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Bangkok’s uber-centralized Sukhumvit area is home to a large community of Japanese expats. A number of streets that meander off the main Sukhumvit drag offer many Japanese-centric amenities including restaurants, massages, groceries and an authentic bare-it-all onsen experience.
Onsen is a Japanese word for hot spring but also bathhouses and resorts built around a hot spring. It’s a quintessential Japanese experience and one that the local expats have brought with them to Bangkok.
Benefits of Onsen
Due to its mineral composition, hot springs are often known for their healing powers. If you train actively in the strenuous sport of Muay Thai, onsens can be a great alternative to massage or supplement it for recovery purposes. If you are training Muay Thai in Bangkok, there are a few Japanese-style hot springs around town that you can visit to enjoy the following benefits:
Take it from the scientific studies that heat therapy has been shown to be efficient in reducing muscle damage after exercise. Muscles can recover best after exposure to warm temperatures like in hot springs. After a week of hard training, take time off to the hot spring can help alleviate the soreness and prime the body for more action.
Excessive training can actually lower the immunity system which is further exacerbated with being in a different country and climate. Soaking in hot springs have been known -or at least believed- to prevent common illnesses.
Nothing quite compares to a soak in the bath which has been known to relax nerves and reduce stress. Soaking in hot springs stimulates blood circulation, and is a calming experience. This needs no scientific proof. Anyone who has taken a dip in the bath tub knows the soothing feeling that is one of the simple pleasures in life.
Word of Caution
Hot springs can be pretty hot, measuring at around 37°C or 98°F. It is advised to be well-hydrated and to not stay in the pool for long periods. This is particularly important for first-timers who may experience dizziness. Take it slow, and soak for around 10 minutes in a pool, alternating among the different pools and drink water if necessary.
There are a few basic onsen etiquette to take note of and there will be signs around to guide. If unsure, just ask. Here are a few things to take note of:
- Go fully naked. And don’t stare. When speaking to another person, look them in the eye.
- Scrub yourself clean before entering the thermal pools, using the showering facilities provided. Sit down on the stools provided when showering to prevent splashing the people beside you.
- Leave your phones in the locker and do not snap photos in the bath area.
- No splashing please.
- Towels are not allowed IN the water.
- Soak up to around your shoulders. Head and hair above the water.
- Don’t be loud. Onsen is meant to be a calm and relaxing experience.
Recommendation: Yunomori Onsen
This is Bangkok’s first Onsen and remains the go-to for many local Japanese expats as well as other local Thais. It’s an authentic Japanese experience in a pleasant setting that comes with a cafe, and in-house massage services. After a first visit, it’s become a fixture on my itinerary each time I stop by in Bangkok.
It has an outdoor pool as well as several indoor ones with variations such as jet-powered and soda spa in addition to its standard bath. There is also a steam room and sauna thrown into the mix. Males and females spa facilities are separated as everyone goes full monty. The baths use water bought directly from the well-known springs of Kanchanaburi’s Wat Wangkanai, famed for the healing benefits.
I have not used the massage services but the prices are reasonable. Although I don’t see the need when the hot springs are more than adequate in relieving all of my muscle aches. Still, the option is there for those who desire to spend an entire morning of complete relaxation.
The next time you stop by in Bangkok for a Muay Thai vacation, make a trip out to Yunomori Onsen for an experience you will thoroughly appreciate. You can thank me later.