Thursday, 18 July 2013

Publications: Healing Springs - The ultimate guide to taking the waters [?]

Soaking literature is far and few between. 

There are indeed many a hot spring guide book, in the US quite a few and in New Zealand as far as I know. Supposedly there will also be quite a few connoisseurs guides in Japanese.

But with instant internet, there's little or no need to publish these guides any more. We can all delve the info required with a swish and pointer or two. All up to date as well as the latest visitor who wishes to diss the place. The photo's are always there, explaining every nook or cranny. And even pre-buying an entrance fee to the fancier resorts becomes apparent. All the pre-visit pleasures.

This does mean that the enthusiast / upcoming soaking expert is depraved of an avenue to exhibit his or her expertise. In print. And who's not being printed does not exist. So goes the old adagium.

But beyond the world of lists and links there is surprisingly little info on what hot springs are and why so. Altman's now slowly dated Healing Springs wishes to link the two worlds and probably back in 2000 that might have worked. But nowadays a book a third filled with alist of potential soaking spots and a small collection of soaking picca's instantly seems out of place. And soakers in Southeast Asia need to note: we are not included! So much for our beloved soaking culture.

Best efforts to no avail? Krabi, Thailand's Klong Thom hot springs by Cholthicha Pornpan

But in the other two thirds, Altman has gone out of his way to seek to prove beyond doubt that soaking is indeed a healing process. 
Altman's expertise is in alternative healing (he's an hand analyst) and he seeks to combine natural waters with immediate health benefits. Mineral content is linked to disease remedies while diseases are linked to types of hot springs. It transpires that soaking isn't the only healing aspect, one needs to include drinking and inhaling mineral spring content. Emphasis is awarded to the Euro concept of taking the waters where states have enabled soaking industries to expand and medicalise the hot spring experience itself.
And that is where to me the healing aspect is lost.

Healing and hot springs is as much about inspiring and relaxing rather than solely something to heal. Altman does try though. There is a chapter on the ambiance of soaking. But describing this book as the ultimate? Even in 2000 that wouldn't have covered the content.

Though he admires the Euro soaking states, he's right in emphasizing that soaking nowadays is something we might be interested in; but gone are the days in which states could afford soakers to indulge for weeks on end. Better are the Japanese concept with ample bathing facilities which can afford daily experiences. Already this fits much more in with northern Europe's hang towards sauna. Or the old daily English bath.

The author raves on about his Bad Wildbad experience, Germany. Unfortunately his own photo's are not available any more. The caption to this photo:
'A swimming fairy tale come true ... The classicist façade of the Graf-Eberhard-Bad (Count Eberhard Pool) looks rather unsophisticated in relation to what it contains. Behind the Florentine sandstone walls you will find oriental bathing splendour that is certainly unique in Europe.
This building, once threatened by decay, was restored with the help of significant financial backing, good planning and artistic effort to its original luxury as a bathing landscape, a dream from 1001 Nights. Today it is a modern temple of health with the refined feeling of the orient.
A grand architectonic effort thus succeeded in creating symbiosis between necessary modern form and an atmosphere of nostalgia. The Moorish Hall, the Princes' Baths and the Great Lords' Bath, where the statue of Venus by the Danish sculptor Bert Thorwaldsen can be seen, and above all the exclusive sauna landscape are part of the wonderful framework for a healthy visit. No resort visitor should miss this attraction: no one leaves without being impressed'.
Other aspects included are a nice historic overview where he notes that hot springs and human interest can be traced back for 600,000 years, but what with the lack of writing skills, use of mineral waters can be traced to Greek and Roman scripts as well as ample evidence in the form of archeological remains.

Altman does add a chapter on the preventive aspects of heated baths (leading to higher states of immunity) which assist in cleansing the body of toxins. We also learn that water pressure leads to increased flows of oxygen-rich blood. There is much more added to the list to the preventive powers of soaks, aspects of negative ions, micro-nutrients. You'll need to read for yourself.

So to sum up is Healing Springs a no buy? Well, I think the book cost me 0.14 cents which is about just above scrap value. The question is the book worth the transport costs? Hmm ...

Healing Springs has 4.8 stars at Amazon (4 reviews), while only 3 stars at good read (2 ratings).

Altman, N. (2000) Healing Springs - The ultimate guide to taking the waters. Healing Arts Press, Rochester, Vermont, United States of America.

Tuesday, 9 July 2013


'Water spring bath
Hot water spring at Banjar, Buleleng, Bali'
From the flickr site of I Putu Budi Astawa

To follow
Does anybody recognize that the social side of internet is dumbing down? With the advent of broadband and higher speeds, there's been a shift from text based write ups to mass photo ops.

In this case, do you notice that after all these years there are still only just 8 followers on this blog? that's not much ... The Tumblr site Soaking Spirit on some days welcomes 8 new followers!
I do get it. On Tumblr a follower is just a single click away, whereas if you become a follower on blogger there are a few steps to go through. 
But I simply believe that the intellectual stimulance blog entries offer, simply can't stand up to the instant (in your face) photo visualisation. And yes in some cases one pic can beat many a lengthy blog. But a blog offers more ...

Anyway this leads me to Pininterest. I don't understand Pininterest. I have put up a board of Thai hot springs, but nothing seems to happen. I follow a couple of boards, but again nada: no updates. Doesn't look like anything will happen here ... Can someone explain to me what the existence of Pinterest is meant to be?

And what is happening at Flickr? Are they really trying to drive away their customers? And their visitors?


Light headed
The Global Times, China not so long ago warns potential soakers for health concerns (January 20):
'However, even though the hot springs are reputed to have beneficial effects, doctors say the hot springs are not some supernatural elixir and that there are many risks involved in overdoing it, from light-headedness to infertility.

Even for young and healthy people, hot springs have risks that often are not posted.
"In Japan, bathing in the hot springs is a very popular and enjoyable thing. But in Japan, the hot springs are a more natural resource. It's underground water with a lot of minerals, such as sulfite," he [Yan Hongbiao, a doctor at the Fuwai Cardiovascular Hospital] said.
In China, there are many fake hot springs and the quality cannot be ensured, he said'.  
Infertility is a remote possibility apparently.

'People soak in the hotspring in Xingtai, north China's Hebei Province, Dec. 13, 2012. 
Local people went to hotspring during snowy days'. 

The ultimate list? Lonely Planet's 1000 ultimate sights of this planet. Under the heading best baths are a few hot springs (Beppu, Dogo (Japan), Hot water beach (New Zealand (been there)), Szechenyi Baths (Hungary) and Blue Lagoon (Iceland)).
These are their ten choices for Best Natural Springs: (1) Rift Valley, Ethiopia; (2) Oymyakon, Siberia, Russia; (3) Deception Island, Antarctica; (4) Waimangu Volcanic Valley, Rotorua, NZ; (5) Grand Prismatic Spring, Yellowstone National Park, USA; (6) Jigokudani Monkey Park, Yamanouchi, Japan; (7) Troll & Jotun Hot Springs, Svalbard, Norway; (8) Pamukkale Terraces, Turkey; (9) Landmannalaugar, Iceland; (10) Blood Pond Hot Spring, Beppu, Japan.
Most hot springs I presume ...

Lonely Planet has another list, this time of Europe's best hot springs (May 17). A couple from Iceland, likewise for Austria, Italy and Hungary. Language barriers mean the need to include the sole Anglo-Saxon soak, aptly named Bath. How they compile this list seems to be besides the point. Who cares, as long as you have a press release every day ...

Nudity is common in northeast Asia hot springs. Equally common are the western (or better said conservative) reactions. Example from Soul to Seoul (11 June) visiting a local Jimbilang (hot spring bath) near Seoraksan National Park:
'People, the scene facing my small tribe when we opened the change room doors will never leave me. I had entered some alternate reality where I was taking part in a Cleopatra-esque era movie Korean style. There were more than ten big (think typical Aussie backyard pool big) rectangle baths spread out before us. There were hot baths, hotter baths and even hotter baths to choose from (temperature readings at the top told you what to expect) along with a walking bath, a mud bath, a cold bath and the outside bath (where, as we discovered, there was no where to hide thanks to the water clarity). Along one side of the enormous cavern were rows and rows of mirrored benches where groups of women sat on small stools facing the mirrors and vigorously scrubbed each other using special gloves and brushes. All totally naked. Despite all the activity - women walking from bath to bath, from bath to scrubbing area and back to bath - there was an unbelievable sense of calm that exuded from all. One might even say it was somewhat liberating and strangely comforting all at once. I would like to report that I soon got used to being this naked but I did not. Oh no, not at all'. 
She didn't relax ...
The way ahead? Ciater hot spring , Java, Indonesia. From the instagram page of sayisayyie

Yet again New Zealand leads the way in the wackier (literally) side of soaking. First there is the story of a 9 year old volcano hunter. Or should it be a hot spring hunter and volcano vollower ... (NZ Herald, July 7). 
Then from the same source (July 3) the curious story of a hot spring hoist:
'As the man left the hot pools he was hit over the head.
Some of the couple's belongings were then stolen from their van and their keys were tossed into the hot pools.
After the group left, the pair were able to retrieve their keys and drove to Rotorua Hospital.
The woman was not harmed but the man needed stitches to a cut to his head'.
Poetry from from the region
  • Indonesia
Meanwhile in Bali, Indonesia. Geothermal projects are off the drawing map (Thinkgeoenergy, June 19):
'Pastika [Govenor of the province] said there are still other green sources such as water, solar energy and waves that could be exploited for it. “It may be more expensive but it also has a price,” he said.
The governor said the main reason for his decision is that because mountains, forests, beaches, lakes and estuaries are holy areas'.
Soakers can continue to enjoy Angseri hot spring, Bali, Indonesia. At least for the time-being? From the instagram page of lealbeny
More bad news for Indonesian geothermal powerfans. On Sumatra there is local opposition to a geothermal project, according to thinkgeoenergy (June 6):
'“The villagers, mainly members of the Rajabasa traditional clan residing on the slope of Mount Rajabasa, staged a peaceful rally at Sukaraja dock in Jeti village, Rajabasa, on Wednesday, demanding that PT Supreme Energy cease its exploration.
Beside being detrimental to the environment, the villagers said the geothermal exploration would also damage the social structure of the South Lampung traditional community, especially those living around Mount Rajabasa'.
On Java, near Sumedang, another geothermal project (100+ $US million) is running into problems due to land acquisition (thinkgeoenergy, June 6). Or not?
'“The land acquisition process is hampered due to public concerns about the impact of environmental pollution resulted from the geothermal project,” he [PT Wika Jabar Power Engineering Director Uum Komarudin] said'.
Is a pattern evolving?

 Hot spring near Bogor, Java, Indonesia. From the instagram site of audreytanzil

Indonesia in the meantime is raising feed-in prices for geothermal electricity. The smaller the geothermal plant, the higher the price (Source: thinkgeoenergy, June 12). So maybe they could buy a few wavering villagers ...
  • Malaysia
Banjaran hot springs, Malaysia is very ... umm chic. The yumlist BLOG has a report (June 13). How to describe? Well, the author goes over the edge and picks up on many a detail:
'Earthy hues, natural stone, wood, glass and tropical furnishings transit the outdoor environment to the in. Abundant use of vegetation and running water bring the revitalizing characteristics of nature to the living space, creating both a calming and rejuvenating setting.
The glass windows and doors of the bathroom look over the villa’s most prized feature – an outdoor sunken Jacuzzi with a direct hook-up to the geothermal hot springs. Star filled skies can only be made better with a skinny dip in the bubbling bath allowing the healing properties of the water to do its magic'. 
Note that this all comes with a price ...
  • Philippines
More on the proposed hot spring / geothermal plant on Mindoro island, the Philippines (Southern Luzon Inquirer, June 19):
'The potential is endless!  Power firm Constellation Energy Corp. (CEC) will develop lakeshore areas near its 20-MW geothermal power project into a hot spring and wellness center to showcase the healthy mix of green energy and green tourism in this province'. 
Well, that would be a first for the region. In general there is a disregard for soakers vis-a-vis the techno superiority of geothermal projects. 
Note the Dutch connection ....!
The News of Iceland (July 1) picks up on the Dutch connection (IF Technology) as well (leads to credibility?), as it of course does on the Icelandic comparison.

From the instagram site of buddz_06 Hibok-Hibok hot spring, Camiguin, Philippines:
'The perfect way to cap off the day!. Sarap..emojiemoji Goodnight!'
By the way, Philippines, already one of the global leaders in geothermal energy hopes to up the output by another 75% in the coming 15 years. According to the Manila Standard (July 3).
  • Singapore
'Yikes hot'
Sembawang hot spring, Singapore. From the blog of smallwheelsbigsmile (June 16).
  • Vietnam
Top 5 most famous hot springs of Vietnam by tripatini (June 25):
1. Kim Boi ('Being immersed in a large mineral water deposit of Kim Boi stream is also not unmemorable for every visitor'.)
2.Bang ('Bang Spring is attractive with its fanciful, poetic scenery'.)
3. Kenh Ga
4. Tay Vienh
5. Dam Rong
No mention of Nha Trang?

Bicol hot spring. From the instagram site of carmelajacinto
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