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[Offbeat]: The 99 Pools of Shunjing Hotsprings
The land of milk and honey. A tour around the 99 pools of the Shunjing Hotsprings, the "world’s biggest indoor hotsprings". (Probably. Maybe. Whatever.)
By May 12, 2015 Activities
"Offbeat" is a SmartBeijing column about stuff to look at or do or experience in Beijing that's interesting or weird (relatively, of course), that doesn't fit anywhere else. It appears weekly, monthly, or maybe even annually, when we're not busy working on other superfluous column ideas.

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Not long ago, we wrote about letting it all hang out at the Number 8 Hot Springs Business Club, Chaoyang’s naked sauna-and-soakatorium. Shunjing Hotsprings is wholly different but cut from the same cloth, a lux indoor rainforest-themed swimming center in Beijing’s northeast quadrant, just across 4th Ring Road from IKEA.

The self-styled “world’s biggest indoor hotsprings” is a co-ed, no-nudity, bathing-suits-on experience, and as such serves as a mecca for anyone who’s questing in search of Chinese bathhouse weirdness on a grand and noble scale, but doesn’t want strangers to see their genitals.







Valhalla


Emerge, then, from purgatory into the land of milk and honey. A domed, glass-paneled roof three stories above throws open daylight over a coliseum spotted with heated pools, the first of many watery halls.









Shunjing Hot Springs is loosely organized around geographic themes, and for the next five hours, we wandered over most of the complex, stopping first into the clean wooden sauna space of Japan, then squelching over to Indonesia to paddle around in a massive dark-ass room beneath fake Baobab trees, underlit with jungle lighting and two stories tall.





There’s a children’s pool with a plastic castle and water slides, sitting in a skylit lagoon. There’s a tiered outdoor soaking area. There’s an enormous grotto, abandoned and unwatched, all stalagmites and creepy foot bridges over still waters. Along one wall of the complex are the pools of the Medicine King, each steeped in a dip of herbs and set to therapeutic temperatures.

“I’m sorry, is that boat?”

Oh yes, and there are boats.

There are boats in a rafting runnel that pass weird secret docks and VIP areas decorated with stone boar statues and silk jungle plants. For 60rmb, up to three people can drift around in an inflatable dinghy passing gawkers in lounge chairs. We didn’t end up doing a complete circuit, though, because we made temporary landfall to let a bunch of fish eat dead skin off our feet (38rmb), and then our 45 minutes ran out and some guy came and took our boat away.

I don’t know if it’s different during the peak season summer months, but the place is so big, there are dozens of abandoned corners, places ignored and forgotten by their keepers. No one stops you: you can wander through fake caves and into empty hallways where giant private bathtubs equipped with big-screen TVs sit unused and silent.





There’s a hot pot restaurant and a buffet, but we didn’t go in for much of the food – nothing looking really awesome there. Snacks, though: we did take a bucket of kettle corn (15rmb) and two small drafts (small, 18rmb, large: 28rmb) at the beer garden near the outdoor areas. You’d expect them to be serving up some watery Yanjing lager, but they’ve got brew tanks in the back, and the stuff they’re pouring really isn’t bad. It’s not gonna make any Belgians weep tears of elation, but it’s super drinkable. Fruit is set out on tables outside the Japanese saunas, and is free.

I’m not sure I existed as a person before I went to Shunjing. I thought I’d finger-painted with the major colors of the human experience by now, but I’d missed this one. This one, primordial source of all things.

Logistics


The spa is open 24 hours a day, and you buy in with a ticket good for a 24-hour stay. During the peak summer months (now) tickets are 330rmb for a no-reservation pass and 239rmb in advance on Dianping. You’ll receive a text message from Dianping confirming your tuangou purchase: show that to the front desk on arrival, and also to the cashier as you leave. If your phone runs out of batteries, you’ll have to pay full price, so make sure your mobile situation is set and bring your charger.

The buffet, which included in your ticket price is open 11:30am to 2pm and 5:30pm to 7:30pm.

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Pro-tips


- Be warned: the locker rooms in this place are bullshit. All the lockers are bolted shut with some insane RFID dual-factor authentication that requires both your wristband and a fuwuyuan’s wristband to disengage. And because some product designers have hearts full of hate, the mechanisms also auto-lock when you start to shut them, except that the bolt doesn’t always slide in the way it’s supposed to, so a bunch of alarms start going off, and you have to go get the fuwuyuan again as the sirens of shame ring down the pillars of hell. I am not the only person that does not like this: the locks are surrounded by deep gouges where pissy mistresses tried to force the doors with pens or mascara or whatever.

I spent most of the day trying to find the right configuration of things to carry around with me so I never had to see the inside of that room, but no joy. I had to go back up there five times.

- Pay attention to ticket prices vs. arrival time when you buy them. Tickets are about 20rmb cheaper for weekday passes.

- You can’t bring backpacks, cameras or outside food and drinks into the main bath area, and anything else you carry with you needs to be in a clear plastic bag. You can, however, take your phone (hence a few of my shitty pictures in here with along with the professional Amazonian wonderfulness from the spa's website).

- Your ticket includes a meal at the buffet on the second floor, but we didn’t figure that out until we were leaving. You won’t be reimbursed for a meal unclaimed.

- Every pool is equipped with a temperature readout, and you’re definitely gonna wanna check those before you go plunging into anything. The water in some of those mothers can get as hot as 44 degrees C, which I guess is for people who are tired of their own epidermis.

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Shunjing Hotsprings is at 2 North Fourth Ring Road East, Chaoyang district, right near the IKEA.




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