“Call me Jackie Chan,” he said as he maneuvered our tiny van along the roads of YangMing Mountain. Taiwan is known for its hot springs and I was excited to see them. Unsure of what the day held, I brought my bathing suit, although the tour description hadn’t mentioned needing it.
The homes along the mountainside were beautiful, reminding me of the Hollywood Hills, with their gates and garages at street level, and a house tucked in somewhere up or down. Jackie rolled down the windows to get some fresh air, and I began to smell the sulfur. I wondered why someone would choose to build their home in a place that would mean they’d wake up to rotten egg every morning. I decided that great views come with great sacrifices. Besides, everywhere we’d been so far, there had been a smell of food, stinky tofu, or incense. Sulfur was just another part of living in Taiwan, it seems.
As we pulled up to the springs, Jackie explained that we had two choices – Family-style or Japanese bath house. Still no mention of swimsuits. We were 3 couples and an American girl named Holly, who I’d met on our tour the day before and instantly liked. The other 2 couples chose the Family-Style setting, in which they’d share a private room together, similar to a bath at home. The room was tiny, and seemed boring, so I did what any thrill-seeking American would do…
Entering the bath house, I’ve never seen so many naked women in my life. Men were separated from women, so my sweet husband had been left to fend for himself. We were each assigned a locker, where I sadly placed my lonely swimsuit, took a deep breath, and began to undress. I politely smiled at the women in the pool & slowly entered the hot spring with my new naked friend Holly, working my way to the nearest wall. The hot spring water was 108 degrees and unbearable at first, but doable. The other women were lounging around, not speaking, just enjoying their nudity, some fully submerged, others dangling their feet. Holly and I took the time to get to know each other better (might as well, right?), discussing our lives and backgrounds like normal naked people do. I couldn’t figure out where best to overt my eyes, so I did what one would do when passing a car accident – look, but don’t stare. If I was going to be in a room with this many naked women, I was going to make it educational.
I watched as a Buddha-shaped woman climbed out of the pool and walked to the next pool, which had no one in it. Holly & I followed and descended into water only suitable for a polar plunge. “Dear Lord,” I thought, ” just let me survive this experience long enough to write about it.” Holly encouraged me to submerge myself completely in the freezing liquid, yelling, “Do it for the blog!” while the women around us looked on in confusion.
After a few seconds, parts of my body could officially cut glass.
The third pool was a warm bath, and at this point, I welcomed it with naked open arms. There were jets on each side, and I’d equate it to a luke warm (hot) tub. From there, we ventured into a sauna for a few minutes before deciding that we were ready for a shower and a beer.
I was not given a certificate or a t-shirt for completing my first hot spring experience. I was, however, given the luxury of having a low-positioned locker that required me to reach around the hips of 2 naked women, praying I wouldn’t graze any body parts. (Note to self: Get a higher locker next time)
The hot springs experience wasn’t on my bucket list, but I feel like I should add it and cross it off, just for good measure.
No cameras in the bath house itself. Hopefully my words provide enough visual. Here’s what I was able to capture: