Warming Up on a Winter’s Night

8 01 2011

Atimbon and I cool off on the front steps of the baths.

 By nightfall, Atimbon suggests we head to Sichonghsi, a small hot spring village nestled along a stretch of route 199 not far from Checheng. Back during the Japanese occupation (1895-1945), this was one of the four main hot springs areas in Taiwan (along with Beitou, Guantzuling and Yangmingshan).

Sichonghsi boasts clear sodium bicarbonate waters, which

 means no sulfuric smell or murky appearance. The waters are usually between 45-60 degrees Celsius, and are supposed to be good for people suffering from arthritis, nervous system

The Public Hot Springs at Sichonghsi

ailments and chronic digestive disorders. And the best thing about the public hot springs, is that they are absolutely free. That makes it possible for residents like Atimbon to make daily trips to Sichonghsi.

“I think of it as my nightly bath,” he says as we walk into the small bathhouse.

You’ll want to remember to bring a small towel and any bathing necessities you might need, but leave your swimsuit at home. Like most enclosed hot springs in Taiwan, the public baths at Sichonghsi are divided into men’s and women’s areas and you must strip down to your birthday suit before you take a dip. Remember to rinse your body off first.

After our dip in the hot springs we head to a hot pot restaurant directly across from the public springs. I’m delighted

Hsiao Lee serves up some broth.

to discover that the hot pot at this restaurant differs from those I’ve sampled in the past. It begins with a shallow stone pot on top of a small charcoal fire in a bucket in the middle of our table. In the pot we stir-fry sliced onions, which give a delicious savory layer of flavor to the hot pot. Then a waiter pours in the broth, and once it comes to a boil, we add shaved beef and vegetables. It’s the perfect way to add an extra layer of warmth to our bodies and to cap off a wonderful day in Mudan.

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