Saturday, August 23, 2014

Too far

Sichuan, China. Source: messland

Natural soaking areas are mostly threatened by developers. Away with the traditions, in with the wellness. But at a price. Development is mostly poorly done with little or no regard for local needs, all on the basis of pipe dreams: cash. But more often than not this cash is not forthcoming and the new owners of the previously publicly held entity now flip the premises to others who build more. If anything this blog seeks to endear the traditions and bath in the naturalness.

But the truth is that the future is more concrete, literally.  A lead article from  (July 21). On Himalaya's geothermal potential. Basically more could be done with it. 
'Thousands of megawatts of geothermal energy remain locked up in the Himalayas because of environmental considerations and lack of investment in research, say international geologists'.
Another article can be found here..

Taking a dip in a hot spring #hotspring #swim #dip #wakhanvalley #tajikistan #afghanistan #ontheroad #wanderlust #nomad #hdtravellingslowly #bicycle #bicycletouring #cycletouring #cycletour2014
Just a shot from the travels of hannah and friends going east. A full description of their hot spring find here. If I am correct the above is from Tajikistan with Afghanistan on the far side ...

On you can find this soaking adventure from Jalal-abad, Kyrgyzstan:
'around 50 kilometers south of Arslenbob in the city of Jalal-Abad atop a hill is an old ex-Soviet spa/sanatorium.  these giant decaying facilities are speckled throughout Central Asia but this particular one happens to be built around a hot spring.  after several failed attempts at trying to navigate my way through the confusing Kyrgyz bureaucracy, i was finally able to book myself a “mud treatment”.  i was lead swiftly by the arm by a very helpful, very persistent nurse to the lower levels of the sanatorium where i was met by an older gentleman wearing a rubber apron and rubber boots.  he lead me through a door where a long hallway of tiled cubicles stood, poured a bucket full of hot smelly mud into a plastic covered bed and then made a few hand gestures that suggested i should strip naked and lay down in it.  there are times when getting naked is an easy, natural process but this time was most certainly not one of them.  i had come too far to turn back now.  the strange Kyrgyz man in the rubber suit with bucket in hand was waiting patiently for me to keep up my end of the bargain.  all i had to do was get those clothes off and… ya know… lay down in that mud immediately after.  and so i smiled at the nice man, who was still standing there of course… and then… well… did exactly that.  before i could fully come to grips with how vulnerable i felt lying there naked in the smelly hot mud, the man just laughed and then dumped a bucket of scolding hot mud all over me.  then he folded me into the plastic sheet like a burrito, covered me in additional wool blankets and poured in two additional buckets of mud, one in the opening at my feet and another in the opening at my neck.  then he shook me back and forth and then walked away.  as pain turned into pleasure, my face began to itch uncontrollably.  i was cocooned, hot and helpless.  then an overwhelming sensation of deep relaxation washed over me and seemed to penetrate my bones'.
Picture perfect

In contrast to the infinity pool on the men's side the ladies have to contend with the walled in soak at Khirganga, HP, India. Posted by catherineask
Holy natural hotspring in Kheer Ganga at 2960 metres! Perfect for karmacleaning.. All my sins washed away emoji #shiva is said to have #meditated in #kheerganga for #3000years

Just another photo from many concerning the Nujiang's (Yunnan, China) natural hot springs. Source
#hotspring #khangairesort chillin in paradise
Mongolia. bilguunkh4

After long trip to Tobolsk Hot Mineral Terms near Tyumen, 40 degrees of relaxation! emoji
Tyumen lies in west Siberia. dafchiz

An interesting and different article on Bhutan's hot spring baths by ktshering.
'Unfortunately (with due respect to the hoteliers for using this word), the commercialized versions of hotstone bath tubs which is available in most resorts and hotels across Bhutan is just an attempt to make a close replication. Most importantly, it misses out the intricate social bonding process involved in the task which takes atleast a day. If the tourists are to pay a hefty price for this, then they must experience the process as well. More than the health benefit that one derives out of this "medicinal water", it is much about enhancing your family bonds, and building friendship
As far as my knowledge goes, no scientific studies have shown the water to have health benefits but Bhutanese will not mind continuing with the practice. The placebo effect, good meals and societal bonding during the process may be some of the reasons attributable for the revival of health'. 
He then describes the process and ends with this photo:

Enjoying the fruit of the hardwork
On a top 10 of favourite hot springs. No. 3 on the list, Shikatori, is located somewhere between Yunnan and Sichuan (China), if possible:

No. 5 is from Tibet (Garze) which includes the strange notion of racy photo's on the wall surrounding the tub. No. 8 is likewise from Tibet, Tirtapuri. All-in-all nice photo's.

Wish i could shower like this every day! #nepal #hotsprings

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Lisu soaking exposed

Lisu Bathing
Bordering Burma, the Lisu ehtnic minority live along the banks of the upper Nujiang (Salween) river, in the autonomous prefecture of Nujiang, one of the westernmost administrative divisions of Yunnan, China

Lisu tradition dictates the local custom of holding a bathing festival coinciding with the their new year celebrations. 
This tradition of holding a bathing festival is very much similar to the Tibetan custom (Garma Ri Gi). The tradition transcends the mountain themselves; Hindu's have traditional bathing festivals as well as adhering spiritual connections to water. 
Unique to the Lisu of Nujiang is the involvement of hot springs, which seems sensible considering the time of the year the event is held.

'Every Spring Festival, the Lisu people gather at the Hot Springs by the Nujiang River
By taking baths and washing off dirt with sacred spring water,
people hope for forthcoming auspiciousness'.
Posted by Funansan.

Th Lisu tradition of bathing in hot springs at New Year is called Kuoshi Festival (the New Year festival) determined to be from 20-22 December each year contrasting with Tibet's mid-summer bathing tradition. The practice though does have it's local roots:
'Legend says that the estuary of a huge pool below the cliffs at the foot of the east Gaoligong Mountain was guarded by a pair of little green sparrows. When local people gave parties, year after year, these green sparrows magically provided all the bowls, chopsticks, tables and chairs needed. Then a man failed to return the borrowed articles to the birds and enraged the Dragon King, who ordered that the pool be filled up. The birds turned into girls who bathed in the hot spring near the pool and departed. Consequently, early spring every year, local residents camp near the spring to offer sacrifices to the Dragon King and the magic sparrows, and bathe'.
Others simply see the custom of holding a bathing festival in more practical terms:
'By taking baths and washing off dirt with the sacred spring water, people hope for the forthcoming of auspiciousness'.
Then again the bathing is only a minor part of the festival apparently:
'The most interesting event of the Lisu people's traditional Kuoshi festival is the Hair-Combing Contest held on the first and seventh days of the first lunar month'.
The bathing festival seems to coincide with the Lisu New Year, but might just follow the Kuoshi festival; the Bathing Festival is
'... usually held in the first month of the lunar year'.
Which one could also describe as very early spring .... 

How to soak Lisu Style
Though soaking is part of the Lisu cultural tradition, this source puts the whole soaking process in more evocative terms:
'When the time comes, people from near counties and regions, wearing rich dresses and bringing food, luggage and even cooking stuff, keep pouring in. Tents cover the place, which is quiet in normal times. People all crowd together, singing and smiling happily, and the scene is full of bustle and excitement. The "Spring Bathing Festival", which used to be a day to take bath and cure diseases, now becomes a festival of revelry for people to spend holidays and dance and sing. Especially for youths at their life's full flowering, they gather together in dozens or even hundreds to compete songs, poems and look for lovers. It lasts all through the night and they never feel bored with it'.
No, soaking is not boring here.

However, when searching the web for hot springs in the Nujiang Autonomous Prefecture nearly all focus on the bathing during the festival, as if no soaking takes place at other times. 
And unfortunately most of the reporting on the festival involves sensationalizing the methods of bathing. 
For instance eChinacities includes Nujiang valley hot springs in China's Top 5 Best Nude Bathing Areas despite the fact that the Lisu bathe only semi-naturally ....
It even means that simply the sight of seeing soakers soak can be the ultimate destination. From
'Every year, during the Spring Festival period, Lisu minority people will have bath together in hot springs along both sides of Nu River (the Salween). And held many activities such as poem contest, singing and dancing, etc, to celebrate the coming of spring season. This trip is specially good for photographing'.
For proof purposes the site no longer exists alas. 

Source, caption translated by google:
'Captain guide whispered, pointing to the river: there is beauty in the hot springs! Aha! This really been kept under Liu arrived, I saw the green leaves masking, several topless women are soaked in smoke curl Zaochi, the Liu quietly approaching, when they found me immediately picked up a towel to cover the naked upper body let me exceedingly disappointed!'
And how is the experience seeing soaking locals?
'I left the competition place at noon and walked to visit their "zaotanghui" (public baths) gathering. Some women were taking baths in the hot springs, laughing and playing. Even when tourists focused their cameras on them, they did not behave in an offended manner. What a simple and happy nationality'.
So much for the modern man ... 
Another visitor mentions that the bathing festival is highlighted by eight camera bearing tourists and adds this:
'It is said, used to be with the bath naked men and women, and now more and more "civilized", "naked" too little, men and women are "incompatible", and is generally sub-pools and baths'.

Anyway, modernity also plays a major part in the future of some of these soaks. The Sydney Morning Herald no less, also takes a soak with the locals:
'Men and women alike stripped to their underpants, Wa Ba's family and friends sat soaking in hot pools fed by a geothermal spring gushing from a mossy crevice under the gnarled roots of a banyan tree on the bank of the Nu River.
As his wife tended a kettle over a wood fire and young women drank cups of hot water straight from the spring, Wa offered round a bottle of his homemade rice wine, a clear brew strong enough to give a noticeable buzz from just a capful.
"Usually we take a bath here on the eve of the new year, so we're a bit late this year," said Wa, who lives in Dapicha, a village half an hour's walk away. "If you bathe here when the year is new, it protects you from illness" '.
Reported in 2005, it then goes on to mention that:
'But the hot pool enjoyed by Wa's group, the land of Pi's community, and perhaps even the tenure of his Lisu people in the Nu Valley, are threatened.
Just downstream from the hot spring, about five kilometres up from the town of Liuku, marker pegs stenciled "Liuku Power Station" are rammed into the earth beside a tunnel into the hillside. When built later this decade, the dam's reservoir will submerge the hot spring and many small farms and villages lining the river'.
Though the loss of the soaks is certainly a disadvantage, the projects (once completed) will certainly massively impact the local inhabitants and change their ways of life with no way back.
The consequences will also be felt in countries downstream, for instance now (in 2014) the Mekong is drying up along Thailand and in Lao, consequences attributed (by the press) to dams on this river, while decreasing waters are leaving Vietnam's Mekong delta more prone to become more saline, thus affecting agricultural negatively.
That said, dams have many environmental advantages over alternatives but being highly intrusive is not one of them.

The opposition, though not entirely successful, has been able to stall the construction according to the Times (21 May 2009). Opponents are organised in the Save the Nujiang as well as Salween Watch
The former reports that recently (March 2014) that construction is scheduled to start.

'Ritual bathing in hot springs is a part of the Lisu New Years tradition. These public springs will be deluged if the dam projects are completed. During Spring Festival camps are built near the pools which makes for a festival atmosphere'.

The soaks of Nujiang
Despite the considerable wealth of information on how the locals soak, hardly any information is available on where they soak and definitely no personal experiences are described on the net in English. Swell.

Some places that are mentioned as having soak sites are Chawalong, which is located in the north of Nujiang prefecture. The photo available on flickr doesn't endear itself to potential soakers though ....

Elsewhere mention is made of hot springs, 10 km north of Liuku city (Lushui county), the prefectures administrative center. These are Laomudeng (possibly), Bazhaodeng, Baihualing, Denggen and Mazhanghe (source).

Then this visitor mentions a distance of 30 km from Liuku and after google translate the following conspires:

'Fellow men left after another, but the ladies unwilling. Japan recalled bare bulbs, everyone wants to feel that part of the wonderful review in China at this time to revisit. At this point nothing can stop them, bidet into the embrace of the idea of ​​natural strong impact on them, and off it! Water it! Let those men waiting on top of it! Several women from the big city to abandon the secular, but also learn the local Lisu villagers, naked and jumped into the pool to that Pitt among the skin smooth and soft shine of turquoise water is more tender and beautiful in the clear water of the figure will undoubtedly expose'.
So to sum it up: there seems to be a lot of possibilities but does anybody know where?

Sunday, June 29, 2014

A Clear Sighted Soak?

Sichuan contains China's border between the lower lying areas of China proper and the mountainous entrants to the Tibetan plateau. A quick look at the map shows high mountains cut by deep valleys as the Indian sub-continent pushes further north.

In looking into the Himal hot springs of Sichuan, the autonomous prefectures of Garzê (or Ganzi) is covered in this pretty extensive section. By far the biggest prefecture of Sichuan province, Garzê was until early 20th century part of Tibetan Kham. Firmly in the mountainous terrain, the local majority Tibetans are spread over 18 counties.

First and foremost amongst these, is Kangding which serves as the administrative center of Garzê autonomous prefecture.

Situated 5 km from 'downtown' Kangding is the hot spring of Erdaoqiao (Erdao for short):
'The grounds are quite expansive and encompass many different bathing areas—a great place to soak away the aches and pains of a day's hiking or horse trekking.
Baths vary in temperature, from 38°C, 40°C, 42°C, up to 50°C (100 ~ 122°F) and if that's still not hot enough, there's also a sauna'.
A first hand experience:
'The first sniff of the spring had sarah imagining a bacon and egg sandwich but unfortunately the rotten egg smell of popping sulfuric gases was emitted from a pool like enclosure where our hot spring lay. All the surfaces were particularly grimy and the roof was encrusted with ice, the pool was covered by a thick layer of mist and the colour emitted was akin to the lights of a midnight dip in a swimming pool. Despite the -6 degree temperatures we smartly lowered ourselves into the hot spring and held our heads above the water. Before long Sarah noticed that my silver necklace had turned to a copper colour and rapidly changing to black. We weren't sure of the concentration of acid but sarah uses it in the workshop to blacken metal and if it touches her skin she is supposed to hop under the chemical shower'.
Tripadvisor has a page on Erdao, doesn't look too appealing. But the following picture could also assist (let's hope the source correctly identified this as Erdao ....).

Other sources for info on Erdao hot springs but then in Chinese can be obtained here.

Laoyulin is also mentioned to be 5 km from Kangding and the excellent Dr Rock blog by Micheal Sydney mentions the existence of a hot spring and possibly Micheal revisits the same hot spring 4 years later:
'Just a few brick cubicles covered with cheap corrugated green plastic'.
The area is becoming more of a destination for trekkers wanting to visit Sichuan's highest mountains known as Gongga (see below). An article by the China Daily gives more insight in local development combined with tourism espousing on the benefits. The 2008 article suggests a local will improve the soaking site.

Further away (21 km) from Kangding is the national park of Mugecuo. Wikitravel mention
'Dip your feet in the medicine pool (actually a hot spring) for a small fee, or have an egg boiled'.
Chinatravel notes the existence of more than 20 springs and
'Boiling springs here can be categorized into many kinds, such as Buddha Spring, Clear-sighted Spring, Stomach-improving Spring, and Feet Bath Spring, etc. The water of Buddha Spring has no peculiar smell; it is good for heart and eyes if infused with tea. Clear-sighted Spring, Stomach-improving Spring, and Feet Bath Spring are respectively helpful for the treatment of eye disease, tummy bugs and rheumatism, as well as for health keeping. From ancient times till now, the spring water here is reputed as "divine Water"'.
Even more hot springs are supposed to be apparent according to the blog entry by Memories on a shoestring
'We had a light meal at a hotspring area. Apparently Mugecuo Scenic Area has nearly 100 hot springs which have different curative effects. I did not try the hotspring. It cost RMB20 to enter inside. Each of us bought an egg to eat. It is half-boiled egg for RMB3'.
The blog entry comes with many photo's of the scenic area. From the photo's of the lunch break one can see that quite an effort has been made to upgrade these to afford visitors a soak if only of the podo variety ...

In Garzê county one can find the hot spring of Dargye which has alts in the name of Rongpatsa, Rongpaca, Rongpatsang and Yartsa. Located 25 km from the county headquarters, it is near the gompa with the same name and the village of Rongbatsa.
Daniel Winkler describes the place as follows:
'Odorless hot water wells up with bubbles from the white granite sand ground. Dig in your feet and you will enjoy a bubble bath. Alas, the temperature of the pool is slightly below body temperature (35°C / 95°F). However, the clear water and the magnificent view of glaciated mountains make this spring a special treat. May be I should mention that this is the men's pool. There is also a woman section down below near sinter outcroppings'.
He adds a nice picture which though the same place as below, it clearly gives a different feeling to the soak.

'Shedding their robes, monks from the Dargye monastery
in Sichuan wash in a hot spring'.

Lithang (Litang) county, to the west of Kangding contains two less well-known hot springs.

Sori hot spring is included in Daniel Winkler's hot spring
overview. Then there is most probably this experience:
'That was when I noticed local Tibetans in a hot spring across the river. I wandered over to check it out and found the water temperature to be just right. The extremely hot spring water had been mixed with the icy river water. There were several pools—the ones farther up the trail were strictly for womenfolk, so I stayed with the men. Tibetans don't bother with bathing suits—and neither did I—much to the amusement of my companions'.
Possibly not even Sori hot spring, but nonetheless a nice description of a good soak!

A little more clarified is the hot spring of Batang, 5 km west of Lithang.

'There are a number of places to bathe there, but don't expect to be a wash in nature - the hot water is piped into white - tiled tubs'.
Elsewhere this web site makes mention of many hot springs.

Daniel Winkler's
hot spring list leads to another two soaks, Dzogchen (Zogqen) in Dêgê county and Rubu Chaka (Rubuchaka and variations in spelling of this) in Daocheng county. The former is heavily mentioned on other websites as well. The Daocheng Things to See section of Chinabackpacker mentions
'It was reported [in 2003] that many cockroaches were found in the bathroom. Avoid going there during the night when cockroaches are extremely active, and can be found everywhere, even in your clothes and shoes. Believing in Buddhism, local Tibetans do not bother to eliminate them'.
It's unclear whether this is advice to stay clear or the opposite.  
Elsewhere a more recent photo shows a different more developed picture of what Daniel might have experienced.
And this hotel booking site shows that apparently the good times of cockroaches at night have passed ...

The website of the New Long March described a trip from Zhongdian into Yunnan. As they cross into Xiangcheng county, Sichuan they come to the village of Ranwu, which has a hot spring which was
'developed at great expense but in very poor taste. ... The spring is only a few meters away from the pools, the smaller of which is the hottest hot spring I have ever used in China. The water was formerly monopolised by a local Living Buddha; after he had washed, the water flowed into a lower pool which the locals used'.
'Ru Buchaca named because place names spa, Ru cloth Tibetan word for "friend", "Chaka" Tibetan is the spa, alias Charles co Wenquan Ru. Ganzi is a well-known high-temperature steam springs, hot springs at the outlet water temperature is 68 ℃, up to 80 ℃, flow rate up to 7000 m3 day and night, hot springs water is clear, colorless and odorless, contains no sulfur, drinking, with physical fitness, longevity, medicinal, regulating endocrine function, treatment of skin effect'.
No. 2 is the Best
In Luding county (100 km from Kangding) one can find what seems to be Sichuan's most frequented hot spring for the mountainous part of the province. Located near Sichuan's highest mountain, Gongga (Minya Konka) and in China's biggest glacier park (?), are the hot springs of Hailuogou which for the convenience of foreigners has been (re?) named Conch Gully.

Hailuoguo's no. 2 (source: RichardLuyy)

Hailuoguo even makes it to the top 10 hot spring resorts of China (source). 

Despite all the claims to it's naturalness the springs themselves are part of a tourism set up such as the Gongga God Hot Spring Hotel. In total there are 3 hot springs in Hailuogou according to the article entitled 'Attractions: Four unique hot springs in China', one of them being Hailuogou.
That said it are so-called camps at hot springs 1 and 2 that attract most visitors.
Sabrina while blatantly copying on her blog copies:
'... most of the visitors favor hot springs in No.2 Campsite because they are rustic, with more natural taste'.
In this article discussing 'green' tourism in Ghanzi prefecture, the park around Hailuoguo is mentioned a number of times for the lack of 'green' planning.
'Several hot-spring resorts inside the park have tacky buildings and decorations totally alien to their setting. "These are truly ugly to me," Hitesh Mehta, a Canadian landscape architect, said in his presentation.
"They are beautiful," he said, pointing to the photos of traditional wood houses seen at Moxi Town just outside the park. "Unfortunately there are not many left."
Facing the criticism, Xiao Feng, director of the administration of the park, explained that these problems were mainly caused by several independent tourism operators inside the park and their bad management. At present, the administration is purchasing their property back to solve these problems.
However, many conference participants expressed doubts as to the local authorities' humble attitudes towards investors from the outside world.
"They spoil investors for sure," Chen Xujun said. "Most of them become indifferent to the local environment and welfare of the local communities."'
Then there is this info:
'According some doctors, the boiled water has high medicinal values, such as curing skin disease and arthiritis, and eliminating fatigue'.
Another county in Garzê with geothermal features is that of Danba. Also known as Rongzhan, the main place to visit for these features is the mountainous area of Dangling. Chinabackpacker:
'The hot-springs in Dangling are located in two areas, one at Benmu which is the rich in sulphur, and means 'fire bath' in Tibetan. The other site is at Kabu, encirlced by grassland which in Tibetan translates as 'grassland bath'. The two springs are approxiamately 4 kilometres south of the Dangling village, and the water flow never cease all year round, day and night the liquid output amouts to about 3000 tonnes. The water close to the hotspring mouth can reach up to 75 degrees Celcius. Chemical tests show that the springa belong to the type neutral, heavy sodium carbonic acid with healing properties. It contains many minerals that are epecially beneficial to the likes of headaches, stomach and intestinal diseases, diabeties, arthiritis. Surrounding the hot-springs is a picturesque primeval forest, sitting in the hot-spring bath, washing away the weariness from the travelling, indulging in the most that the hot-spring can offer. And when it's winter, the enjoyment only gets better as you take the pleasure of bathing in open snow: indulge in the winter scenery while bathing in the warm spring water, and if you are lucky enough and it snows, you can slowly relish yourself with the spectacle as snow flower fill the sky while you let your body relax in the warm bathe'. 

Source Translated with google, you make sense:
'September 22, 2012, known as the "natural bonsai" Yak Valley Scenic Area is located 21km southwest of the county, Ganzi Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture in Danba East Valley township, road side there is a very famous natural hot spring baths, but also the rare nude bath one place'.
And though it looks idyllic there are always qualms. Timemaker:
The first stop was a natural hot spring by the road. The hot steam was perfect for warming my frozen hands. I didn’t want to soak in the water though; I read that sick locals like to visit hot springs. It was especially uninviting when the driver told me you can cure STDs by soaking in the hot spring for a week'.
It probably reflects more on the writer as especially in Chinese there are many good references. 
It is well and truly Tibetan country here so you'll see complete encampments during season of locals enjoying these springs. 

Note that if I am correct just behind the hot spring pictured a road has been laid ... Drates. A paradise lost?