We jumped at the chance to spruce up an otherwise routine Monday with a morning trip to the recently revamped Sembawang Hot Springs, with friends. We decided to aim to reach the park at 7.30am and by the time we parked (nearest parking is at Blk 114, Yishun Ring Rd) and made our way there, the park was already teeming with with communal life and activity at about 8am.
The girls didn’t quite know what to expect as they had never been to a hot spring. Soon, we figured our way around.
There is a communal foot dipping pool with water of various degrees of warmth (40-70degrees). We realised after awhile why many people were huddled on one end of the seating area of the communal foot pool – because the water was not so stingingly hot there and more amenable to foot washing.
Over at the other end there was what appeared to be a sheltered area filled with wooden benches and seating. There were wooden pails and scoops hanging at the side of the covered areas in a quaintly cute fashion; almost Muji-like in feel and it was a nice feeling watching people carry heavy pails of water to find a spot to soak their feet.
Mostly elderly, some brought herbs and we soon observed the rolling of trousers and pants, and people using the scoops to pour water up to their knees; in a bid to soak up the benefits of the spring water.
There were interesting and curious users as usual. One man brought an entire plastic tub to soak himself in and another family brought a baby bathtub to bathe their toddler.
The water is actually too hot for immediate use. One has to wait a significant amount of time the water to be just the right temperature for soaking. The gushing water spews out generously from the tap and one has to be careful not to fill their bucket too full for fear of the hot spring water splashing on.
The girls, especially the 3yo, was hesitant to try soaking at first but after awhile acclimatised to the temperature and enjoyed two rounds of soaking.
Our lovely friends also brought the full works: kampong eggs, pots and condiments!
That was surely the highlight of our cozy trip- we had started the eggs to cook upon arrival and had to make about 5-6 changes of water over a 1hour duration for the perfect “even better than” Ya-Kun-styled eggs, sprinkled with pink Himalayan salt, a dash of soy sauce and pepper.
Pro-tips for cooking:
1. To cook your own eggs, bring a covered pot (steel preferably) and start them off with 70 degrees hot spring water before you go foot dipping.
2. Leave the eggs covered in the pot every 15-20min and change the water to keep it hot and under pressure.
3. Crack a test egg to check doneness. We tried this a few times with a few eggs to get it to the doneness we desired- about 1 hour.
Nparks has really envisaged a pretty cozy communal space that is unique to Singapore, to engage with nature and communal foot soaking. Crowded with urban cityscape and run of the mill malls that are a sine qua non of modern heartland living, this place is a breath of hot “spring” air.
We were pleasantly surprised by the thoughtfulness of the space and design in pulling disparate segments of life into one spot: not surprisingly, we saw many elderly folks, many who came with their spouse, daughters and sons, grandchildren. Some brought herbs and natural remedies to pair with their foot soaking experience.
It is easy to see why everyone is excited with the novelty and the possibilities of what one could do when natural spring water is made so available and pleasantly accessible. After all, the space beckons like a public spa of sorts that serves the common man- an idea that is pleasantly attractive and inclusive to all.
Hopefully, we can all do our individual part to preserve and protect the space for communal use in both big and small ways; thinking and using things with consideration of hygiene to other users and graciousness in sharing pails and not hogging amenities. I was touched to be on the receiving end of random acts of kindness from strangers who offered me their soaking pail and a seat to sit with my koala baby in tow. That made our visit to the hot spring so much more special.