Sunday, 14 April 2013


'Swimming in the hot springs on the Rinjani trekking tour ! Lombok - Indonesia'
From webstagram page of gogi29

What's customary? 
A variety of recent articles / blog entries follows, all concerning customs of foreigners vis à vis local customs.

Travelling to foreign countries opens oneself to different experiences. In this piece by CNN (Apr. 10) they discuss the advent of Chinese tourists abroad. Both the expectations of those coming and those offering hospitality are challenged. However when both adapt great experiences may occur.
The same source follows it up with more comments: basically all  tourists which come in hordes irrespective of nationality are hard to handle: 
'Summing up the "just because you've got money doesn't mean I have to respect you" contingent, THEGenuineOLiTWiST wrote: "In general, most mainland Chinese who are 40 or over are suffering from this money= respect syndrome. The younger ones are much better at 'fitting in' with their travel destination's social and cultural norms"'.
So how does one re-act to outlandish social norms? With hot springs? This (young?) lady, from Singapore, while in Japan does go into the onsen. Though she has misgivings:
'Then we unpack and went to the hotspring only me and chenhong went seriously i think between friends it's also a very awkward thing looking at each others boobs and vagina and everyone (locals) were like so open about showing their body.... you know there's those door then you go in is locker room you see in anime?
But in real life the moment you enter the door you see all the naked aunties saggy boobs young kids boobs and many people not blow drying their hair but their vagina hair. FUCKING WEIRD RIGHT.. I took such a long time to undress myself and psycoing myself that this will be my only experience i should just go....'.
From the above citation it can be expected to conclude that this is a the first part of an overall poor experience. It's not, the lady in questions does enjoy the experience. 
It's odd that on the one hand when from Singapore, a society which is possibly one of the most prudish in the world, one has no qualms about at least partaking in the locals' habits however contrite. On the other when abroad, Asians (in general) are very well aware that this is not home ... and adapt ...

This attitude seems to differ from for instance North Americans (Anglo-based), where experiencing traditions not meeting the social norm known, means a no-no to the experience ....
That it is not always the case, illustrates the following experience from i heart rachabees (Mar. 27): 
'When people ask me what was the best thing I did in Japan, I usually mull over the question, my mind wandering to the weekend trip with my friends to Naoshima, the day spent celebrating a small local festival in Himeji, biking the Shimanami Kaido or the big dance festival in Kagoshima. However, when it comes down to a unique, off the beaten path experience, Kita Onsen was possibly the absolute best.
I came across Kita Onsen as a photo on tumblr, an atmospheric shot of a woman reclining in steaming waters under the imposing face of a giant tengu demon mask. I was so intrigued that I started researching the mysterious hot springs hotel, discovering it dated back to the 1600s, and, even better, it was relatively affordable for me (at least in comparison to other onsen hotels).
After they retired for bed, I decided to take advantage of the late hour and go in the mixed onsens without a bathing suit. I crept outside to the big outdoor pool. The wind was absolutely howling and I quickly jumped into the warm water, beautiful and surreal in the dark night. The sky had semi-cleared and there were stars visible and clouds lit white-blue by the half moon were racing across the sky. I swam and swam, as great gusts of wind whirled autumn leaves around me and chilled any inch of me not covered by warm water.
Next I went to the Tengu no Yu, where I sat in the bath and took in my strange surroundings, the enormous masks watching me with their scowls. Then the third floor baths, where I soaked for a bit, listening to the strangled gurgling of the old drains'.
What about differing soaking habits without foreign tourists? An interesting discussion on the Facebook site of the Friends of Cougar (hot spring), Oregon, U.S.A.. Administrator posts this: 
'This weekend at Cougar I interviewed several people and came up with what I think are the reasons many people don't go nude [for which this hot spring is partially known for]: 
The relative importance of each varies with each person.
1. Vibe. Presence of people in suits relative to people nude.
2. Fear of inferiority. Self conscious about their suit-covered areas.
3. Insensitivity. A disregard for suits causing discomfort for people nude or wanting to be nude.
4. Habit. Long instilled habitual behavior.
Special cases: 
5. Fear of superiority. Fear of being judged too hot and getting too much attention and scrutiny. 
6. Friends. Presence of judgment of friends / family'. 

After much response this evolves to:
'With the help of your suggestions, I've revised my list: 
Vibe. Presence of people in suits relative to people nude. 
Body image. Being self conscious about one's suit-covered areas. 
Habit. Long-instilled social programming. 
Insensitivity. A disregard for suits causing social and aesthetic discomfort for people nude or wanting to be nude. 
Special cases: 
Shyness. Fear of getting too much attention and scrutiny. 
Friends. Presence of judgment of friends / family'.
One later response:
'It is so strange that so many clothed people go to cougar. Obviously they are ok with nudity...weird'. 
An interesting discussion on an interesting and thought provoking page. 
Other strange tourist habit news. Debat on Sanya, Hainan, China's (only?) nudist beach. (Mar. 25): 
'Many tourists have posted nude photographs while vacationing at Sanya's nudist beach in south China's Hainan Province, giving the Chinese public a vivid imagination of what happens at Sanya, Taiwan newspaper Want Daily reported.
Sanya is a popular tourist destination in China. The so called nudist beach lies on Da Dong Hai (Great East Sea) beach, is only three kilometers from Sanya. It has become increasingly common to see groups of people chatting and playing cards in the nude at the far end of the beach.
There is no sign posted to inform tourists that the area is for nudists, and there have been reports of embarrassing encounters between clothed and nude beach goers.
An internet user called "yilunanfeng" said that the beach used to be frequented by foreigners on vacation, but gradually more and more Chinese tourists took over the nudist beach'.
'"Yilunanfeng" [internet user] advised that the local government should set up a notice to remind people that there is a nude beach here'.
Apparently, some habits are not so outlandish as one would suppose ....

Another example in the customary section. Is Thailand uptight? TTR weekly (Apr. 10) reports that just one third of respondents to a Thai national poll were uncomfortable with perceived relax of dress code during Thai new year celebrations (Songkran): 
'The poll of 1,253 people countrywide reported 36.79% were unhappy and opposed celebrations involving females wearing skimpy or see-through dresses or suggestive dancing'. 
Strange? Just to put this perspective, nearly half of the respondents thought the government should ban the sale of alcohol during Songkran! Priorities or common sense?

More (or less) on the same. One could be surprised (shocked even?) in Malacca, Malaysia:
'"It was a real shock to see someone in the nude like this in conservative Malacca," he said.
Security guard P. Saravanan, 39, said he reprimanded the [French?] woman but she was nonchalant about it.
"She only replied 'I am going naked to save the world. I am a naturist' and she continued walking," he said.
Saravanan said he called the police, who came and took her away'. 
It doesn't mention if she managed to save the world, at the very least it's not worse off. 
One may frown on the police action, but alas, this is very much the same action police would do all over the world: clearly an outlying free-thinking individual, have to stop this in the bud (google naked rambler).
Toya Bungkah, Bali, Indonesia. kailey_styles:
'Just swimming next to a volcano, the usual'.
Is there a hot springs app? has an app for the US: a long overview of all (commercial) hot springs and reviews. Chapters of for instance California and Idaho chapters cost $9,99; Oregon is slightly cheaper. The owner (author) Richard:
'Many of my friends tried to dissuade me from publishing a hot springs guide fearing that hordes of iPhone users would descend on their favorite soaking hideaways. Alas, this was the only application that intrigued me enough to actually see methrough allthe hard work. It was the first thing I really wanted on my iPhone, so for better or worse I was hopelessly hooked.
To mitigate the impact, I decided to price the app at $9.99, higher than the usual $0.99 or $1.99, but cheaper than the equivalent paper guide books. I know many iPhone user's won't be happy about this but I felt it was the responsible thing to do, even though it will greatly reduce the project's annual revenue.
Although I don't worry about the commercial springs being overrun, many of the primitive sites are fragile. You can help by becoming a hot spring steward, not just a hot springs consumer. Tread lightly and help pickup after the people who don't understand how precious these magical places are'.
Maybe a future project for this blog?

Geothermal news
Nuclear leaks have forced Marubeni, one of Japan's largest companies, to look at geothermal power. Japan Times (Apr. 4):
'More than 70 percent of respondents in an opinion poll by the Asahi Shimbun in February said Japan should scrap nuclear power, a stance favored by environmentalists who note geothermal energy does the same thing as nuclear with much less risk.
“To import a very complex and difficult technology to boil water in the world’s most seismically active country when there is such vast geothermal potential strikes me as madness,” David Suzuki, a Canadian author, environmentalist and board member of the Japan Renewable Energy Foundation, said in an interview.
The projects threaten to revive conflict with hot springs resorts, which are concerned commercial geothermal plants will siphon away the same reserves that they tap. Geothermal developments were largely off-limits before the Great East Japan Earthquake in March 2011 because heat reserves were set aside for the resorts.
“We realize geothermal is one of our energy options,” said Hirokazu Nunoyama, secretary general of the Japan Spa Association. “But there are impacts on the environment. There are cases of hot spring resources running out or thinning, or a drop in water temperatures.”'
The article finishes as follows, not upbeat for the soakers: 
'“Geothermal plants are rapidly increasing in major geothermal countries abroad, and we are the only country that is not moving ahead,” Susumu Tanaka, chairman of the Japan Geothermal Association, said in a statement on the group’s website'.
And though some might view this as positive, the same article on Bloomberg has a less positive headline: 
'Marubeni Targets National Park in Japan for Geothermal'
So whose side are they on?

'Japan’s Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) is currently considering 21 geothermal projects as part of its overall renewable energy strategy', 
so reports thinkgeoenergy.

Der Spiegel (Mar. 10) relates about Japan's search for geothermal power generation: 
'Dabei ist das eigentliche Problem ein anderes: Knapp ein Dutzend regionale Stromversorger haben das Land unter sich aufgeteilt. Diese Platzhirsche stemmen sich gegen unerwünschte Neuerungen. "Sie haben kein Interesse an Wettbewerb, und sie arbeiten auch nicht zusammen", sagt Kosuke Kurokawa, Chef des Japan Council for Renewable Energy'. 
I.e. regional power companies are not interested in new potential as this counters their current position / interests.

In Central America companies are eyeing up national parks as well: 
'The President of Costa Rica signs decree that will start a public interest investigation into potential geothermal power development in the National Park of Rincon de la Vieja'.  
'Various environmental organizations oppose legislation that would open the Rincon de la Vieja National Park in Costa Rica to geothermal development'.
Indonesia is capitalizing on geothermal.
A new geothermal field found near Kolaka, Sulawesi, Indonesia (source). No news as to how one finds a new geothermal field ...
Japanese development aid gets used to develop geothermal power in Indonesia: 
'Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) is providing a development loan of $53.4 million to the Tulehu [Ambon] geothermal power project of PLN in Indonesia'. 
A thing of the past:

'Hot-Spring Tulehu, Ambon Island'
From the flickr page of helenanya-simon

Turkey would like to invest in Java, Indonesia's geothermal potential. Invest heavily
'Turkish group Hitay is planning investment of up to $2.5 billion in three projects in Indonesia, at Mount Bromo, Mount Lamongan and Raung, East Java. The estimated potential for all three project is at about 1,100 MW'.
Around the region
  • Malaysia
The aclaimed Travelfish authority has a take on Langkawi island's hot spring Ayer Hangat: 
'Malay-style buildings create a village-like environment on the lush landscaped grounds, with cool and hot water pools. A series of small canals run through the grounds and connect hot spring water collected from two wells with cooler water, offering you temperature variation options. Surprisingly, the hot springs are natural salt water, which seeps up from the shallow tide table. The springs claim to be medicinal, helping improve chronic skin conditions, detoxing and joint pain resulting from injury or gout'.
But are the springs worth a visit / soak?
  • Thailand
Hot spring festivals are catching on (Pattaya Mail, Mar. 22): 
'The province is holding an eight-day festival “Mineral Hot Spring Bathing” from today through March 30 at the health park near Ranong’s municipality office to promote health tourism.
Hot spring bath services, spa treatment, Thai traditional medicines, mineral water and herbal products are available at 30-50 per cent discounts'.
In Thailand an idea has been to renew government legislation of the spa sector (the Nation, Mar. 25): 
'However, the spa scene has been unfortunately partly plagued by a sexual image. If word of mouth by tourists on this issue spreads, the industry will no doubt be hit.
This is one of the troubles for Krod Rojanastien, the new president of the Thai Spa Association. He admits the industry has faced barriers at a time when Thai spas are growing in popularity in the global market.
A new law is needed to help shape up and modernise the industry. The industry has been stuck with the Spa Act of 1966, as amended in 2003, to cope with the rapidly-changing industry. It has waited for a decade for the law to be approved by Parliament.
The Spa Act defines a spa like a massage service. This is way out of date.
If the law passes, law enforcement will lead to a big change in the industry. That means spas will be scrutinised in detail as a way to crack down on sex-oriented openings.
Also, those working in the industry will be upgraded professionally with a proof of licence via a training programme designed by the Public Health Ministry. A committee, chaired by the minister, will be set up to check standards regularly to ensure the industry's sustainability'.
Kantang, Trang, Thailand. From webstagram page of harrietwh.
  • Vietnam
An interesting blog entry on Tien Lang hot spring, Hai Phong, Vietnam. The promise: 
'Especially, Tien Lang Hot Spring Tourist Site promises to bring the tourists to a wonderful world with feelings of enjoying, relaxing, and reinforcing health by the staff that are technically philological and major in massaging with a lot of experience'.
More cash
Big companies in hot spring development (Travel Daily, Mar 27): 
'Banyan Tree Hotels & Resorts has signed a new hot spring resort close to the Chinese city of Chongqing.
All rooms feature private hot spring pools. The resort will also feature a large Banyan Tree spa with seven different outdoor and indoor hot spring pools with waters at a constant temperature of 38⁰C, plus nine treatment rooms, a gymnasium and yoga room'.
'Evening hot spring session'
Palawan, Philippines

1 comment:

  1. Very funny coming across an excerpt from my blog I Heart Rachabees on here, that being said, I'm very passionate about hot spring culture and I'm glad it came across in my writing. You might be interested in some more recent work of mine about Japanese onsen:


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