November 30, 2007
Peitou - hot springs and tea shops
It was the Japanese who first developed Peitou as the hotspring capital of Taiwan, and it is for these hotsprings that Peitou is still famous.
Times have changed since the rather rowdy and somewhat dodgy goings on in Peitou, however, and nowadays you can find legitimate resorts to match any budget.
If you are not in the mood for a sulphurous soak (and the smell is noticeable throughout the area) there are other things to do to enjoy the relaxing serenity of the Peitou area and absorb some of the history of the area.
Nestled in the hills above Peitou are several old-style Japanese built tea houses. They mostly come with a restaurant, tea house and of course a hotspring. The outdoor hotsprings can be really good value, the shop we chose was a bargain at NT$250, and the restaurant, providing a Mongolian style buffet as well as Chinese cuisine (prices at about NT$500 per person), had a good reputation.
I??ll write about the particular tea house we went to, even though I can??t mention the name here (send me a message via the feedback form if you would like to know).
It was tea and snacks we wanted however, and we were pleasantly surprised with both. The building we chose was in pretty good shape for its 84 years, and despite obvious renovations, it was easy to conjure up images of years gone by.
The tea house itself is on two floors. The first floor has the feel of an English tea house with fireplace at one end and rows of tables. The second floor however has the Japanese feel, with tatami covered floor and bamboo screen door booths, plus a few tables if you don??t fancy the floor. Tatami cushions are provided if you choose the floor option and were surprisingly comfortable.
Neither fireplace is functional, yet it is easy to imagine the place being very cold in the winter.
The bilingual menu is of usual tea house fare, with a choice of "pao cha" for those wanting to be "Mum". Fruit tea and milk tea is also available, but this is a great place to have the more traditional pao cha (green tea leaves, boiling water, little cups).
The snacks were also of the normal tea house style, but if you like that kind of thing, they were really well done. The dried squid was soft and warm, the dried mango didn??t need soaking to make it palatable, and the dried pork was not your usual jerky.
As the tea house is fairly high up, the view is fairly good. It??s not as good as Maokong (in Mucha), but pleasant nonetheless. Another bonus is that Shann Garden is designed with water in mind. This is to be expected with the hotsprings of course, but it means that you can even enjoy the place on a rainy day.
It is a bit out of the way, so it is unlikely to be as packed as Maokong, so if you are looking for a quieter traditional tea house, it is worth making the journey, even if you don??t make it to the museum. The cost isn??t excessive either, with a mid-priced tea and three snacks coming to NT$400 per person.
Despite the fact that it is a bit out of the way, it is very easy to get to. Take the MRT to Hsin Peitou then take the 230 bus for 8 stops. The bus comes every half an hour and it??s best to ask the driver to let you know when you get there. When you come out of the MRT station, cross the road to your right and you will see the bus stops by the park. It is walkable, although the hill is quite steep.
Is this area worth a special visit? When planning our trip, our primary destination was the Taiwan Folk Arts Museum, (which is right next door to this tea house) the idea being we??d spend a while in the museum then head over to the tea house. Combining the two is a great way to pass a long afternoon, or you could even make a day of it. Visit the museum first, then grab some lunch, go for a soak, have tea then head home.
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