The public Beitou hot springs in Taiwan, now referred to as Millennium Hot Springs, offer visitors a few hours to soak in terraced outdoor pools surrounded by vibrant gardens for only $1.25 USD.  Renting a locker will cost you another dollar or so, but you’re unlikely to find a cheaper hot spring area anywhere else in the world!

The acidic water from Beitou’s Geothermal Valley (Hell Valley) is transported to the Millennium Hot Springs.   Pools at the top of the structure, under the roof, are full of unbearably hot water.  Here, a man the color of a cooked lobster sweated, but was content to stew in the water for as long as possible.  He only grudgingly got up when when an overseer blew his whistle and gestured for him to exit.

The overseers, whom I called referees in my head, reminded me of lifeguards at public pools.  In addition to preventing visitors from overheating, they directed visitors to scoot over to make room for those that wanted to enter the pool – and they, strangely, ordered that everyone sit fully submerged in the pool.  Standing and kneeling did not seem to be allowed.

Water from the hottest pools spilled over to the lower pools, where I was more comfortable.  I braved the second level terrace for a few minutes before retreating into a cold pool, but I spent most of the time on the first level – in the kiddie pool.  Because the water is passed down from level to level, lots of “particles” (that’s a euphemism) were present on the surface of the water.  I just ignored them, but I was very thankful for the showers as I exited.

Even if you decide to visit fancier hot springs in Taipei, I definitely recommend visiting the Millennium Hot Springs at least once.