Review: Caesarworld Sauna — Taipei, Taiwan
Caesarworld Sauna (亞太三溫暖) sometimes referred by foreigners familiar with the place as simply Ceasar’s is a men’s sauna located in Taipei, the capital city of Taiwan. Ceasarworld has been around for sometime. Even though it is located inside a major shopping center it has remained under the radar with the possible exception of the time it made the news for catching on fire.
Caesar’s is located on the fifteenth floor of the Momo department store on Nanjing East Road in the Songshan District. Even though it has a sign prominently displayed at a major intersection it isn’t the easiest place to find in the world.
There are two ways to reach the sauna. One is to head inside the shopping center through one of the doors at the corner of Nanjing East and Dunhua North then wander around the numerous walkways and cosmetic counters until reaching the elevators. The other way is to walk past the Starbucks and into the courtyard and then turn left and go through the glass doors which lead to the same elevators. Once inside the elevators access is as easy as pressing the button that says 15 in big clear characters.
Exiting the elevator brings one to the entrance of the sauna which like the place itself has probably seen better days. Just outside of the lifts there is a series of pools that look neglected. Beyond those one can find the front desk where a few middle aged women who look like they’d rather be somewhere else are stationed. Customers stop at this desk to get a numbered arm band just as they do in the saunas of Macau and the adult entertainment complexes of Jakarta. Unfortunately this place isn’t nearly as exiting as those.
Once customers get their armband they walk behind the front desk and to a set of seats where they take off their shoes and hand them to a special shoe attendant. He will clean and shine their shoes while they are inside unless they specifically ask him not to.
After that they will keep walking into a seemingly endless array of wooden lockers. Each customer must find the locker that matches the number on their wrist. This isn’t too difficult since they are all in order though a double lock system means that the male attendant must be called over to stick in his key to securely lock things inside. There is only one attendant but he isn’t usually very busy since there aren’t that many customers and he doesn’t help fold and put away clothes like his counterparts in Macau and other parts of Asia. Unlike virtually every similar place in Asia there are no slippers given here either so customers spend their time walking around barefoot.
After stripping down and shutting everything but their wrist band inside of their lockers customers walk shoeless and nude into the entrance of the spa facilities. Inside they’ll find several large pools, a steam room and some other facilities like a large sink with all the accessories. They’ll also find several large round fixtures almost at ground level with shower heads on hoses. These stations are where guys who enter the place wash off before using any of the other facilities. Although they are a bit dated there’s an endless supply of strong hot water along with lots of soap and shampoo. Those who do not want to be scorned or worse make good use of these stations which look a hell of a lot like those in the onsens of Japan. Although the vast majority of the customers are locals little attention seems to be given to foreigners who find their way inside even when they are hunched over and washing their family jewels off in front of everyone.
Customers are under no obligation to take a steam or dip into any of the numerous pools but those facilities are there and free to use if they’re interested. Things are a little old but generally seem to be kept up well. When they’re ready to move on customers can move to the station at the back and to the left where they can find a towel to dry off and a pair of patterned shorts and a robe to slip into.
Caesar’s is a bit like a maze and things can be difficult to find for the first or even second timer but a few paces around reveals more and more. Some things remain hidden to all but those who need to find them as I’ll describe later.
After toweling off and putting on a robe customers can walk down one of the carpeted hallways past a row of rooms with open doors where guys perform strong body massages that I have no interest in until they find themselves in the lounge which is quite fittingly called “the restaurant.” This area is large and nice enough though it looks like a hotel or department store cafe straight out of the 1970’s or maybe an Atlantic City casino circa last year. The space is filled with a long bar, numerous marbled tables and comfortable upholstered seats. At any given time a large number of tables will be filled by guys watching television, reading a newspaper or playing a game. The strangest thing about the place is that the managers and waiters walk around barefoot even though they are wearing trousers and buttoned shirts with collars. These waiters will bring a cup of hot tea to those who enter. Some mediocre food is also available but it has to be paid for. Most customers seem to avoid it which probably says more than I can.
Customers looking for special services may at this point wonder what to do. There are no line ups or massage girls walking around unlike other saunas. Luckily they will probably be approached by a middle aged or older female manager who appears from nowhere just around the time these thoughts start to enter their heads. If they sit near the stairs in the back they may be approached even sooner.
Customers who agree to the offer of a “special massage” for 4200 Taiwan Dollars ($137 USD) will be guided through a procedure that looks like something out of the intro to Get Smart before being led down a hall that often echoes with sounds of ecstasy and into a large, dark private room with a massage table and a full shower in the corner. Although the floors are carpeted there is no foul smell. This is probably due to the engineering which raised the floor of the room and lowered the floor of the shower, which definitely worked even if it has led to untold numbers of trips and stubbed toes.
There’s no line up so the service providers available appear one after another until the customer selects one of his liking. If I had to guess I would say that many probably accept the first to appear or make a request to the manager in advance if they’re interested in a certain look. The staff is made up of Taiwanese women who are mostly into middle age though they manage to keep themselves together much more than most women of the same age in a lot of other countries. One is reminded of Ange Venus. The combination of cosmetics and a lack of light can do wonders. Acting youthfully and putting a bit of the old kawaii Japanese adult video style charm also helps.
Most of the masseuses can speak a bit of English but it’s doubtful that any can discuss Moby Dick in depth. They are also fairly skilled in the art of massage which isn’t always the case in places like these. The skills are even better when it comes to the special services that involve full service with a lot of extras. In any outfit masseuses all have their own ways of doing things but there does seem to be some sort of standard that includes high quality hot oil. English music plays in the background and this is even sometimes accompanied by a little rusty trombone.
Once the massage is finished up the customer can clean up in the full sized shower before being toweled off. After slipping into the house robe and shorts he is guided back through the fun house and into the restaurant where he can either enjoy more tea or attempt to find his way out. A hallway with a finishing room at one end where customers can drop their robe and shorts, do their hair and stare into a large vanity mirror leads back to the wooden lockers where things can be retrieved once the attendants is called over to wield his mighty key in unison with the fold out key that is hidden inside the numbered wrist band.
Once the customer gets dressed back into his street clothes he stops at the shoe attendant to get his kicks before visiting the front desk to hand over his number and settle up his tab. Customers who have a massage are not charged any extra for the use of the sauna facilities unless of course they order food. Those who enter but don’t go for a massage have to pay some small fee though it is really inconsequential.
Caesarworld Sauna is an alright if aging men’s spa that offers some extras that aren’t always easy to track down in Taiwan. Although it’s not the best place in the world nor home to any supermodels it does offer some respite from the city. Taking the location into consideration I think the place deserves three stars.