Monday, 13 June 2011

Another update, mid-June 2011

Soaking in Southeast Asia has slowly been gaining more popularity, the blog receives more than 40 visits per day and more than 4,500 page views per month, which is increasing month by month. The Himal blog is also seeing more traffic (despite no new entries; I'll be reworking and updating the original ones), but surprisingly Soaking in Siam is lagging behind. That despite for instance two new original blog entries from Phetchabun province, Phu Toei and Nam Rong.

Most popular entry on this site is the entry on art and hot springs though the more recent entry on mud is catching up; in the last 30 days this entry clocked up three times as many entries as the art entry, which itself just had more pageviews than other older blog entries. Considering the amount of time I put into the mud entry I am not at all disappointed.

Upcoming is less great news as I will be leaving the region in the foreseeable future, though more Thai soaks will be added before. As well as an overview of Thailands top soaks.

Fishy business once more
  • Apparently a never ending story. Travelfish Siem Reap blog has an entry on the fishy foot massage business. Though they also note the concern, they repeat how pleasurable it is:
    'Admittedly, it’s not completely unpleasant having your feet nibbled, though many would doubtless prefer the Princess Fergie school of toe-nibbling to having actual schools of fish perform the dirty deed. The sensitive among us clearly find the experience so earth-shatteringly, ooh, ticklish, that screams, shrieks and loud whoops are in order, causing numerous people to drop their beers with fright. Actually I made the last bit up, but to the screamers, do you have to? Really?'.
    The rash of fish massages is now spreading to the other haven of tourists, free of legalities, Phnom Penh.
  • Last month the Guardian had a feature on fish pedicures as it debates their increasing popularity and health issues:
    'Following the decision by more than a dozen states in the US to ban the pedicures over fears they could spread infections and disease, scientists from the Health Protection Agency have begun an investigation into potential risks. A spokesperson for the agency said that, while it did not expect to be enforcing a ban in the UK and believed the risk of catching an infection from a fish foot spa to be "very small", it was looking at publishing guidelines for the public'.
    The article continues and as always the case in Britain, protecting the fish may well be the single most important issue if a ban is imposed!
Beautiful blogs
  • Well, I pride myself on my ability to seek out obscure hot springs in what many would consider a wild goose chase. However a blog entry by Ben seems to encapsulate an even more determined spirit. On a hunch he seeks a zoak in Zhongdian, Yunnan, China. He was advised to find out a hardly known hot spring with magical properties. On his bike it took him no less than 5 days to find the place, each day filled with taking in the surroundings and having mini-adventures (and doubling back to Zhongdian). He eventually finds it, a small enclosure packed with mud and just a trickle of boiling hot water.
    'Concerning Nom’s therapeutic, secret mountaintop, cave-side hot spring bathing pool, there wasn’t, not even for a moment, a sense of being let down. Rather, it was a fitting cosmic reminder that beyond any doubt the search for this mud was the real reward, and never, no matter how nice the pool would have been, it wouldn’t have been anything more than me swimming in some hot water. It’s also I think perfectly fitting that both times I followed Nom’s advice to go seek out some amazing water, there wasn’t any water to behold. I mean, really, that’s something. Yet, in one manner I think he was right. I can only assume through some extreme-condensation that the water in this formerly brimming pool must have had some residual super-magic in it. While the extended exercise in the crisp mountain air I think has done my body good, and while this is just anecdotal, my new ability to read minds I think is worth noting, and cannot be solely attributed to cycling in the Himalaya. Though, to risk sounding less than humble, being a mind reader now isn’t really all that much of a change, as it seems China only has one thought on its mind: “You can’t use chopsticks.”'.
    As always the journey is worthier than the destination. Too often in modern days we are only concerned with the destination, overlooking the more valuable journey. If I would be in the habit of awarding annual prizes for Best Story on Soaking, Ben would have bagged this years prize easily ...

Geothermal energy, a hot item?
  • China is aggressively seeking to increase the importance of geothermal energy in meeting the countries seemingly insatiable demand for power. Could be worse.
  • No less then Pippa Middleton will help in promoting geothermal energy in the UK according to Think Geoenergy, though not known in which capacity ...
  • In Japan, a turn has taken place to geothermal power. An investment advice notes that despite Japan's volatile geothermality, power has not been developed as in other countries. Why not invest?
    'However, by and large its thermal regions have been transformed into onsen – hot spring resorts - which are a hugely significant phenomenon of Japanese culture. Many of the best resources are in national parks and in popular tourist spots. Indeed, reverence for hot springs is such that one geothermal energy expert declared that they are regarded as almost holy by the Japanese'.
The cultured
  • AsiaSpa has a feature article on onsens in Niseko, Japan. This Singapore edited, East Asia marketed magazine apparently acknowledges that spa in essence (and naturality) is a hot spring but as it focuses on the higher income generating minority of the regions public, it can't suggest a local soak. However Japanese soaks come with instructions, all matter of fact:
    'The most common mistake first-time visitors make is to enter the baths in swim suits, which are not allowed'.
    Well, as anyone visiting a Southeast Asian soak will contest (with exception of Vietnam), one would believe that swim suits are not allowed as well; everybody just soaks in their daily clothes! Other pointers: don't stare, don't be noisy, don't bring your own drinks. In other words if visiting a regional soak here, expect them to be noisy with visitors staring and drinking. And consider yourself lucky because it could be a lot worse ...
  • Tourists from China are spoiling weekend aways in Taiwan:
    'No work, no computers, just relaxing in the hot springs, taking a drive around, and eating. But the Chinese tourists staying at the resort almost spoiled it'.
    What a horror!
Hot trend?
  • Anyway, the region is trying it's best. Newcomer to cater to more demanding visitors is Alba Health Thermal Resort, next to Thanh Tan hot spring near Hue, Vietnam. Pictures are on Picasa. They claim to the first balneotherapy resort in Vietnam, balneotherapy referring to medicinal use as opposed to recreational use. Now why this distinction? If soaking recreationally, surely the medical benefits would also be included. Or is it simply an expensive term to discern itself from the hordes? Anyway, looks like a nice place to stay and I hope that they become a guiding light to others. As long as they don't move any more upmarket ...
  • Burilasai Hot Spring Resort and Spa, Mae-On, Thailand is another newcomer, at least in name. Not much info ... It mentions 'hot mineral', hopefully it means hot mineral water, because the pictures seem not to emphasize it's soaking qualities ... 269 friends on Facebook. One respondent on Agoda mentions the
    'spa is great'.
  • Webecoist start off with 13 natural swimming pools from around the world. Some hot, some not. Yangbajain (Tibet) and Blue Lagoon (Iceland) are the hottest, but neither is natural! Representing Southeast Asia are Tat Kuang Si waterfall in Lao and Mabinay spring in the Philippines.
  • Top diving equipment has it's Top 10 Unique Natural Springs of the Philippines. 1-10: Salinas Salt spring (not hot), Tangub HS, Malumpati (not), Hidden Valley HS, Timoga Cold Spring, Ardent HS, Tukuhan HS, Sto. Niño Cold Spring, Asin HS and Tiwi HS at no. 10. All
    'really worth visiting'.
  • Staying with the Philippines, there are also
    '6 Ways to Soak in Ardent Spring in Camiguin'.
    With crossed legs, folded knees, one leg folded, lying flat (legs inward or outward), floating in frog position! Ha! By tagabukid8705.
Finally, there's the new hot spring of Taal volcano, the Philippines (source). It's lake is increasing in heat and would qualify as a hot spring.

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