Friday, 8 January 2010

Updates for December 2009

If you have been following the other Soaking in Southeast Asia associated sites, you'll have seen quite some progress on the Hot Soaks of the Himalaya blog. Besides Bhutan, Sikkim and half of Nepal has been added, yet again providing the most extensive info on hot springs in these area's. The intention is to slowly go west ward, before returning east and north.

Elsewhere there has been an update on Bo Klueng hot spring (Thailand) and another personally visited hot spring site will be added (Samothong, Thailand) on the Soaking in Siam site.

Bangkok Post (17-12-09) has an article on Mae Chaem, southwest of Chiang Mai, Thailand. It includes a short description of Ob Luang National Park and it's hot spring:
'Just 12 kilometers northwest of park headquarters is one with 10 private baths, but it is not that popular among visitors. It charges 50 baht for a 20-minute dip and 150 baht for an hour. Also available is message service'.
It includes the photo's of the Thai institution of cell like hot tubs. Why is it not popular among visitors?

Where I live (Cambodia) there has been an interesting article in the local Phnom Penh Post (16-12-09) on the so-called Dr. Fish business which has been reported previously here on some occasions.
Cambodia's tourist hot spot of Siem Reap has seen a proliferation of businesses offering a 10-20 minute spell with fish eating your feet. The original entrepreneur who started up this business imported the original fish from their origin (Turkey) and was doing a swimmingly business. However locals have seen that success and copied it and undercut the original entrants prices. The proliferation has seen the town's main evening scene street offer the same treatment but with a free coke / beer. This has lead to a recriminations by the original entrepreneur that his competitors are not using the right fish (which have no teeth). That said the competitors say they have access to local fishes which they starve before feeding them foreign feet! Fishy business this.
BTW, co-incidentally the Sydney Morning Herald (9-12-09) features Dr Fish under the caption
'You can't do that'.
Tip, go to some Thai waterfalls (Erawan for instance) and you'll be regarded as food by the many large fish (cat fish, carp) while you try to cool down. And they bite. Though mostly out of curiosity. And not only on your feet. Keep your body protractions covered ...

Spafinder believes it already knows the future and lays claims to the coming trends, which are:
1. Pampering is out, prevention is in [doubt it].
2. Hammams [that trend I thought was behind us].
3. Spa membership; so as to make spa-ing a more social event rather than an individual [spa's, sauna's, soaking are always best enjoyed with (new found) friends I believe; if anything that's why soaking has always been a number one pasttime, from ancient civilisations].
4. Online spa, i.e. booking more spa's via email.
5. Spa hybrids, i.e. spa's and fitness / hospital.
6. Discounting to continue.
7. Wellness tourism wows. Making spa-ing less boring? [The original spa's (sauna's, onsens, hammams, banya's, sweat hut's) remain popular because they are social institutes not wows].
8. More scientific significance given to spa treatment achievements.
9. Diversity: instead of upper class women, more men, youngsters, elders and ethnic groups will hit the spa's.
10. Emphasis on silence and slowness as in slow-food so as to enhance the experience.
In short simply a continuation of prior processes evolving. Spafinder also sums up the main trends of the last 10 years, somehow quite similar to above ...

I've come across a number of special soaks:
  • The first is a soak in Tajikistan, Bibi Fatima:
    'Mathieu and Yann had the first session, then Myriam and I got to enter the hot spring water with a bunch of cute old naked Tajik women. Women supposedly come to bathe here for help with fertility problems. The water comes directly from the spring into a small cave where a cabin has been built to shelter the cave. Other than the teenage attendant who decided she would stand a foot away from Myriam and I while we changed, the springs were very pleasant'.
  • Then from the States an underwater hot spring which can only be enjoyed a few days per month when the tide recedes sufficiently. It's an apparent secret ...
  • Following last months report on soaking in Beaujolais in Japan, Channelnewsasia (from Singapore) shared with viewers a report on soaking with oranges or better said mandarin's. Or ...
    I've been trying to find more on this, though it seems not to be a novelty; this site on bathing rituals in Japan mentions mandarin orange peel being added to baths. And here it mentions that during the winter solstice (which explains why I saw it on TV recently) it's customary to soak with yuza's, a citrus cross between grapefruit and mandarins. Though they may also be called mikans ... Or both.

  • One could in Japan also soak in soja if one wishes. Where does it stop? It doesn't:
    'The Yunessan spa in Japan's hot spring town of Hakone has added noodles to its wine, sake and chocolate menu. You quite literally bath in a big 2m-wide pot of steaming edible broth, while a chef dips noodles and stirs them around you. You literally bob up and down on the noodles'.
A few mentions from blogs:
  • From one of the world's most uptight countries comes a description of a visit by Singaporites to a hot spring in Taiwan. They had major problems with the local custom of nudity:
    'kinda disturbing'
    is how Denise describes naked people. Conditioning has been well accomplished in Singapore as she describes the following:
    'Horrifying, I saw boobs everywhere. And bushes too. But it was even weirder when I saw my family members in the nude'.
    Somehow the opposite may be regarded as just as weird ... She ends the blog entry more positively:
    'haha but it got less awkward after a while, kinda get the hang of it. The hot spring was damnnnn shiok. Anyone that goes to Taiwan should give it a try, nude of course :)'
  • Fellow Singaporean (Happy Rainbow) picks up on pictures concerning a hot spring opening in China. The lengths to go to promote soaking in (Southeast) Asia.
    'Look at this hot spring opening event, 1 bikini girl vs 3 uncles. What is funny is the girl is wearing bikini, yet all the uncles are covered so much'.
  • A recent photo entry on Langkawi's hot spring. Under construction (the hot spring).
  • How do Thai hot springs size up with those elsewhere? Leon reports on an unmentioned hot spring near Chiang Mai:
    'Unfortunately being Thailand these weren’t as nice as one would hope for and we had to settle for the swimming pool rather than a private hot bath once getting over this and the eggy smell the water had it was quite soothing'.
  • The refineme organisation visits Maquinit hot spring:
    'What feels good after a long trek? Soaking in a hot spring. :) After Mt. Tapyas, we headed to Maquinit Hot Spring, somewhere in the depths of the forests of Coron. Okay, just kidding. It’s somewhere in Coron, but the travel to the hot spring kind of freaked us out because we had to go through this dark, dirt road surrounded by trees, and it was absolutely dark save for the light of our tricycle and we couldn’t help but feel paranoid about our surroundings. All good, though. I wonder how different it is if we traveled during daylight.
    The hot spring was HOT. And full of algae. But the heat of the water felt really good. :D Watch out for ghosts, though. ;) '

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