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Rueisuei and Jhihben hot springs are perfect for a winter warm-up

Rueisuei and Jhihben hot springs are perfect for a winter warm-up

Cold winter weather makes the thought of a dip in a natural hot springs very inviting. Taiwan is rich in hot springs, especially along its East Coast.

Hualien's Rueisuei and Taitung's Jhihben offer a variety of hot springs resort options, all surrounded by gorgeous mountain scenery.

The Rueisuei Hot Springs, situated in Rueisuei Township of Hualien County, were discovered around 1919. The Japanese government (which ruled from 1895 to 1945) had a fascination with and a deep appreciation of Taiwan's hot springs resources, and developed them for tourism, including the building of bathhouses and outdoor pools accented with landscaped gardens and stone paths. Such facilities and touches can still be seen today in Rueisuei's resorts.

The spring water here is rich in iron and averages about 48 degrees Celsius. Due to the high iron content, the water has a pale brown color, but is perfectly safe to bathe in. These waters help relieve some skin problems and rheumatism, it's said. Legend also has it that frequent bathing in the Rueisuei Hot Springs increases a woman's chances of bearing a son.

Rueisuei attracts many tourists, especially families, not only for its hot springs, but also for its well-developed agricultural tourism including dairies and flower farms, providing abundant pastoral scenery and chances for city dwellers to experience rural life.

Jhihben is located in Taitung County's Beinan Township. In 1917, the indigenous Puyuma tribe dug into part of the riverbed to plant crops. Steaming hot water continued to rise up from where they had dug. They bathed in the water and found that it was very helpful for relieving various skin disorders.

The Jhihben Hot Springs are alkali carbonate, and range in temperature from 45 to 56 degrees Celsius. Frequent bathing in these waters helps to soften cuticles and calluses, moisturize skin, reduce inflammation and eliminate scars.

Just as for the Rueisuei Hot Springs, the Japanese were the first to develop the Jhihben area for tourism. This has spilled over into the Japanese style of bathhouses and outdoor hot springs pools that dominate Jhihben today.

Fifteen years ago, this was a sleepy mountain town with only the Jhihben Hotel and a few other small hotels offering accommodation with hot springs water piped into the rooms and public hot springs pools. Today, there are a significant numbers of resorts, from medium to high-price all along the same road as the now renovated Jhihben Hotel.

Both Rueisuei and Jhihben are easily accessible from Provincial Highway 9, which connects Hualien and Taitung.