The Spa Not Quite Fit For A King

There’s something to be said for casually tossing off all your cares and clothes, and going for a hot steam and a long sleep

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I’m smoking a cigarette with three naked Chinese men in a hot bath and I feel great. That’s just the way things roll at Yang Wan International Spa Club on a Tuesday night. Situated in deepest darkest Wanjiang, this bona fide three and a half-star spa offers all kinds of manly fun. Ten years ago, this place would have been amongst the very apex of Dongguan luxury, yet today it somehow reeks of faded glory. But sometimes walking, or indeed bathing, amongst faded glory gives you one hell of a good time, and this particular bathhouse, its décor flecked in seventies bronze, brown and gold, does exactly that.

For a piffling 88 RMB (my mate Leo and I were charged 58 and we are not sure why) you get far, far more than a mere hot soak. The fun and games are endless. Thrown into the mix, there’s access to three hot baths of varying sizes, a nut-clenching icy plunge pool, showers, two saunas, a steam room, a gym, a clean swimming pool, a pool table, several ping pong tables, unlimited white towels, chilled flannels to cool off, and all that’s just downstairs . As fun as my imagination likes to think it could have been, discretion prevailed, we didn’t attempt to enter the separate women’s section, though we were assured the standards of their baths were just as good—anecdotal evidence suggests that the women invariably get a slightly watered down version (sorry) of such services in China.

The towels are not the fluffiest; there are no palm trees, no exotic virgins to fan you with palm leaves all day long, but can you buy a better 24 hour experience for the measly price of 88 RMB in the whole of Dongguan?

After you have thoroughly steamed, sweated, showered, brushed teeth, shaved and performed whatever ablutions deemed fit, the staff, of which there are many, hand you a pair of comfy though not particularly stylish blue pajamas, after which you are escorted upstairs to the next level. A fruit buffet the size of a bus awaits, and you grab whatever you want (oranges, apples, watermelons, pears, guavas, etc, etc), where what is surely a teenage boy expertly peels, chops, slices, and plates up your fruit for you to sit down and eat with a cup of tea, coffee, juice or whatever else take your fancy, all for the set price.

Upstairs the sexual segregation is no more and men and women of all ages, often with children in tow, sit around to chat, gossip, smoke, and generally loaf, thoroughly relaxed after downstairs steamy activities. There’s a buffet too, which comes in four rounds, though there is a surcharge: breakfast (28 RMB), lunch (48 RMB), dinner (58 RMB), and midnight snacks (32 RMB). It’s standard Chinese buffet fair and unlikely to win any food awards, but who on earth comes to a spa for the buffet anyway? After an hour or two splashing and sloshing, the appetite is high, and the buffet is welcome, getting wolfed down fast.

1215_spa2If all this doesn’t leave you satiated there are a range of spa treatments to try. Ear cleaning? No problem. Fish therapy? Of course. Back scrubbing? Done. A pedicure, perhaps? The list goes on, and that’s before we get started on the endless massage options: TCM, Japanese, Turkish and many others, starting from 148 RMB per 60 minutes. And if all this hasn’t tired you out, which it surely has, you can lie down in a darkened room with row upon row of comfy sofa beds, each with its own pull-out flat screen TV showing sports and all manner of bad Chinese TV. If you want a longer more private doze, there are even individual sleeping pods—your 88 RMB lets you stay for a full 24 hours, a price for which you can barely find a crummy hotel in the whole of Dongguan.

For those of you that demand the apogee of luxury, Yang Wan International Spa Club is not quite the place. The towels are not the fluffiest; there are no palm trees, no exotic virgins to fan you with palm leaves all day long, but can you buy a better 24 hour experience for the measly price of 88 RMB in the whole of Dongguan? I doubt it. If you can, I want to know where.