I love city life, especially in Taipei, but spending most of your time among the scooter-filled streets and concrete jungle can start to grind on your nerves. The hustle builds up a little every day until it starts to wear on you. Moreover, it’s rare that you find a convenient place to visit in solitude and simply relax, leaving you with the option of finding places that specialize in tranquility.
Of course you can always find scores of spas, massage parlors and hot springs around, but where do you start? How about here:
Let’s begin with the easy ones, the obvious, accessible places you know exist, but never seem to think of when you need them.
Escape the city at Fuzhoushan Park
The multitude of parks scattered throughout Taipei are a welcome sight and great for a quick getaway. I prefer going to the zoo myself, but again, if you are looking to have some alone time, then you’ll need something a slight more secluded. Elephant mountain used to be the go-to spot for a quick hike, but it has quickly become the fastest growing natural tourist destination. But there is one more that you might not know about, and it’s rarely flooded with people: Fuzhoushan Park
Hiding at the back of the Liuzhangli neighborhood, this park is not only nearby, but it also gives you another great view of the city from a different angle. There are many footpaths on which to explore farther back into the mountain, sheltered from the sounds of traffic and people.
Wander till the Cows Come Home at Qingtiangang
One feature I miss the most from my home in the western U.S. is wide-open spaces. One of the most effective ways of clearing your mind is to literally clear your field of vision from too many distractions and man-made structures. So it was a relief stumbling upon the gaping grassy hills of Qingtiangang in Yangming National Park.
Wander around on paths that stretch for miles and have fantastic views of the surrounding mountains and distant cities. Even better, ride up by bicycle or scooter to really get a fill for the outdoors.
Explore a Hidden Amusement Park in Wulai
Many people venture out to Wulai for dips in the natural hot springs and hikes in the remote mountains. However, it’s not for those activities that I like to visit this intriguing indigenous village. Instead, I prefer to explore the amusement park you might not have known was even there.
You may have seen the platform at the top of Wulai’s famous waterfall, though you probably haven’t forked out the cash to ride the tram to the top. But if you had, you would have discovered the half-abandoned YunXian amusement park. The strange thing is, there are still a few rides open, and vendors scattered throughout, but for the most part, the place should have been closed long ago. Oh well, it’s awesome for those that want a park nearly all to themselves.
A Cup of Relaxation
Sometimes you just need a quiet space and cup full of magic elixir to calm you down.
“Invite the Moon” at YaoYue Tea House
Maokong is blatant tourist destination, better reserved for weekdays or visiting friends and relatives. However, if you arrive after the trams have rested and the tourists have departed, there is one spot at which you can relax the night away. Yaoyue is a tea house hidden in the mountain, with a great outdoor patio, food and old school tea.
Busy during the day, the tea house becomes an oasis at night, serving food until 10PM and serving tea 24H! Of course, you will need transportation if you are planning on staying out after hours.
Go Back in Time at Chamber Coffee
There is nothing I love more than a good cup of coffee. Lucky for me, cafes are extremely popular in Taipei. But when I want to enjoy my brew in peace, then there’s only one place I can go to avoid distractions. Chamber Coffee is a covert cafe hidden deep within the alleys of Guting, and far removed from the usual cacophony of espresso machines and gabbing crowds. A 1920’s themed space, Chamber attracts a more contemplative customer that appreciates quiet jazz and premium hand-brewed coffee.
Enjoy a Secret Garden at Villa Herbs
There are many a variety of lounge, whiskey bar, jazz bar, pub, and more from which to choose in Taipei, and while some are small and intimate and come with a great atmosphere, none of them are particularly relaxing due to the inherent mayhem that nightlife attracts. However, there is one spot I can visit to quench my thirst for a quiet night cap.
Restaurant by day, lounge by night, Villa Herbs sets the mood right from its open-air entrance, with floating candles and a shady secret-garden-like environment. A long-time favorite of Taipei residents, the spot is actually fairly popular, but on a weekday you have a good chance of finding the lounge nearly empty. The large space is great for a close group of friends or a party of one.
Simplify Your Life at Shi Yang
I started with a tea house and I’m ending with another tea house at the other end of the spectrum. Shi Yang was built for de-stressing. The Japanese-style tea house is nestled up near Yangming Mountain and is surrounded by nature on all sides. Its minimalistic design and quiet atmosphere allow you to relax through a session of traditional Japanese tea making, or a fine dining experience.
More upmarket than Yaoyue, a complete meal and tea set will run you around NT$2200. Perhaps a cost that some may find the antitheses of calming, but for the quality and the ambiance, it’s worth the fare.
For those times when you need a masterful hand to help trim off the layers of stress, you can delve into one of the the relaxation specialists below.
Clear Your Head with a Haircut
Simple and useful, it’s no secret that when you are looking for a brief and relatively inexpensive way to loosen up, heading to the hairdresser could be the best option, although we often forget just how sublime an experience this can be,. Many salons offer a free neck and head massage with a shampoo and cut, not to mention how nice all of the scalp oil, and hair-something add-ons you can find if you really want to indulge in the experience.
Get Out-of-Body at Dream Water
Once reserved for psychologists, professional athletes and sci-fi films, sensory deprivation tanks are the ultimate solution to escaping the surrounding world, and even escaping from your own senses. Dream Water provides comfortable tanks of body-temperature mineral water and sound proof chambers in which to “float”, literally giving you the sensation of floating through space.
Spending an hour and a half cut off from the world, hindering your senses, can result in a completely refreshing sensation when you finally reenter the world anew, experiencing everyday phenomena with a thoroughly different perception.
Massage away Stress at Villa Like
Taipei is pretty well known for it’s variety of massages, especially its foot variety, and you can find a massage parlor down nearly every major street in the city, usually consisting of rows of recliners in which you share your relaxing moment with friends or strangers onlooking. This is of course, still a very nice experience, but if you are a looking for a slightly more private and tranquil space, then Villa Like is a good start.
While you may still bump into a few strangers during the foot massage, you will find a much calmer, environment, and much more comfortable surroundings. But what you can really look forward to are the full body massages starting at NT$1200 /hour.
Soak Privately at Grand View Hot Spring Resort
Beitou has plenty of amazing hot springs to check out, from the century-old traditional Japanese hot spring, to the public spot in the park. However, we’re going for privacy, and there aren’t many places better than the Grand View Resort.
For this temporary piece of solitude, you don’t have to rent a hotel room (that would set you back NT$14,000~35,000). Instead, you can get your own private hot spring room for two. It will only run you NT$2300 for a full 90 minutes. Not exactly cheap, but certainly not unaffordable if you consider your mental health to be of utmost importance.
Hide away in a Luxury Motel
Taiwan’s motels could be considered famous, or rather, infamous. The relatively cheap, all-inclusive suites are built specifically for privacy, whether that be for private parties, partners just looking to get away, or those just looking to get away from their partners.
But believe it or not, normal, everyday people do occasionally choose to stay the night at these motels for a bit of R&R…and why not? The best of these luxury motel rooms come with multiple levels of themed fun, sometimes not only providing one, but two swimming pools, a KTV room, a sauna, a Jacuzzi, a bar, and of course, a luxurious bedroom with only the most comfortable of bedding. And you can find these extraordinary suites for less than NT$10,000 (and sometimes more than NT$20,000).
There are a lot of ways to recuperate. For some it could be as simple as playing video games over the weekend. For others, a serious vacation may be in order. But for those times when you just need a quickie, these suggestions may help guide you.
What do you think? What’s your favorite way to relax in Taiwan? Give it a shot in the comments below.