After a few days of jet-lagged work/survival in Singapore, I’d adjusted to the time difference and was enjoying my visit. Unfortunately, it was time to come home!
Note to self: ensure the next visit to Singapore includes a weekend for adjusting to the time difference and enjoying the nightlife a bit more!
All the same, I managed to time things quite nicely. For a start, my Friday was basically free. So after a very leisurely breakfast and email catch-up in the executive lounge of our hotel, I made my way to the rooftop swimming pool and got about an hour in the sun before it clouded over. Just enough to top up my sun-related happiness levels and put a spring in my step.
I then met colleagues for an excellent lunch of conveyor-belt sushi from ‘Genki Sushi‘. This sparked all kinds of lovely memories of previous visits to Tokyo! A quick trip to the local Tokyu Hands store and then back to my hotel to pack.
Unfortunately, that was when the heavens opened and I got to see some of that famous Singapore rain. It was still about 30C and I was in shorts and flip flops, so it wasn’t a hardship. I just needed to bag my clothes when I got to my hotel as I was soaked. And boiling hot.
Time to relax
My flight back to London, via KL, wasn’t until 9:30pm, so I decided to take myself off to try something new. Singapore now has its very own Japanese onsen and, being a fan of the experience, I thought I’d head over and see what it was like.
I’d emailed Yonomuri Onsen to see if they could store my suitcase for me while I soaked, as I didn’t want to loop back into town to pick it up before going to the airport. This was going to be a one-way trip. I got an email back quite quickly, beginning ‘Dear Richard San…’. Nice.
The welcome at the onsen was super friendly and efficient. I registered, paid and picked up an electronic bracelet for my locker and for buying any additional food and drink. Unfortunately, I don’t have any photos of the onsen, as for obvious reasons, taking pics is strictly forbidden. So you’ll have to rely on my written description and imagine the rest in your mind’s eye…
In the men’s locker room, I was met by a team of friendly assistants who looked fairly relieved when I explained I’d been to a few Japanese onsen before, so I knew the deal.
That is, strip and scrub before using any of the facilities.
After stripping off, squeezing my backpack into the locker and retaining my ‘modesty towel’ (what we in the UK might refer to as a facecloth), I headed off to scrub myself clean. The washing area was large, well appointed and super-clean. The shower gel was really top quality and the water was hot.
Still had to squat on a bucket, though. For that is the onsen way… Thankfully, nobody seemed to be tasked with observing how conscientiously I was cleaning myself. Previously in Japan, I’d witness washroom ‘supervisors’ ensuring guests washed themselves thoroughly enough!
Steam, bake, soak and repeat
Beyond the washing area, I discovered a large sauna, a larger (maybe?) steam room and a plethora of baths. Each labeled in Japanese and English, for the avoidance of doubt. Plenty of instructions about onsen etiquette, in that cute Japanese cartoon way, were hung on the walls.
I tried out a couple of the hot baths, each at different temperatures, though I probably shouldn’t have started with the 42C one! Unlike my previous Japanese experience, the waters here had fragrances and other materials added to them. I guess the onsen doesn’t really have access to legit spring water and so tries to recreate it.
All of the baths were really pleasant and relaxing, so after a dip in the cold pool (18C!!), I went for a steam. The steam room was very bright and very, very steamy. It’s a feature of so many spas that the steam rooms are more like warm, damp basements. Not this one. Steam was coming out of vents under the tiled benches at an alarming rate!
The steam was thick and hanging in the air, so that all I could see of the other guys was from their chests down. Heads and shoulders were completely covered by the mist, which also made it a bit difficult to find a seat. And, I would imagine, difficult to find a friend if you were there with one.
When I spotted a gap on the benches, it was soon obvious why: it was closest to one of the larger vents and so sitting there was a little like resting the back of your legs against a boiling kettle.
Not for me. I didn’t want to leave Singapore with third-degree burns, so I made a quick exit and went to the sauna. A really nice, quiet wood sauna – thanks to the large screen TV being off. It’s a feature of modern onsen in Japan I’m not keen on: playing TV quite loudly in a room meant for relaxation.
So I took advantage of the quiet and sat back in comfort. After a while, it was time to start the whole thing over again. I alternated between baths, freezing cold showers, sauna and steam room, choosing my seats in the latter with a lot more care.
Would I go again?
I spent about two and half hours there in total, including a trip to the cafe for some ice-cold water and a cheeky Sapporo beer. I was given a very nice yukata to wear while outside of the men’s area, for obvious reasons. Wish I could have taken it home, actually.
The whole experience was lovely and I’d definitely go back next time I’m in Singapore. My ticket cost about $40, which to my mind is a bargain. I saw a few Japanese guys there, which I suppose is one way of estimating its quality.
In a sense, I wish it had been my first onsen experience, as everything was clear and spelled out for me. I could relax without worrying I was making some kind of horrible cultural faux pas. My first ever onsen was in Japan, where nothing is really explained for foreigners and you have to just watch others and follow their lead.
For me, it was the perfect pre-flight experience and probably explains why I slept so much on the plane! I’d recommend it to anyone in Singapore, whether you’ve been to an onsen or not. I’ll be making it part of my arrival plan next time, as it’s between the airport and the city. What a lovely way to unwind after a long, long flight!
You can find the Yunomori Onsen & Spa at the Kalang Wave Mall, 1 Stadium Place, Singapore 397638.