Taiwan spent about 50 years as a Japanese colony. This allegedly is the origin of developed hot springs and professional baseball in Taiwan. Taiwan also loves its cats. While Japan often gets credit for its cat culture, the original “cat cafe” (a cafe with beverages and cats) is in Taipei. And Taiwan even has a “cat village” — rather than euthanizing strays, they neutered them and release them in a carless hillside town that is now a tourist attraction. Of course, we had to see hot springs, baseball, and cats!
Our first (and successful) trip to hot springs was at Guanzihling, a motorbike ride from Chiayi City. The area is known for its mud hot springs and is a popular tourist destination (luckily we visited on a weekday morning). There are no photos allowed inside so we just have a photo of the front of the King’s Garden Villa. You’ll have to trust us that it was awesome. You do not need to be a hotel guest to go to the resort’s hot springs, you can just pay a reasonable day-use fee — which worked well with our plans.
This spring has some baths with mud, others with oils, and some with just water. The pools were at a perfect temperature: hot, but not too hot. It was interesting to try out the pools with oils and herbs since they don’t come with the sulfuric smell that we’re used to back home. Sadly, the “mud” springs aren’t really the thick mud that you’d imagine, but rather are simply grey, silty pools. Still a new experience. There was also a pool with fish that would eat the dead skin off your feet. Elizabeth put the fish to work to remove the dead skin around her burn. Not sure if that was the best idea, but it seemed to work (don’t worry, she applied a disinfectant immediately afterwards). In a departure from the Japanese tradition, swimsuits are required, as it’s coed. It was pleasant, inexpensive, and probably one of the highlights of our time in Taiwan.
We also tried to go to the Millennium Hot Spring in Taipei, but they insisted that my swim shorts were not good enough. They wanted me to buy a pair that looked like what swimmers wear at the Olympics, except the material felt cheap. Swim shorts were unacceptable. It was the only time I felt stuck in a tourist gotcha in Taiwan (although the locals all seemed to prefer that style, so maybe it’s unintentional). Anyway, we weren’t going to overpay for a bad swimsuit so we didn’t stay. We did end up on the metro spur that had hot-spring themed carriages:
The Taiwanese baseball experience is a bit different than American baseball games. There are horns and drums, which fans play while their team is at bat. There is no quieting down for a pitch and swing; the sound just continues like at a soccer match (similar intensity to an MLS match). And in addition to the mascot, there are cheerleaders. It was cold so they wore hoodies. I can’t blame them. And rather than being from a certain city, teams are identified by the company that sponsors them. At our game, the home team was the Fubon Guardians, named for Fubon bank.
The game was played similar to an American League game. Taiwan (officially China Professional Baseball League) uses the designated hitter. The Guardians used several relief pitchers, while the visiting Lamigo Monkeys’ starter pitched 8 innings giving up only 2 runs (1 unearned, 1 home run) for the loss.
The Guardians defended their home field with a 2-1 win, highlighted by a dramatic ninth inning. With two outs and runners at the corners, on a full count, the Monkeys’ batter hit a line drive over the second baseman’s head . . . who reached up and jumped to make the game-winning catch.
Our tickets were about NT 500 (US 15) each. Not bad for an evening’s entertainment. We had anticipated that the food inside the stadium would be expensive (so we brought in food with us since that’s a thing here), but we were pleasantly surprised to find that food was cheap and similar to what we’d seen at the night markets.
Cats Cats Cats!
Taiwan definitely has caught the cuteness culture bug, and cats are a big part of that. We had been to cat cafes in Slovenia and Indonesia, but never to a whole village dedicated to cats. A former coal mining town, the Houtong Cat Village now serves as a home for strays and a tourist attraction. The cats are neutered and have one ear clipped as proof, then are set free to live in the village. The streets are car-free on the cats-side of the railroad tracks, and there is plenty of food set out for the cats. In our experience, most of the cats were lazy. I suppose they get plenty of attention.
The cats were nice, though we continued on for a hike.
A few days later we visited the original cat cafe, which is in our post about our last day abroad.
[This blog post describes a few stops during our visit to Taiwan, March 8-28, 2017.]
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