Friday, June 13, 2014

The Cure for Jetlag in Israel - Tiberias Hot Springs

So as some of you may know, my family is pretty... "multi-cultural." My father is of Korean descent but grew up in New Jersey. My mother is part Uzbek-part Russian and grew up in Israel.

By grandparents still living in Haifa (#3 city in Israel), we go to visit them at least once a year. My first three times were chronicled already:

1. March 2012
2. January 2013
3. September 2013

But since we had a few weeks of downtime this June, I asked my father to go visit again since it's been about 9 months since I was there last and I learned a few new tricks since the last time I was there (ie, I can talk now).

Our first day (Wednesday) was actually a catch up day. Our red-eye flight from Zurich landed in Tel Aviv just after 3AM. By the time we passed through Immigration and collected our checked luggage, it was closer to 4AM. Then we had a 2 hour drive to Haifa so we didn't get to my grandparents' place until 6AM. Needless to say, we were pretty tired from the traveling. Despite showering to wake up, my father went to lay down after breakfast and passed out til about 4PM. I guess jet-lag is tougher to overcome now that he's getting older.

The next morning (or rather late the prior evening), I woke up and didn't want to go back to sleep. So at around 3AM local time, my father ended up entertaining me til about 5AM when I finally went back to sleep (which made sense because that would have been 10PM in New York).

Again, my father's sleep was still off cycle, so he just decided to get up at 5AM and start his day. By 11AM, however, he was tired, so took a long 3 hour nap. Fortunately, there weren't any plans that day either. That night, however, I managed to sleep through the entire night normally, which undoubtedly helped my father get back on a regular sleep schedule.

Friday was our first day of any substantive activity. We all woke up at 8:30AM and got in the car by 10AM to go to Tiberias (a city on the western shore of the Sea of Galilee - yeah, the one from the Bible) where they had some Hot Springs. As you can see from the map, it's about an hour drive east from Haifa passing the town of Nazareth (as in "Jesus of...").

The town of Tiberias is a resort destination for Israeli locals looking to get away. Besides being located along the Sea, Tiberias is also famous for having hot mineral springs that are said to have mystical skin curing abilities. The hot waters contain high amounts of sulfuric, hydrochloric acid, and calcium salts, and over the centuries they've reportedly cured skin problems and such ailments as rheumatism, arthritis, and gynecological disorders. And of course, there were also some commercial tourist oriented water parks, hotels and restaurants lining the coastline as well.

My family arrived around 11AM and we were able to claim seats in the shade among all the elderly retirees who had been there much earlier than us. Apparently, there were ancient ruins that we could have seen as well, but we didn't know about those while we were there.

Instead, the place looked more like a town swimming pool complex with a few different pool options - a traditional cold water pool, a kiddie pool and the connected outdoor/indoor heated hot springs (which just looked like a big pool). I thought they could have done a better job making it look more like an ancient Roman bathhouse, but I suppose, 1970's style tile was easier to maintain.

Since we were not guests at any of the nearby hotels, we had to pay an admission fee. My grandparents paid for us, so I'm not sure exactly what the prices were (and there's no website for us to look up), but my mother said it was the Israeli Sheckle equivalent "around $100 USD" for the 4 adults and 1 toddler.

The entire complex was quite simple, but kept very clean. As we'd find out later on, the Tiberias Hot Springs & Spa is very family friendly and attracts a nice mix of elderly couples, young singles as well as families with young kids. By 1PM, the place was pretty full.

But as you can see, at 11AM, the younger crowds had not yet arrived to occupy the cold water pool.

The hot spring pool, however, was buzzing with old people activity. The water was quite warm (like about 95 degrees Fahrenheit). The high concentration of minerals in the water was definitely noticeable, as your skin felt very slippery (similar to how my father felt in the Dead Sea). On the inside end of the indoor pool area adjacent to the locker room areas, there were some hot sauna and steam rooms available as well.

Additionally, back towards the front entrance, there was a traditional spa area where you could have massages and other spa treatments. My father inquired about an hour massage and it came out to NIS 350 (or about $100 USD).

While my parents enjoyed their time in the heated mineral pool and the regular swimming pool, I spent much of my free time chasing after the cats they had all over the complex and playing with my grandmother in the small outdoor kiddie pool. Fortunately, the kiddie pool had a cover to shade you from the hot Israeli sun. Otherwise my alabaster Asian skin would have turned lobster red.

In terms of refreshments on site, there was an outdoor bar serving beer and spirits as well as a traditional snack bar offering hot dogs, french fries and soft drinks. In typical fashion, my grandparents had already packed us lunches from home, so we were quite set on food and avoided the overpriced snack bar for the most part - though I did manage to get a few ice creams throughout the day.

And as for my father's jet lag...well, let's just say that it wasn't 100% cured as he took a long 2 hour nap.

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