Finding the pool is an experience in itself. Different people have different answers, which is quite stressful when you’re in your crocs carrying an unsightly plastic bag. Once you found the pool, you have to make sure it is open. For this particular pool, it is open from 6-7 in the morning and from 4.30 to 9.30 in the afternoon. If you’re lucky, its around seven in the evening. If you’re crazy, you’re looking at the sign at 5.30 in the morning.
First, you have to get a ticket – a very advanced Integrated Circuit (IC) card for ¥20 (for all ages). Afterwards, you must obtain a health pass for ¥5. How much you are ‘assessed’ depends on the time of day and most importantly, the health examiner’s mood. For some, she would just look at you in the eye and give you a stamp, valid for six months. For others, she would do the entire series of examinations, including the blood test and body fluid sample. I did not have the pleasure to have her company for so long a time. Normally, one would think there would be a turnstile to read the IC card. Instead, you have to give the card to the ‘reception’ and fork over the health card and another ¥40 as deposit, and in exchange, they give you a locker key.
They key has a very interesting design based on an elastic strap upon which the key itself is attached. If you’re too thin, or too fat, you will be unable to strap the key to yourself. The locker room is mildly unappetising. It is a dark and damp place where you have to be careful of splashes of water from the floor. Fortunately, there is no strange smell. When you are looking for your locker, you hope that it is not the one closest to the floor, where the rising damp might get it. The locker is split into two levels. The bottom one (I think) is for the shoes, and the upper compartment is (I think) for other dry items.
The bathroom is unfortunately placed in the narrow corridor leading to the showers. That means that you’ll need to pass by the bathrooms to get to the shower or get out. Disgusting either way. In Hong Kong, the bathrooms are between the pool and the showers, meaning that after you shower and exit, you are guaranteed to be clean. Also, there is a mandatory shower between the pool and bathroom to remove anything that might still be attached to you. Very nice. Not here.
Surprisingly, the showers here are very nice, with temperature control up to a blistering 34°C, with ample volume. After the shower (hopefully, you take it), you go into a footbath (still water unrefreshed for god-knows-how long) and head towards the pool. The 25m pool is horrendous: there are people swimming along both the width and length of the pool. As you can imagine, there is no way you can cross the pool without being slapped in the eye by flailing arms, or kicked in the stomach by people doing the breaststroke. If you’re like me, you’ll find yourself to be the only person in the pool who can swim properly.
The first thing you will learn is to look both ways when swimming. There are no lanes in the pool. If you try to swim like you normally do, you’ll ram your head into someone elses’ or you will be slapped, kicked or otherwise wiped out. Unfortunately, the water is very murky, so looking both ways won’t save you from the inevitable black eye or stomach injury. After half an hour’s swim, you would probably have drunk enough water to make yourself sick, in which case, you may relieve yourself in the pool, like the others. I don’t need to say anymore now, do I, except: swimming is good for health. Swim more!