It’s a beautiful Tuesday morning in June and I’m cursing cars left and right, pushing my sunglasses over my head every few minutes to squint at the map on my phone. I’m cycling to Spaview Hot Spring World (or Shunjing as it’s known in Chinese), a long-running hot spring resort that claims to be the largest in the world.
It’s located diagonally across Fourth Ring Road from Ikea, but I’ve gotten entangled in the labyrinthine service roads around Siyuanqiao. I get stuck trying to cross Jingmi Lu and end up shimmying my bike underneath a hobo bridge, lugging it up a flight of stairs and up again over a pedestrian bridge. By the time I arrive at the hotel, I’m sweaty, dirty, and cranky.
Spaview may be Southeast Asian-themed, but make no mistake – it’s a hot spring resort with Chinese characteristics. The women’s side has an impressively campy selection of swimwear for sale, with off-brand toner, moisturizer, hairspray, and fluorescent wide-toothed combs set out for use. Like most locker rooms in China, guests tend to walk around in nothing but their birthday suits – something to keep in mind if you’re uncomfortable with nudity around your kids.
After changing and putting away my stuff away, I’m given a locker wristband and a small re-sealable plastic bag for my mobile phone – priorities, you know. When I descend the two flights of stairs to the hot springs, I’m pleasantly surprised to find a light-filled atrium with high glass ceilings and a carved pastoral scene on the far wall. Below, there’s a large koi pond with tropical greenery growing over the banks.
The path on the left side of the pond leads to the children’s pool, a 1.2m-deep swimming pool with slides. Several smaller hot spring pools are scattered along the sides, so parents can have a soak once the kids are done playing. There’s also a lazy river ringing the children’s pool, but inner tubes must be purchased from the venue for RMB 58-100.
Further down the path are the medicinal hot springs and the “grotto” – a man-made cave with multi-colored floodlights and one large pool. The path on the right side of the koi pond leads to the grownup swimming pool, the “Japanese-style area” (a darkened room with wooden slats instead of stones around the pools), and a snack bar.
At the furthest end of the floor, next to the grotto, are the outdoor pools. A number of covered hot spring pools are arranged on split terraces with landscaped trees and hanging flowers. Several pools have tiled massage beds activated by waving a hand over a motion-sensor button. Just be careful around young children, as the jets can be quite strong. In a shaded corner, there’s a small children’s pool with slides; if you’re lucky, the covered hot spring pool directly facing it will be free and you can watch the kids while getting a water massage. On a blue sky day with a gentle breeze, it doesn’t get any better than this.
Entertainment value: Though I didn’t try any of these, Spaview has a movie room with reclining seats, private mahjong rooms, table tennis, and billiards. There are also fish pools and Chinese-style massages, which cost extra.
Cleanliness: I was impressed by how clean and comprehensive Spaview’s facilities were, especially given the size and age of the place. There were plenty of bathrooms with clean sit-down toilets, toilet paper, and soap. The showers had towels, shower gel, shampoo, and conditioner.
Family-friendliness: There were a couple of Chinese families with toddlers and school-age kids when I went; they seemed to be having a blast splashing around and going down the slides. Most of the outdoor pools are covered. The children’s outdoor pool section is located in a corner sheltered on two sides by the main building, so it’s also protected from the sun. Though I didn’t see any changing tables, there are plenty of surfaces and counters that would serve in a pinch.
Service is friendly and prompt, but the lack of English may be an issue for some families. Another drawback is that outside snacks aren’t allowed, so families might consider having a light meal before their visit. Bottled water is provided for free. Baby bottles and some other personal items can be taken downstairs, but they must be put into a transparent plastic re-sealable bag provided by Spaview. Cameras aren’t allowed.
Value for money: The regular price is RMB 198 for the hot springs and RMB 98 for the lunch buffet. I got a group buy deal on Dianping for RMB 205 that included both – pretty good for a choice of 90 hot spring pools, lunch, children’s sections, a grab bag of other activities, and clean facilities. All I had to do was show reception staff the text message with my Dianping booking number.
In a nutshell: Spaview was overall a very pleasant experience. Its location within the city makes it perfect for a quick getaway and it’s unlikely you’ll need to share a pool with anyone. That said, try to go on a weekday; you’ll have the entire place to yourself.
Food: The restaurant is located one floor up on B1 and accessible by elevator. The buffet is a mix of Chinese cold appetizers and mains, sushi and sashimi, a perfunctory selection of desserts, and half-hearted attempts at international dishes like pizza and – oddly enough – Indian puri. I had trouble finding things to eat as a pescetarian, so vegans and vegetarians might have an even harder time. The snack bar on the main floor also sells soft drinks, nuts, chips, light meals such as soup noodles, and beer at extra cost.
Service: Even on a quiet day, there are employees stationed every few feet or so to guide visitors through the cavernous space. Most of them don’t speak English but there are enough bilingual signs that this isn’t an issue.
Hot Spring Safety Tips
Take a shower before bathing. Most hot spring resorts recommend not showering after bathing to get maximum benefit from the minerals in the water; the pools at Spaview were generally very clean, but considering this is China the decision is up to you.
Gradually adjust to the temperature by running the water over extremities like toes and fingertips first, and then work your way towards the heart. This dilates the blood vessels at the surface of your body and helps prevent dizziness.
Drink plenty of water to ensure hydration.
Never soak for more than 15 minutes at a time at an average water temperature of 40°C (104°F). The pools at Spaview varied from 37°C to 45°C (not counting the two swimming pools). Sit outside the pool for a break and re-enter once you cool down. Exit immediately if you start feeling nauseous, dizzy or sleepy, or begin perspiring heavily.
Rest at least 30 minutes after bathing. It can take two to three hours for blood pressure to stabilize. Wrap yourself in a towel or bathrobe to keep warm.
According to the US-based Association of Pool and Spa Professionals (APSP), infants and kids under age 5 should avoid hot tubs. Their small size and sensitive skin makes them much more susceptible to overheating.
Kids who are old enough to bathe should be able to stand at the bottom of the hot spring pool with their head completely out of the water, soaking for no more than five minutes at a time – especially at 40°C (104°F). They can stay a bit longer in water temperatures of 37°C (98°F), but no more than 15 minutes at a time.
Children should avoid complete immersion and sit on the “jump seats” located on the side of the pool.
Supervise kids at all times, regardless of age.
Spaview Hot Spring World 顺景温泉
Spaview is located diagonally across Fourth Ring Road from Ikea. From the street, you’ll be able to see the four large characters that make up its Chinese name. Daily 24hrs. Spaview Hot Spring Hotel, 2 Beisihuan Donglu, Chaoyang District (8442 0088, 8569 6688) www.shunjingwenquan.com 朝阳区北四环东路2号顺景温泉酒店（宜家斜对面）
If you have online banking set up, there are great group buy deals to be had on China’s foremost crowd-sourced review site. Just search 顺景温泉 and see what promotions are currently running. The one mentioned in this article expired on June 30, but new deals come up all the time. www.dianping.com
This article originally appeared on page 34-35 of the beijingkids July 2015 issue. Click here to read the issue for free on Issuu.com. To find out how you can get your own copy, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photos: Sijia Chen