Taiwan Day Nine: Hot Spa!

Today the family took us all swimming at a pool/spa about a mile away from the house. Mama goes here every other day and does 30 laps in their olympic size pool, as her way of keeping healthy. More on that later. Only recently Baba has decided to occasionally tag along. One day last month, when Mama was out of town, Baba decided to go swim alone, and being slightly cheap, didn’t want to pay for a locker key.
When he came back to the locker room, his clothes were gone! He had to walk home in just his swimming trunks, then realized that he’d locked himself out and now had no key. He eventually got in through an upper window, but the story is now “legend” around the family.
None of this happened today down at the pool. The center contains a lap pool right inside the main doors (the olympic butts up against the half-olympic length pool, the former much colder than the latter). Another section contains a large spa, with all sorts of ways to treat the body, from bubbling, submerged chairs, hot whirlpools colored with herbal remedies, and saunas, to steam rooms and a series of punishing hoses meant to massage the muscles. One hose sent a stream shooting out and down 50 ft into the pool. I watched an older man stand in its path, the jet pounding his back, sending a spray arcing out like a peacock’s plumage. When it was my turn, I found I could only stand in the way of this jet for two seconds. The pressure was up there with riot hoses–it felt like a knife in my back, and the first attempt knocked me off my feet. Less harsh, but still pouding, was a series of
hoses that blasted straight down onto the person, who was forced to lay on their stomach helplessly and maneuver the body into the most massage-worthy path. Outside there was a water park, but being the off-season, its canals and slides were all dry.
Mama challenged me to a lap in the Olympic pool, but I soon found out how knackering this was, and how out of condition I am. She lapped me before I was even half way. How embarrassing.
Much much later in the evening, Jessica and I went out by ourselves (with the help of Ken, who dropped us off) to the row of coffee shops that line a rather upmarket street to the north of town. We were surprised to see our favorite shop was still there: “Five Cent Driftwood House,” designed by a female architect/owner Hsieh Li-shiang from bricks and huge pieces of driftwood she’s collected over the years, as well as big blocky wood tables, stone sculptures, and other pieces of ephemera. There are two other versions in Tainan and Taichung, both slightly different.
Apparently made without a blueprint, it has all the warmth and homey feeling that most structures in Taiwan lack. It points a way forward for Taiwan’s architects, not that everything should be made out of driftwood. All their coffee pots, mugs, and plates are charming and hand-made too. The coffee was excellent and the free side of mochi (rice cake rolled in peanuts) was the single best mochi I’ve ever had, seriously. The texture was closer to jellified yogurt than rice. At last by ourselves, Jessica and I had a nice relaxing conversation, mostly about architecture. Ken came and picked us up and getting home I found that the Ali G movie “Ali G Indahouse” was on HBO, so I stayed up for that. Not exactly good, but oh well.

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