So when I found myself being asked by Vicki Lin, who works for the Business and Tourism Department of Yilan County, if she could facilitate my writing about something special in Yilan, I asked her if she could arrange for Tobie and I to collaborate on an article and photo essay of my favorite Jiaoshi hot spring spa: The Art Spa Hotel. Less than a day later, Vicki had sorted everything out. Art Spa Management would be happy to host Tobie and I for a photo shoot the coming Saturday. When I asked if we could bring Tobie’s family along, they said The More the Merrier!
A few sentences ago I described Art Spa as my favorite hot spring spa in Jiaoshi
(a town known for this sort of thing; there’s actually a hot spring fountain in front of the train station). Later on I’ll tell you why, and in doing so expose my maturity level. But first, some description:
The entire front of Art Spa is taken up with an interconnected series of spas made up of various pools and channels filled with hydrotherapy gizmos of all description.
There are chest-level arrays of small nozzles that disperse hot water at high pressure towards the mid-section, large overhead pipes that pound head and back with wide angle pressure sprays, underwater embedded lounge chairs upon which you can relax and be “floated” by gentle jets coming from below and even a couple of small “chamber-ettes” in which the push of a button sends water at you from every conceivable angle.
Also up front is a fairly amazing fountain set to go off at regular intervals. Very popular with the kids. Actually, the Art Spa itself is extremely popular with kids, for reasons which will become clear a bit later. All excellent features, any of which might be found in better spas from Taipei to Tainan. But not the reason why Art Spa is my favorite spa in Jiaoshi (and on my Taiwan top five).
Out back the Art Spa has a series of peaceful pools, each of different color, temperature & purported benefit. A bright magenta pool said to be tinted with wine, a green pool said to be flavored with tea, and several more. There’s a cold plunge (of no special color), and a number of other pools of varying shades.
The back is more subdued, also containing a few warm stone beds and both wet and dry saunas. I brought my sister there in 2009, and I suspect it was this back area that sold her on the charms of Art Spa. Lovely though it is, it isn’t my favorite part of the spa.
Neither is it the upstairs restaurant, where we were fed a meal that was almost too good, nor the Japanese-style restaurant downstairs where we had breakfast the next day and I realized how much Taiwan has changed since I first came in 1994 when it was impossible to get a good cup of coffee. (Now it’s impossible to get away from the stuff).
All of these are good things. But these alone aren’t the things that keep me coming back to Art Spa.
That thing, friends, is this:
Tobie, who’s forgotten more about the photographic arts than I’ll probably ever learn, tells me that context is key to any photo essay. In the event that previous photo – shot from the balcony of a room on the eighth floor of the Art Spa’s hotel section – needs context, here it is:
A frickin’ four story high waterslide.
A frickin’ four story high hot spring fed water slide!
Is it the world’s only hot spring fed waterslide? It’s the only one I’ve ever been on, or heard of.
And what a waterslide! It isn’t just that the mineral-filled spring water is just a tad slicker than normal water, nothing you notice until you’re plummeting through it on a chute. It’s the actual idea of the waterslide itself.
At some point someone was looking at a blueprint for an eight story spa / hotel with a full hydrotherapy lagoon up front, multicolored pools and sauna out back, a full restaurant on the second floor and six more stories of rooms ranging from Japanese-style Tatami rooms to Western-style Suites.
And somebody, during the planning phase, looked at one corner of the blueprint where not a lot seemed to be going on and said:
“You know what would be nice here? A four story hot spring fed waterslide.”
And someone else said:
And someone money said
“Excellent idea. We’ll build it right into the exterior staircase. Kids will go crazy for it.”
And then paid to have the thing built.
“That sounds wicked!” (or the Taiwanese equivalent.)
And if that isn’t awesome, I don’t know what is.
The Art Spa Hotel. Come for the Sweet Waterslide. Stay for everything else.
Special thanks to Vicki Lin, Kevin & Everyone at the Art Spa Hotel
Text: Joshua Samuel Brown
Photos: Tobie Openshaw