Hot Springs, Indigo Dyeing and a Chilled-Out Life in Taiwan's Yilan County
Yilan County, tucked away in the northeastern corner of Taiwan, is home to the township of Jiaoxi—an area known for its sensational hot springs, local craft of fabric-dyeing, and mineral-rich produce.
Dip Into the Blue
Drive 15 minutes from the Jiaoxi train station through a stretch of green paddy fields and you’ll find yourself at the doorstep of a humble-looking village house. Jiaosi Farmer, managed by Mr. Shi and his wife, is made up of a work shed and a little farm at the back that grows indigo plants.
Call in advance to book an indigo-dyeing workshop, where the master himself guides you through the lengthy processes of bundling up the fabric, dipping it in dye, and squeezing it dry before repeating the whole thing again. By the end of the day you’ll bring home a bright sapphire scarf and a slice of traditional artistry from Taiwan. 22 Lin Wei Rd., Jiaoxi Township, Yilan, (+886) 935-202952, jiaosifarmer.blogspot.com
Food to Share
A 15-minute walk from the train station will take you to Chili Hunters Creative Museum (61 Jiaoxi Rd. Section 5, Jiaoxi Township) where you can have your fill of all sorts of nibbles made of… chili pepper. All products are ranked from a mild level one to the fiery level seven that sets your tongue ablaze. If you dare, try the strawberry chili ice cream, but be warned: even the slightest lick is an explosion of fire and ice.
Tread along Jiaoxi Road and in no time you’ll stumble upon Cake Nobel (68 Jiaoxi Rd. Section 4, Jiaoxi Township). Foodies have made the strawberry panna cotta swiss roll ($36) one of the must-eats in all of Taiwan—and who could possibly resist fresh strawberries and buttery cream wrapped in an airy sponge cake? Save some space for their fluffy longan cupcakes, studded with the sweet dried fruit.
Make Your Own Fruit
Wander further from Jiaoxi for Yilan’s local brand of glacé fruit at Agrioz, a factory which collects fresh kumquats from local farmers before marinating them with maltose and sugar. Yilan’s rainy and humid weather makes it perfect for the tart-sweet citrus, which is traditionally stirred in with honey for a quick fix for sore throats. Enroll in a 20-minute DIY candied kumquat workshop ($36) in Agrioz’s kitchen studio, where you’ll squash, shake and sugar dozens of tiny kumquats with the help of their instructors. Take bus 755 at Yilan Train Station. 33 Meizhou 2nd Rd., Yilan City, Yilan, (+886) 3-928-5758.
Save Your Soles
In a town where thermal springs bubble up everywhere, you can always find a tub of hot water for those worn out feet. Roll up your pants and join the local residents in the free foot baths in Tangweigou Hot Springs Park, a collection of mist-cloaked hot spring tubs in the thick of verdant shrubs and grilled fish stalls right in the city center of Jiaoxi.
If hot mineral water isn’t enough to remedy sore feet, pay for some fish to nibble on the skin on your heels next door at No. 9 Coffee Shop ($19). 99-11 Deyang Rd., Jiaoxi Township, Yilan.
Onsen De Luxe
There’s a string of hot spring hotels in Jiaoxi, and the new Wellsprings by Silks is one of the best. Mere minutes from the station, a sense of peace will wash over you as soon as you step into the lobby, where you’ll be offered a cup of warm jujube tea amongst handmade clay orchids hanging on the earth-toned walls.
Check into the Family Twin room if you’re traveling in a group of four, a spacious Washitsu-inspired room fitted with hardwood plank flooring and a semi-open hot spring tub on its balcony. Grab a can of ice cold beer from the fridge, immerse yourself into the steaming bath and gaze out through the bamboo hedge which delivers privacy as well as natural sunlight.
If the cozy private onsen experience makes you not even want to leave the hotel, Mihan Jiaoxi on the top floor offers a delightful dinner option. Slip into a yukata before you get your dose of the restaurant’s famous shabu-shabu. If your body still screams for more of Jiaoxi’s hot springs, you might want to take a dip in the hot spring swimming pool on the rooftop, where you can enjoy a movie on the enormous outdoor projection screen under a canopy of twinkling stars. $1,813 for Family Twin room (accommodates four). 67 Wenquan Rd., Jiaoxi Township, Yilan, (+886) 3-910-0000, wellspringsilks.com