ rinse off, I haul myself up from my stool using the shower rail like some glorified uncoordinated pole dancer, looking in haste for the nearest pool. 

There are five difference pools of varying temperatures, some with jacuzzi jets. There are various sun loungers and a steam room and sauna. I launch myself at the nearest pool I’m in and out, like a cat on a hot tin roof. Guess I found the hot plunge pool! I’ve now got a bright red mark up to my middle, like a sun burn. Without glasses on I try to imagine it’s like I’m wearing a red mini-skirt which is strangely liberating. 

With no glasses and not looking at anyone else, I venture forth again, more cautiously. After an hour of being in the pools, I decide to hide in the sauna. There is a lady already in there, but I don't look at her and her not at me. I can’t stay in too long and emerge to a right ticking-off from an angry naked lady. I'm not quite sure what language it was, I’m thinking Japanese but I'm in a state of sauna-surprise, but she appeared to be remonstrating about my shower hat in the sauna! I have clearly breached some etiquette.

All becomes clear as I am about to leave having dressed and found my reading glasses and a large sign with all the hot springs rules which indicates for safety reasons, no shower hats are to be worn in the sauna, something about the risk of overheating and damaging the corneas. At this point, my eyes are now popping and I’ve convinced myself I’ll never see again.

Blinded by a shower cap in a sauna - well that’s a tale to tell the grandkids!

Outside the fresh air feels beautiful on my prune-like post hot springs skin. I take a wander around the town and visit the Beitou Hot Spring Museum. I read that the Beitou River is the source of the hot spring culture here, having five ‘otaki’, waterfalls in Japanese, which are perfect for bathing. 

I did smile to learn that in 1901 the local Police banned the general public from bathing in the river on the grounds of inappropriateness. Hey, I’m with them all this naked bathing with only a shower cap on, it’s wildly inappropriate….

I walk down the hill to find the entrance to the public hot springs bathing, by now my eyesight is returning to normal. There is a large sign which says strictly no entrance without appropriate attire, a swimsuit must be worn at all times. 

What? Nooooooooooooooooooo! Where’s the fun in that?!

Joining with thanks to all the hosts at Our World Tuesday

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