The Cold Thrill of Hot Spa in Jilin

08:40, January 13, 2011      

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Photo by courtesy of

Photo by courtesy of

Soaking in a hot spring is always a relaxing self-indulgent activity. I used to think of this too, but a recent plunge into a hot spring in northeast China's chilly Jilin Province proved that sometimes it can be a challenge as well.

Jilin is regarded as a perfect destination for enjoying winter's ice and snow wonders. But its abundant hot springs are also a popular draw. So on the first day of 2011, I flew to Jilin to enjoy not only its "snow world" but also its hot spring.

During Jilin's long winter, the average outdoor temperature is minus 20 degrees Celsius, and people are fully covered with hats, gloves and scarves, so they don't feel the extreme cold. But at one of the hot spring resorts on Jilin's outskirts, I ventured outdoors in only my swimsuit to enjoy the hot spring.

Of course, I stayed in the indoor hot spring for a while to heat my body up before I headed to the outdoor one. But when I stepped outside, the abrupt temperature drop – over 40 degrees Celsius—hit me hard, and I was attacked by the freezing cold. I could think of nothing but jumping into the hot spring over which hovered hot vapors. I was greeted by the steam and the sight of hot water forcefully gushing from rock crevices. The bubbles rising from the bottom of hot springs sounded like boiling water. Excited people shouted cheerily at each other, splashing water to make fun.

A few minutes later, I was able to adjust to the temperature. But when I touched my hair, the strands had turned into icicles. I had only seen such an effect before onscreen in a movie that was filmed in Hokkaido, the northernmost area of Japan.

Apart from tourists from warm southern China like me, quite a number of visitors at the hot spring were from Russia. Posing for photos outside the water, the Russian women were not only remarkable for their beauty, but also for their strong endurance of the cold.

What's more, a tourism festival highlighting Jilin's bounty snow and hot spa resources kicked off on January 5. The two-month tourism festival is also timed to celebrate the upcoming Chinese Spring Festival.

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