Thursday, 15 January 2009

Updates for January

Just a few, mostly from the bloggosphere.

  • Emerald pools, one of Thailands most scenic, visited by nadim and christina.
  • Ranong in the south, gives a glimsp of why Thailand is so popular. Muddyrats:
    'Around 25km from Ranong we decided to stop at the nearby Hat Yai Hot Springs and camp for the night. After a lovely bath at the hot springs frequented by locals we were invited by the ranger to sleep in the quarters instead stringing up our hammocks, an offer we couldn't decline. It was quite amusing to locals arriving on mopeds with only their towels on for their evening bath. We spent a lovely evening with some beers while trying to communicate in scraps of random English and Thai words'.
  • Pai, the magnet of the north which besides a mellow and cool atmosphere has a couple of hot springs not to far off. Newtampo on has a report in the making and some photo's.
    There's also a hotsprings spa resort, though one visitor was not impressed by the hot tubs:
    'I only had one complaint. The small sitting pool outside on the terrace took at least 100 gallons (?) to fill with water. However, the hot water tank outside the room was about a thirty gallon tank. Now the problem,…………when you fill the pool with Warm water (actually hot water and it takes about one and half hours to fill), the hot water will run out and the rest of the time it is being filled with cold water. So you get into a sitting pool that is uncomfortably cool. We both stepped in the sitting pool and decided it would not be a good idea, since the weather outside was cool'.
    This complaint and more background and photo's of Pai's hot springs from
    S. Landreth.
    Then here's another experience from one of Pai's hot spring hotels:
    'Spa Exotic which was the best advice we have received in Asia. Not only did it cost less then half the price of the regular hot springs most tourists are sent to but we had the place entirely to ourself and unlike the normal hot springs that are just twelve inches deep here we could swim! It was so so so nice and relaxing and was just what our tired traveling bodies needed!'
  • Elsewhere Thai trekin seems to be missing something in Thailand.
    'Seem like every hot spring in Thailand had been “commercialized”. I had for four years now tried to seek out a natural spot like I would imagine Yellowstone National Park. Only in disappointment I had the result. Of the so many hot springs claimed in Thailand, none are left in their natural state. All of them seemed to have been piped up. And sometimes one wonders, maybe the pipes tanks and valves are part of a huge boiler system. I mean with fake Louis Vuitton and such a plenty here, one can not help but wonder if the Thais could also fake nature as a tourist attraction'
  • An unknown spring? Possibly..., I've never heard of it, but Jamie in Asia has overnited here (Bor Nam On):
    'After such a long day, I was thankful for the hot spring right outside my bungalow door!'
Again the Malaysians are doing a good job of talking up attractions such as this:
  • Poring hot springs as blogged by jadeite ketsugi:
    'The hot springs were a bundle of disappointment. They’d been bricked up to make about 50 small rectangular pits set into the ground and there were about a million people just stewing in them. Haaaack. It was…not…sanitary. What with the Malaysian men leering at us girls [oh come on, they're from Singapore after all], a stench of sulphur in the air and the general mayhem of half-naked people, cue our horrified shocked faces and an instant unanimous group decision to boycott the springs. Shudder. And look, we found a cooked frog in one of the springs!'
    Complete with picture of the offended frog! Look up more photo's on her flickr site, and that's arguably one of the most popular hot springs sites in Southeast Asia!
  • Then there's ... Sungai Klah, which seems to be one of the most if not the most blogged hot spring in Southeast Asia. Zentadony is just one of this month's contributors and another happy customer. Ayu Suriani is another:
    ' mum did it'.
    Boil eggs that is !
Then for something different ....
Asian nation's value's are not the same as others, nor are these value's stable in time. In my previous posting on
Banjar hot springs I commented on the attention sign which implied that non-natural bathing was the way to go.

One would find this logical in a predominantly Muslim country, But Bali, being overwhelmingly Hindu, has (or better said had) a different look on things and the fact that many of their women went top-free actually was part of the nascent pre-WW II tourist PR campaign.

This purely male obsessed way of selling the island is documented by Australian scholar
Adrian Vickers who published an extensive volume entitled "Bali, a paradise created".

Another great piece of insight comes from this site, In '
Bali unveiled', an article by Rucina Ballinger, it pay's attention to this issue as well. Especially the odd fact that as (non-western) societies crave modernity, they seek to cover up on their bodies as a sign of prosperity while contradictorily the western society dresses (nearly completely) down as a sign of wealth :
'to a Westerner, the more of the body that shows, the more the wearer is at leisure (and thus the wearer is in a more powerful position as s/he can afford to be at leisure)'.
This however does not explain why speedo's are out and boardies are in! Always mystifies that myself, but the essence is that the Balinese seem more at ease than most Asians with their body 'shame'
, though less so than before.

Anyway erdging myself to the point, one of Japan's most noted 'pleasures' are the many hot springs (onsen) and public baths which are taken naturally, even co-ed. Though not everyone's cup of tea, most bloggers seem to like the experience and repeat this more often. For instance Japan rider:
'I love the Japanese onsen'.
Or an american elephant:
'This morning I went to my first onsen! It was amazing. Just a bit, steaming room of hot pools, and an outside set as well!'.
What about this recent article:
'Communing without swimwear in mixed hot baths is enjoying a renaissance among young women. ...
Essayist Mayumi Yamazaki authored "Dakara Konyoku wa Yamerarenai" (That's Why I Can't Stop Mixed Bathing), a book that explains the allure of mixed bathing. Published in late October, the book prompted a flood of e-mails and other correspondence from women. ...
In fact, I found I really enjoyed talking with the other bathers--maybe I too could get hooked on mixed bathing'.
However over the Sea of Japan, nudity (let alone mixed and naked!) is frowned on, so when this hot springs resort near Chongquing decided to attract more visitors, it was by putting naked models in the soaks, which arguably resulted in a great many of photo opts. Though I doubt whether this case of short lived 'free' PR, would help much in the long run, unless you hope to attract perverts / voyeurs, who misunderstood that bathing such is de-rigeur....

One reason that hot springs in Japan are popular is due to tradition and the estatic way these onsen have been built, blending in traditional styles of architecture with regard for the local environment. Then there's the social element (see above citations): one goes to a onsen to relax, not for Southeast Asia's brand of 'having fun'.

Shunning the idea of rebuilding the soaking area into a fun park which seems to be the (bland?) answer for most hot springs development in Southeast Asia, might be the way forward.

Though absolutely sexist (and deadly cheap!), the idea brought into practice in Chongqing might warrant more research. Are there any hot springs in Southeast Asia where bathing au-naturel and co-ed is practiced? No? Well, who know's there might be business opportunity here ....

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