By Pichayanee Kitsanayothin
Japan is an easy country to love. With so many unique and unforgettable experiences, it’s no wonder that tourists often return again and again. One must-do in the Land of the Rising Sun is a visit to a traditional Japanese hot spring, or onsen. The soothing waters of the onsen are reputed to have healing properties due to their high mineral content. Health benefits aside, they’re a pretty pleasant way to while away the afternoon. Who wouldn’t want to sit in an outdoor spring, surrounded by trees and new-fallen snow, while sipping a beer? Well, okay, I haven’t actually done that, but I did get to visit the famous onsen in Hakone during the springtime.
Unfortunately, Hakone is a little far for me to go to regularly. See, I live in Bangkok, Thailand. To be fair, Thailand also has its own sources of the mineral water in Lampang and Ranong. A couple local organizations in the area provide hot tubs mostly for Thai tourists but those do not meet the same quality standard on water system implementation, place or service. Moreover, the water might be too limited to support the whole tourism industry.
With so many Japanese expats and their families living in Bangkok, I’m sure that I’m not the only one missing onsen in Japan though. We have a selection of good spas in Bangkok. Imagine of the combination of onsen and spa (e.g. Thai massage, foot massage, aroma, etc.), the two best reputations from two countries, what else would you want? Now, it’s here right in the center of the Japanese neighborhood in Bangkok, Sukhumvit Soi 26. It’s called Yunomori Onsen & Spa and it’s where I went and experienced the first ever Bangkok onsen last week! I paid only Bt450 (less than US$15) for entrance to their compound, which includes a coffee shop, and Japanese restaurant. The spa section has private rooms located on the second floor. I was told by the staff there that some Japanese customers spend their entire day there by being in the onsen, steaming, heading up to the spa, back down to onsen, going out for beer then eating dinner at the restaurant! If you choose to have a spa treatment as well, they provide a few packages of the combination of onsen and spa for a pretty good price.
Their onsen section is quite large as well. Everything, including the lockers and changing area is clean and modern. There are several types of water, including soda onsen imported from Japan and the mineral spring water from Ranong. All facilities are separated for men and women. You will have to be definitely naked in there. This surprised me to me when I found that 50 percent of their customers are Thais! Well, both Japanese and Thais are shy, but it is reasonable for Japanese that they are familiar with such service, but Thais are not. Whatever—this is the closest you’ll get to a real Japanese onsen experience in Bangkok. Try it! Check out its address and contact number at http://www.travelandleisureasia.com/destinations/thailand/1588385/article.html