Sunday, 3 March 2013

To do

Soaking in Southeast Asia is a winter tradition and thus we have now seen the busiest months in many of the region's hot springs. Rereading many of the internet features published recently, there does seem to more features on the previous natural soaks, but now up and coming thermal spa's. Or whatever they may be developed into.

Gone are the hot springs with natural features, common people and soaking bliss. Of course economic development has resulted in free time or cash at hand; thus the need to develop the natural world to make fit for the consumer.
What remains are facilities ill-equipped to deal with the many visitors or exclusive clubs where the willingness to line the pockets of distant shareholders results in an exclusivity. 
I always wonder, how is it possible that this has not occurred on this scale in Japan?

'Quite possibly the best Hot Spring I've found out here in Thailand yet! Multiple pools of varying temps, and a #creek to cool off in, for 100 #Baht entrance, definitely worth a visit!'
Porn Rang hot springs, Ranong, Thailand. From the webstagram site of skoisirius.

Advice wanted
As always those Japanese traditions are being challenged. Possibly innocent, but what to think about this poster on tripadvisor who wants to experience an onsen but is in a quandry
'... being a Westerner, I am a bit shy of being naked in public. If we go to an onsen where the gender are separated, I`m thinking it won`t be that much fun. On the other hand, if we go to a mixed-gender onsen, I`m thinking it will surely be awkward (not for me but I don`t want people to look at my wife)'. 
Talk about thinking backward! Some of the answers: 
'We had very similar concerns, especially because I speak some Japanese but my wife doesn't so she was not comfortable going to a gender segregated onsen where she'd have to cope on her own. In the end I went on my own to a gender segregated bath in central Osaka'. 
Problem solved. Why take the wife at all when travelling? Saves money ...?!
'I don't know what other people think, but I want some time of my own alone apart from my partner sometimes; I don't want to share toilet and pee with her. I also like gentlemen's gatherings at an izakaya/bar without ladies. But then Girlfriend might want to go shopping alone without a grumpy boy. I am always frustrated by the length of time girls spend on make ups and hair do.
Do you always take a shower or bath together with your partner? I don't'.
As the saying goes ..., when in Rome .... Begs the question why travel if you're not willing to adapt / tolerant different customs?

Geothermal power
Japan has it's own in problems in preservation of it's age old soaking rites (see above) and rights. Yomiuri online (26 Feb. 2013) has another article concerning the direction of Japan's power status and the possibility of developing geothermal power. Concentrating on Hokkaido's Daisetsuzan National Park it mentions that whatever happens 
'... the entire process from the initial survey to geothermal power generation could take anywhere from eight to 10 years'. Which will mean that it takes nearly forever ...'.
It also mentions that one reason why geothermal power generation is under development in respect of the potential is that much of the potential lies within National Parks.
'After regulations were relaxed in March last year, however, many plans to build geothermal power plants have appeared nationwide. However, with the exception of Daisetsuzan, many plans have been met with local opposition as development could adversely affect the environment and onsen hot spring sources.
In the case of Daisetsuzan, the Sounkyo Onsen hot spring resort is about four kilometers from the planned construction site.
However, the survey can be carried out as local residents, including the resort's local tourism association, have welcomed the plan. Furthermore, there is also a plan to reuse the hot water discharged from power generation to heat public facilities'. 
The best way forward is a win-win? Now why is that most if not all geothermal power plans neglect local soaking potential?

Geothermal power potential in the Philippines by CNN: A short intro.

Rock bathing?
Well via Hot soaks of the Himal we have been introduced to hot stone baths and in aprevious entry here we have discovered what Ganbanyoku is.  
Onsen addict recently adds from Japan: 
'Lying on rocks is a great way to relax after a hard day at the office. The rocks might be flat slabs of heated granite, or thousands of tiny rocks that warm your body, like a thick quilt.  Ganbanyoku, (岩盤浴), is a "bathing" method that is spreading in popularity across Japan, and from Japan to other countries, because it feels so invigorating.  Low, comfortable, constant heat opens your skin pores, and you sweat out the dirt and impurities from your body while dozing or spacing out in softly lit rooms. The rocks below you are heated through the floor. Afterwards, a more traditional Japanese onsen, or hot spring, will leave your skin soft and pure'.
After an extensive description of what is on offer at Ryusenji-no-yu he laments that TVs should be banned from hot springs! 

Lonely Planet has a top 10 of Japanese hot springs. Among them the best hidden hot spring; now something tells me that will not last long ...

The site has a top 7 of Indonesia's Natural Thermal Baths. All quite surprisingly but nonetheless than Banyuwedang hot spring, probably Bali's least known. Funny that the picture includes Banjar hot spring, notmentioned at all in the top 7 ...

Another top, the top 5 onsens to visit in Japan.

Then there is the global top 10 by Reuters Business Travel. Only one Asian entry, but altogether a surprising 10. Focus on more natural hot springs but also noted is Peninsula hot spring, Australia.

  • Malaysia 
A hot spring seeing a surge in visitors is that of Panchor Dayak. Through my lens has a blog entry:
'... the spring has been there for a long time since the 1800, known only to the local villagers. It has only been recently acknowledged by the government and the official opening ceremony was done by the local Deputy Tourism Minister on the 8th September 2012. Since then there have built some basic amenities for the visitors and the place looks better and more organized'. 
And less natural. Highly critical:
'Water quality by my observation is not all that awesome.. I’d have to say that I would not use it to gargle or wash my mouth yet alone taste it. It flows slowly to the back of the compound and left to disperse by itself. 
There is also no bathing place at the compound for rinsing your body after wards, don’t know if it’s intentional just to simplify operations or not; however there are toilets and changing rooms provided'.
A photo:


A press entry stemming from the Borneo Post (27 Jan.) concerning the same hot spring. What do we learn?
'... he [Deputy Tourism Minister Datuk Dr James Dawos] has met two persons whose helath improved after frequenting the hot spring.
At one point, there were people who came all the way from Lawas for a cure at Panchor Hot Spring.
“This is why the Tourism Ministry has upgraded the hot spring for all to stay healthy and happy.”
Panchor Hot Spring is a community-based tourism project developed by the ministry at a cost of RM450,000 and completed in May last year.
The ministry is looking at introducing a women’s section for more privacy.
On Panchor Hot Spring, he suggested that locals come up with a plan to develop a hotel and resort around the area to draw visitors.
“Some tourists want to come to the hot spring, but there is no hotel around. So it will be nice to have a resort next to the hot spring.”'
Perceptions of what is understood with development ...

Borneo Post (Jan. 2) has another hot spring related article, this time it has a feature on a new hotel near poring hot springs, Sabah. Named Hot Spring Garden it's more directed to the everyday tourist rather than upmarket clientèle. And the hot springs?
'He [the proprietor] assured guests could always enjoy the hot springs nearby from 5pm to 9pm, sparing them the hassle of competing for the hot tubs and swimming pools with othre day-trippers or those staying at the resorts within the area'.
'Annah Rais Hot Spring - Another view from a distance'.
From the blog of My Beautiful Malaysia
  • Myanmar
Despite having the same rulers as the last 30-40 years, jetting into Myanmar has now become hot; see it before disappears?  Inle Lake is high of the to be visited list. 
Kaung Daling is the name of a hot spring on the shores of the lake. Michi in a photo booth
'This spa is recommended by Lonely Planet as well so people are interested to go there but when they see that it is in fact a real spa with pools (they give you robes and shampoo…full treatment!) they are probably disappointed. They expect something wilder from Myanmar..we were happy with what we found! We also had a little discount because we were the first customers that day'.
'3 days and around 21 hrs of hiking later ...a well deserved break'
Myanmar opening up to soaking discoveries. From webstagram site of paulinebatista
  • Philippines
Another rave about Puning, this time a photoblog by ambot-ah, nice views of this increasingly popular hot spring.
Not a very extensive blog entry, but not often commented on. Badekbek near Daclan (Luzon) was visited by Rojae
'The smoke and sulfuric scent emitted could be seen and smelled from a distance. The hot water from the spring is believed to have some therapeutic effects'.
Ardent Hot spring, the Philippines. Blogged by Loopie.
  • Thailand
Pai, Mae Hong Son, Thailand
From the flickr site of LewMez.
Sometimes development isn't always a solution. From thaivisa forum (1 Jan.):
'My girlfriend and I visited the OnSen Hot Springs Resort, in Sankampaeng [Chiang Mai], on New Year's Eve day. In the past, you could spend the day using their hot springs in a private room. The resort now limits your stay to 50 minutes for the same price as the previous day usage. I couldn't help notice that in addition to the limited time you could spend in a room, it appeared they have dismissed their cleaning staff. If that wasn't bad enough, the resort no longer has hot spring water, lol'. 
'OnSen Resort is only about a minute or two drive from the San Kampheng Hot Springs. Up until this year, it was a high end resort'.
The hot springs of Chiang Dao, Chiang Mai, Thailand. From the webstagram site of buhnibear.
  • Vietnam
Half Japanese Aki Avis visits the hot spring of Thanh Tan, Hue. Expectations not met:
'Vietnamese-style hot springs resembles more a water park than a relaxing bath! There were also baths just to soak in, but the bulk of the resort was made up of water slides, a giant wave pool (which was being cleaned and sadly unusable), and play parks. Needless to say I was very happy have had wrong expectations. The mix of decadent relaxation (i.e. the two massages I indulged in) with sheer excitement (one of the slides was so fast that you actually went airborne on it! Not up to Canadian-safety standards if I had to guess...) was unique and refreshing! What a way to spend hump day...'.
Another find, revealed from the phuyennews are Tra O hot springs: 
'Unlike a natural stream, Tra O hot-mineral water has a temperature of about 700C, flowing from two dragon-heads built on an area of about 3m2. This system is designed as a shrine of the mountain-god. On the roof and the small lake under are the architecture of two dragons with sacred and mysterious features, behind is a space with a size large enough for a person to enter deep inside to have a sauna, the way people here do to have a better health, or cure a number of rheumatic diseases, skin diseases 
… According to many local people, the hoses in the hot spring were built in the French invasion time when cultural traces hadn’t been discovered yet. When the road is improved, trees are planted, the hot spring is sundered into hot-water pools…, it will attract many tourists to visit and enjoy euphoria feeling as having a bath in the fresh-hot water'. 
In Asia, it's the more (visitors) the merrier ..., hmmm.

Mud bath competition. The i-resort in Nha Trang is attracting more and more visitors. Tripadvisor posters note that it is more expensive. The compaison: 
'I just went there yesterday. it is a much better experience than thap ba. two big hot pools, several warm and cool pools including 3 natural style pools. overall it feels like a real resort. Make sure you go early. at 7am when it opened there was just us and two others. from 9-11am 300 people had shown up'. Priorities: 'Went today and I must say what a great day out it was first time I have had a mud bath and will go back for more . The food as the resort very good 2 noodle soups and fried rice 4 bottles of tiger total cost of 200,000 and very nice '.
China heading forward
Looking into how you develop a hot spring resort in China? In Mianyang, Sichuan they are developing a resort ...: 
'This luxury hot spring resort is built around the hilltop of Luo Fu Shan, in Sichuan Province. The site is 300Mu or 21Ha, with 70.000 m2 built surface. AIM has designed the master plan, landscape, architecture and interiors.
The project is unique to us as we are in control of almost all aspects of the projects. The masterplan is set up to use the different landscape opportunities on the site. The different functions have different types of buildings that each benefit from their immediate surroundings. This results in an architectural range that is at the same time diverse and unique'. 
Design by AIM Architecture.

More top end developments in China. Opening up is the Chongqing Beibei Banyan Tree
'Nestled in the Jin Yun mountain, Banyan Tree Chongqing Beibei features 107 contemporary Suites and Villas, each showcasing a private dipping pool fed by water from nearby hot springs'. 
It will open up step by step from the end of February 2013 (source).

'Can we get in on this? @kathy_macleod and I hot spring #chilaxing in Mae Hong Son. @jessvsworld @wesleyhsu @veronosaurus @lifecw'
From the flickr site of RealThai
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