Taiwan - Getting to know Chihpen hot springs
Set in a canyon in the foothills of the Dawu Mountains, Chihpen (Zhiben) is Taiwan’s most famous hot spring resort. A region boasting abundant natural scenery including tropical and banyan forests, waterfalls, rivers and of course, hot springs, Chihpen offers visitors the opportunity to make the most of the great outdoors before benefitting from a rejuvenating hot spring bath. What makes them so special? The minerals in the water are good for you, and the heat from the water helps drive toxins from the body.
Chihpen is rich in Aboriginal tribal culture, and is home to the Puyuma people (also called the Peinan). Although a matriarchal society, the old Puyuma culture is still dictated by men, and the rite of passage, an equivalent of military training, is still practised and displayed during the intriguing Monkey Ceremony and Hunting Ceremony.
Many consider the Puyuma as the most warlike of all the indigenous tribes of Taiwan, but they are also a rather artistic people and include notable sculptors, authors, and singers, including Taiwan’s most famous songstress, A-Mei.
Taitung City, the seat of Taitung County, is only 15km away, making Chihpen a convenient base from which to explore the city’s attractions, such as the interesting National Museum of Prehistory and Taitung Railway Art Village – an old railway station that has been transformed into a craft village and concert venue.
What to do at Chihpen
- The hot springs of Chihpen are undoubtedly the best in Taiwan and are divided into two areas: the busy and more touristic outer hot spring area and the less crowded inner hot spring area. Since the inner area is located near the scenic Chihpen National Forest Recreation Area, it has (inevitably) attracted the development of a handful of high-end hotels with extensive facilities – some even boast private hot spring baths in the guestrooms!
- Besides making the most of the hot springs, staying in Chihpen offers an insight into Taiwanese Aboriginal culture with the opportunity to witness local Aboriginal folk dances and sample their cuisine, the ingredients of which are largely foraged from the surrounding forests.
Want to learn more about the Aboriginal cultures of Taiwan?
You may wish to consider taking a trip to the small volcanic island of Lyudao (Green Island) or to Lanyu (Orchid Island), both of which are home to the Tao people and are easily accessible from Chihpen.
During Japanese rule, the government built public bathhouses using water from Chihpen’s hot springs.
Getting off the trail in Chihpen
- Many foreign visitors only make an overnight stop in Chihpen to enjoy the hot springs, but Chihpen’s natural setting is ripe for exploration. Hiking and cycling through the East Rift Valley, which stretches from Hualien to Taitung and is framed by the Central Mountain Range and the Coastal Mountain Range, are great ways to discover the true beauty of region.
- Closer to the hot springs, Chihpen National Forest Recreation Area provides visitors an opportunity to get close to nature. The aptly-named Brave Man’s Trail is a 900-step trail that follows a steep slope upwards to join the Banyan Shaded Trail, passing huge banyan trees and stranglers. Less strenuous options include the Forest Trail that clings to the side of a hill, passing through the heart of the forests, and the Scenic Trail which meanders past a creek massage pool where walkers soak their tired feet.
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