Soaking in Beipu Cold Springs

It is incredibly unlikely to discover natural hot springs, but the chances of finding a natural cold spring is even slimmer. Taiwan is actually just one of two countries with natural cold springs (the other is Italy). In Taiwan, Beipu cold springs 北埔冷泉 is along the Daping River in Hsinchu county. The west coast has its own, near the town of Su’ao in Yilan.

Philip Chang under waterfall at Beipu Cold Springs in Hsinchu, Taiwan

What’s So Special About Cold Springs?

Cold spring water, 22° Celsius or below, is good for the skin. The Japanese have an entire culture called “onsen” devoted to the health benefits of bathing in spring water. Some, like Tamagawa Onsen, draw cancer patients.

Selfie of Philip Chang on Daping River by Beipu Cold Springs in Hsinchu, Taiwan

“The springs are also said to be effective against other maladies, including nervous system disorders, high blood pressure and circulatory diseases.” A few people out there say there’s magic in the Beipu cold springs.

“Ten some years ago, my mom was not able to walk at all (due to aging), my brother carried her to the cold spring to dip into the spring water for the treatment. Believe or not, a month or two later, my mom regained her walking capability.” – David H.

The Beipu waters have some carbonation — so, bubbles! Since it’s very slight, I’m not sure anyone notices. Su’ao is the same, except what makes Beipu cold springs different is it’s in the open. It like you’re playing in nature! But there’s also a lot of visitors who leave their junk behind so water quality is up and down. I can tell you right now, you probably shouldn’t drink it.

On the other hand, the springs in Su’ao were commercialized long ago, and the public areas were damaged by Typhoon Soudelar. Beipu is free, the other isn’t. 

If you’re only interested in hot springs, you have more options. In the northern district of Taiwan – Taipei, Taoyuan, Hsinchu counties – there are 13 hot springs. But cold springs is one of the truly unique phenomena in Taiwan. If you have the opportunity, you should at least go once.

Photos of Beipu Cold Springs

Public Area of Beipu Cold Springs in Hsinchu, Taiwan, by Philip Chang

Man Falling Over into Daping River near Beipu Cold Springs in Hsinchu, Taiwan, by Philip Chang

Golden hour on Daping River near Beipu Cold Springs in Hsinchu, Taiwan, by Philip Chang

Dusk at Beipu Cold Springs in Hsinchu, Taiwan, by Philip Chang

Clouds and Mountains of the Beipu region from Beipu Old Street in Hsinchu, Taiwan, by Philip Chang

Directions to Beipu Cold Springs

River Tracing to Jinyue Waterfall in Yilan

Lupi River Tracing in Yilan, Taiwan - Aohua Waterfall

The Upper Jinyue Waterfall (Courtesy: V. Lam)

Last week, I took Tuesday off to explore Taiwan’s east coast and go river tracing 溹溪 (suo xi)! The path takes us along the Lupi Creek 鹿皮溪, past a 8m-tall natural waterslide, to the main show — 25m-high Jinyue Waterfall 金岳瀑布.

Dustin made a short video about the trace for his travel consulting company, Taiwan Adventure Outings. Reach out to them if you’re visiting Taiwan and looking for outdoor fun like this. Check it out:

It was also the 4th of July! There’s no official way to celebrate that in Taiwan. At least the American Institute in Taiwan hasn’t had anything to say about it (if I’m wrong, let me know). We decided on chasing waterfalls with a few Bud Heavys. Happy birthday, ‘Murica.

Lupi River Tracing in Yilan, Taiwan - Drinking Budweiser

The 8m-tall natural waterslide (Courtesy: Richard Saunders)

River Tracing in Taiwan

So it’s been awhile since I’ve done anything like river tracing. Just rock scrambling along the American River in California some two years ago. In Taiwan, there’s more interest in river tracing, but it seems to be considered one of the riskier activities because people (and guides) aren’t always taking safety measures. For example, going out when the forecast calls for flash floods.

A few essentials Dustin, and common sense, insists on:

  • Helmet, in case you fall at an odd angle
  • Rubber Boots, for grip on slippery rocks
  • Life Jacket, if you can’t swim
  • Waterproof bag, for personal items

A few weeks ago, some tracers died taking the same path. They got caught in a whirlpool and instead of letting nature spin them out, they fought it. Sadly, swimming is not a big thing here. In fact, during September, Taiwanese people avoid going into the water because it’s Ghost Month 鬼月. “Evil spirits that had drowned may try to drown the swimmer to gain a chance at rebirth.”

Lupi River Tracing

Maybe one of those spirits got the months confused and made its way into my iPhone, because it’s dead. The iPhone 7 Plus’s military IP67 rating means it’s waterproof if immersed for 30 minutes in 1m of water. But, this iPhone was in and out, here and there. The Lupi trace is mostly knee-deep water.

Very little swimming is involved, and when you are, you’re going against the current. One thing to watch out for. When the water is waist high, you risk losing your center of gravity (It figures, doesn’t it).

Once you clear the initial waterslide – also called the Lower Jinyue – a path on the right side takes you a little further up. A few minutes later, you’re back in the creek. From there, I’d say it’s about 1-2 hours of scrambling to the waterfall.

I’d recommend bringing a camera that’s more rugged. Something designed for the outdoors, like Dustin’s Go-Pro or an Olympus TG-5. My last iPhone (which was not IP67-rated) survived a dip in the rapids, so it’s fair to say it’ll survive a toss in the sink or the pool. Don’t take it on wet adventures.

Because my iPhone’s getting surgery, enjoy more of Vin’s pics.

Lupi River Tracing in Yilan, Taiwan - Selfie Lupi River Tracing in Yilan, Taiwan - Philip Chang Checking Phone Lupi River Tracing in Yilan, Taiwan - Golden Silk Orb-Weaver Spider Lupi River Tracing in Yilan, Taiwan - BudweiserTaiwan Adventure Outings is also running a TravelStarter campaign to raise funds for a 12-passenger van, in case you’re feeling generous!