Besides the day trip to Taipei Zoo and Maokong Gondola, we also took day trips to the Tamsui and Beitou areas in New Taipei City. An hour outside of the city center of Taipei by metro, both Tamsui and Beitou offer unique attractions with a very different atmosphere than what you can find in Taipei City.
Tamsui is a sea-side district, famous for its sunsets and historical sites.
Fort San Domingo
I arrived at Fort San Domingo with no great expectations. I thought it would be just another one of the dozens of forts I’ve seen in my life, with tall walls, some rusted cannons and a viewing tower, but those thoughts vanished the moment I started learning how rich the history of this place is. Originally a Spanish fort, Fort San Domingo served different purposes for many nations during the Age of Discovery. From trading point to military base to consulate, Fort San Domingo sits on a strategic point on top of a hill overlooking the Tamsui river.
The fort itself was destroyed and rebuilt several times throughout history, until 1644, when the Dutch built the structure that stands today using glutinous rice and crushed oyster shells to make the foundation.
The visit to the former British Consulate, which is just adjacent to the fort, was a pleasant experience as well. The highlight here was that Herbert Allen Giles worked on the Wade-Giles system of romanization of the Chinese language in this house.
After the fort, we made our way to the Fisherman’s Wharf of Tamsui.
We came here having heard a lot of good things about viewing the sunset, so we arrived early to make sure we were ready. One of the best places to view the sunset is on the Lover’s Bridge. A white cable-stayed bridge inaugurated on Valentine’s Day, it connects the two sides of the harbour.
By the time we claimed our spot on the bridge (after exploring the stalls on the floating pier), the sun was already near the horizon with the last rays of the day reflecting on the calm waters of the sea. A mix of colors in the sky, ranging from yellow to orange, completed the scenery. It was so beautiful.
After the sunset, we went back to the pier to appreciate the view a bit more.
Beitou Hot Springs
Taiwan is quite famous for its natural hot springs and the Beitou area in New Taipei City has one of the best in the country. A short 45min trip by metro from center city Taipei, Beitou offers a lot of options when it comes to hot springs. We chose a public one, Millenium Hot Springs, which was extremely affordable at only USD 2.00 per person! No pictures were allowed in the hot springs – understandable as most people are practically naked – but we will try our best to describe it.
There were three levels of pools connected to each other as water flows one down to the next. Each pool has a different water temperature. The top most level is the hottest, at 45-49 degrees Celsius. I went into that pool to give the water a try and it literally felt like I was burning. The second level pool is the best one, at around 39-41 degrees Celsius. The third and lowest level pool is the coldest at around 33-35 degrees Celsius, but also contains runoff from the previous two levels.
The hot springs were very well maintained and clean. There were many people soaking in the pools – especially elderly people, I think we were one of the few under the age of 60. All in all, it was a surprisingly nice experience and it certainly made us feel more relaxed for the rest of the day. The Beitou area was the last one we saw in Taipei and the next day we headed out to explore the rest of Taiwan on our next adventure.
For more pictures from Tamsui, visit the gallery!