In the mountains of northern Taiwan, a Nordic-inspired hot spring sanctuary
The Gaia Hotel in Beitou boasts a private thermal bath with its own snow-making machine and a four-storey library filled with 5,000 tomes.
Just a 20-minute train ride from Taipei, Beitou is best known for its therapeutic hot springs and boasts one of the largest concentrations of geothermal pools in the world. At the foot of Danfeng Mountain, you’ll find chic Nordic-inspired The Gaia Hotel, which enjoys year-round thermal spring water inside its compounds.
“Unlike other hot springs in Taiwan, Beitou’s landscape is very different as it’s surrounded by mountains and gives you a relaxing sense of space,” said The Gaia Hotel’s owner, Jocelyn Wang.
Wang recalled fond memories of her childhood there. “The one thing you must do in Beitou is to go to the hot springs – a culture that has been around for more than 100 years. My dad loved to take us to Thermal Valley to cook eggs (in the spring water) and visit historical sites like Beitou Hot Spring Museum,” she described.
According to her, Thermal Valley was one of the first hot springs in Beitou. “The water temperature here ranges from 80 to 100 degrees celsius, and the year-long sulphuric steam is what gave the area terrifying nicknames like Hell Valley or Ghost Lake,” she shared.
When the opportunity presented itself, Wang’s parents purchased the hotel and gifted it to her to fuel her passion in the hospitality industry. “For me, it was a gift of love. When they first told me about it, I wasn’t very happy because I am very pragmatic, and felt that it would not be easy to operate a hot springs resort hotel in Taiwan. But over a year, I gradually fell in love with it,” she enthused.
“Beitou is getting more and more famous around the world so I believe the future for us bright. My hope is for us to preserve the landscape and culture of Beitou and its people.”
Under her leadership, The Gaia Hotel was renovated and reopened in 2015 with a relaxing Nordic vibe to complement the tranquil surrounds. Bathed in serene white interiors and exteriors, the hotel sports plenty of tall windows for guests to enjoy the view outside.
“The hotel’s design philosophy is all about quiet contemplation. One of our main concepts is having ‘one window with one view’ where the rooms enjoy plenty of natural light.”
Besides the private hot spring sanctuary reserved for hotel guests, there is also a suite built with its own private thermal bath complete with a snow-making machine. “Hot springs are best enjoyed amidst snowy surroundings at sunset, so we got this machine to recreate snow all year round!” she quipped.
As a nod to its natural environment, The Gaia’s rooms are furnished with locally-sourced furniture. Camphor trees that perished in the typhoon, for example, were harnessed and turned into tea trays. “We inscribed this line into the trays: The Camphor tree that fell over during the typhoon now continues its beauty of life at The Gaia Hotel,” revealed Wang.
A standout feature of the hotel is the four-storey library filled with 5,000 books – a place to enjoy The Gaia’s calming atmosphere. “I hope when guests come here, they can pick a book at random. But what they take away from their journeys may change depending on what they read,” she said.
Adapted from the series Remarkable Living. Watch full episodes on CNA, every Sunday at 8.30pm.