Jonny and I recently finished one of the most challenging classes we’ve taught here in China, so to celebrate, we headed to the famous Ronghui hot springs of Chongqing.
Chongqing is famous for it’s spicy hotpot, but if you’re not into spice, or think hotpot is overrated, why not experience the famous hot springs of Chongqing instead? Not only is it a great way to relax and experience a long popular Chinese pastime but it’s also far cheaper than the equivalent experience in America or Europe.
Take metro line 1 towards Jiandingpo, and get off at Shapingba station. It’s a fair walk from here to the hot springs, so instead either take a taxi (which shouldn’t cost more than 20 yuan) or get bus 224. We had a bit of trouble figuring out where the bus stop was and in what direction we were meant to take it so we ended up getting a taxi. Just show the taxi driver this: 融汇温泉,沙坪坝梨树湾村. You’ll know you are nearly there if you pass the Radisson Blu hotel – it’s very near it!
Once you arrive, walk into the building, past the two staff members waiting by the door to greet you. Head to the reception desk on the right. Whilst waiting to be served a friendly female member of staff approached us and was able to speak to us in perfect English. She informed us of the price and explained how the hot springs worked. Each person is given a bracelet which you wear throughout your stay. The hot springs are included in the price of the entrance fee. We went on a weekday so it only cost 149 yuan (£15) – it goes up slightly at the weekend when it is busier. Any extras you buy are added on by scanning your bracelet. Your bracelet also provides you with access to a locker.
Once you have your bracelet you walk through to the changing rooms (separated by sex). Ignore the safety deposit lockers you see before entering the changing rooms – you will have your own locker in the changing rooms. Once inside, get changed into your swimming costume. There are fitting rooms dotted about for those less comfortable displaying their naked bodies (be warned, as a foreigner your body is likely to get a fair few stares). Once you have taken a quick shower you can head to the springs!
The first pool you hit is a warm indoor pool with a separate children’s play pool. From there you head outside (wearing your sandals and with your towel wrapped around you for warmth – both are located in your locker).
In the gardens you can begin exploring the different pools. There are “fancy” pools which are infused with interesting concoctions such as red wine, milk and coffee.
Other pools include green tea, lemon, mint and aloe. There are also a couple of essential oil pools.
The pools at the end of park were our favourite, named the seven pools of Shandong. The calming pool was delightful and we spent a fair bit of time relaxing here.
As well as pools you can experience sand and salt baths, a hot floor room, an ice room and a steam room.
Chinese people are not often without a phone in hand, so if you want to take in your phone, or maybe your kindle, put them in a zip lock bag and carry them out with you!
In the park you can find a snack bar selling sausages on a stick (a very popular Chinese snack), sweetcorn and noodles. There are also small stalls with fresh towels should you wish to replace yours. Friendly staff wander around rearranging your sandals and offering hot water and tea. Free drinking water is available throughout the park.
After the springs
Once you’ve had your fill of the springs, head back into the changing rooms, have a shower, dry your hair at the dressing tables, and wack on the god-awful pajamas that are provided to you.
If you want a massage, head to floor 3. As well as massages, they also offer cupping and pedicures. We booked a 90 minute oil massage which cost us 239 yuan (£24). You are taken into a private room to await your massage. For those who enjoy massages, I’m sure it’s a great experience.
For me, it was an hour and a half of social awkwardness. For some reason, Chinese spas provide male masseuses for female customers and female masseuses for male customers. My 90 minutes was spent trying not to giggle (it turns out that the top of my legs are extremely ticklish), trying not to cry in pain as my masseuse massaged my extremely sore stomach to the extreme (especially painful as I was on my period) and feeling particularly embarrassed when he pulled my pajama bottoms most of the way down to better massage my back. I don’t think I will ever find a massage anything but embarrassing.
If a massage doesn’t sound like your thing, floor 2 has a restaurant (you pay for food), free tea, juice and fruit, a lounge area, a sleeping area and a room full of reclining chairs with duvets which looked exceptionally comfy.
As we had already stayed in the spa for over 5 hours we headed back to the changing rooms to leave.
I really recommend visiting one of these hot springs as the calm and tranquility we found here (I’m not sure if it has the same level of tranquility on a busy weekend!). It such a huge juxtaposition to the usual crowded and noisy city life in China. If you want to see another side of life in China, the hot springs are the place to go.