Thursday, April 9, 2015

A Few Days in Taipei, Taiwan - Who Knew? - Part III (Spa, Beauty and Fashion)

My trip to Taipei, Taiwan is, in large part, part of my daughter's Sweet Sixteen celebration.  As my children follow in my footsteps, the concept of a big fancy party is just not what they are about.  But could Taipei possibly be cool for an American teenager's celebration?  The answer is emphatically Yes!

When I first mentioned this trip my daughter was a bit recalcitrant; commenting Taiwan wasn't exactly on her list of Spring Break ideas.  And being a vegetarian watching me eat all kinds of weird stuff (not that it is weird to her anymore) didn't exactly excite her.  But I then mentioned the words "Spa" and "Fashion". And there was that crack in that teenage demeanor that gave this trip a chance. 

Once the options available to her started to appear, the smiles started and the contentment became obvious.  And, for me as a parent, the incredibly reasonable prices in Taiwan made what would normally be a very expensive concept extremely reasonable.
Taiwan is filled with hot spring options, and with its long history under Japanese rule, baths from public to luxury private rooms are abundant.  One famous luxury hot spring spa is Villa 32 located in the Beitou area; about 30 minutes outside of downtown Taipei - whether by MRT or we opted for the convenience of a taxi (US$9.00).  

A very tranquil entrance to Villa 32 Thermal Hot Spring Spa
You arrive at a very non-descript hotel and are immediately directed over a small granite bridge into a garden of tranquility.  There are three options at Villa 32:  Public, Private and Suites (which can be booked overnight).  Being that the public hot springs baths require that you are nude and are segregated by sex, we opted for a private room (NTW$2,800 - about US$90) which you can reserve in 90 minute intervals.

Villa 32 Private Hot Spring Room
Our room consisted of a large stone soaking tub with hot and cold volcanic mineral spring water, a very comfortable sofa, a private rainfall shower room, a separate bathroom and was filled with Ferrigamo bath amenities.  You have the option of inviting the outside into your cocoon by sliding open shoji screens and/or opening the canvas covering the glass ceiling over the tub and/or shower.

It is surprising how quickly 90 minutes goes while enjoying the tranquility of this room.  (I was ready for another 90 minutes, but my daughter was done...well done and wrinkled!)

(Note:  The day after our time at Villa 32 it was suddenly closed due to some sort of corruption investigation of its owner.  I have no idea if or when it will reopen, but I am glad we had the opportunity to enjoy it!)

After a nice lunch it was time to do another round of power window shopping; taking in time to go actual prom dress shopping as well.  We had done truly world-class luxury power window shopping at Taipei 101 on our first day; which was truly amazing.  

While proms are an American concept, weddings are not so shops selling gowns are plentiful   What I discovered is that most Taiwanese brides lease their gowns; a practice that I think should be adopted in the United States (in about 15 years when my daughter will given my permission to start dating! Yeah, right.) We did find a beautiful Roberto Cavalli gown...on sale for only US$850...and that, like the $17,000 Diors of the other day, remains safely in the shop!

Regent Taipei Wellspring Spa Treatment Room
There is only one thing to do after a  "stressful" day like that:  Have a massage.  The Regent Taipei as an excellent spa at extremely reasonable prices.  For the price of a 30 minute faux massage in the United States my daughter enjoyed a 15 minute steam bath, a 1.5 hour Indonesian massage and then a 45 minute flower petaled bath with a light lunch served while soaking in the tub.

Regent Taipei Spa Soaking Tub
While she was busy in the Spa I did some research on a sign for Taipei In Style  2015 that caught my eye while at the Songshan Cultureland Creative Park while on my first food tour.  It is, apparently, "the" fashion event of the year but is closed to the public until Saturday (the day we leave).  Oh, what to do?  I registered as "Press" (which I am, but so much for fashion).  

But before heading out my daughter enjoyed what is seems to be considered a mandatory practice in Taipei:  Hair washing.  This hour-long process includes not only hair washing, but a scalp massage, a shoulder massage, and a complete blow dry.  The cost of this little bit of luxury:  US$15.  The result: A bit of pampering...and a bit of a sore head, as the scalp massage is obviously something one must get used to.

While there is  more to come (designer nails for about the same price) it was time to head out to Taipei in Style.  

We saw a fun fashion show of two British designers and strolled through the booths of Taiwanese designers both established and new.  What a great and unexpected experience!

I know there are those folks that need to plan everything and some folks that really enjoy that process.  But for me, as much as I do plan I also leave plenty of room to discover, improvise and simply "figure it out".  And the more I travel the more I do that latter.  

If I didn't I would have missed a priceless father-daughter experience.  And let's face it when traveling with a sixteen year old, no matter how wonderful, moods and desires change...and you gotta be a bit light on your feet!