Introducing Taian Hot Springs
There are hot springs all over Taiwan, and beautiful mountains for hiking too, but we still think Taian (Tàiān Wēnquán) is special. For one thing, it has hot-spring water so good that 100 years ago the Japanese built an officers' club here.
In a remote mountainous corner of southeastern Miaoli County, just on the boundary of rugged Sheipa National Park, Taian is not precisely defined on most maps, but is more or less the region that County Rd 62 runs through. Beginning just outside the town of Wenshui, County Rd 62 runs for 16km alongside the Wenshui River before ending in a car park just below the Japanese Police Officers' Club. Most visitors stay within the last 3km stretch, in an area known as Jinshui Village (Jǐnshǔi Cūn; population 200).
As you drive up County Rd 62, pay attention to the make-up of the people in the villages around you. At the start, they will be almost exclusively Hakka (evident both in the look of the people and the food on offer), while further inland Atayal aboriginals predominate. (Taian is in fact the last remaining Atayal area with elderly women who have facial tattoos; the last Atayal man with tattoos died in 2013.)
This pattern is common in mountainous regions in Taiwan. As late immigrants to Taiwan, Hakka groups often found the best land on the plains long settled. By purchase or pressure, Hakka groups acquired their share, often forcing aboriginal groups even further into the hinterlands.