Elephants guarding the pool [Photo:CRIENGLISH.com]
BEIJING, Dec. 1 (Xinhuanet) -- Opened in 1998, Jiuhua was Beijing area's first outdoor hot spring, and today it remains the largest. A respect for history is evident in its Qing dynasty architecture and décor. Jiuhua feels less like a hot spring, and more like an emperor's summer garden.
One of its highlights is a pool which includes a waterfall cascading down a rock staircase, leading up to a smaller, hotter pool. Bridges and winding pathways slither around a variety of water basins. A feeling of openness reigns over the space, particularly over the massive outdoor swimming pool. A couple of pools have televisions to help guests whittle away the hours. The indoor pool area is a blue oasis, while the upstairs houses the requisite KTV floor. Oddly sandwiched between them is the Tibetan floor spa, housing Tibetan masseurs, baths and Buddha statues.
But the key thing that separates Jiuhua from the rest is its waters, which can be so saturated with herbs that at 30 cm deep, everything fades into sepia opacity. The different herbal scents were much more noticeable than those at other spas, all of them quite pleasant. Jiuhua was the first Beijing area spring to add medicinal herbs to its mineral waters, and people can choose their pool according to the conditions they desire. English signage may be strangely translated, but you'll get some idea of what's in each pool and what the health benefits are. Medicinal ingredients include goodies like tree bark and ginseng. Even the saunas offer their own varieties of herbal goodness. For purists, there are plenty of pools filled with clear spring water as well.
The mornings are a time when elderly customers in particular, like to frequent the spring, beating the crowds for some communal chitchat and a soak. Here alone will you feel that many people really do come here primarily for health reasons. Also, a traditional Chinese medicine doctor is always on hand to check patrons' health, prescribe medicines, and possibly assign a certain amount of time in specific pools.
This winter, a package deal is available for Jundu Shan ski resort and Jiuhua together.
Steamy and Dreamy:
Bask in the environment of a massive Chinese hot spring like none other. Let those herbs permeate your skin and joints, while you and a bunch of old folks cheer on the national team, as shown on the outdoor TV. And don't miss your massage, which is included in this base price.
The Cold Reality:
The Jiuhua Resort area is so big that a monorail is needed to travel its perimeter, so on weekends, and even late into the evenings it can get busy. On one occasion, 5000 people went through in a day. This isn't the place to get zenned out, but that could still work for you if you want a raging party instead of a relaxing party.
Cost: 198 rmb, including a 30 minute massage.
Address: Xiaotangshan, Changping District
Tel: 86 10 6178 2288
Directions: Take subway Line 5 to the northern end of the line. From there it's a 15 minute taxi ride.