As far back as I care to remember, spas, bath houses and hot springs have never ceased to appeal, albeit to differing extents. It’s fitting, then, that I should have landed in ‘Hot Spring Capital’ all those years ago.
Today, however, dawned the most complete of experiences in the bath house come spa category, and that’s quite a statement.
I’ll never forget the sauna experience I once had in the Finnish outdoors near Kuopio. Bearing the heat of a log furnace with friends as long as possible, before running down the jetty and diving into a cold freshwater lake in the middle of nowhere.
During a two year stint teaching ESL in Guri, South Korea, I found no better way to unwind after a long week than the local spa, known there as a Jjimjilbang.
In Chongqing, there have been many great days and nights at the numerous hot springs, but until lately, the far eastern style bath house so romanticised in Korean and Japanese drama had been somewhat lacking.
Earlier this year, I discovered Haichang Tangdu on Nanshan Mountain, a fantastic bath house with an exclusively Japanese theme, and is somewhere we continue to visit regularly.
For many years, a chain of Chinese spas and recreation centres have operated in Chongqing, the most famous of which is Dalangtaosha大浪淘沙. These are also very decent, but don’t bare much resemblance to the Korean or Japanese versions.
So, when another Baidu Search produced Dayuetang among the results, I read the positive comments, flicked through the photographs, and placed it on my hit-list of places to visit once opportunity reared its head.
Reviving Fond Memories
Dayuetang City Vacation Hot Spring大悦汤城市度假温泉 is part of the Pengrun Lanhai residential complex, but the entrance is accessible from the main road. The address is 18 Xingzhu Lu, just a block north of Jinyuan Sqaure.
After a 20 minute drive from Yubei once the morning rush hour had ended, I met the only slight annoyance of an otherwise fantastic day. The security guard of Pengrun wouldn’t allow me to use the residential carpark, and instead advised me to park on the road outside the main entrance.
Not wanting to risk a parking ticket, I returned to Jinyuan, where I attended the Hotpot Festival just a few days prior. All traces of the event had disappeared, with perhaps the exception of cleaners trying to mop up remaining pools of solidified hotpot soup.
Though a lines of palms and dense foilage somewhat obscures Dayueting from the main road, it’s still easy enough to find with a digital map and a keen eye.
Outside the front door, there was a brightly coloured advertisement stand that displayed the full range of deals on offer. As with many spas, you can enjoy good discounts by taking out a membership, then paying multiples of a thousand yuan like you would a charge card.
Normally, the more you charge to your membership, the more generously they top up your total. For example, you might end up with 1,100 yuan of credit for paying 1000, but perhaps 3,500 when you charge 3000.
On top of these, you often enjoy better discounts the higher value membership you pay for, meaning the card lasts you even longer. And what’s more? The card isn’t limited to personal use, friends and family can also benefit from the same rates, as long as they come with you.
Once inside the entrance, I felt struck by the clean, bright and spacious hall. I quickly gave up my shoes, took a blue wristband, and headed straight towards the baths.
The style instantly reminded me of my authentic spa experiences in Korea. The owners had clearly scored ten out of ten on their homework, as both the layout and decor matched anything I had seen in the past.
Logically, you first come to the locker section, where you leave all your gear in the one matching your wristband number, then cross a bathroom section where guests dry and pamper themselves before going to the communal area.
Three pools take pride of place in the centre, which may not sound like many, but they are large enough to accommodate plenty of guests. Each has a slightly different temperature, and its own medicinal theme. Looking around, you see both standing and sitting shower cubicles, an exfoliation room, and two mini bath tubs.
The decor blended a range of mutually complimentary features, from the square tiles with wide grooves, mud brick walls, wooden panelling, and stonework, something to keep you visually interested wherever you look.
Above the pools is a traditional wooden canopy held up by four pillars, and you can look upwards to see a large piece of artwork attached to the ceiling.
Since the baths are relatively small, it was quite a surprise to walk into the communal area and learn its true scale, and that was before I found the upper floors!
Dayuetang has three floors in total. The first is for reception, bathing rooms, and the communal section with a computer room, saunas, massage chairs, karaoke booths, children’s play area, private social rooms where you sit on the tatami floor, crystal stone bath, snack bar, secluded dark holes where you can escape for a nap. The central feature is a huge tatami platform with another wooden canopy, and low tables to sit around and socialise.
The entire second floor is more of a Chinese style sitting room, and is where I’m writing my blog post now.
Indeed, this spa house cleverly merges the very best of traditional Chinese, Korean and Japanese features, without clashing in any way.
The upper floor has a great buffet restaurant, large rooms with sofa beds, a smoking room, a cinema, and a hotel style coridoor with private rooms guests can stay in overnight.
It’s an interesting fact that in my experience, Asians can somehow sleep well in quite noisy environments. For me, the slightest disturbance makes sleep virtually impossible, whether it be a snoring neighbour, chatty ladies walking past, or a bright phone screen shone in my direction. I’m sure I’ll use one of those private bedrooms one fine day.
One unique feature is a dark tent area I fortunately came across before preparing to leave. It’s designed like a forest, with astroturf, stepping stones, and tents with tatami flooring. Guests can sleep in these overnight at a small extra cost. I wasn’t expecting anyone to be fast asleep here in the early afternoon, so it was quite a surprise when I flashed my phone torch inside one and nearly woke up a slumbering couple!
As my post nears completion, I’m struggling to think what this spa house lacks, it really seems to have everything going for it!
I suppose the whole complex is indoor based, but I would never choose to nitpick on this issue. I just remember the Hotpot Sauna on the top of Wangshimni Station, Seoul had an open air rooftop bath I absolutely loved during the colder times of year.
My visit today set me back a mere 129 yuan, which included a very palatable buffet lunch. Overall, great value for a truly remarkable bath house.