Friday, February 20, 2009

The Hot Spring on New Year's Eve

1/25/09 After the Chinese New Year Dinner Extravaganza, all of us stumbled into Uncle William's living room with a full stomach. No one called the card game this year, and the Moms and Dads decided to turn in early. My cousins Ella, Jane and I decided to venture out to do something subdue but fun. Well, what better place to go than to visit the hot springs.

Many places that are prone to earthquakes are abundant with hot springs. Taiwan is one of those places. I grew up with earth quakes large and small, and I grew up enjoying the hot springs that are so abundantly available in northern Taipei. The town of Beitou, which is only several MRT stops away, is known for its plentiful hot spring resort hotels and day spas.

Hot spring carries therapeutic effects on many ailment, including skin conditions, nervous system conditions, and circulation problems; it also promotes general good health. Most Taiwanese day spas or resorts go by the Japanese style of hot spring spa setup, meaning one can take communal all-natural style bath in huge swimming pool-size bath tubs, either indoor or outdoors. These hot spring facilities usually have beautifully appointed indoors bathing spaces, or landscaped garden-setting for outdoors pools. Some facilities require bathing suits when using the hot spring pools; but I prefer those that asks you to go in wearing just your birthday suit...once tried, there's no going back to wearing a bathing suit when enjoying the hot spring. Concerns about seeing others in their most natural state? Nah. Rather, the focus is on relaxation, and I can't get enough of that!

I love a good soak in the hot spring. When Ella and Jane suggested to do so, I jumped at the chance. This is my first visit to the hot spring since coming back to Taiwan! And what a great way to start a new year.

We met up with Ella's neighbor A-Yu, who is about the same age as me. The four of us gals jumped in the car and a short drive later we arrived at the Maple Landis Hotel, in Shin-Beitou district in northern Taipei. Maple Landis is a new hotel under the Landis chain, and I was stunned with the elegant beauty of the hotel upon entering its foyer. We were the only customers at the bathhouse at this late hour.

The bath house was an indoors facility and is a communal bathhouse, male and female separated, in Japanese hot spring style set up. We entered the female bathhouse and first encountered a really nice and elegant locker room. We were each given a locker for us to store our personal belongings and clothing. Then, it's bath time. We entered the bathroom--it's really more like a bath "hall"--and found it a wonderful oasis of beautifully appointed teak wood furniture, huge marble-lined bath pools, lounge chairs, with magazines, teas and mineral water in abundant supply. There was also steam room and a cedar-lined sauna room.

Observing the hot spring etiquette, we each washed thoroughly at the showers alongside the hot spring pools. One good thing about coming to the hot spring spa is that the spa resorts always supply the most interesting toilettries, including shampoo, conditioner, facial cleanser, and shower gel and so on of different "flavors". For us girls, it's like going to the candy store. We took our time trying out those different body and hair products. After showering, we went right into the hot spring bath pools and, oooohhhh, awwwww, certainly was really nice and relaxing. The water was very hot (38-42 degrees celcius depending on which of the 3 pools you choose to get into) but after the initial 30 seconds of getting used to the water temperature, the soft silky smoothness of the hot spring water makes it a completely unbelievably soothing experience.

Maple Landis' hot spring facilities is indoors only. But the bath house is really well ventilated that we were not in lack of fresh air. We sat in the hot water and chit chatted away. Time went by quickly as we went in and out of different pools to try out different spring water, sauna and steam, taking breaks on the lounge chairs enjoying tea and magazines.

After several hours we thought we were quite sufficiently relaxed and finally were ready to get going. As we were exiting, the Hotel staff gave us two big bags full of desserts. It turned out the desserts were included in the bathing package we purchased; just that it was so late and they figured we were not going to be eating here (which indeed we were not going to...) and as such they packed things for us to take home with. How sweet!

As we exited the hotel, the late night air was so fresh and crisp. I really couldn't think because I was so relaxed...but I tried to imagine a little bit about the next few days of new year celebration still ahead...well, life certainly is good!


Anna said...

Have you been back to the hot springs? Your experience sounds quite similar to the experience I had in Weisbaden, Germany. Fantastic facility for wellness including massage, steam rooms, hot baths, arm baths, ice cold bath, etc... And yes, all naked. That's how the Europeans are.

Anna said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
suewun said...

Indeed, Anna, it sounds quite similar to my experience here! I have gone back to the hot springs (visited different spas) but as you can see life is hectic even when I'm not fully employed...I'm trying to write as fast as I can.

Have thought of the book idea of bathing rituals/practices around the Globe. Whatdyathink?

Last but not least, miss ya, sistah patnah! Thanks for continuing to read the blog!!