Wednesday, 18 August 2010

Followed suit

Batu city, located 25 km west of Malang, East Java is due to the natural surroundings and it’s climate a magnet for Indonesian tourism. (see also Batu's entry on wikitravel) Considering that potatoes and apples grow here, a hot soak is also a worthy pursuit.

The village of Songgoriti lies 5 km west of Batu. It is at the end of a narrowing valley just before the watershed divide. Songgoriti is well-known for it’s natural swimming pool (Tirtanirwana, but not for it's mineral water), it’s small touristy market and the developed hot spring. It also has good access to Cobanrundo waterfall just beyond the surrounding hill.

However just 300m up from the market is the Air Panas Songgoriti complex (named Pa Pa?), which seems to be a resort with overnight staying possibilities as well as place accustomed just for visiting for the hot water. The source of the hot springs itself is not obvious, but there is an kidney shaped smallish pool and indoor bath tubs (15,000 INR; with jacuzzi facilities 25,000 INR (~2,75$US)) available for rent. That seems to be it. The facilities do look well kept and there is the added attraction of an ancient Hindu statue in the front garden. Not so many visitors though.

The Air Panas Songgoriti hot spring complex. In front garden, ancient Hindu statue.

I opt out of a soak, at least until I have explored the surroundings in more detail. Just beyond the resort boundary a makeshift sign calls out once more 'Sumber Air Panas Belerang' (see lead photo), belerang implying sulphur. Down a few steps and one is besides a small stream with next to the stream a few cement protected springs. A couple of men are bathing by using the water from these bubbling springs as a mandi, i.e. they are throwing the water over themselves using a small bucket. The water itself is not as hot as one would expect. The bubbles are most probably formed by soda. The men wholeheartedly ask me to join in bathing. To my surprise one of the men is showering au-natural. I am compelled to join him.

One of the springs. Sand bags protect it from wash outs. Note mandi's on the edge.

This bathing custom though natural seems to raise eyebrows; even when sex segregated most Southeast Asians seam squeamish about undressing in each other's company. Though I did note that when I visited Bali, nudity was sometimes apparent when bathing; on the other hand tourists where often asked to refrain from such manner, at for instance Banjar hot spring. On the odd chance that I might have stumbled on the village mad man (and followed his initiative!), elsewhere on Java I later saw more people bathing (semi-) naked. It so much more pleasant. At least on flickr I saw another blatant voyeur photo (nsfw!) from the same soaking site. Possibly he might have been of the same fellow! Hopefully the foliage kept out the voyeurs, wonder if women follow suit?

Enjoying the springs costs just 1,000 INRs (~0,10$US) which is collected in an honesty box, below the stairs. entry on Songgoriti with more info on the ancient statues. Another source adds:
'This old temple is located in Songgoriti tourism area and often visited by many tourists. Supo Temple is a heritage temple of mojopahit and believed by society around as place to wash heirloom thousands years ago'.
Getting there: From Batu (20 km west from Malang) head further west to Songgoriti. From the Songgoriti market it is 300m upstream, both places are on your left. Can’t be missed.
Soaking experience: The hot spring resort looked well cared and maintained and certainly a soak is worthwhile here. Nearer the source(s) a real soak can not be had but a dunking, which has it’s merits as well. Beautiful surroundings as well, not locked in.
Overall impression: Both the resort as well as the wild soaking area are well recommended. At least by this website …

The main building: more happy soakers.

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