Nu-An-Hu: secret Eastern Taiwan hot springs resort
Taiwan’s East Rift Valley (between Hualien & Taitung, along East Coast Highway No. 9) is famed for geological activity & hotsprings spas. The hot springs resort and spa region extends from Liyu Lake, through Fuyuan Forest, to the mineral springs resorts in Rueisuei & Hongye, and after crossing the Tropic of Cancer, continues on to Yuli and Antong. But 2 km off the standard spa-tour-route is a secret place called New Life Spring Resort (Nu-An-Hu). Proprietors, Marlena & Leo, after years in Australia, returned to design Aussie-style wooden bungalows & Japanese pools, creating a singular sanctuary; a secret Taiwan hot springs resort with garden villas, private suites, a quaint hostel-style B&B, and an alfresco café serving spring water cappuccino, tea and Chinese treats.
type: hot spring
New Life Spring Resort – sulfur mineral springs spa
Moonlight illuminates the edge of a stone pool as wisps of steam rise from the water and vanish. Boiling spring water trickles from a pipe, leaving its subterranean depths with a vaporous hiss, topping up the private sulfide bath inside the wooden villa. The spa pool’s stones are sloped on one edge to allow cooled water to overflow (into an adjacent pool) as hot liquid dribbles in (at around 66°C), maintaining the bathing temperature at around 38°C. A bather dips a carved cedar ladle into the greenish-looking water and pours it overhead. Over and over, the wooden ladle is dipped and poured, then the spa-lover lays back on a pillow of water-polished stones and relaxes…until the scent of coffee fills the air. It’s a “unique scent” because it’s brewed with spring-water that comes with the unmistakable aroma of sulfur. Some say the smell resembles the stench of rotten eggs, but it can become agreeable when mixed with mountain air, the fragrance of cypress, tropical vegetation, the tea tree plantation and… yes, fresh ground coffee or tea leaves. Though the “bouquet” of sulfur-based mineral spring water isn’t innately pleasing to the nose, sulfur can promote healthy skin and joints when used externally, and act as a tonic for soft tissue when taken internally. Sitting on the deck, with a warm breeze drying your hair, sipping spring-water coffee (or tea), is a rejuvenating experience, although the taste of the coffee, even with milk and sugar, is singular – one to be acquired.
From the Aussie-style wooden deck of the New Life Spring Resort, where spring-water coffee, tea and a variety of delicious Chinese soups are served, there’s a tranquil view of Taiwan’s eastern region. At night, it’s so dark (yet filled with stars), so calm and quiet (except for the hissing steam), that it can make urban-dwelling guests question if Taiwan’s neon lights, night markets and KTVs still exist. Rest assured, they do. But somewhere beyond the stones of the mineral springs spa and the wooden terraces of Nu-An-Hu.
A spa retreat with Aussie-style wooden villas & Japanese baths
It’s off the beaten Taiwanese spa path, but not so far off that it’s impossible to find. New Life Hot Springs Resort is situated a couple kilometers from the popular spa village called Antong, but far enough to conceal the existence of the characterless spa centers (which have seen better days - for example the 1930s) and to which a variety of health-oriented tour groups flock. Just beyond these lackluster hot springs resorts, if you snake your way up a steep hillside road, you’ll find one of the most unique mineral springs spa resorts in all Taiwan: New Life Spring Resort, also known as Nu-An-Hu. It’s a rustic mountainside spa hotel overlooking some of the best bits of the East Rift Valley, and the fruition of a dream for proprietors Leo & Marlena, who brought with them – after years of living in Australia – the idea of an eco tea tree plantation (spread across two acres of lush East Rift Valley mountainside) and designed their very own architectural plans for solid wood chalets, private villas and funky bungalows. Nu-An-Hu Spa Spring Resort blends Aussie-inspired elegant-rustic timber architecture with Japanese stone & cypress wood bathing pools. The result is a series of bathhouse villas, romantic suits (all with en-suite spas), day spa facilities with open-air mineral pools, and a gregarious wooden B&B hostel, all amidst an eco-friendly Australian tea tree plantation with lush tropical growth across a two-acre mountainside paradise. Their pièce de résistance: an open-air hardwood deck restaurant/café that serves a unique spring-water menu.
Spa spring resort facilities & accommodation options
New Life Spring Resort offers a variety of accommodation options with weekend specials, day spa packages, all-inclusive luxury suites / garden villas or affordable hostel-style backpacker bunks (amongst the best Hualien hostel spots) with access to mineral pools, restaurant and alfresco café.
New Life spa retreat accommodation options are:
- Wind & Logs Rooms
- Jonnie Walker & Monarch Chalets
- VillaGarden Suites
- Family Rooms
These are standard Japanese rooms that are anything but “standard”. Even basic rooms are constructed in hardwood, have large windows, include a huge double bed (or two singles) with fluffy white duvets, and private baths with hot spring pools – yes, right in the room. There’s the Wind Room, spacious & bright, and the Logs Room, which includes a private cypress spa with duo hot & cold pools.
New Life hot springs resort and spa has the oddly named Johnnie Walker Chalet and the Monarch Chalet, which can each accommodate four guests (or be a suite for two). Each wooden chalet comes with a private cypress spa and dual pools for hot & cold bathing.
The exclusive VillaGarden suites come with two private Japanese-style stone pools surrounded by wooden decks and the signature beds with puffy white comforters. The suites have a rustic minimalist décor, yet offer amenities like thick cotton towels and cedar bathing accessories. The owners attend to even the smallest details for their guest’s comfort, relaxation and privacy.
The family rooms can accommodate up to five guests each and are equipped with dual cypress spa pools and all the comforts of a high-end spa resort.
Liu Renfang is the hostel-style room that accommodates six guests, and although listed as a backpacker area (featured as a Hualien hostel) it may be the best hostel in Taiwan. Although the beds are bunks, the design is stunning, rustic wood with individual white curtains and big fluffy duvets. Hostel guests have access to private toilet areas and to the public hot spring spa pools.
Although chalets, suites and rooms are intended for overnight accommodation and come with breakfast and access to the afternoon/evening restaurant / café, some of the areas are open as a day spa from 15:00 to 22:00. Although New Life is eco-friendly (and for the most part a well-kept secret for a discerning few), the rooms all come with high-speed wireless internet access. But, unlike other Taiwanhot springs resort centers Nu-An-Hu doesn’t accept telephone reservations after 23:00 or before 07:00.
Getting up the hill to New Life Hot Springs Resort and Spa
If arriving into the East Rift Valley area by train or bus, call ahead to New Life Hot Springs Resort (at 03 888 7333) and arrange to be picked up. Otherwise, getting up the hill to the spa retreat may require a taxi from Yuli, Antong or Hongye because it’s a rather steep climb. It’s possible to walk up the mountainside, but it’s rather strenuous, and when cycling (as I was) pushing a bike up the mountainside isn’t necessarily the most relaxing way to start a spa vacation.