As of May this year, Wulai public hot springs have been destroyed. For many of us, Wulai hot springs were a relaxing place to become one with nature and enjoy conversing with locals. To honor their memory, we have written this post.
History of Wulai Hot Springs
Wulai was originally an Atayal aborigine village, its name meaning hot and poisonous. There has always been natural hot springs in Wulai, but much of that water has been channeled into hotels and public bathhouses. The free hot springs stood at the bottom of the hill next to the river, and was a collection of used hot spring water from the hotels and paid hot springs above. In its prime, it boasted the largest free outdoor hot springs in Taiwan. Recently the township of Wulai has become a major tourist attraction, partly because of its close proximity to Taipei. It has museums, waterfalls, a gondola, a train (under renovation), a night market, and most of all hot springs.
In 2015 Typhoon Soudelor wreaked havoc to the town and destroyed many hot springs. Due to this and sanitation concerns, New Taipei City decided to shut down the hot springs, and gave the owners until April 2017 to tear it down. When the owners did not comply, New Taipei took the matter in their own hands and tore down the springs in May 2017.
My experience at Wulai springs was quite peaceful. When I was there last February, there were many pools to choose from with varying temperatures. Also, there were many free showers there made from recycled billboards. Some pools were full of dead skin, but the water was changed out every hour (even so, the new water coming in was also not guaranteed to be clean, although it was just as clean as any cheap public hot spring you would find in Beitou). I must admit that the average demographic there was 65 and older Taiwanese people, but I imagine they came there regularly, so now that the springs are demolished their daily relaxed routine of soaking in the springs is gone. They are the true victims of this demolition.
Next to the springs was a hole that captured the spring water mixed with river water. Although some of the water was foamy, it was relaxing swimming in the cool calm water after a dip in the springs. Perhaps the best part of the experience was the great mountain view and fresh air. In spring, there were also cherry blossoms on the hills for all to enjoy.
The New Taipei City government said the water from these springs was too filthy and polluting the river. Also they claimed it was hard to evacuate people using the springs during a Typhoon. In 2015 there were two fatalities during typhoon Soudelor; both these people were using the hot springs during the typhoon. In addition, the river is officially restricted from building anything. Because of these factors the government worked to shut these hot springs down.
Photo credit: https://www.taiwannews.com.tw/en/news/3166954
Personally, I think the private hot spring hotel owners in Wulai worked together to lobby against the public hot springs and bring them down so that they could make an extra buck. The New Taipei City government should have taken over the public springs to make them safer, cleaner, and legal: this would have brought tourists and money to the community. Those that want to go to free hot springs will now visit elsewhere.
We are very sad to see these hot springs go, and consider ourselves lucky to have enjoyed them while they lasted. But with all things that are fun, eventually some law or regulation will shut them down. I hope that someday New Taipei City government will have the foresight to rebuild them into a legal, safe, and free hot springs again.
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We are US Expats that have extensive experience living and working in Taiwan. In our day, we had to learn many things about Taiwan the hard way. But we have come to learn that Taiwan is one of the best places in the world for Foreigners to live. Our blog does not represent the opinions of every foreigner in Taiwan. We are just trying to help others learn more about this beautiful country.