I first heard about Gokurakuyu (极乐汤), a Japanese-style bath house in Pudong, when I moved here two years ago, and this weekend I finally had a chance to visit. I am so excited to share information about this wonderful place, and know I will return many times.
I am a bath house fan. I lived in Korea for four years and was completely won over by the jimjilbang and sauna culture there. What a great way to relax, enjoy a good detox sweat session, and soak in a variety of hot pools featuring herbs and various health-inducing substances (in Korea, anything falling into this category was called "well-being"). If you've never been to a Korean or Japanese bath house before, just go with the flow and embrace all of the stages of the experience. You will love it!
When you arrive at Gokurakuyu, you'll be given a wrist band with a number on it. That not only opens your lockers (one for your shoes at the entrance, another in the change room) but will serve as your ID throughout the experience in terms of purchases. If you buy snacks at the snack bar or food at the restaurant, all you do is swipe your wrist band; you can pay your final bill when you check out at the end. You'll also be given a set of cute clothes to wear in the co-ed portion of the spa.
In terms of order of operations, you have some options at the spa. There is the co-ed portion involving rooms of various temperatures where you can lie down and relax. Some rooms are hotter than others, and there's a cool room, too, so you can begin to cycle back and forth between hot and cold to induce a good sweat/detox cycle. There are also zones for entertainment (in these zones you also wear your co-ed clothes) where you can engage in video games, pool, karaoke, and meals. There's a massage zone upstairs and then there is the single-gender saunas attached to each change room. These feature pools and saunas of varying temperatures; the norm here is to take off all of your clothes, shower in the shower zone right at the entrance of the sauna, and then plunk yourself in the pools with all of the other naked people who happen to be in the sauna at the same time. The first time you go to the bath house, this may seem a bit strange if you're not used to sauna culture. Trust me, though; after the first five minutes, it all seems very normal and fine and you don't mind being in your birthday suit. In fact, it feels very natural and normal and there will be people of all ages, shapes and sizes there. When you're in the bath house area, it's good to start with a mid-range pool (in terms of temperature) and then a hot one. After that, rotating between cold and hot is a good way to keep that detox cycle in full swing.
I think most people tend to put on the bath house outfit first and explore the co-ed portions before going to the bath house, but it's totally up to you. Some people spend the whole day at the bath house because of the other facilities available, so you can enjoy the different zones in any order that seems good to you.
At Gokurakuyu, the showers are already stocked with shampoo and body wash, so you don't need to bring your own. For women, bring a hair tie if you have long hair (it's a definite faux pas to go into the pools with your hair down), and make sure you rinse off at the shower stations before dipping into a pool once you've been in one of the saunas.
The price for entrance here is 128 RMB per person, and then you can add extra food or services. I recommend allocating a good 4-5 hours to visit if you want to enjoy both the co-ed zone and the bath house zone.
Particularly as the weather starts to get cooler and winter advances, the bath house gains appeal. On a cold winter day, there is something so wonderful about immersing yourself in a series of hot pools and letting your skin enjoy the benefits of the spa.
If you live in the Jinqiao area, remember that Biyun Road turns into New Jinqiao Road as you head east. So, if you walk along Biyun Road from Carrefour towards the Marriott and Ramada hotels, keep walking and you'll cross over a big intersection at Middle Ring Road (look for the big "bird's nest" furniture mall (Macalline Home Furnishing Art and Design Expo Center; photos below) on the left hand side of the road). Keep walking along New Jinqiao Road and you'll cross over Jinzang Road. About half a block past this intersection, you'll see a long yellow building on the left. Right at the end of that building, turn and you'll see Gokurakuyu (the entrance is just off the main road). A photo below features signs you'll see just past the yellow building; if you see those signs, definitely turn left into the parking lot to find Gokurakuyu.
The address is 600 Xin Jinqiao Lu, 新金桥路600号, 近金新路, and you can put this into Google Maps to get help with directions.