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Categories: CultureExperience
| On 5 months ago

The Hot Spa — a hidden slice of nirvana in Singapore, at the heart of Katong

I sit shivering in the back seat of my Grab as I watch the raindrops patter furiously against the car’s window panes—what a perfect day for a steamy, hot spa, I thought. I am on the way to Hot Spa at Roxy Square in Katong, and although I am not really a spa kind of person, I am looking forward to it because the weather is wet and cold and this body desperately needs warmth. I have no idea what to expect.

Reviews of Hot Spa on Facebook were mixed—some mentioned the obscurity of its location, others mentioned the facilities being old and outdated. Most say it is a nice, relaxing place to chill in though, so I had little to go with in terms of preparing for what is to come.


The old dame of Katong

I reach Roxy Square amidst battering, heavy rain, and dash out of my Grab only to find myself along an unsheltered East Coast Road.I should have set the drop off location as the Marine Parade Road Entrance, where there exists a proper, sheltered drop-off point at the Grand Mercure Hotel entrance.

Credit – Tripadvisor

Safe under shelter, I shrug myself dry with my hands and head upwards on the escalator before me, which I assume leads to the entrance of the mall. After scanning the Safe Entry code and checking my temperature, I enter the mall through a pair of glass doors, only to be hit by an invisible wall of ice which sent a straight chill through my entire body. The air-conditioning inside is crippling cold.

Credit – SRX

The corridor before me stretches out for as far as the eye can see. The shops here look old, I thought, as I walk past an elderly man sitting outside a well-kept store peddling vintage audio equipment. I take a sneak peek within and see a gramophone sitting majestically, and awkwardly amidst more familiar electronic hardware . So far, no spas in sight yet, so I continue walking.

The spa’s unit number is #03-00, but there only seems to be one floor in this mall.

I continue all the way straight, passing by a large stairwell on my right until I reach the end of the corridor. Finding a lift carriage there, I step in and press the third-floor button.

The lift doors open, only for me to be greeted by the dark, stuffy air of an empty, multi-storey car park. I am confused. There is not a single shop in sight here, so I must have taken a wrong turn. I walk back into the lift, returning to the floor I was on originally.


Getting deliriously lost

I head back down the same, freezing corridor I had walked along earlier but this time, taking the stairwell I had intentionally missed. To my dismay, it only leads to the second floor—still no sight of the elusive third floor. The mystery deepens.

The shops on this floor are equally as forlorn—most are nail and hair salons, travel agencies, and small businesses. They don’t look like they get regular customers, too. Most of the shop owners inside look at me like I was a lost sheep while I walk by with searching eyes.

I feel like I am in a far-less-glamorous (if you can call it that) version of a much smaller, Far East Plaza. Eventually, I make my way out of a door which leads to the escalator I had taken earlier. Back to square one, it seems.

Exasperated, I am on the verge of asking a security guard for directions before I notice a small L-shaped staircase in front of me leading to the floor above.

I feel skeptical, but this is the only access to the third floor I’ve come across since I entered this mall, so I walk towards it. After making it up the first flight of stairs, I see a red-and-white logo set against a black lightbox, in the most 80s typeface you can imagine, spelling out “Hot Spa”. Beside it, a small, glass door no bigger or grander than a typical entrance to an HDB apartment. All in all, it’s the epitome of nondescript and unassuming—almost as if it doesn’t want to be found.

Finally, I have made it to the entrance.


My first impressions

I open the glass door and a long, dimly-lit corridor stretches out before me. By now, I am no longer fazed by stretches of space, having walked the round in my search for Hot Spa. This must be the back entrance.

I continue walking past the massage rooms which lay on both sides of the corridor while occasionally taking a peek into the rooms. The rooms look pretty comfortable, and clean.

The corridor takes a sharp right turn, leading to the main lounge area. There is a small reception table at one side, and I see small groups of men sitting leisurely around tables in golden and brown kimonos, chatting in hushed voices while on their phones or watching television.

Credit – Facebook

Behind the reception table, a sharply-dressed lady approaches me with curious eyes. I tell her I am there to use the facilities, and so she leads me past all the men who are visibly trying to mask their surprise at perhaps seeing someone of my age visiting the spa, to the main reception area.

There, the lady introduces me to a receptionist. For S$50, I am allowed to use every single part of the facility which includes a sauna, a steam room and hot and cold pools until 10.30pm. A thing to note—these facilities are open to men only. As the time is 6pm, I have a total of 3.5 hours to enjoy the facilities. For that price, I feel that it is worth it.

Credit – Facebook


Price-wise

For S$38, you can add on to the usage of facilities with a 60-minute foot reflexology session. For S$60, you can get a Shiatsu or Swedish massage session without the usage of facilities.

They also have a combo deal—S$90 for a 60-minute Swedish massage session including the usage of the spa facilities, and S$78 for a 45-minute Shiatsu massage session inclusive of spa facilities.

The receptionist is cordial and friendly, and since I am suffering from a blocked ear, I decide to add-on to the facility usage with ear candling, which costs me an additional S$38. As I make my payment, I notice a man standing beside me, who I initially thought was another customer.

Out of the blue, he asks, “First time here?”.


A personal guided tour

“Come, let me show you around,” he chirps with a smile. This man must be the boss of the place, I think as I collect the keys to my locker. I accept his kind offer with a nod and a grin and follow him as he gives me a walk-through, starting off with the well-maintained changing area.

The changing area is clean, comfortable and well-lit. My orientation walk then leads me to the sauna and steam room area, which sit beside the hot and cold pools. These areas are, in general, quite tidy and cosy-looking, and it got me feeling excited to try them.

Credit – Facebook

Matching shorts and kimono tops are available for customers to change into along with plenty of towels and slippers. They all look regularly washed and snug, although it seems thin and slightly worn to the touch.


Indulging in relaxing bliss

My little tour concludes in the main eating area. There are three options on the menu—roasted pork rice, glutinous rice and kway teow soup. I have thirty minutes to spare before my ear candling appointment, and I am feeling a little hungry, so I decided to give the food a try.

I order the Kway Teow Soup, along with orange juice. The food tastes home-cooked and reminds me of comfort food you can find in a Kopitiam. Overall, I have no complaints—it is simple, tastes good, and a welcome respite on a cold, wet day.

As I sit eating, I look around me and observe decor. The walls are plastered with a golden wallpaper, and a deep, red repeating pattern adorn the carpets on the floor. What a gaudy colour combination, I think to myself—this place, though clean, is clearly designed in the past. A few Chinese-styled ornaments scatter around, which I assume is for an added touch of faux luxury.

Credit – Facebook


The ear-candling commences

The place undoubtedly targets a specific clientele, as I notice that I am the only young, Malay man amongst a bunch of middle-aged Chinese men. I stand out like a sore thumb, but the hospitality shown to me by the staff so far is commendable and made me feel at ease.

As I finish my bowl of soup, the time for my ear candling appointment conveniently approaches. The lady who greeted me earlier now introduces me to a masseuse. The masseuse leads me into one of the massage rooms, where I place all my belongings on a side table and lay on the massage table, ready for my treatment.

The whole treatment lasts 30-minutes and includes a thorough neck massage as well as the cracking of my back and joints. It is pleasantly calming, as I catch myself almost falling asleep at many points. The masseuse is clearly experienced.

Unfortunately, it did little to ail my ear blockage—I leave the room with my ear still blocked.


The Onsens of Hot Spa

Feeling rejuvenated, I head out to the changing rooms, excited to try the other facilities the place has to offer. After placing my belongings in the locker, I walk straight towards the main pool area. This is the place I have been waiting to try since I got here.

There are four pools in total—a large pool to the left with a row of submerged reclined chairs, and three pools to the right. Two of these pools are steaming hot jacuzzis, while the one in the middle is filled with ice, cold water. I place my towel by the side and dip my body in the jacuzzi.

Credit – Facebook

The water feels a little too hot at first, but after a few minutes, my body quickly adjusts itself to the temperature and I warm up to it instantly. I sit idling in the pool, feeling relaxed and at ease, my mood instantly lifting. For entertainment, an old Chinese soap drama is playing on the television set by the pool area, which further confirms my observation that Hot Spa seems to be catered for a certain clientele.

I stand up to try the middle pool, only to find the water there ice cold to the touch—I cannot imagine dipping myself in it. I watch as another customer slowly submerges himself, shivering. I think this pool is added to reset the body’s temperature so that when you use the hot pool again, it will feel as hot as the first time you entered.

An hour passes, and I leave the hot pool to explore the remaining facilities. To my dismay, I see contractors walking around—the steam and sauna rooms appear to be under maintenance. I had passed by earlier, noticing that it was dark inside.

I take a peek anyway, noting that the rooms look pretty regular. They aren’t particularly large, and can fit around 10 people at its maximum. Feeling slightly disappointed, I pick up my items and head for the showers, which to my delight is clean and comes with a working tap for both hot and cold water.

After a pleasing shower, I head back to the changing rooms to change into my original attire. I see the man who had given me the tour earlier and he asks me about my experience, to which I reply that it was a good one. Bring my other friends the next time, he says.


Things to Note

If you’re thinking of visiting the Hot Spa, do note that the main entrance is located at the multi-story car park. If you’re driving, the best way is to park on the third floor of Roxy Square Shopping Centre, where you can see the main entrance on the car park floor itself. If you’re coming on foot, you can enter through the back entrance by following the route I took myself.

Though the facilities are not particularly state-of-the-art and the food is nothing extravagant, the place feels warm, comfortable, and most importantly, private. As an outsider and a first-timer, the friendly staff made me feel fantastically welcome and were attentive to every need I possibly had throughout. It’s the perfect place to detox and destress.

Would I come again?—for S$50, surely.

Hot Spa | Website | Facebook


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Noor Syafiq

Kopi cat.

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