Stuck in Chengdu over the Spring Festival holiday, I was suffering from cabin fever by the end of the first week. When friends came to visit and said they wanted to go to E'mei Shan, I jumped at the chance not because I wanted to go hiking, but because I'd finally get to try the hot springs. Over the years, I'd heard about various hot springs, usually the ones in E'mei or Chongqing, but never had occasion to go. Now was the time. E'mei has lots of hot springs, but the most popular seem to be those at the Lingxiu and Hongzhu Hotels, both of which are located near the Baoguo Temple Scenic Area.
If you want to go to a hot spring, first you need to buy a ticket. You can buy one at the counter, but if you ask around town, you're likely to find one at a cheaper price. Among our hostel (named 3077 for the elevation of E'mei Shan's Golden Summit), the restaurant we had dinner in the first night, and the shop on the corner, we could hardly walk 10 feet without being approached about tickets. Turns out the restaurant offered the best deal at RMB110 per person to Lingxiu (the walk-in rate is RMB168; the web site advertises a promotional rate of RMB98 for online bookings).
Lingxiu is a huge, "five-star" affair with attached hotel, restaurant, and teahouse. But the hot spring is the main attraction. After you enter the massive lobby, you're given a pair of slippers and directed to your locker in the changing rooms, which are divided by gender. You change into a bathing suit and are promptly given a nice, soft bath robe to lounge around in. Walk out into the public area, and you are in cold-weather paradise with more than 10 indoor and outdoor pools, all steaming hot. Each pool is a different size and shape: Some are like any typical public swimming pool, while others are organically shaped with rocks to perch on. Some have shallow water for kids to play in, and some have whirlpool jets. They even have pools with "doctor fish"—the small fish that eat dead skin. (We tried them. Weird, but worth the experience. Not for the ticklish!)
The feeling of walking half-naked from single-digit temperatures into hot-spring water is indescribably delicious. While my husband and his friends were trudging in the snow at the peak of E'mei Shan, the kids and the rest of us and were languishing in the hedonistic delight of 30-plus-degree mineral water. After just a few hours we decided to postpone our return to Chengdu until the next day—it was that good. In the late afternoon we came in from the "cold" and spent another hour or so in the misty indoor pools. When we finally left, I discovered that on the other floors of the hot-springs building are rooms for massage, TCM therapies, online surfing, and KTV, so between all those and the regular hotel amenities, an accomplished lazybones could probably idle away a couple days. I can't wait to go back.
Baoguo Temple Scenic Area Lingxiu Yuan
Lingxiu Hot Springs
Baguo Scenic Area Central Region
Hongzhu Shan Hotel
Next to the Baoguo Temple