Taiwan takes water very seriously – the fields are flooded for rice growing, river tracing is a national past-time and the rivers flow deep through the mountains and flood the valleys. But it is also harnessed and where better to enjoy the benefits of water than the Kavalan distillery and nearby spa of Jiaoxi, both just outside of Ilan on the island’s north-east coast.
Ilan is easy to get to from Taipei – a simple train journey or road trip from the city. There’s not much to detain you in Ilan itself, though the sculptures outside the train station are certainly striking. Our interest, however, lie on the outskirts – at the Kavalan distillery.
Kavalan is immediately striking by its sheer size. Established just in 2005 by King Car Group, it started production the following year. Taking Scottish expertise and replicating copper stills you’d more readily associate with the Highlands, they have created authentic and highly awarded whisky that’s good enough to give any scotch a run for its money. There’s a highly illustrative display at the distillery and you can see them making the whisky through the windows. It’s an impressive feat to have created such a large distillery out of nothing and created award-winning whisky.
After our brief tour of Kavalan, we headed for the hot springs of Jiaoxi. It fails to live up to the typical spa town romantic notions, but the town does sport a large number of spa hotels that you can stay in or visit. We tried two of the spas very close to the railway station on Deyang Road – the Art Spa Hotel, with its great hot tubs and hot water slide and another hotel at no.43, which has plenty of relaxing (and not so relaxing) pools and fish to nibble your tows. All of the hotels in the city seem to offer similar services, so I don’t think there’s too much between them.
There’s a little more to Jiaoxi too than just the spas. There’s a modest collection of good restaurants to be found in the town catering for most tastes.