Lexie and I woke up early to get a head start on going to a hot spring in Yangmingshan National Park. It is outside the city so we weren't sure how long it would take us to get there. We took the MRT then two bus rides before we reached the first hot spring. It took us about an hour and a half.
Traditional Japanese style hot springs have separate pools for men and women. They require that you wash yourself off with soap and wear a hair net before you go in completely naked. No silly swimsuits here folks. The two hot springs we went to on this day were not any different.
Lexie and I sit with our feet in the hot springs. They clean the pools regularly so we are waiting for it to open up. We find out we aren't alone when we walk up to the pool house, there are about 12 other women waiting, opening time is drawing near. All of these women are at least in their late 30's or older. As soon as it opens it's a mad rush to disrobe, wash off, put on a hair net and climb in. Awkwardly and slowly we do those things. One of them gives us soap since we didn't bring any. We watch them and try to re-enact the same important steps. Grab a ladel, fill it with water, crouch down, get all soapy, wash off and in the pool you go. Another one hands us a hair net as to not get hair in the pool.
Everyone in the pool looks so calm. It's not deep enough to swim (3 feet maybe?) so you sit. A nice lady gestures that you sit with your legs together so you don't show off your lady bits. Also don't touch your face and don't put your hand in the water after you touched your face. So you sit. And close your eyes. Relax. It's hot in here. Relax. You need to relax. Relaxing is hampered by the fact that you are naked with 20 some other women, these aren't the hot springs your used to. More women are coming in and following all the same steps. There are probably 30 women here, how are they going to fit into this pool?
Lexie and I are in the pool maybe 15 minutes when we start to feel faint. This hot springs is HOT! Around 100 degrees. We get out, stand in a little area outside and discuss whether or not we should go in again. We decide not to and go get dressed. It was free so we don't feel obligated to stay longer to get our money's worth.
The bus takes us to the town of Yangmingshan. There we grab a bite to eat and head to another hot spring. This one is in a hotel, it's one of the first Japanese style hot spring in Taiwan. We have to pay 100 NT for this one and wait again for it to open. We try to sneak by and wear our swimsuits but the two older ladies that are joining us insist that we take them off, one even pulled at Lexie's swimsuit. No hair nets though these women are wearing them. The water is even hotter so you have to ladel it over yourself just to get used to it.
As we go in for the first time we notice that we've turned greyish black where we went in the other pool . There is a black ring around our calves knees, shoulders, fingernails, it must be a chemical/mineral reaction from the last hot spring we were in. We freak out about it but that is the only conclusion we could come to. These ladies must think we're posessed or something! We take the pain of the hot water a couple times getting in and out. When we decide to leave one lady urged us to stay longer but we were feeling confused and exhausted.