Tuesday, 11 February 2014

Frozen tears

Nothing else matters #indonesia #instagay #blacklesbians #hotsprings #volcanicsprings #volcano #lesbian #nothingelsematters
Toya Bunkah, Bali, Indonesia, source

Last week saw the first in a series of interviews with hot spring enthusiasts, the culmination of quite some research and effort. I intend to publish the next interview in 2 months time, but let's just see what the future will bring.

One aspect brought forward in the interview was the hot spring / wellness use of natural waters. Charles Davidson of Peninsula Hot Springs explained nicely the difference for his company, but my attention was drawn to an article from the New Zealand Herald (Dec. 17), concerning the intentions to build an additional "hot pool" complex in Queenstown on the South Island; roughly $20 million should be involved ...:
'The complex would include about 12 large public hot pools, four smaller private pools, changing facilities, a health spa, reception and retail building, and a cafe/restaurant area. At peak capacity, it could cater for an estimated 300,000 to 350,000 customers a year'.
No mention where the waters come from? Are they natural?

Outside of New Zealand there is little understanding of what makes a hot pool.
With an abundance of hot springs readily available in New Zealand, one would find it strange that tourists flock to a number of businesses offering hot pools (and not natural hot springs). But the problem is that geothermal bathing is more attune to the central part of the North Island, whereas those hot springs of the South Island are mostly very remote and therefore (thankfully) devoid of development. 
But the South Island is a lot cooler (thus the need for warmth?) and attracts a fair share of foreign tourists who need to be able to spend a dollar or two. 
With the idea of replicating natural hot springs in a business concept conveniently located for tourists, some entrepreneurs have been introducing the concept of hot pools. And these seem very much to be taking off.  

The existing hot pools of Queenstown are (if one looks at the amount of instagram photo's, see below) a resounding success.

#Onsenhotpools #Southisland source

Named officially Queenstown onsen hot pools, the use of the private pools are priced at $NZ 80 (65 $US) for 2 adults for one hour. The source of their waters:
'Our pools are filled with a mixture of mountain spring water, rain water, and lake water'.  
Sort of natural.

Other hot pools on the South Island are Omarama hot tubs (private pools, 2 adults, 1,5 hours, $NZ 80) where the water is from
'fresh mountain water'. 
Then there are the Glacier hot springs
'The Glacier Hot Pools are fed by the waters of Kā Roimata o Hinehukatere [Franz Josef Glacier!], the frozen tears of Hinehukatere for her lost love'. 
NZ$25 p.p. for public pools, $NZ 85 for 2 adults 45 minutes in a private pool. The Tekapo springs have no private pools and are priced at NZ$20 p.p., water from
'alpine springs'.
So while certainly a good experience (see reviews all over the net), waters are not always naturally occurring; heat itself does wonders but natural hot springs have more direct benefits.
Another surprise is the cost, which lies way above what one would pay in say Europe for a visit to an upmarket wellness concept, especially when private pools are all that are on offer (hardly available in Europe).

Continuing on the trend-setting agenda. The other week while watching tv, I came across a mention of seaweed baths. A bit of internet searching and you'll arrive at this apparent Irish tradition. From the Voya seaweed internet site:
'The therapeutic properties of wild seaweed have long been known along the Irish coast. At the beginning of the 20th century there were an estimated 300 seaweed bath houses in Ireland and nine in the small town of Strandhill alone.
Here was the challenge, to revive the Irish tradition of Seaweed Baths in his home town of Strandhill – a challenge which was achieved by Neil and his Family in 1996. The VOYA Seaweed Baths in now one of only a few in the country.
Since reopening, the VOYA Seaweed baths in Strandhill have been enticing customers from all over the world. Attracting 40,000 visitors every year to the beautiful surroundings of Strandhill, they have become one of Sligo's most popular landmarks'.
Treatment consists mostly of a steambath followed by taking a hot bath with seaweed in it. Simple. 

Think Geoenergy tends to think big business. So it's surprising they notice a news article, originally from NHK (Jan. 24) concerning a small scale geothermal plant in Fukushima, Japan:
'The project plans to utilize water and steam from hot springs to generate power. The water – so the expectation – will be sufficiently hot to be reused for the hot spring bath operations and therefore address the fear of many that geothermal power projects could dry up hot springs.
The managers hope to generate about 2.8 million kWh of electricity, sufficient power to supply around 500 households. They hope to generate about $980,000 per year in electricity sales starting in July 2015.
There is the general hope that projects like this will bring visitors back to the region, showing that hot springs can generate clean power and help revive the community.  Overall, the project has attracted some great interest'.
In the meantime, construction has started on a mid-scale thermal power project which would be the first such a large facility in 15 years. Mainichi (Feb. 5) notes further more:
'The development of geothermal power generation often comes in conflict with the interests of local residents, who are worried about a possible reduction in the amount of hot spring water as a result of such construction. Chuo Electric Power Co. overcame such a hurdle by building a geothermal plant not as large as ones developed by major power companies and by sharing profits with Waita-kai [local company owned and operated by residents]'. 
It seems quite straight forward, to consult and get locals to cooperate in whatever geothermal project you have lined up. But with this years New Year news, geothermal trends are spelt out for the coming year (Think Geoenergy, Dec. 27):
4. Public engagement
The industry will now wake up and accept that there needs to be more public engagement for geothermal development and activities in general. Not only PR work, not only pure marketing, but real engagement of stakeholders in communities and regions to educate what geothermal has to offer, but also to accept as criticism'.
So it's quite new, to consult with locals ...
Singing from the same music sheet, a geothermal project at Sorsogon, Philippines wants to meet and discuss opposition to it's proposed geothermal plant there (Think Geoenergy, Dec. 30). Opposition includes:
'... environmental impacts such as land subsidence, dehydration of ricefields and springs that provide the area with tourism and the effects of the geothermal plant’s chemical discharge to the health of host communities'.
Pulang Bato, a hot spring on Negros, Philippines (source).

Recently we discussed the implications of the typhoon on the Philippines geothermal power abilty. Apparently everything has been repaired and all damage has disappeared. One way to cope with the lack of cash in-flow due to the disaapearance of power output has meant that Energy Development Corporation (EDC) has had to teighten it's belt (Think Geoenergy, Dec. 17):
'Hence, the traditional Christmas parties were scrapped and replaced by simple get-together; office supplies have been drastically reduced to the barest minimum; their outreach projects for their host communities have been suspended or scaled down and even snacks during company meetings have been discouraged'.
All to ensure that the shareholders won't have to fork the bill? 

Think Geoenergy (Dec. 18) would also like to fix Indonesia's problems. With geothermal power generartion. In the highly appreciable article they give the floor to Hezy Ram of Ram Energy International. Government investment is distorting the market in Indonesia and thus the investment of private funds. Red tape leads to frustatration and under-the-table payments. And finally the lack of clarity and consistency.
It also touches briefly on the subject of land-ownership. With heavy government involvement, private land-holders are not necesarily paticipating in the projects and are too often sidelined.

So involve locals is the new way ahead? Let's hope.

The Guardian (Jan. 7) got their New Year ('Forget freezing New Year dips and enjoy a blissfully warm soak instead at one of these natural pools, creeks and beaches') off with a list of the world's free hot springs. Listed are Tavertine (USA), Saturnia (cheating, there's an entrance fee ..., Italy), Reykjadalur (Iceland), Halfway and Lussier (Canada) and Hot Water Beach (New Zealand). There aren't many free hot springs in Southeast Asia, then again most entrance fees are nominal  with some very remote hot springs, which are mostly used by locals still devoid of pricing.

Nominal fee for Pong Duet hot springs, Thailand (source) required, though one can also soak for free in a nearby stream. But as most hot springs in Thailand are located within a national park, entering the park does require a fee ....

Aol Travel (Dec. 9) has a quirkier listing, the 
'Top 9 Places to Enjoy the Snow While Barely Clothed -- or Even Naked'. 
Why only 9? Could they not find 10? Did one turn out totally wrong?
Whatever the reasoning, the only way to enjoy as said are in 9 different hot springs, mostly US based, but also includes the 
'Anywhere, Iceland'
No Asian mentions, let alone Southeast Asian. The former I understand, but Japanese hot springs, naked and snow seems very normal ...

Or Korea. Korea Times (Dec. 19) lists it's nations best five hot springs.

The best hot spring of China? Xiamen has been awarded the best Hot Spring Tourism Destination in China award (source):
'Xiamen won the title of Best Hot Spring Tourism Destination in China on the first China Hot Spring Summit Forum which was held in Xiamen’s Tong’an District on 22nd December. Xiamen Trithorn Hotspring Resort, a well-known hot spring resort in Xiamen’s Tong’an district, was also awarded the “Best Hot Spring Boutique Hotel”.
Regional updates: obscure
Shocking the locals at #angseri #hotspring #tabanan #bali #indonesia #crazy #russians

There's suspiciously little info from the region itself, with few exceptions.
  • Singapore
Singapore's only urban hot spring, Sembawang, draws yet again another news article (The Republican, Dec. 13). Not really sure why the need for the article, there is no news in it:
'Once attracting 1,000 visitors during its peak on the weekends, the Sembawang Hot Springs has since dwindled into obscurity. However, there are still patrons who continue to visit because they believe the natural hot water that comes out of the spring has healing properties'.
  • Vietnam
From northwest Vietnam I came across this recent photo reportage which records tastefully how locals use their hot spring for bathing. Location is attributed to Tú Lệ commune, Yên Bái Province

Further afield there is this strange piece of news from Japan (Japancrush, 23 Jan.):
'A well-known onsen village in Kansai is now being sued [for nearly $US 20,000!] by a woman and her mother thanks to a faulty bamboo curtain that meant that for a period of 30 minutes, the women were visible to those in the corridor, in all their naked glory'. 
Is this a sign of the times for Japan, where it seems naked and mixed-sex bathing is on the wane? Are Victorian times ahead of Japan? 
Despite this being an accident and the women having not noticed any lookers they had the following: 
'Following the incident, the women claim they had stomach pains and insomnia, and were diagnosed with anxiety disorder at the hospital. The women’s legal representatives stated that “It equates to considerable mental anguish for a single woman to have her naked body exposed while she bathes”'. 
Reality check.

Globatimes.cn hits another trend, Asian bathing houses. It provides an overview of Shanghai's most popular Japanese, Korean and local-style bathouses.

More New Years news (Dec. 24) from Taiwan: ideal time to go for a soak. It's a very extensive article with ever

I don't like calling it a trend, but upmarket hot springs are all the rage in China. Near Kunming, Travel Asia reports (Dec. 5) that Dusit will manage a new luxury hot spring resort as of 2016 ...

The Sydney Morning Herald (Dec. 9) has an article on a number of onsen, Japan, doesn't seem to be going anywhere.

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