By Laurent Lebouille
Fuzhou is blessed with plenty of Hot Springs, in the city as well as its surroundings. A trip to the Hot Springs can take anything from a few hours up to a whole weekend, depending on what you want to spend – and how much you like Hot Springs. Usually people plan trips from Fuzhou that take about half a day or so.
There are many places that offer ‘Hot Springs’ and although most are genuine, the amount you pay and what you get for it varies considerably. Overpaying for a ‘Hot Spring’ that is not clean or even of questionable morality can be a far from relaxing experience. This article is about the Gui’An Hot Springs, which are not the most luxurious of all options, but are widely acclaimed by locals and expats as the best value for money in the area.The Hot Springs near Fuzhou are natural sources of hot water that is heated below the earth in the volcanically active soil. The heat pushes the water up through cracks and caves into surface wells, that are used to fill numerous baths of all shapes, sizes and temperatures. The water holds a special, constant mix of minerals that in combination with the right temperature is said to be beneficial to the human body. In addition, most Hot Springs are scented or infused with other herbs, drinks, flowers or even filled with live fish that in turn have their own claimed effects. Whether you want to go to the Hot Springs to enjoy the healing powers of the water, herbs and air or you just want to escape the hustle and bustle of the big city, you’ll surely have a relaxing and revitalizing experience there. If you choose the right place to go.
Just bringing friends and chatting while walking from one bath to the next is a very relaxing and enjoyable thing in itself and for most that’s the main reason to visit the Hot Springs. I for one experienced their healing powers too, as the Hot Springs prevented my incumbent hangover from materializing that day. A very good reason for visiting indeed!
Practically speaking the Gui’An Hot Springs are like many others, which means it’s an outdoor venue where all wear bathing suits and all the basics are available. You are provided with a private locker, a pair of slippers and a bathrobe and towels, so just bringing a bathing suit will be enough preparation. Take a spare towel from the showers there when it’s cold out; you’ll need it.
Once inside there is a choice of more than fifty baths which – supposedly – all have their own characteristics. For some this is obvious: there are baths with Chinese herbs (not to miss!) flowers, milk, wine etc. For others the distinction lies in their water temperature, bubbelicious massage tools, fun playing installations for kids or scenic surroundings. After a while the more standards baths don’t seem to differ much from each other however. The Hot and cold waterfalls are another treat, and a good closer for the day (always end cold!). Finally, there are special services like salt baths, volcanic grit tubs and the must-try fish bath, but they all require an additional fee of 35-95 RMB. Check the board behind the waterfalls and be the judge of their value for money yourself. There is a way to buy cheaper entrance to these with coupons in advance, see the section ‘tickets’.
The Gui’An hot Springs are located on the northern route to the city of LiangJiang (连江) from Fuzhou, downstream of the Pandu river and South East of the area of the QiShan mountains.
When To Go
Timing wise, two things will influence your Hot Springs experience: weather and people. The first is not so important, although very cold weather can be uncomfortable when walking from one tub to the next, while very hot weather can be a bit much when combined with 41’C hot baths. Rain is also not very comfortable, although most smaller baths have a roof over them. But in the end, any weather can be Hot Spring weather if you’re up for it. Try to choose a cool, slightly overcast day if you can.
The number of people will have the biggest effect on your relaxing experience, though it’s a factor that’s rather straightforward to influence. Choose a weekday outside the Chinese holidays and go early to have a romantic experience and not be bothered by hordes of people; choose a weekend day in a public holiday if you enjoy sitting armpit-to-armpit in a pool… We visited on a ‘normal’ Sunday morning with very good Hot Spring weather and still managed to enjoy a lot of baths just by ourselves, so that is still a good option.
Getting there by car is the easiest way to travel, see the map above or find this in Google Maps: 贵安温泉旅游度假村. That should also be enough for any local driver to understand where you’re going. There is a toll road on the way so bring some cash for that.
If you don’t have a car, a taxi would be a very expensive option. Rather, taking the bus from Minjiang Hotel 闽江酒店 on Wusi Lu 五四路is a very convenient option. The bus tickets are only XX RMB return fair and can be ordered together with the entrance tickets (see section ‘tickets’). This bus departs at 09:00AM at the hotel and leaves the Hot Springs at 01:30PM or 08:30PM.
A third option is to get the normal bus to the nearby village of XXXX for around XX RMB and walk the distance to the park entrance. Be aware that the last normal bus back to Fuzhou departs 05:30PM.
There is a big hotel attached to the Gui’An, which we haven’t visited. But here’s the link to its Trip Advisor page: http://www.tripadvisor.com/Hotel_Review-g1649148-d1649212-Reviews-Gui_an_Hotspring_Tourism_Resort-Lianjiang_County_Fujian.html
Bringing food is allowed (or condoned), but there is an area where snacks can be bought as well as a buffet restaurant for lunch or dinner. These are expensive though (RMB100 for buffet) so bringing a few snacks would be a wise thing to do if you’re on a budget. I haven’t tried the buffet so have no idea if it’s good value or not.