Ooedo Onsen Monogitari, Tokyo

Mindblowing is the word I use to describe this place.  This is the Disney of hot springs!  Ooedo Onsen Monogitari is an onsen theme park located in Tokyo Bay.  It is also a fully functioning natural hot springs onsen, with multiple indoor and outdoor baths.

Yurikamome line & Tokyo’s Rainbow Bridge (Brianlockwood)

Getting to Ooedo Onsen Monogitari is a great trip in itself.  I took the Yurikamome automated train that goes across Tokyo Bay’s Rainbow Bridge.  The views of Tokyo were stunning, and the Telecom Center station stop is worth a visit on its own.  From Telecom Center, it’s a short walk (3 minutes) to Ooedo Onsen Monogitari.  The entrance reminded me of a typical Japanese Ryokan but on a man-made island, surrounded by automation!  It’s reminiscent of a typical Japanese anachronism of history amidst high technology.  Those who have visited Japan know exactly what I mean by that, and you will too once you’ve been there a few days.

Entrance to Ooedo Onsen Monogatari

There were no lineups when I went!

Inside, again, the design is of a typical ryokan but serving thousands of people per day.  Language was not really an issue – once I paid my entrance fee, I really didn’t have much of a choice but to go in the same direction as everyone else!  Like Disney, you automatically get carried to Main Street.

Inside, there is a reproduction of a historic Japanese market street – on steroids!  There are food and gift vendors everywhere, games, etc.  It’s the usual Disney/Niagara Falls experience, with a strong Japanese flavour.  It’s a great place to bring kids as they can run around as much as they want but the exits are closely monitored so they can’t leave the building.  There are a lot of families here, especially on the market street.  The food is acceptable to good, the atmosphere is of a fair or carnival, and you can’t really help but smile at all the activity.

Then there are the onsen.  The change rooms dwarf anything I had ever seen before or since, and were about 5x bigger than the largest university change room I have ever seen. There were some excellent hair and skin products freely available in the change rooms and the flow of people was very fluid both going in and going out.

From GoTokyo.org

The change rooms are segregated into men and women’s rooms.  Bathing suits are prohibited, and so are tatoos.  From the change rooms, you go to the wash area were there are hundreds of wash stations for you to clean up at before going into the baths.  The overall feel is clean and efficient – very different from the bustle of the market area. There are so many people going through that the process is smooth and painless; there is no waiting for a wash station, they are all clean and bright, and by the time you have finished getting ready for the onsen, you will be in the mood.

Onsen baths at Ooedo Onsen Monogatari, from TokyoOdaiba.net

Beyond the wash stations are the baths themselves, and you enter an onsen.  A real, functioning not-crazy onsen, with a variety of baths both indoors and out.  There are many different tubs inside, some are large, some smaller, with different temperatures and jets.  I particularly enjoyed going from the vigorous high intensity jacuzzi type very hot spring bath to the large relaxing one by the window.  The outdoors areas were very natural and you could easily forget you are in the middle of downtown Tokyo.  I didn’t get a chance to try the little fish pond or get a massage, but I found these onsen to be totally in line with what I expected for onsen.  There was just “more” of everything!  For details on visiting Ooedo Onsen Monogatari, visit their website here

from vagabondish.com

I really enjoyed my day trip to Ooedo Onsen Monogatari – I had no idea what to expect when I started out and certainly didn’t expect the reality.  Everything was a pleasure, from the train ride to the onsen, to the funky and wild mainstreet, to relaxing in the natural setting of the onsen.  It’s a great day trip in Tokyo.

Il y un excellent article en français au sujet d’Ooedo Onsen Monogatari sur le site dozodomo.com – visualisez-le ici.  If you’d like to see more great photos of the interior of Ooedo Onsen Monogatari, follow this link to an excellent review in French on dozodomo.com

Sam’s Family Spa Hot Water Resort – Desert Hot Springs, California

Sam’s Family Spa is a true oasis in the desert.  This is a 50 acre RV campground that is centered around a large lake with lush gardens and lots of shade.  It’s been a family run and family oriented business since 1971.

Campsites at Sam’s (from http://www.wheelingit.us/)

Desert Hot Springs is the lesser known cousin of Palm Springs, California.  Desert Hot Springs still retains its desert feel, even though it is a fairly large city.  The approach to Sam’s is no different; the roads are dun and dusty. Once you arrive at the grounds, the campsites retain that desert feel – ours had a large saguaro as well as some smaller desert plants, and we shared our RV site with a desert hare who seemed to accept our presence as a mild inconvenience.

The central feature of the RV park is the lake, complete with ducks and other wildlife.  It’s a true oasis, a very tranquil centerpiece and a nice change from the surrounding desert.  There are walking paths around the lake and a large well furnished rec hall.  There is a volleyball court and picnic tables.  And of course there are the springs.

The Lake at Sam’s (from Tripadvisor.com)

Outdoor soaking pool at Sam’s (via Yelp)

The spring water is pumped from deep underground Desert Hot Springs aquifer, and comes to the surface at about 105 F.  There are 5 soaking pools and another pool for smaller children, along with a sauna and a regular swimming pool. All the pools are clean and well maintained.  There were lots of times when we were the only ones in the pools so we found it very relaxing.  I really enjoyed listening to the birds singing while I soaked.  I moved from pool to pool, both indoors and out and soaked up the moisture of the oasis after a week in the desert dust.  The lushness at Sam’s is a really nice change from the desert.

Children are everywhere here and it is a great place for them to run around and enjoy the outdoors.  While we were here, we never felt crowded – there was lots of space and many different types of areas to relax in.  There is lots of shade at Sam’s so we didn’t have to worry about the desert sun, but we could step out of the shade to dry off instantly in the desert wind.

Sam’s is one of the best RV parks I’ve ever seen.  It has loads of activities and great hot springs pools in a lush desert setting.  There are very few well developed hot springs in California and I count this as a great place to stay for an extended period, and especially good for families.  Because of the layout of the springs and pools area, it’s one of the few places where a parent can have a relaxing soak while still keeping one eye on the children.  Check out Sam’s Family Spa Hot Water Resort the next time you are in Desert Hot Springs!

T or C, New Mexico


Every week, I like to repost something I found that is a particularly interesting view of Hot Springs.  This week, I am posting a few great blogs and video about the town of Truth or Consequences in New Mexico.

The town was originally named Hot Springs, NM, but changed its name in 1950 when the game show Truth or Consequences offered to host the show from the first town to change its name – on April 1st!  For the next 50 years, the radio and TV shows were hosted from T or C during the first week of May every year.

Map of the Hot Springs in Truth or Consequences, NM

Map of the Hot Springs in Truth or Consequences, NM

There were over 40 hot springs resorts in town before WWII and while there are only about 10 active hot springs spas today there is also a renewed interest in the town.  In February 2015, Spaceport America announced that its visitor center will be located in the historic district of Truth or Consequences, NM.  If you want to know more about what’s going on in T or C, click here for the link to Sierra County information.

On Sierra County’s site, there is a regimen for 21 soaks in 21 days – click here to find out more from someone who’s done it!

Riverbend Hot Springs, from Living the Dream  Deferred blog

Riverbend Hot Springs, from Living the Dream Deferred blog

There are a lot of great blog posts on Truth or Consequences, including:

this one from the Blog of Funny Names,

this one from the Gentle Art of Wandering and

this one from Living the Dream Deferred.

 

But so far the best review I have found is this great video on Truth or Consequences from New Mexico True Tourism.  It’s enough to put Truth or Consequences on my bucket list of hot springs to visit.  Take a look and see if it’s a town you’d like to visit.

Baden-Baden’s Caracalla Therme

Emperor Caracalla

I think this was the first fully developed hot spring baths I ever went to. If you’re going to start going to baths, where better than in a town named Baths-Baths?  Baden-Baden is one of the most famous spa towns in Germany.  There have been baths here since at least Roman times.  The most modern of these is Caracalla Therme, named for the Emperor Caracalla who visited this town almost 2,000 years ago to treat his arthritis.

Twelve springs supply the 4,000 m² of pools and saunas at Caracalla Therme.  There are many different bathing areas, including a large “no-bathing suits” sauna section.  The overall feel is very clean, white and modern with a passing salute to Rome from the columns and statues by the pools.  There are three outdoor pools and some poolside seating but most of the baths and saunas are indoors.  It can get quite busy and the atmosphere is family friendly, accepting children aged over 7 years, so it can be good to go early in the day when there is less traffic.

In the adult only nude section, there can be older German men who unabashedly ogle women.  I was there with my husband so I don’t know how they behave with single women.  I took it in stride as a cultural thing – when you travel you can’t expect everyone to behave the same way they do in your home country.

hot springs aficionado caracalla bubble jetMy best memory of Caracalla Therme was the bubble jet bath.  I love underwater air jets, especially where these were located in the middle of a larger pool – it gave a real sense of airiness to the experience.  I loved the sensation of so many tiny bubbles massaging my body.  It gave me a tingling sensation running up my back and bubbling to the surface like champagne – it was almost a feeling of being immersed in a giant cup of bubbly Reisling, very light and airy.  Being surrounded by white columns and white statues gave a very classic feel to the experience!

hot springs aficionado caracalla whiteWe spent many hours at Caracalla Therme, wandering from one experience to the other, trying different scented saunas, relaxing in the outdoors area, dining, and always returning to the centerpiece pools with their tall glass solarium walls that marry the feeling of being indoors with the feeling of being open to the air. That was my overall memory of Caracalla: a sense of airiness and openness.

In the lobby is a fountain from which you can drink the waters – at the time I went, little telescoping cups were provided as souvenirs, and I still have mine! The waters are from natrium-chloride springs and are quite strongly flavoured with salts and sulfur, so they taste medicinal and you won’t be drinking very much. The temperature at the main spring is 68C (155 F).

Add Caracalla Therme to your travel plans if you are going to the Black Forest – it’s a wonderful place to spend a day relaxing and recovering from your trip!  Watch the promotional video below to see more of the interior of Baden-Baden’s Caracalla Therme.

 

Google’s Hot Springs Themed Offices in Budapest

Gellert Baths, Budapest

Gellért Baths

The best news story about hot springs this week was the opening of Google’s new offices in Budapest, Hungary.  Budapest has long been known for its thermal baths and is often called the “City of Spas”.  There are 118 springs in the city.  Budapest is one of the few cities that continues the Roman practice of public baths, with 15 large public spas in the city. 

Google’s new offices in Budapest have been designed to celebrate this culture, with boardrooms designed to make you feel like you are soaking while you are in meetings and wooden seating in a sauna theme.  This design is sure to stimulate the creativity in the office!  For more pictures of this fabulous work environment, click on the photo below:

Google's Hot Springs Offices in Budapest

Google’s Hot Springs Themed Meeting Room

Shout out to Graphasel Design studios and Google for being Hot Springs Aficionados – making soaking culture a part of our modern lifestyle.

Soaking in South East Asia

from Soaking in Southeast Asia

from Soaking in Southeast Asia

Every week I try to re-blog someone else’s post on hot springs.  This week, I found four absolutely stunning sites by blogger J.H. Dubbeldam, who runs

Soaking in Southeast Asia,

Soaking in Siam,

Hot Soaks of the Himalayas and

the European Natural Soaking Society. 

His primary focus is natural hot springs – though he does include some developed springs and spas.  His blog posts are very thorough and in depth studies of what is going on in the world of natural soaking.  The layout and photographs are beautiful!  This is the place you want to be if you are looking for hot springs in Asia or for natural hot springs in Europe!  Check out his blogs right now and bookmark them for later!

 

from Soaking in Southeast Asia

from Soaking in Southeast Asia

Malaysia – Deal at Banjaran Hot Springs Retreat

BanjaranEnjoy 3 days at Banjaran Hot Springs Retreat for 855 euros, leaving from Kuala Lumpur. Click here for details.

This looks like a fabulous resort, with excellent Tripadvisor reviews. I haven’t been there, so if any other Hot Springs Aficionados can comment on it, please do!

Japan’s youngsters recommend cuisine, hot springs, in survey | The Japan Times

This was a great week for news stories on hot springs, and here is another one I wanted to share with you. The soaking culture is strong in Japan, and very much part of every day life, so it’s no surprise that when elementary and junior high school students were polled about what they wanted the rest of the world to know about Japan, they named Anime, food and hot springs as the top three.

For the full story, click here: Japan’s youngsters recommend cuisine, hot springs, in survey | The Japan Times.

Have a great read and a great weekend!

Signing Off from Tecopa Hot Springs

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On The Sorting Table at China Ranch

I only spent three days in Tecopa – that wasn’t nearly enough to even begin to explore this place!  I thought I had done my research before I went and I knew of 3 hot springs in the town so I figured I would have enough time to explore them along with a side trip to the China Ranch date farm.

In reality, there are at least 5 hot springs to visit in Tecopa.  There are ultralight tours, hiking and biking trails, Dumont Dunes and more.  The stark beauty of the desert takes your breath away.  The feisty Amargosa River sneaks up on you in Tecopa – I had to laugh at swatting away mosquitoes in Death Valley!  I didn’t spend enough time just looking at the rocks – who knows how many opals I overlooked?  Tecopa is a remote and deeply spiritual place, and I was glad to have met Lady Gaia on this trip.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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Al & Rhea, Hot Springs Aficionados

I met many great people in Tecopa, and I have a special shoutout to Al & Rhea, fellow hot springs aficionados, who told me about Saline – I didn’t get there in the end, but I will try to go another time.

The water here is great, soft and silky on the skin, with a mineral texture.  Every time I mix up the bentonite mud masque I brought back, the scent makes me feel like I could close my eyes and be back in Tecopa, in the desert.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe geology of the area, called the Amargosa Chaos, blew me away.  The path of that little Amargosa River from Beatty to Tecopa to Lake Manly is an astounding, hidden path.  Lake Manly?  Did you know that Death Valley is a Lake?  Lake Manly and Death Valley are the same place – its name depends on how much rain has fallen.  Very occasionally, rainfall makes Lake Manly reappear and the lucky few who are prepared can kayak across Death Valley… click here for the photos to prove it.  It’s proved yet again on the drive to China Ranch, as you descend into a canyon that is oh so obviously the bottom of a mud puddle.

It was much too short a time to spend in Tecopa, yet it was wonderful.  I learned so much there and later while completing these posts, about geology and history and the interplay between earth and water.  One thing I learned in Tecopa is that I feel deeply thankful that I am a Hot Springs Aficionado – this path has helped me meet wonderful people, soak in warm adventures, and enjoy life so much more than before.  So please join me and a growing tribe of other Hot Springs Aficionados as we share our stories, our favorite soaks, and choose to consciously live life in the hot springs of the world.

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This post is one of a series of on the Hot Springs of Tecopa; to see others, click on the links below:

Post #1: Tecopa Hot Springs

Post #2: Tecopa Hot Springs Resort

Post #3:Delight’s Hot Springs Resort

Post #4: Tecopa Hot Springs Campground & Pools

Post #5: Signing Off From Tecopa Hot Springs

Onsen-inspired ‘water walls’ can heat and cool homes, Hungarian inventor says | The Japan Times

There were quite a few interesting hot springs news stories this week and this is the first one I chose to highlight.  It shows how helpful hot springs can be to creativity and innovation!

Matyas GutaiMatyas Gutai got his inspiration for a new way to build walls in 2003 as he stepped in to a “rotenburo” (open-air hot springs) while he was in Japan studying sustainable architecture at the University of Tokyo.  His patented modern walls flow water to supply heat to the home combined with a geothermal pump that stores energy in the off season.  For the full story, click here: Onsen-inspired ‘water walls’ can heat and cool homes, Hungarian inventor says | The Japan Times.