We've been to Baishawan before, but never to Origin Yoga & Wellness, and never with a heat index of over 112° in August. It was hot out. And by hot we mean, unbearable—a baking oven with skin melting radioactive waves. The retreat was set to begin at 3pm, and by our thinking, it would take about an hour to drive from Taipei by Scooter—would be faster by car if we had one. The thinking was to avoid setting out at noon—the most miserable time of the day—and leave a little before 2pm. We made a few mistakes. First, it took 2 hours, not one. Second, we made many wrong turns, setting us back big time. The journey to Baishawan, while warmer than one would prefer, was incredibly beautiful.
On the way up we passed a very large, spiritual looking building and decided to pull over, take a break and check it out. While we weren't quite able to find out exactly what was going on there, it appeared to be gathering of monks for a lecture.
Feeling thoroughly cooked after our ride, and frazzled by an unfortunate sense of anxiety for arriving late, we reached our destination—Origin Yoga & Wellness in Baishawan, Taiwan. The building that houses Origin Yoga & Wellness is an abandoned luxury apartment complex, built over 50 years ago, and in a state of total decay. It's a shocking site. It's even more perplexing as you question how it is a yoga retreat center could be in a place like this.
It's amazing what happens when you reach the door to Origins and realized that not everything is as it might have seemed and that you are about to discover something truly unique. Lydia, the founder of the retreat center, greeted us with a warm smile and we sat down for our welcome tea tasting. Lydia explained to us how she spent the first parts of her life living in this complex with her family, who owns multiple units in the building. Although she later moved to Canada, she had always wished something could be done to bring the building back to life. In 2016 she returned to transform the space into a yoga retreat center. She could see all the potential—ocean-front views, clean air, abundant nature and quite nights far from the city.
What's most endearing about Origins Wellness Retreat Center is the continuous feeling of surprise at how nice it is inside. The contrast with the exterior works to elevate the impression and we felt constant amazement at how tasteful and classic and downright comfortable it all was. The other feeling that starts to creep in is one of exclusivity—we discovered a hidden gem, a secret that nobody but us, in this moment, knows about.
One of our first activities was to meet with the "Zen Master" who also happens to be Lydia's father. As a meditation expert and spiritual guidance teacher with over 25 years of experience, he meets with guests when they arrive, every guest is offered a one-on-one consultation to receive words of wisdom and answer any questions they have about meditation and spirituality. ur meeting was indeed insightful. "On average humans only live for about 30,000 days. That isn't a lot when you think about it, and most of us have already used most of them by the time we realize how important they are. Meditation is the practice of death. Being in stillness with no thought, that is death. By practicing death we are able to fully realize our lives and will come to appreciate how precious each day is. Only by understanding and accepting death can we understand life. 30,000 days, that's all. Why waste them with worry or stress or overthinking every little thing. There is no thinking in death, there is no worry or stress. So why do any of those things in your life? You should meditate at least 20 minutes each day, in the morning, and if you do, it will change your life a lot."
Up and down the coast are numerous beaches with small cafe's, shops, and interesting things to see. What we like most about the area is how "out in the middle of nowhere" it feels, yet the reality is, most of what you might want or need is easy to obtain with the nearest town, or even city only 20-30 minutes away.
Much of the surrounding area seems designed for taking fun photos. The lighthouse cafe that sits directly across from Origin was fairly busy with couples snapping up pics left and right as the sun slowly began to set.
As the sun began to set, we too set the table for our first meal at Origins and just like many of the surprises of the day, the meal was something fantastic and unexpected. Both simple and delicious, we enjoyed home-made carrot soup, a garden fresh salad, and a fantastic Italian pasta with tomato basil sauce. Everything was cooked from scratch by the talented Chef Edward, Lydia’s brother. The best part of dinner, however, was the great company.