Love Hotel Etiquette
Author's Note: "Love Hotel Etiquette" Originally appeared as one of my weekly "Off the Rails" columns in The China Post. However, its inevitable that any long term traveller in any number of Asian cultures will one day be tempted to spend an evening or a few hours in one of these fine, specialized hostels. In the case of Taiwan (where this article was written), the humble love hotel is the closest thing to a budget hotel that most cities have to offer.
The short stretch of light rail that stretches between the Peitou and Hsin Peitou stations are an anomaly Not even long enough for the train to get up any speed, connecting a neighborhood that isn't populated enough to really warrant its own station, one tends to wonder just why this strange little appendage exists. Suspicious souls might suspect that the ugly specter of political pork barreling in the extreme reared its head mightily in its construction, but such cynicism should be quickly dispelled by the realization that this amazingly expensive stretch of rail exists for one purpose alone: to make it that much more convenient for you, personally, to get to Hsin Peitou, hot spring love hotel capital of the world.
A few hours at one of these places will set you back between 400 and 800 NT (the take a rest rate), and an evening will cost you and a loved one between 1200 and 2300. A word of advice: Go on a weeknight for the discounts, and spend the extra money; While the difference in price between the cheap and the chic may be an hour or two's pay, it'll be worth it just to see the look on your loved one's face when they see the 21-inch stereophonic TV and a natural hot-spring fed Jacuzzi big enough to sink a small fishing boat in. And nothing says class like his-and-her individually wrapped toothpicks.
The hot spring love hotels of Hsin Peitou are your home away from home, except you won't have to clean up, and, unlike your nosy neighbors, the desk clerk will not judge you as you leave in the morning after a night of loving debauchery with the him, her or combination thereof of your choice. The facilitation of your enjoyment is all that they ask, and the strange, crooked smile on their customers? faces are the only thanks they ask for. This leaves you free to shed your inhibitions to the fullest extent that the law and/or your personal dogma allows.
Losing ones inhibitions is easier said than done (except when drunk, when the opposite is often true). Leaving the "Chyuan Du Vacation Hotel" on 220 Kuang Ming road after a particularly debauched evening spent researching this column, I found myself wondering "what will the cleaning lady think of the half eaten chunks of laughing cow cheese scattered around the bed? Will the manager be informed about the quantity of cheap supermarket caviar floating in the Jacuzzi?" In my naiveté, I actually initiated conversation with the cleaning lady on the way to the elevator, and began to apologize for the extreme untidiness which she was about to deal with. "Oh, nali, nali" she laughed "our only concern is that you had a good time. Leave the mess to us, and come back again soon." A far cry indeed from the words spoken by my parents the after my last sleepover party.
Of course, there are other activities available in Hsin Peitou for those disinclined to debauchery. There are several public hot springs in and around the oddly named Anti-Calamity park directly across from the station, and nestled as it is in the armpit of beautiful Yaming Mountain, Hsin Peitou is an excellent point from which to start any number of hikes. Several of the bigger hotels in the neighborhood also offer hot springs both public and private, separated by gender or for the exclusive use of the paying customer and their guest. There is also a long-standing rumor that some of these seedier places will, for a fee, provide a bathing companion for the undiscriminating gentleman, but I'd advise against that. Love, like advice, is best appreciated when freely given.