Thursday, October 2, 2014

Into the wide open?

Hard trek
Located in the north-western tip of India, the state of Arunachal Pradesh, covers a tremendous amount of terrain, not much smaller than the whole of Nepal. The former contained more than 40 hot springs so it's not surprising to see that Arunachal Pradesh has quite some thermal activity, though possibly less developed and / or visited. It's therefore understandable that there's less info on the internet available.

Re-known for the many different ethnicities, Arunachal Pradesh is distinctly remote, little roads offer any kind of access. Tawang district bordering both Tibet and Bhutan is accessible and contains largely Tibetan Buddhist ethnicities. As one of the most accessible mountain areas it's not surprising to find that (as is the case with Bhutan to it's east) there are a number of hot springs not far away from Tawang itself (relatively speaking ...).

Tsachu Hot Spring is a bit of a language anomaly; Tsachu already being the Bhutanese name for a hot spring. It seems to be the most well-known, though not so easy to visit:
'Tsachu hot spring which can be reached by traveling by a light motor vehicle for two hours from Tawang up to Sarong Gonpa and trekking from there for another three hours'.
'Tsachu Hot Spring can be reached by travelling for 4 hours by a vehicle and another 4 hours on foot'.
Do note that Tawang is 10 hours drive from the nearest airport .... Tripadvisor is still waiting for reviews ... And this website notes the distance from Tawang as 230 km and adds:
'Apart from hot spring, this site is also suitable for hard trekking'.

The hot spring of Thingbu is located 68 km away from Tawang town. Apparently a pony is the most used form of transport for the final stretch from the roadhead.

Other hot springs located in Tawang district are Kitpi or Greng-khar (Grenkhar), the former being the name of the village rather than the name of the hot spring. This website adds:
'It is about 40 kms away from tawang town.This hot water spring and ‘ Manchu’ provides warm, sulphur rich water and cures many ailments'.
There's a slightly scientific entry on hot springs in Tamang which hardly adds to the above other than this gem:
'Monpa, Sherdukpen, Miji and Aka tribes take holy bath in these hot springs in the belief that their sins will get washed away. They also take a dip in the water for 1–3 h for healing any kind of skin disease.
hot spring is located nearer Jang:
'where the water is so hot that “yak meat is cooked in 20 minutes”'.
Despite the above being the most well-known(?) in Arunachal Pradesh, there are no first hand experiences shared. This contrasts with Dirang (West Kameng district, south of Tawang), famous for it's apples, kiwi's and yaks to which Roy Biswas has paid a visit:
'The other famed tourist spot is the Hot Water Spring, which is also the main attraction for locals, who supposedly take bath in the Hot Springs as its water is said to possess curative properties. However, I was most dejected after having undertaken a long trek down from the main road, as an Ecological Camp has come up at the site, with a Cafeteria right in front of the Hot Spring, which is not only blocks the view of the Hot Spring, but also creates more ecological hazards, rather than preserving the ecology there for which it is meant & sounds. The local environment department needs to take a look at this, before it gets too late to redeem the hot spring'.

Others chime in:
'We had the exact same reaction when we went to check out that hot spring at Dirang. I would have expected at least a little bit of improvement there from 8 years back'.
Lower Dirang valley contains a hot spring near the village of Jia.

Located just inside of the Arunachal Pradesh - Assam border, the western town of Bhalukpong has it's own hot spring:
'Bhalukpong, which lies about 85 kilometers away from Bomdila on the foothills of Aka ranges, is an ideal picnic spot. The picturesque site is also a home to the Jia-Bharali river and a hot spring, which is believed to have a medicinal value (source)'.
Hot spring (sanaser, May 2014) 
Bomdilla. Source.

More to the east, Anjaw district contains two hot springs, one named Walong circle, the other Kibithoo circle.

'Located 20 km away from the Chinese border, Walong is situated on the western bank of river Lohit in Anjaw district. The mesmerizing place is famous for its hot water spring and the Namti valley. The hot spring is located amazingly at the confluence of river Dichu and Lohit. It is a major attraction of Walong and tourists fly to the place to take a soothing bath in the medicinal water of the hot spring'.

As always when there is little reference material, some caution is required as often different names as used for the soak!

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Too far

Sichuan, China. Source: messland

Natural soaking areas are mostly threatened by developers. Away with the traditions, in with the wellness. But at a price. Development is mostly poorly done with little or no regard for local needs, all on the basis of pipe dreams: cash. But more often than not this cash is not forthcoming and the new owners of the previously publicly held entity now flip the premises to others who build more. If anything this blog seeks to endear the traditions and bath in the naturalness.

But the truth is that the future is more concrete, literally.  A lead article from  (July 21). On Himalaya's geothermal potential. Basically more could be done with it. 
'Thousands of megawatts of geothermal energy remain locked up in the Himalayas because of environmental considerations and lack of investment in research, say international geologists'.
Another article can be found here..

Taking a dip in a hot spring #hotspring #swim #dip #wakhanvalley #tajikistan #afghanistan #ontheroad #wanderlust #nomad #hdtravellingslowly #bicycle #bicycletouring #cycletouring #cycletour2014
Just a shot from the travels of hannah and friends going east. A full description of their hot spring find here. If I am correct the above is from Tajikistan with Afghanistan on the far side ...

On you can find this soaking adventure from Jalal-abad, Kyrgyzstan:
'around 50 kilometers south of Arslenbob in the city of Jalal-Abad atop a hill is an old ex-Soviet spa/sanatorium.  these giant decaying facilities are speckled throughout Central Asia but this particular one happens to be built around a hot spring.  after several failed attempts at trying to navigate my way through the confusing Kyrgyz bureaucracy, i was finally able to book myself a “mud treatment”.  i was lead swiftly by the arm by a very helpful, very persistent nurse to the lower levels of the sanatorium where i was met by an older gentleman wearing a rubber apron and rubber boots.  he lead me through a door where a long hallway of tiled cubicles stood, poured a bucket full of hot smelly mud into a plastic covered bed and then made a few hand gestures that suggested i should strip naked and lay down in it.  there are times when getting naked is an easy, natural process but this time was most certainly not one of them.  i had come too far to turn back now.  the strange Kyrgyz man in the rubber suit with bucket in hand was waiting patiently for me to keep up my end of the bargain.  all i had to do was get those clothes off and… ya know… lay down in that mud immediately after.  and so i smiled at the nice man, who was still standing there of course… and then… well… did exactly that.  before i could fully come to grips with how vulnerable i felt lying there naked in the smelly hot mud, the man just laughed and then dumped a bucket of scolding hot mud all over me.  then he folded me into the plastic sheet like a burrito, covered me in additional wool blankets and poured in two additional buckets of mud, one in the opening at my feet and another in the opening at my neck.  then he shook me back and forth and then walked away.  as pain turned into pleasure, my face began to itch uncontrollably.  i was cocooned, hot and helpless.  then an overwhelming sensation of deep relaxation washed over me and seemed to penetrate my bones'.
Picture perfect

In contrast to the infinity pool on the men's side the ladies have to contend with the walled in soak at Khirganga, HP, India. Posted by catherineask
Holy natural hotspring in Kheer Ganga at 2960 metres! Perfect for karmacleaning.. All my sins washed away emoji #shiva is said to have #meditated in #kheerganga for #3000years

Just another photo from many concerning the Nujiang's (Yunnan, China) natural hot springs. Source
#hotspring #khangairesort chillin in paradise
Mongolia. bilguunkh4

After long trip to Tobolsk Hot Mineral Terms near Tyumen, 40 degrees of relaxation! emoji
Tyumen lies in west Siberia. dafchiz

An interesting and different article on Bhutan's hot spring baths by ktshering.
'Unfortunately (with due respect to the hoteliers for using this word), the commercialized versions of hotstone bath tubs which is available in most resorts and hotels across Bhutan is just an attempt to make a close replication. Most importantly, it misses out the intricate social bonding process involved in the task which takes atleast a day. If the tourists are to pay a hefty price for this, then they must experience the process as well. More than the health benefit that one derives out of this "medicinal water", it is much about enhancing your family bonds, and building friendship
As far as my knowledge goes, no scientific studies have shown the water to have health benefits but Bhutanese will not mind continuing with the practice. The placebo effect, good meals and societal bonding during the process may be some of the reasons attributable for the revival of health'. 
He then describes the process and ends with this photo:

Enjoying the fruit of the hardwork
On a top 10 of favourite hot springs. No. 3 on the list, Shikatori, is located somewhere between Yunnan and Sichuan (China), if possible:

No. 5 is from Tibet (Garze) which includes the strange notion of racy photo's on the wall surrounding the tub. No. 8 is likewise from Tibet, Tirtapuri. All-in-all nice photo's.

Wish i could shower like this every day! #nepal #hotsprings

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Lisu soaking exposed

Lisu Bathing
Bordering Burma, the Lisu ehtnic minority live along the banks of the upper Nujiang (Salween) river, in the autonomous prefecture of Nujiang, one of the westernmost administrative divisions of Yunnan, China

Lisu tradition dictates the local custom of holding a bathing festival coinciding with the their new year celebrations. 
This tradition of holding a bathing festival is very much similar to the Tibetan custom (Garma Ri Gi). The tradition transcends the mountain themselves; Hindu's have traditional bathing festivals as well as adhering spiritual connections to water. 
Unique to the Lisu of Nujiang is the involvement of hot springs, which seems sensible considering the time of the year the event is held.

'Every Spring Festival, the Lisu people gather at the Hot Springs by the Nujiang River
By taking baths and washing off dirt with sacred spring water,
people hope for forthcoming auspiciousness'.
Posted by Funansan.

Th Lisu tradition of bathing in hot springs at New Year is called Kuoshi Festival (the New Year festival) determined to be from 20-22 December each year contrasting with Tibet's mid-summer bathing tradition. The practice though does have it's local roots:
'Legend says that the estuary of a huge pool below the cliffs at the foot of the east Gaoligong Mountain was guarded by a pair of little green sparrows. When local people gave parties, year after year, these green sparrows magically provided all the bowls, chopsticks, tables and chairs needed. Then a man failed to return the borrowed articles to the birds and enraged the Dragon King, who ordered that the pool be filled up. The birds turned into girls who bathed in the hot spring near the pool and departed. Consequently, early spring every year, local residents camp near the spring to offer sacrifices to the Dragon King and the magic sparrows, and bathe'.
Others simply see the custom of holding a bathing festival in more practical terms:
'By taking baths and washing off dirt with the sacred spring water, people hope for the forthcoming of auspiciousness'.
Then again the bathing is only a minor part of the festival apparently:
'The most interesting event of the Lisu people's traditional Kuoshi festival is the Hair-Combing Contest held on the first and seventh days of the first lunar month'.
The bathing festival seems to coincide with the Lisu New Year, but might just follow the Kuoshi festival; the Bathing Festival is
'... usually held in the first month of the lunar year'.
Which one could also describe as very early spring .... 

How to soak Lisu Style
Though soaking is part of the Lisu cultural tradition, this source puts the whole soaking process in more evocative terms:
'When the time comes, people from near counties and regions, wearing rich dresses and bringing food, luggage and even cooking stuff, keep pouring in. Tents cover the place, which is quiet in normal times. People all crowd together, singing and smiling happily, and the scene is full of bustle and excitement. The "Spring Bathing Festival", which used to be a day to take bath and cure diseases, now becomes a festival of revelry for people to spend holidays and dance and sing. Especially for youths at their life's full flowering, they gather together in dozens or even hundreds to compete songs, poems and look for lovers. It lasts all through the night and they never feel bored with it'.
No, soaking is not boring here.

However, when searching the web for hot springs in the Nujiang Autonomous Prefecture nearly all focus on the bathing during the festival, as if no soaking takes place at other times. 
And unfortunately most of the reporting on the festival involves sensationalizing the methods of bathing. 
For instance eChinacities includes Nujiang valley hot springs in China's Top 5 Best Nude Bathing Areas despite the fact that the Lisu bathe only semi-naturally ....
It even means that simply the sight of seeing soakers soak can be the ultimate destination. From
'Every year, during the Spring Festival period, Lisu minority people will have bath together in hot springs along both sides of Nu River (the Salween). And held many activities such as poem contest, singing and dancing, etc, to celebrate the coming of spring season. This trip is specially good for photographing'.
For proof purposes the site no longer exists alas. 

Source, caption translated by google:
'Captain guide whispered, pointing to the river: there is beauty in the hot springs! Aha! This really been kept under Liu arrived, I saw the green leaves masking, several topless women are soaked in smoke curl Zaochi, the Liu quietly approaching, when they found me immediately picked up a towel to cover the naked upper body let me exceedingly disappointed!'
And how is the experience seeing soaking locals?
'I left the competition place at noon and walked to visit their "zaotanghui" (public baths) gathering. Some women were taking baths in the hot springs, laughing and playing. Even when tourists focused their cameras on them, they did not behave in an offended manner. What a simple and happy nationality'.
So much for the modern man ... 
Another visitor mentions that the bathing festival is highlighted by eight camera bearing tourists and adds this:
'It is said, used to be with the bath naked men and women, and now more and more "civilized", "naked" too little, men and women are "incompatible", and is generally sub-pools and baths'.

Anyway, modernity also plays a major part in the future of some of these soaks. The Sydney Morning Herald no less, also takes a soak with the locals:
'Men and women alike stripped to their underpants, Wa Ba's family and friends sat soaking in hot pools fed by a geothermal spring gushing from a mossy crevice under the gnarled roots of a banyan tree on the bank of the Nu River.
As his wife tended a kettle over a wood fire and young women drank cups of hot water straight from the spring, Wa offered round a bottle of his homemade rice wine, a clear brew strong enough to give a noticeable buzz from just a capful.
"Usually we take a bath here on the eve of the new year, so we're a bit late this year," said Wa, who lives in Dapicha, a village half an hour's walk away. "If you bathe here when the year is new, it protects you from illness" '.
Reported in 2005, it then goes on to mention that:
'But the hot pool enjoyed by Wa's group, the land of Pi's community, and perhaps even the tenure of his Lisu people in the Nu Valley, are threatened.
Just downstream from the hot spring, about five kilometres up from the town of Liuku, marker pegs stenciled "Liuku Power Station" are rammed into the earth beside a tunnel into the hillside. When built later this decade, the dam's reservoir will submerge the hot spring and many small farms and villages lining the river'.
Though the loss of the soaks is certainly a disadvantage, the projects (once completed) will certainly massively impact the local inhabitants and change their ways of life with no way back.
The consequences will also be felt in countries downstream, for instance now (in 2014) the Mekong is drying up along Thailand and in Lao, consequences attributed (by the press) to dams on this river, while decreasing waters are leaving Vietnam's Mekong delta more prone to become more saline, thus affecting agricultural negatively.
That said, dams have many environmental advantages over alternatives but being highly intrusive is not one of them.

The opposition, though not entirely successful, has been able to stall the construction according to the Times (21 May 2009). Opponents are organised in the Save the Nujiang as well as Salween Watch
The former reports that recently (March 2014) that construction is scheduled to start.

'Ritual bathing in hot springs is a part of the Lisu New Years tradition. These public springs will be deluged if the dam projects are completed. During Spring Festival camps are built near the pools which makes for a festival atmosphere'.

The soaks of Nujiang
Despite the considerable wealth of information on how the locals soak, hardly any information is available on where they soak and definitely no personal experiences are described on the net in English. Swell.

Some places that are mentioned as having soak sites are Chawalong, which is located in the north of Nujiang prefecture. The photo available on flickr doesn't endear itself to potential soakers though ....

Elsewhere mention is made of hot springs, 10 km north of Liuku city (Lushui county), the prefectures administrative center. These are Laomudeng (possibly), Bazhaodeng, Baihualing, Denggen and Mazhanghe (source).

Then this visitor mentions a distance of 30 km from Liuku and after google translate the following conspires:

'Fellow men left after another, but the ladies unwilling. Japan recalled bare bulbs, everyone wants to feel that part of the wonderful review in China at this time to revisit. At this point nothing can stop them, bidet into the embrace of the idea of ​​natural strong impact on them, and off it! Water it! Let those men waiting on top of it! Several women from the big city to abandon the secular, but also learn the local Lisu villagers, naked and jumped into the pool to that Pitt among the skin smooth and soft shine of turquoise water is more tender and beautiful in the clear water of the figure will undoubtedly expose'.
So to sum it up: there seems to be a lot of possibilities but does anybody know where?