Tuesday, 26 January 2010


Friday nite I was watching the film Julie & Julia with Meryl Streep as lead actress. The plot revolves around a modern day blogger who manages to change her life by creating a blog on the re-creation of Julia Child’s 1960’s cook book, Mastering the Art of French Cooking. Besides entertaining, it also got me thinking.

Apart from cooking and baking, my passions in life (other than family) are football (playing, coaching, watching and reporting), cycling, swimming and … enjoying the outdoors.

Alas the former is not so easy to pursue here in Cambodia. Yeah, there are great outdoors here, but somehow I have motivation problems. Could it be that temperature and the hassles of city life are simply demanding too much energy? That added to the fact that the outdoors (jungle) in Cambodia is pretty much inaccessible.

When I started this blog, it was an act of unselfishness; centralized (and extensive) info on the web concerning hot springs in all Southeast Asian countries is not available. It also gave me a goal while enjoying the (more accessible) outdoors.

I’ve since visited quite a few hot spring sites mainly during (short) holidays. Though I do try to avoid dragging my family around, from one soak site to the next. From my childhood, I remember the image of my ‘holiday in hell’: a distant relative of mine used to visit a couple of churches on a daily basis in Europe solely to admire the organs with little regard for the other family members wishes. How can that be healthy? So I always try to vary the holidays and minimize the drive to add more soaks to the blog list.

This need for variation has lead me to seek out waterfalls (as a more pleasurable (?) pursuit); often a fresh dip beats a soak in these countries. And especially in Thailand waterfalls are still very natural with the forests around them well protected.

Any road, my hot spring holy grail would be an untouched and natural spring, deep in the jungle, uncrowded, with locals enjoying and socializing with each other and welcoming to the outsider.
Unfortunately it doesn’t seem that this type exists anywhere in Southeast Asia, therefore I have expanded my web-search to include the Himalaya’s as well as describing the joys of water-holes. Up in the mountains there certainly must be great soaks. From living in Nepal in the nineties I have been to a few hot springs. And again, at the same time I’m centralizing information and assisting fellow (potential) soakers. And other outdoor enthusiasts.

Despite the success in part of the objective (95% of the visitors arrive at this web site from search sites), I am still not so satisfied. The unselfishness of the above stated objectives is not the reality. The blogging is a means of driving me to explore new places, to expand my imagination and make myself worthwhile to society.
Or so I at least hope. And like the blogger in the film above, it might just make me rich (though I have no delusions on this). I suspect a regular job would be of more assistance …

Ultimately in this search for hot springs in the real world, what I have missed is the fun part. Having visited so many natural hot springs in various Southeast Asian countries they all seem to alternate as local attraction parks, rather than sites which cater to soakies; be it for recreation or for health purposes. Poor management is synonymous with these sites, resulting in some places having such poor water quality that the “hot spring = healthy” phrase seems to have been reversed. In all honesty most hot springs (with a few exceptions) are trashed. Oddly it doesn’t matter if it is Bali or Bokeo, Sumatra or Sankhampaeng. Same, same.

The best I can hope for is that through this blog, increased awareness of uniqueness of hot springs (and waterfalls) and their natural surroundings will lead to better soaking and cleaner facilities. In some cases tasteful, but not over the top. Enhanced natural surroundings, though preferably undisturbed. Until then, I’ll continue the quest in person and on the internet, a relentless search for the ultimate Shangrila La. Who knows? As with Julie in the film it might just change my life. Or inspire others ….

An artificial picture of an artificial geyser. Fang Thailand. Caption:
'Painting in acrylics by NAPAT YOTHONGYOS'.

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