Friday, November 2, 2007

Tokyo Drift - Episode 3

DAY #4
23rd Nov 06

We reached the hotel in Hakone. It was freezing cold. Wonder if the temperature dropped or it is colder here in the countryside. The main reason we are staying in this hotel is for its hot spring. I was so excited as I’ve never tried a hot spring before.

This hotel is pretty old or should I say ancient. It’s a bit run down and we have to use a key to open our room. No swipe cards or digital stuff here. I am talking about a really traditional hotel. The room door creaked opened. We turned on all the lights up the room was still dimly lit. Our Yukata was placed in our bed. As we don’t have much time, I immediately changed to my Yukata. Those that want to get into the hot spring is only allowed to wear the Yukata- and nothing else!

Barefooted, I walked out of the hotel room and into the second floor. Su opt out in the hot spring. So it’s just only me. We were told to go to the 2nd floor for the hot spring.
Now, the scary part had just started.

The lift door slid open. Su & I walked out and wonder where we were. On the right hand side appears to be a dining area. On the left hand side appears to be more dining rooms. Hey, this can’t be right. What if I simply walk around and check? But, I can’t simply walk around in this Yukata. It’s like someone walking around in a bath robe in a hotel lobby and accidentally stumbled inside a complicated wedding dinner. People with suits, ties and gowns staring back at you over champagne glasses. No way! I was about to get back to the lift when someone called from behind.

She was a an elderly woman and talking in Japanese to us. Her finger pointing forward.
“You mean the hot spring is this way?” We were ushered to the end of the left corridor.
Ahhh…here we are. The hot spring. The men and women’s hot spring are just next to each other. There was no door, just like a public toilet. I wonder since there is no security around, people can just simply creep into the hotel, go to Level 2 and access straight to the hot spring. Some guys from next door’s hot spring may just creep into the women’s hot spring as well. Now why am I worried about all this? Heh Heh… Well it’s not like we need to be naked or what? I guess I am yet to discover the truth.

Su and I went inside. The floors were matted and it appears that we just entered the powder room. There was a big stretch of mirror lining on one side of the room. There were hair dryers, soap and other toiletries ready for the guests. The other two sides were the compartment where the guests put their clothes as they get naked. Yes, you heard me right. I stood there for a while. Wondering what I should do. Can I walk into the hot spring with the Yukata and maybe undress there. Well, I don’t know so I opened the door that leads to the hot spring.

My eyes were a bit boggled as soon as I opened the door. I saw three of my tour mates inside the hot spring. All naked and wiping each other’s back with a towel. The older lady exclaimed to me “Hey, you need to take off everything before coming inside”

Okayyy, I closed the door and turned to Su again. Erm…OK this is strange but I am not coming all the way here to chicken out! I heard footsteps coming. Su was like “Hey, if you want to do it now, just be fast. Else more people will be coming and it will be worse” Ok. Ok. Oh well, they are not going to see me again right. And I am not going to see them again. So it’s all right. But hey, Su IS going to see me again.

Then the footstep stopped. In came an elderly lady. She got undress in front of us and went straight into the hot spring. So this is how it’s done. I shooed Su out of the room. She needs to get out as I she is not going in. So it’s not fair. Hehe…

Finally, she went out. I thought OK. Since nobody is here, I better do it quick. I quickly got out of the Yukata and suddenly I heard footsteps. Oh no! It sounds like a bunch of people coming in. I quickly slipped into the hot spring.

We have to take a quick shower before going into the hot spring. Finally, I dipped into the waters. The water was extremely hot but somehow soothing after being in the cold weather. Steam was coming out of the water. The bunch of people I heard earlier entered the spring. More and more people got into the spring. It’s kinda strange. Sharing a hot bath with a bunch of strangers. Ewk! I got out of the bath as it was getting kind of crowded. I turned and found a door nearby and voila! I found the open air hot spring. This one is kind of small but it’s haven. Soaking up in the hot spring under the stars-ahhh... I closed my eyes and feel all the pain in my body got washed away. I soaked for about 20 minutes and got out. The heat has got into me and my head started to pound. I got changed in the powder room and saw my face turning bright red. Feels like I am having a fever or the hot spring has got into me.

Off I went back to my room. I pounded my hotel room door. Mind you. This hotel is so old and traditional it does not even have a door bell. “Knock Knock!” I pressed my ear on the door and heard Su taking a shower. I knocked harder and called out. “Su open the door! Open the door!” The shower did not stop. Dang! This wooden door is too thick. Plus she has a bath room door and running water. If I wasn’t in my Yukata, I would have wondered somewhere else. Or at least get down to the reception getting a spare key. But judging that the receptionist could only understand minimal English, I am not prepared to go down with my Yukata trying to make some body language that I need a spare room key.

I continued banging the door. Further down the corridor, some opened a door. Foot steps. I stopped calling out for a while. Pretending to mind my own business while the patrons walked by. They smiled and wished Kombawa. Such nice and friendly people. As soon as ther lift door closes, I continued calling out for Su to open the door. My head was still pounding and I am beginning to lose it. Suddenly I heard from inside “Havana is that you?”

Su finally opened the door. She was like “Wow! I heard the bath room wall shaking earlier. I thought it was some Ju-On thing or the room was haunted u know?”

I was too tired to “beat” people up. Getting stuck outside for 20 minutes. I slumped on my bed. I rested for a while and I felt something was missing. Oh no! I have left my necklace in the powder room!

I grabbed Su along and went to the hot spring again. We searched all the baskets where stuff and clothes are placed (luckily no one was there else we will look like looters) We could not find my necklace  Some how inside, I knew some good Samaritan has taken it to the receptionist. We went down to the receptionist. Forgotten that they just understand minimal English, I talked in full complete English sentences. He looked up with a confused look. OK. Time to use some hand signal and body language. At one point, we thought he understood and waited for him to fetch my necklace. Then once again, he looked confused. “Chain? Necklace?” We point to our neck and making signs of a necklace.

“Oh! Chain!” He took out a plastic bag with my necklace neatly in it. “Yes! That’s my chain” I squirmed happily. Thanking him and bowing profusely.

By the time we got upstairs, we were already 15 minutes late for dinner. We quickly changed and got to the second floor for our dinner. As before, there are stretches of rooms to the left and more rooms on the right. The hallway was quiet with nobody in sight. So which room should we go?

We decided to start looking from the left wing. Suddenly a woman dressed in white called us from behind. She looked pale and spoke in an unfamiliar language. Hmm… creepy? But she is no ghost. Just merely a waitress dressed in white talking Japanese which obviously a language we still don’t understand. She pointed to the last room at the end of the right wing. There, we go! Our tour mates were all inside.

I was pretty pleased with the servings. Udon & sticky rice boiling under fire, tempura, cooked salmon, vegetable in sour sauce, shrimp, raw salmon, chawan-mushi, steamed tofu and pomelo. They are all served in perfect amount for every single person. Just a perfect, yummy and healthy meal. How I wish I could eat this every week. The food looks too beautiful to eat!
When we started our food, most of the tour mates were almost done with their dinner. You can tell who went for the hot spring earlier. Their face will look like a tomato! Well, that’s just a description on a quick lunch. Somehow, those who tried the hot spring looked slightly more radiant. I can’t wait to have a closer look at my face later. Ahem… Vainy-vain.

Strange enough I can’t remember sleeping in Hakone hotel. Maybe I was too tired to and feel asleep after dinner. Or I may be sleep walking to the hot spring. I hope not!

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