In the middle of a hectic month (or more accurately, past three months) of work and school, the holiday weekend was a welcome break. It also felt like a great time to try new things, like stripping down and slipping into an Onsen pool.
An Onsen is a Japanese hot spring meant for beautifying the skin and relaxing the body. While the earliest Onsens (and many that still exist today) are geothermally heated, there are now some man-made ones that replicate the experience without requiring you to make a trip to the nearest volcano. One such can be found at I’m Onsen Spa at I’m Hotel, Makati.
Onsen water is believed to have healing powers due to its mineral content. It is said to ease neuralgia and other muscle pains, as well as the symptoms of chronic skin diseases. The heat and pressure of the Onsen experience is known for having a calming effect and bringing about a relaxed, meditative state in those who take advantage of it.
Although the water at I’m Onsen Spa isn’t flown in directly from a volcano, according to their website, “state-of-the-art technology mimics the chemical composition of natural hot spring waters in Japan” in their gender-segregated Onsen pools.
Access to the Onsen came with a staycation package we had bought. The lady at the desk gave out towels and locker keys. As instructed on the signs at their facility, I took a quick shower before getting into the pool. Per tradition, you are not allowed to wear any kind of clothing – not even a bathing suit – in the pool. When I walked up, a group of about five women were wrapped in towels by the side of the pool. They had elected to go in only up to their knees, and they left shortly after I arrived.
The pool is split into one long, narrow section and one large, rectangular section. After the group left, my only companions were two ladies in the narrow pool who appeared to have come in together and one other lady in the large pool who was quietly sitting on the ledge.
Everyone politely gave each other space and avoided any lingering looks, but it was still a little awkward. I considered just sticking my feet in, too. Then I thought, the room is strategically darkened, everyone is minding their own business, and I’m already standing here in my towel, so I might as well give it a try.
I bundled up my towel and set it on a dry spot near the edge of the pool. I sat down slowly so that my body could adjust to the heat. Once I was settled, the first thing I noticed was a kind of film on the surface of the water. I knew that it wasn’t just water in the pool, but I was curious as to what this other stuff was. I leaned over to look at the signs posted nearby but didn’t find any answers. I thought about looking it up on my phone, but then I remembered I hadn’t brought it with me. I didn’t want it to get wet, and I also didn’t plan on taking pictures since that probably would have made the other women uncomfortable.
I shrugged it off and just enjoyed the pool. The heat was nice once my skin adjusted to it. It’s also supposed to improve blood circulation and increase metabolism. I can’t speak to the medicinal properties of the Onsen based on just the one try, but my muscles and mind were most definitely relaxed after the 15-or-so minutes I spent in the pool.
I was so relaxed, in fact, that I made the mistake of washing off too soon afterwards. You’re supposed to wait a few minutes, or just don’t rinse off at all, to get the full benefits of the minerals in the water. However, washing off immediately after getting out doesn’t have any negative impact on your body, it only lessens the effect a bit.
The package we got also included their signature one-hour massage. The spa recommends that you use the Onsen before the massage to “prepare your skin”, which we did, though with a bit of a gap in between. The combination of the Onsen and the massage was fabulous. By the last couple of minutes, my brain had gone to a happy place and I lost track of time.
I’m Onsen Spa also offers a steam room and sauna. The hotel has an outdoors pool with cushioned bird cages and a glass bottom. The spa treatments and hotel facilities are separate, but they offer several packages that combine the two, and getting from one to the other is only a matter of elevators.
All spa treatments include access to the Onsen and other wellness suites. Massages start at Php 1,550.
I believe that the packages that the hotel offers have great value for money. That said, this was a special occasion, and not everyone can afford to put out some extra cash in one go. That’s why this is “part 1”. There are multiple Onsen hotels in Laguna with more budget-friendly rates, and part 2 will be about one of them. I’ll link it here once I’ve written it up – which will of course be after I’ve actually gone to one.
I’m Hotel and I’m Onsen Spa are located at 7862 Makati Ave., Makati. For reservations and inquiries, check out their website. Also take a look at the spa menu. Some of their packages include a buffet dinner, which I also recommend.