Sunday, June 29, 2014

A Clear Sighted Soak?

Sichuan contains China's border between the lower lying areas of China proper and the mountainous entrants to the Tibetan plateau. A quick look at the map shows high mountains cut by deep valleys as the Indian sub-continent pushes further north.

In looking into the Himal hot springs of Sichuan, the autonomous prefectures of Garzê (or Ganzi) is covered in this pretty extensive section. By far the biggest prefecture of Sichuan province, Garzê was until early 20th century part of Tibetan Kham. Firmly in the mountainous terrain, the local majority Tibetans are spread over 18 counties.

Sniffing
First and foremost amongst these, is Kangding which serves as the administrative center of Garzê autonomous prefecture.


Situated 5 km from 'downtown' Kangding is the hot spring of Erdaoqiao (Erdao for short):
'The grounds are quite expansive and encompass many different bathing areas—a great place to soak away the aches and pains of a day's hiking or horse trekking.
Baths vary in temperature, from 38°C, 40°C, 42°C, up to 50°C (100 ~ 122°F) and if that's still not hot enough, there's also a sauna'.
A first hand experience:
'The first sniff of the spring had sarah imagining a bacon and egg sandwich but unfortunately the rotten egg smell of popping sulfuric gases was emitted from a pool like enclosure where our hot spring lay. All the surfaces were particularly grimy and the roof was encrusted with ice, the pool was covered by a thick layer of mist and the colour emitted was akin to the lights of a midnight dip in a swimming pool. Despite the -6 degree temperatures we smartly lowered ourselves into the hot spring and held our heads above the water. Before long Sarah noticed that my silver necklace had turned to a copper colour and rapidly changing to black. We weren't sure of the concentration of acid but sarah uses it in the workshop to blacken metal and if it touches her skin she is supposed to hop under the chemical shower'.
Tripadvisor has a page on Erdao, doesn't look too appealing. But the following picture could also assist (let's hope the source correctly identified this as Erdao ....).


Other sources for info on Erdao hot springs but then in Chinese can be obtained here.

Laoyulin is also mentioned to be 5 km from Kangding and the excellent Dr Rock blog by Micheal Sydney mentions the existence of a hot spring and possibly Micheal revisits the same hot spring 4 years later:
'Just a few brick cubicles covered with cheap corrugated green plastic'.
The area is becoming more of a destination for trekkers wanting to visit Sichuan's highest mountains known as Gongga (see below). An article by the China Daily gives more insight in local development combined with tourism espousing on the benefits. The 2008 article suggests a local will improve the soaking site.

Further away (21 km) from Kangding is the national park of Mugecuo. Wikitravel mention
'Dip your feet in the medicine pool (actually a hot spring) for a small fee, or have an egg boiled'.
Chinatravel notes the existence of more than 20 springs and
'Boiling springs here can be categorized into many kinds, such as Buddha Spring, Clear-sighted Spring, Stomach-improving Spring, and Feet Bath Spring, etc. The water of Buddha Spring has no peculiar smell; it is good for heart and eyes if infused with tea. Clear-sighted Spring, Stomach-improving Spring, and Feet Bath Spring are respectively helpful for the treatment of eye disease, tummy bugs and rheumatism, as well as for health keeping. From ancient times till now, the spring water here is reputed as "divine Water"'.
Even more hot springs are supposed to be apparent according to the blog entry by Memories on a shoestring
'We had a light meal at a hotspring area. Apparently Mugecuo Scenic Area has nearly 100 hot springs which have different curative effects. I did not try the hotspring. It cost RMB20 to enter inside. Each of us bought an egg to eat. It is half-boiled egg for RMB3'.
The blog entry comes with many photo's of the scenic area. From the photo's of the lunch break one can see that quite an effort has been made to upgrade these to afford visitors a soak if only of the podo variety ...


Odorless
In Garzê county one can find the hot spring of Dargye which has alts in the name of Rongpatsa, Rongpaca, Rongpatsang and Yartsa. Located 25 km from the county headquarters, it is near the gompa with the same name and the village of Rongbatsa.
Daniel Winkler describes the place as follows:
'Odorless hot water wells up with bubbles from the white granite sand ground. Dig in your feet and you will enjoy a bubble bath. Alas, the temperature of the pool is slightly below body temperature (35°C / 95°F). However, the clear water and the magnificent view of glaciated mountains make this spring a special treat. May be I should mention that this is the men's pool. There is also a woman section down below near sinter outcroppings'.
He adds a nice picture which though the same place as below, it clearly gives a different feeling to the soak.


'Shedding their robes, monks from the Dargye monastery
in Sichuan wash in a hot spring'.
Source.

Strictly
Lithang (Litang) county, to the west of Kangding contains two less well-known hot springs.


Sori hot spring is included in Daniel Winkler's hot spring
overview. Then there is most probably this experience:
'That was when I noticed local Tibetans in a hot spring across the river. I wandered over to check it out and found the water temperature to be just right. The extremely hot spring water had been mixed with the icy river water. There were several pools—the ones farther up the trail were strictly for womenfolk, so I stayed with the men. Tibetans don't bother with bathing suits—and neither did I—much to the amusement of my companions'.
Possibly not even Sori hot spring, but nonetheless a nice description of a good soak!

A little more clarified is the hot spring of Batang, 5 km west of Lithang.

'There are a number of places to bathe there, but don't expect to be a wash in nature - the hot water is piped into white - tiled tubs'.
Elsewhere this web site makes mention of many hot springs.

Avoid
Daniel Winkler's
hot spring list leads to another two soaks, Dzogchen (Zogqen) in Dêgê county and Rubu Chaka (Rubuchaka and variations in spelling of this) in Daocheng county. The former is heavily mentioned on other websites as well. The Daocheng Things to See section of Chinabackpacker mentions
'It was reported [in 2003] that many cockroaches were found in the bathroom. Avoid going there during the night when cockroaches are extremely active, and can be found everywhere, even in your clothes and shoes. Believing in Buddhism, local Tibetans do not bother to eliminate them'.
It's unclear whether this is advice to stay clear or the opposite.  
Elsewhere a more recent photo shows a different more developed picture of what Daniel might have experienced.
And this hotel booking site shows that apparently the good times of cockroaches at night have passed ...

Hottest
The website of the New Long March described a trip from Zhongdian into Yunnan. As they cross into Xiangcheng county, Sichuan they come to the village of Ranwu, which has a hot spring which was
'developed at great expense but in very poor taste. ... The spring is only a few meters away from the pools, the smaller of which is the hottest hot spring I have ever used in China. The water was formerly monopolised by a local Living Buddha; after he had washed, the water flowed into a lower pool which the locals used'.
'Ru Buchaca named because place names spa, Ru cloth Tibetan word for "friend", "Chaka" Tibetan is the spa, alias Charles co Wenquan Ru. Ganzi is a well-known high-temperature steam springs, hot springs at the outlet water temperature is 68 ℃, up to 80 ℃, flow rate up to 7000 m3 day and night, hot springs water is clear, colorless and odorless, contains no sulfur, drinking, with physical fitness, longevity, medicinal, regulating endocrine function, treatment of skin effect'.
No. 2 is the Best
In Luding county (100 km from Kangding) one can find what seems to be Sichuan's most frequented hot spring for the mountainous part of the province. Located near Sichuan's highest mountain, Gongga (Minya Konka) and in China's biggest glacier park (?), are the hot springs of Hailuogou which for the convenience of foreigners has been (re?) named Conch Gully.

Hailuoguo's no. 2 (source: RichardLuyy)

Hailuoguo even makes it to the top 10 hot spring resorts of China (source). 

Despite all the claims to it's naturalness the springs themselves are part of a tourism set up such as the Gongga God Hot Spring Hotel. In total there are 3 hot springs in Hailuogou according to the article entitled 'Attractions: Four unique hot springs in China', one of them being Hailuogou.
That said it are so-called camps at hot springs 1 and 2 that attract most visitors.
Sabrina while blatantly copying on her blog copies:
'... most of the visitors favor hot springs in No.2 Campsite because they are rustic, with more natural taste'.
In this article discussing 'green' tourism in Ghanzi prefecture, the park around Hailuoguo is mentioned a number of times for the lack of 'green' planning.
'Several hot-spring resorts inside the park have tacky buildings and decorations totally alien to their setting. "These are truly ugly to me," Hitesh Mehta, a Canadian landscape architect, said in his presentation.
"They are beautiful," he said, pointing to the photos of traditional wood houses seen at Moxi Town just outside the park. "Unfortunately there are not many left."
Facing the criticism, Xiao Feng, director of the administration of the park, explained that these problems were mainly caused by several independent tourism operators inside the park and their bad management. At present, the administration is purchasing their property back to solve these problems.
However, many conference participants expressed doubts as to the local authorities' humble attitudes towards investors from the outside world.
"They spoil investors for sure," Chen Xujun said. "Most of them become indifferent to the local environment and welfare of the local communities."'
Then there is this info:
'According some doctors, the boiled water has high medicinal values, such as curing skin disease and arthiritis, and eliminating fatigue'.
Fire
Another county in Garzê with geothermal features is that of Danba. Also known as Rongzhan, the main place to visit for these features is the mountainous area of Dangling. Chinabackpacker:
'The hot-springs in Dangling are located in two areas, one at Benmu which is the rich in sulphur, and means 'fire bath' in Tibetan. The other site is at Kabu, encirlced by grassland which in Tibetan translates as 'grassland bath'. The two springs are approxiamately 4 kilometres south of the Dangling village, and the water flow never cease all year round, day and night the liquid output amouts to about 3000 tonnes. The water close to the hotspring mouth can reach up to 75 degrees Celcius. Chemical tests show that the springa belong to the type neutral, heavy sodium carbonic acid with healing properties. It contains many minerals that are epecially beneficial to the likes of headaches, stomach and intestinal diseases, diabeties, arthiritis. Surrounding the hot-springs is a picturesque primeval forest, sitting in the hot-spring bath, washing away the weariness from the travelling, indulging in the most that the hot-spring can offer. And when it's winter, the enjoyment only gets better as you take the pleasure of bathing in open snow: indulge in the winter scenery while bathing in the warm spring water, and if you are lucky enough and it snows, you can slowly relish yourself with the spectacle as snow flower fill the sky while you let your body relax in the warm bathe'. 

Source Translated with google, you make sense:
'September 22, 2012, known as the "natural bonsai" Yak Valley Scenic Area is located 21km southwest of the county, Ganzi Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture in Danba East Valley township, road side there is a very famous natural hot spring baths, but also the rare nude bath one place'.
And though it looks idyllic there are always qualms. Timemaker:
The first stop was a natural hot spring by the road. The hot steam was perfect for warming my frozen hands. I didn’t want to soak in the water though; I read that sick locals like to visit hot springs. It was especially uninviting when the driver told me you can cure STDs by soaking in the hot spring for a week'.
It probably reflects more on the writer as especially in Chinese there are many good references. 
It is well and truly Tibetan country here so you'll see complete encampments during season of locals enjoying these springs. 

Note that if I am correct just behind the hot spring pictured a road has been laid ... Drates. A paradise lost?

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Soaking society

All together
Northeastern Sichuan's Ngawa is still part of the rugged mountainous section of Sichuan which borders Tibet. It was the epicenter of the 2008 devastating Sichuan earthquake.

Zoigê (Ruo'ergai) district (north Ngawa)
holds the hot spring of Jiangzha (Jiangza):
'Every spring and autumn, thousands of people from Tibetan area in Sichuan, Gansu, and Qinghai province will gather together to have a bath in the hot-spring. It is a custom that men and women bath together in the hot spring'.
That said, this blogger on Myspace once mentioned:
'Dirty hot spring pool under the pavilion'.
From the youduo site: Jiangzha hot spring. The website notes the following translated sentence:
'After hundreds of years of practice has proved Jiangzha spa for skin diseases, arthritis, rheumatism, cancer, stomach problems, such as a significant effect'.
How hot is a hot spring?
Furthermore in Ngawa is another much visited hot spring, the hot spring of Erdaohai (Munigou), north of Wenchuan (county?). It is most probably in Songpan county. 

Though much visited, many wanna be soakers have been put off due to the low temperatures. The hot spring is to be found after a two hour trek along Munigou lake. This visitor was seriously let down (as I am by the now defunct link!):
'... that is if it can be called a hotspring. The water here would have been too cold to drink'.
Others describe them as:
  • 'not very hot (source:error 404!)',
  • 'the coldest one I ever saw (source: link not found!)',
  • Where it gets off being called a hot spring is beyond me since it is actually darn cold at only 21 degrees (source)',
  • 'The water isn't warm at all!! (source)' and
  • 'frigid (source)'.
However there may be more compelling reasons to visit here:
'... hot spring with the legend that fairies from the heaven once bathed there. The temperature of its water is about 25ºC with a strong smell of sulfur. People like to bath here to cure or prevent skin disease'.

Best
Elsewhere in Ngawa (Lixian county), one can find the hot spring of Gurgou (Gu'ergou). Gurgou is famous for it's hot spring, the
best in Tibet (?). This site provides more info:
'The Gurgou Holy Peak Hot Spring, assessed as a famous spring of quality water in Sichuan Province, is 230 km from Chengdu. The water temperature of the hot spring is 60 and its daily flow is 3000 tons.The spring contains 17 trace elements such as lihtium, strontium fluorine, zine, selenium and germanium which are good for human health,being the only one natural hot mineral spring integrating the bathing, curing and drink functions so far found in Sichuan at the present'.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Piping hot

Insane
Having blogged on the hot springs of the more mountainous areas of Sichuan, there is still plenty of hot springs to be soaked in without having to take to the mountains. 

This website provides a short overview to the 5 most popular hot springs around Chengdu, Sichuan's provincial capital. In reality it's an overview of the better accommodation boasting their own soaks.

Mention is made of Herijun Hot Springs Hotel which lies within the confines of the city. Tripadvisor has a classic review apparently a guest had a medial collateral ligament ruptured here during a massage! Lexi abroad had a better experience and recounts that the place is divided by gender specific meaning bathing costumes (other than your birthday suit) are disregarded. Part of the experience:
'I didn’t know where to look. I couldn’t look up because then I would probably accidentally stare at all the different shapes of ladies that I was seeing. But I couldn’t look downward the whole time because then I would run into a naked lady. I didn’t think that was something that any of us wanted. I was amazed that none of the ladies were even trying to cover themselves with the washcloth provided. It was an insane mass of everyone walking around nude with the occasional little girl running like crazy with her giggling cohorts.
Nobody dared to stare at me. For the first time in China, stares were pretty much directed away from me. If they stared at me, they only looked at my face because to stare at the rest of me would’ve been breaking the unwritten laws of the hot springs. At first I tried to sneak around without being as naked as possible. Gradually, I realized the futility of this and just walked with the washcloth around my neck.
I spent around 3 hours lolling about in the tubs, the Jacuzzis, the steam room, the sauna, and a mysterious sort of tub with rapids'.
Also within Chengdu city  is the hot spring of Wenjiang (or the Yufu Hot Spring Hotel). It apparently incorporates
'... 50 types of indoor and outdoor hot spring pools'.
This website adds:
'The hot spring water is piped in from 1,800 meters underground, and is rich in minerals helpful in relieving cardiovascular, neural and respiratory illnesses'.
And then there is Taoyuan hot spring hotel.

More traces
Huashuiwan
, Dayi county which is part of Sichuan's capital Chengdu prefecture (and only 85 km from the city center) has a hot spring area which seems quite popular in combination with the nearby skiing area of Xiling. More info on this hot spring can be found here. As an investment project. As winner of the UN Habitat award (link gone). As having 21 hot spring pools, I was lead to believe. 
Tripadvisor in it's Huashuiwan hotel overview mentions 6 hotels with hot spring in their name.

'#hotspring  #huashuiwan  #relax  #hometown  #dayi'
Nearby, Tianfu Hot Spring Hotel in the 'development zone' of Zhougong (near Ya'an) is known as the no. 1 Sichuan hot spring. The hotel is also known as Dream Hot Spring Hotel according to Tripadvisor. However when looking into the overview of hotels in Xingzi county, one counts 6 hotels with hot spring facilities.

The above mentioned Wenjiang hotel should not be confused with Wen Jinjiang Hot Spring Hotel which is located in Chongzhou district's Huaiyuan, nearly 70 km from Chengdu. This webside adds:
'Wenjinjiang hot spring is a garden hotel built in Japanese style. There are over 30 hot spring pools containing various trace elements and minerals'.
Accross the road should be the Xintiandi Hot Spring hotel.
 

Tickling
Further away from Chengdu in northeast direction is the hot spring of
Mianzhou in Mianyang city. It comprises of pools and a hotel, both of which claim to be the biggest indoor hot spring facility in China's southwest. Tripadvisor's rankings are quite good, though little info on the soaks them selves.

Thirty km's from Mianzhou is another hot spring hotel named
Luofushan. Near this hotel is another named Tai Feng Yuan Hot Spring hotel.

Near the so-called West Grand Canyon, south Sichuan, a number of hot springs can be found. Two to three kms away from Yibin is Guandou hot spring. The hot spring is said to be able to accommodate 500 visitors. For a pre-war photo go to verfainverfain's Flickr site. 

One of Yibin's hot springs has gained some notoriety, as soakers turn up with the cheapest swimwear ...! Located in Junlian county. There is an extensive account from 2007 which notes that whereas once the baths were divided in time (men during day, women at night) nowadays bathing is segregated with men being designated the more public site ...:

 'Less than half a meter wall stream, creek side is building the old house, Bamboo Castle, the women in the stream to wash rice vegetables, washboard fetch water for at naked men bathing in the pool without a trace of fear. Pool of men and no scruples, and we walk around, some even standing on the wall, toward the brook brush shampoo.People here are honest with no shilly shame shame, we are hard to come by this fickle social encounters. Prepare a very good one joyous world outside the living picture.Water is very low sulfur content, is said to always wash to treat rheumatism and cirrhosis of the liver, but also skin care. I looked at the old man's skin, it really skin tight flush. I do not know if preconceived sake'.
Translated with google! 

Further away from Yibin (30 km) is the hot spring of Shifu or alternatively known as the hot spring hotel of
West Grand Canyon (or Xibu Daxiagu) (see Tripadvisor). It's discharge is 8000 sq. cum. which ranks top in China. No less than 3000 people can soak here. Note that this may fall into Yunnan ....

Finally, due south of Chengdu is arguably what is regarded as one of China's best hot springs, E'mei. The hotel carrying the name of E'mei has not so bad reviews including this recent review:
'The hot springs on site deserves its own review as an attraction in itself, especially because it has its own entrance fee and is open to the public. The change rooms, showers and lockers are adequate. They even provide you with loaner flip-flops. The pool area consists of a few small warm specialty pools (one containing wine, another with some other concoction) atop a high ground overlooking a very large heated pool below. The source of the hot springs is from as deep as 9,840 ft underground and was formed more than 2,000 years ago. The quantity of heated water is huge with an average temperature of 140°F. This giant pool is divided into 3 sections of varying temperatures (cold, then medium warm, and bloody-hell boiling!)'.

There are actually another three hot springs near E'mei. These are Lingxiu, Hongzhu and Yoga hot springs. 
Yoga hot spring is a resort which offers ... yoga! Probably this doubles up under the name of E'mei Hot Spring Hotel. 
Lingxiu though is more well known (see here f.i.).  There is this description:
'But the hot spring is the main attraction. After you enter the massive lobby, you're given a pair of slippers and directed to your locker in the changing rooms, which are divided by gender. You change into a bathing suit and are promptly given a nice, soft bath robe to lounge around in. Walk out into the public area, and you are in cold-weather paradise with more than 10 indoor and outdoor pools, all steaming hot. Each pool is a different size and shape: Some are like any typical public swimming pool, while others are organically shaped with rocks to perch on. Some have shallow water for kids to play in, and some have whirlpool jets. They even have pools with "doctor fish"—the small fish that eat dead skin. (We tried them. Weird, but worth the experience. Not for the ticklish!)'.
Etta in China: Lingxiu hot spring

Australia's Sydney Morning Herald also notes the Dr. Fish treatment of Hongzhu. As well as offering soaks it also is a 5 star hotel, Tripadvisor reviews. 

Down Sichuan's south
Then near Panzhihua
city close to the border with Yunnan one can visit the hot spring of Hongge. Despite the town having a tradition of industrialization and mining without borders, the nearby Hongge hot spring has been swept up in a development called Holiday Inn Panzhihua, aimed at promoting tourism. The development covers an area of more than four km2 and is
'designed planned according to high standards by the Japanese hot spring experts'.
Not many people are attracted to Panzhihua, though this couple express their satisfaction (in Dutch) concerning the hot spring.
 
Caution? By Wubbo Womb.