Tips for your visit to the only natural hot spring in Singapore
Reopened recently on 4th January after a hefty $4.3 million facelift, the newly unveiled Sembawang Hot Spring Park is the hottest (literally and figuratively) park to visit at the moment. Urban legend has it that strange things usually happen in Yishun, but I couldn't resist driving there to check out Singapore's very own onsen.
First things first, how does one get to Sembawang Hot Spring Park? You could take a bus, Grab a ride or take a cab and be asked to drop off right in front where the sign is. If you cycle, there is bike parking available on site. If you are driving, the nearest carpark will be at block 114 Yishun Ring Road, which is a short 400m stroll over to the park.
From the entrance, you will walk about 500m along the Floral Walk before arriving at a small visitor centre with toilet facilities. Sembawang Eating House, a cafe that is right next door, serves local delights such as laksa, kaya toast and nasi lemak. The park opening hours are 7am to 7pm but the cafe hours are 8am to 8pm.
As the park is right next to Chong Pang Army Camp, I thought it was a rather unique sight to see high security fences and tanks parked next door as I made my way towards the main attraction of the hot spring.
The park is not big but I think Nparks did a great job with the landscaping and educational signage along the way. That was how I learnt about the history of the hot spring and the interesting trivia with the timeline since its founding in 1908.
I walked across the lawn and through a naturalised stream with warm water to get to this beautiful giant tree. I highly recommend getting your feet wet and walking in the naturalised stream to feel the warm water running through your toes. Something tactile as this can truly awaken the senses in us, by encouraging us to be childlike in our exploration. Not to mention, you can get to this awesome tree, an IG-worthy spot to take some pics. I was in awe of this tree that I almost forgot about the hot spring, the real reason why I was here in the first place.
Those who know me well will know that I avoid crowds like plague; the real reason why I usually head to the trails on weekdays when I can count the number of peeps I see with my two hands. Even though I went on a Monday afternoon at 1.30pm, there was still a crowd of easily more than 50 people soaking their feet in hot water.
Wooden buckets and ladles are available for communal use, a really nice touch by NParks which I hope won't be abused by the public. Even on a supposedly "quiet" weekday, all the big buckets were fully taken up. My tip is for you to bring your own pail to avoid disappointment if you are coming all the way here to soak your feet. Imagine setting up a pail-for-rental-business here. Idea! Ok, but I am just kidding.
If you fancy making your own onsen eggs, the water here get as hot as 70°C. Small tubs are available for public use but I highly recommend you bring your own, and maybe your own dark soy sauce and pepper to complete your local soft boiled egg experience.
There is board nearby explaining the source of the hot spring water at the educational zone. Pretty twilight zone stuff that we get hot spring only at this spot and kudos to the Chinese merchant Seah Eng Keong for discovering it in 1908!
The cascading foot bath is a clever and efficient use of space, and offers hot spring water with varying temperatures (from 40 to 70°C) for collection. That's why I highly recommend to bring your own receptacle to collect hot spring water for a private foot soak in a quiet corner away from the crowd.
I didn't go all the way and not get my feet wet. Hence, I stood in the lowest tier of the foot bath in the 40°C water and took a pic to time stamp my "been there done that" moment.
I think it is quite a 'Uniquely Singapore' experience that you should give it a go at least once. Be prepared for the crowd during the first few months and much worst on weekends. If you have the luxury of time on a weekday, it will be a more pleasant experience without having to fight with the gazillion number of people who are looking to dip their feet in hot water.