Suffering from stiff joints, arthritis or rheumatism? Or, insomnia and other sleep-related discomforts? Why not consider a trip to the natural hot springs that are often said to contain rejuvenating healing properties? By this, I’m not asking you to splurge by spending a huge sum of money on overseas vacations to beautiful countries that are famed for their geothermal hot springs such as Taiwan, Japan or Korea. How about making a visit to Singapore’s only hot spring (on main island. The other hot spring is located on P. Tekong so we can forget about paying it a visit anytime soon!) that has been in existence since 1908? Yes, our very own hot spring! Bet that this is a little fact that you didn’t know about Singapore!
Brief History of Sembawang Hot Spring
1908 - Sembawang Hot Spring was founded by Chinese merchant, Seah Eng Keong
1909 - A bottling plant was built next to the hot spring to bottle the spring water for sale. The hot spring was renamed as “Seletar Hot Spring”
1921 - F&N bought over the company (originally known as Singapore Hot Springs Limited) and started advertising the spring water under brands such as “Zom” and “Vichy Water”
1942 -1945 – The area was taken over by the Japanese during WWII and used as a recreational thermal baths for their officers
1985 – The land was acquired by the government for military use
2002 - The hot spring was eventually opened to public, free for all
From my lens: A pictorial view of my virgin hot spring experience (and as silly as it might sound, I’m stoked that it all started in Singapore.)
For those who of you who are expecting to see a pool of hot spring nestled amidst lush greenery and floral (like those in Japan or Taiwan), I’m sorry to disappoint you but the reality is that you will be greeted by a concrete base with metal pipes channeling hot spring water. Probably, the only hot spring of its kind in the region. Doesn’t look too welcoming, does it?
The actual hot spring well that is hidden and locked behind the bars
While doing my research on the Sembawang Hot Spring, I came across this article (dated Feb 2010) in STOMP regarding the mis-use of the Hot Spring by this particular Chinese woman. To summarize it, the woman was spotted utilizing free water supply by washing her clothes with buckets of mineral water. A year later, we spotted this lady, with a gentleman whom I presume is her husband, turning a corner of the public facility into their own makeshift “home” (please see below). Not surprisingly, she was washing piles and piles of clothes with the free water (she claimed that the hot water is good to sterilize her clothes and get rid of all bacteria/dirt) and as if that’s not inconsiderate enough, her husband had intentionally left 3 taps turned on so that he can enjoy the steam from the hot spring. Honestly, this is exactly the sort of undesirable behavior displayed by these black sheeps that simply supports the stereotyping of this particular group of people.
Preparing a bucket of hot mineral water so that we can starting soaking our feet. Just in case if you were wondering, there are plenty of chairs and pails available within the area but do take note that it’s on a first-come-first-serve basis.
Enjoying our therapeutic foot bath! Water was pipping hot, said to be about 50-80 Degrees Celsius. We had to wait for about 15mins before we could even attempt to immerse our feet into the pail and even then, we had to constantly mix the water with cooler water (that had been left untouched for several hours) just so that it was at an ideal temperature (40-50 degrees?).
Spending an hour at the hot spring also gave us the opportunity to people-watch – Spotted a couple of guys, armed with empty containers, collecting containers-load of water to bring home. Most probably for the “detoxifying/healing” properties that the natural spring is said to have. It was also a hilarious sight to see people actually soaking themselves in makeshift bath-tubs! Yes, you heard me right … al fresco bath-tubs!
My verdict? As pathetic as it might look (3 of us sharing 2 buckets of water), I actually found myself enjoying this cheap thrill of pampering my tired and often abused feet (due to long standing hours at work). Very refreshing and therapeutic, highly recommended for those who do not mind a no-frills DIY hot spring session! You might also want to consider bringing eggs to cook, just for the thrill of it lol. Yes, apparently the water is so hot that you can whip up a yummy egg breakfast for yourself right at the hot spring! Am planning a weekend getaway to the Sungei Klah Hot Spring Park in IPOH with some of my girlfriends soon.
Operating Hours: 7am to 7pm
Address: Along Gambas Ave, in between the fenced-up military camps