It also hadn't occurred to me that it was possible to have a nation-wide service outage, with all communications (texts, calls, data, and Wi-Fi) provided by Rogers coming to a halt. Those that were impacted were not made aware of such circumstances until opening their eyes the next morning.
Thankfully, I had been minimally affected the disruption, given my loss of cell signal but retention of Wi-Fi. The sleepy polar bear, on the other hand, was less fortunate, and resolved to an early arrival to prevent uncertainties in our plan.
At about quarter past 1, we pulled into First Markham Place. "Really?" I thought aloud, "I took a day off to come to Markham?! To come to FMP??!"
I must have sounded shocked and dismayed, for worry passed over the sleepy polar bear. "You don't like here?"
My gaze was directed towards Brown Donkatsu, yet the suggestion was ill-received. My throat was still hoarse from the previous day's banh mi blaze; furthermore, I wasn't keen on absorbing the greasy fumes of Sonoya's successor. Neither of my past visits had been particularly memorable, after all.
Parting ways, I noted nothing of interest within the plaza and suggested Bingz instead.
Although I had ventured into the parking-scarce plaza countless times in the past ten years, never once I had acquainted myself with the establishment. We pulled open the double doors to reveal tall ceilings, marble furnishings, and an overwhelming sense of serenity.
Go Place was a hidden spa in one of the busiest districts of Markham.
IDs were verified against the booking and numbered wristbands were provided. These wristbands, as explained by the staff, were used for purposes of locker access, payment, and activity record during the stay - essentially a temporary user number. With each transaction would see the recording of our wristband numbers, such that check-out fees would be on a user number basis. The wristbands would also serve as keys to lockers of the corresponding number, nixing the need for bringing one's own locks.
The escalator would lead us to a Shoe Changing Area. An attendant stood nearby, ready to welcome guests and deliver instructions on removing their shoes before proceeding. Shoes would be slid into cubbies with numbers corresponding to our wristband. It was then that we would enter separate changerooms and re-congregate at the designated "Meet up Area". A map positioned outside of the changerooms would clarify the changeroom layout.
We continued to browse the assortment of rooms, then paused at an empty lounge area just long enough for me to process the scene. Beyond the pricey admission fee, I had simply not come prepared to maximize the facility's features:
- A full face of makeup (and no remover, backup skincare, or makeup bag in tow) would prevent me from indulging in the detoxifying qualities of the hot rooms.
- My delayed arrival would prevent us from optimizing the duration of our stay.
- An absence of appropriate clothing would be inappropriate for massages or similar spa activities.
- Most significantly, I had expected a water park-themed venture. My mind was, quite straightforwardly, not at the pace for relaxation.
One of two masseuses was fluent in Cantonese and Mandarin, while the other strictly Mandarin-speaking. They began by applying a gel-like formula on our left calves; the other leg would be kept toasty underneath a brown towel while they worked on the first. Pressure needs could be relayed to them without fear. Personally, I would have preferred deeper penetration, especially about the outer calves. Toe-pulling was not to the liking of the sleepy polar bear, though not an unfamiliar sensation for me.
The option of an 15-minute Refresh & Relax add-on was proposed to us in the first half of our session. A brief, oil-less sequence on the neck, shoulders, and back would induce an additional twenty-five dollar charge. We, or rather I, eventually took up the masseuse's proposal, extending our time in the massage corridor to a full 60 minutes.
Food was foregoed until the hot rooms had been experienced. I proposed the Agate Room first, for it was the coolest amongst the four at 58 degrees Celsius. Phones were not permitted within, reasonably so, and could instead be secured in cubbies outside. As with changeroom lockers, the numbered wristband was used to register access, then unlock the cubbie later upon room exit.
The Agate Room was found to be quite scorching upon first stepping in. The floor was a grey marble, covered with bamboo mats; the walls were presumably insulated, seemingly cement and finished with colourful, multi-coloured stones. Depressions within the room walls, alternatively referred to as "niches", held decorative elements. An opening reminiscent of wooden panels revealed the source of the heat, an area I dodged in fear of melting makeup. I joined the sleepy polar bear on the mat for roughly two minutes, peeled away my mask for better breathability, then surrendered. Droplets of perspiration had begun to form on the inside of my mask, around my nose.
The Jade Room was third hottest on the floor. Truthfully, it was a tad stifling overall. I had taken a few steps into the room and remained standing for a brief moment. Then, I recalled that "hot air rises, cool air falls". Situating myself onto the floor indeed proved much more bearable. That said, my tolerance waned as we navigated between the rooms.
Finally, we entered the Volcanic Rock Room. With a base of wood panels, an open heat source, and general dimness, it boasted likeness to the typical pool sauna. Less than one minute passed before we gathered our towels and re-entered the floor.
Yearnings for M Cha Bar's Roasted Oolong Tea with Coffee Jelly had led me to the Bubble Tea section. However, with only basic choices of fruit smoothies and milk tea with grass jelly, I opted to satisfy such cravings at later point in the day. Drink prices were on par with that of typical restaurant facilities - and probably more economic than the likes of most bubble tea franchises! The fruit platters, in contrast, were priced at alarmingly steep rates. I was less than keen to invest $38 for a fruit platter I could construct myself in under twenty minutes.
The sleepy polar bear was responsive to my wishes. We returned to the floor, where one of us darted towards a vacant spot the Far Infrared Area (not me). More intrigued at the Amethyst Room, I found comfort in the zen atmosphere, laid down, and re-connected to the digital world. The setting contained just enough infrared rays to evoke peace, but kept vision irritation to a minimum.
Maintained at 5 degrees Celsius, the rectangular room wasn't a grand departure from our typical winter-spring transitions. It was pecular that the room hadn't adopted the same spherical shape as the saunas, for the interior was unmistakably igloo-like in furnishing. The sleepy polar bear urged our departure within seconds, for I was the only one of us two to be sporting three layers of fabric.
In the Entertainment Area were board games for rental, though we opted to rest by the central pillar instead. The dragon carving and chandelier was mighty impressive, I shall declare.
Beside the Bath House were a series of open shower facilities, a rinsing station of sorts. Adjacent was a metal-finish contraption and trolley with cups, toothbrush, and mouthwash. Upon closer inspection, the contraption was a water extractor for swimsuits - an attractive installation enabling guests to return with semi-dried gear. Reception staff also wouldn't hesitate to provide plastic bags for swimsuit storage, as to not dampen one's bag en route home.
The sleepy polar bear was found waiting outside. We laced up our shoes once more before descending down the stairs - this time manually, for there was no escalator in the outbound direction. Rose tea, citrus-infused water, and chalky almond biscuits were sampled in the lobby. One final visit to the unisex bathrooms, and we would return the wristbands to the front desk.
Bills were calculated at this point, separated by wristband number. A single-use entry card would permit egress onto the concrete walkway of First Markham Place again.
Go Place is a pristine, upscale relaxation facility with attentive service, and the price point was definitely reflective of these details. Spa treatments are a rarity in my life, and I could not have treasured the experience more. Even though uncharacteristic of my default programming, the consideration for my overall wellbeing had been executed in good faith. I merely needed to slow down and think rationally/optimistically.
Large cups of Passion Fruit Ginger Red Date Tea (百香果薑棗茶) and Tapioca and Cooked Taro w/ Coconut Milk (椰汁香芋西米露) were obtained from Tracy Dessert, who has since shifted their old opening hours to 4 PM or 5 PM from their original 12 PM on weekends and 2 PM on weekdays.
The former was refreshing but spicy, coating my throat with the anti-inflammatory essence I've grown to love so dearly. Creamy was the latter, with chewy bits of sago and substantial chunks of taro. Neither was particularly sugary either.
"Anything you want!"
My recollection of the original downtown Yonge outpost is vague, though I do not recall the large bowl ringing in at a mind-boggling nineteen. It was delicious, I must say, and fulfilled our respective needs for kale (me, of course), and rice. Adding both Wasabi Mayo and Miso Sesame sauces proved a tad too saucy for my liking, though.