Adventures in East Asia

Wulai Part 2 - The Wulai Public Hot Springs Experience

The great thing we found about the outdoor hot springs in Wulai, apart from being free, was that the pools were right next to the river, affording us stunning views of the hills opposite as we soaked.


About Wulai

Wulai hot springs are apparently the most famous sodium carbonate hot springs in northern Taiwan and consist of colorless and odorless water - known to have rejuvenating effects on the skin. Wulai is also home to the Atayai tribe - a tribe of Taiwanese aborigines and their traditional handicrafts and cuisines can be bought and experienced at Wulai's numerous shops.


Wulai had plenty of hot spring inns dotted along the roads providing private facilities, but at a cost. In contrast, the free hot springs were very public, but if you're fine with showing off your half-naked body, you'd find as we did, that the locals can be very friendly which gave our visit a little cultural vibe.

Getting to the Outdoor Hot Spring

After crossing the Nanshi River bridge, we turned right and found a stone stair case leading down to the river, allowing us to walk beside the water towards the outdoor hot spring site. Linh and I initially scoped the place out under the curious gaze of the mainly elderly, but sprightly bathers before taking turns to get changed in one of the small, curtained cubicles.

We previously read that in some public hot springs, there were separate areas for men and women and in the single sex pools, bathers must be naked! Since Wulai's public hot spring is outdoors and mixed, swim wear was mandatory.


Cleanse before Soaking

Dressed (or not!) appropriately, as we approached the edge of one of the pools, a friendly local motioned to us to rinse ourselves first. Hot spring etiquette required that bathers clean themselves first before entering any of the soaking pools, so we found ourselves next to the first pool, designed for rinsing, and stood beside it as we filled a plastic container with hot water and shower ourselves with it.

Once "clean", Linh and I explored the pools of water in this little rustic, make-shift facility.

Pool Temperatures

There appeared to be three main pools at the lower level, each slightly cooler than the other, though still perhaps around thirty-forty degrees hot. The temperature of hot spring pools were controlled by the manual use of long plastic pipes to channel a cool water source where necessary.


There was also a higher level which contained smaller pools, some of which were steaming hot - too much so to dip in.

Any excess water from the pools conveniently spilled out into the river and during our visit, one of the pools was actually drained out and the sides were given a good scrubbing before it was filled up again. Though the Wulai outdoor hot springs was free, its routinely maintained by volunteers. You can get a sense of the outdoor hot spring atmosphere in this video below:

Rules for Bathing in Hot Springs

Before we went to Wulai, we did a little research to find out what to bring and expect. Taiwan's tourist website listed a number of rules that we found useful! Here are some of them:

+ Be sure to test the temperature of the water with a finger or toe before getting in to make sure the hot springs are not too hot.
+ Avoid bathing in hot springs 30 minutes before eating a meal, and one hour after a meal.
+ Do not soak in hot springs for too long. Generally, 30 minutes each time is the limit, and one should not bath in the springs more than three times per day.
+ Be sure to drink plenty of water before and after soaking in hot springs.

Apart from soaking, we also saw some bathers allowing the pressure of pouring water to massage their backs or in this woman's case below, their heads.


Outdoor Saunas

Believe it or not, there were also a couple of saunas, which Linh tells me were much hotter than rooms she is used to. We had noticed these saunas as little, heavy-cloth covered rooms that people were disappearing into, and from which came the sounds of heavy patting. You can see one of these constructions in the photo below.


We entered one of these saunas and sat on an exceptionally hot boulder - the higher the better for more heat (!) - whilst one of the other guys in there continually paddled out a supply of hot spring water to the sides of the room for it to evaporate and steam up the air. Great for the skin, though we had to get out after only five minutes!

The Hot Spring Community

Linh and I ended up spending a good three hours - perhaps too long - at the Wulai outdoor hot springs. We alternated between the pools, sitting longer in the cooler ones, simply relaxing and taking in the scenery, or sat outside eating some lunch we brought with us. Linh also chatted with some friendly, elderly guys using limited mandarin, but the gist was understood between us all.

The climate was still pretty hot - around thirty something degrees but it was perfect to sit in the pools and not worry about any uncomfortable sweating. Several times it rained, but this simply added to the experience of soaking.

When we finally changed and left the outdoor hot springs, we decided to return later than evening, since the facility is open twenty four hours!

Soaking at Night at the 24 Hour Wulai Outdoor Hot Springs

We were back at the bridge around 8pm and it was completely dark. We were unsure whether the hot spring facility was still open since there were no visible lights, but venturing down along the river side, we indeed did find the place open and still teeming with bathers.


With our eyes adjusting to the dark and with a little help from the building lights on the opposite bank, taking a late night dip was easy and we basically finished our hot spring day soaking and looking up at the stars.

Read more in Wulai Part 3 - Wulai Falls

More photos of the Wulai Hot Springs Village on Flickr

This entry posted in : Culture. Taiwan.

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