Friday, June 24, 2011

Soaking with the Mosuo

The Mosuo and bathing
Lijiang is probably one of China's biggest tourist Mecca's but if not for the Ninglang Yi automonous county it would hardly be worth a mention in this blog. However that's not the case.

Located at a distance of no less than 8 hours, Ninglang county, surrounding the Lugu (Luguhu) lake, is a bit isolated and as such has become home to the Mosuo people
(an officially not recognized minority) who might just well be this region's biggest drawcard. The backdrop not being sufficient enough, tourists from all over China come to witness the culture where to be woman is king:
'In an effort to promote Lugu Lake as an interesting tourist spot, the Chinese government advertised the area as "the Woman's Kingdom", a fully matriarchal society, and implied that the women are sexually loose, taking male partners often, and at will. Books with promiscuous covers and amateur paintings with naked and scantily clad women are sold in every shop. Locals are forced to wear "traditional costumes" with the threat of ¥20 per day fines for non-compliance'.
While intrigued by this kind of different culture, one might ask why come all the way here to bear witness to this? Surely a book such as that of by Yang Namche Namu and Christine Mathieu (2) is enough to understand the culture, though it also describes the beauty of the countryside.

But no. Answers to this inexplicable reason to visit Lugu Lake and the surrounding Mosuo heartland are more complex.

At the heart of the argument are distinctions about superiority apparently. Matriarchal is backward, patrimonial is modern. That's how Dru C. Gladney (1) sums up the mainstream view in the book 'Dislocating China: Muslims, Minorities and other Subaltern Subjects', while giving examples of the exoticizing and eroticizing of minorities in modern China (see other entries on Yunnan), which are additional motives for seeking out Mosuo culture.

These motives, I have to admit, are not exclusive to China. See portrayal of Nat. Geo. which have no problems with near naked Ni-Vanuatu for instance, but all white-skinned unclothed persons are neatly blurred. See also my own posting on this subject in Soaking in Southeast Asia: Cliffhanger.

Though much is made of the difference between Mosuo and Chinese culture in Namu and Mathieu's book, notable is the mention of Mosuo enjoying hot springs au-naturel and how this is being prevented by the (Chinese?) authorities (2). More on this development in historical context:
'During the Cultural Revolution, local officials thought this practice [bathing naked] was uncivilized and they added walls to separate men and women. Over time, however, the Mosuo began taking down the walls until the point that they hardly existed. When the area was open for tourism in the 90s, the government forcibly separated male and female bathers. Eventually, the area was reopened for communal bathing after the government realized its value to the local Mosuo people'.
Possibly to exemplify the contrast between the culture's, more has been made of the naked soaking than in reality existed; i.e. a supposed superiority of the Mosuo over Han Chinese due to the former's inability to distinguish between the clothed and unclothed human form without erotizication.

That said, the cultural differences still add to the Lugu lake area attractions:
'In addition the Mosuo of all ages engage in naked bathing at the Waru hot spring, seeing the body as simply a part of the normal pattern of things. For many Chinese, such visits permit a view of fascinating customs found in a beautiful part of the country ...'(3)
Or as in this publication:
'In early 1988, I saw a young man from Sichuan anguishing in the courtyard of the local government; his expensive camera with a telephoto zoom lens had been forfeited when, from behind a towering rock, he photograped the naked bathers in a roofless hot spring in northern Yongning' (4).
Mosuo's soaks
After extensive web search, I still have to proceed beyond the one hot spring, which the above mentioned authors (2) situate near Yongning village. It is often referred to as Wenquan, however Wenquan is just Chinese for hot spring. More commonly it is named after the nearby village of Yongning or Waru (3), I'll stick to the latter. Besides positioning the soak 10 km north of Yongning Tourchina adds:
'Now this place is equipped with proper facilities for people wanting to soak and relax in this comfortable hot spring'.
As opposed to before when ...?

This cached reference describes the (perceived?) past:
'So at any time of the night or day, up to hundreds of naked men and women can be seen bathing together. They play together and have fun. Mosuo people have a very relaxed attitude towards the naked human body and they do not regard nudity as a taboo'.
'A group of Mosuo women and tourists bathing in the famous hot springs of Yongning, Yunnan province, China. August 2007'.

A current firsthand experience by a long-distance rider:
'Had the place all to myself, and soaked for over an hour. The water felt warm, but not hot, smelled heavily of minerals, and actually fizzed like soda pop. ... After the soak I kept riding to see if there was anything up ahead. There was another hot springs – Lao (old) Hot Springs – a few kilometers up the road. Later someone back at Lige said that was the “better” hot springs because the water was hotter, but it sounded pretty crowded'.
So maybe two hot spring sites?

Dane-en-chine has a blog entry in which he describes as much the way there and mentions two hot springs locations near to each other:
'In the hot spring village (Mosuo name is Agua and Chinese name is Wen Chuan) there are 2 bathes. We had a look at both. We don’t like the oldest too much ruined.
The new one where we went has a collective basin share in two parts one for women one for men, just separated by an enormous wooden beam,. It's open air so it is very pleasant.
When we ask to go to the collective bath the owner is surprised and refuses by saying to us "lao bai xin" what wants to say "common people" what in his eyes we are not!
The local people come here to take your bath; they use a lot of soap so the water is too soapy. There are private rooms with bath smaller and cleaner.
We began by the common and finish by the private. No massage just hot bath this water is good for the skin'.
Oddly they include a picture of bathing naked locals with a clothed westerner!

In the Footsteps of Dr. Rock from 2005 adds:
'There is now a "resort" here where pools have been built for tourists. There will probably be other pools built by the time you read this'.
And now for the bad news from 2009:
'Construction of an airport near China's last matriarchal society in the southwestern Yunnan Province has started, authorities said yesterday'.
Innocence ends?

Well, probably one of the very few pictures of men soaking naked in China! Again Yongning hot spring. Look at this link to a photo (sfw) when the soakers still had a view. So decorum meant dividing the pool and put a wall up.

(1) Gladney, D.C. (2004) Dislocating China: Muslims, Minorities and other Subattern Subjects. Published by Hirst and Co, London, United Kingdom
(2) Namu, Y.E. & Mathieu, C. (2003) Leaving Mother Lake: A Girlhood at the Edge of the World. U.S.A.
(3) Arlt, W. G. & X. Honggang Tourism Development and Cultural Interpretation in Ghanzi, China. In: Ryan C, & G. Humin (Eds.) (2009) Tourism in China: Destination, Cultures and Communities. Routledge, New York, U.S.A.
(4) Shih, C-k (2010) Quest for Harmony: the Moso Traditions of Sexual Union and Family Life. Stanford University Press, Stanford, U.S.A.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Minority bathing rights

Looking into other regions of Yunnan with hot springs, there remains the prefectures to the south (Pu'er, Xishuanbanna, Lincang) and southeast (Honghe and Wenshan).

Mountain Mussels 
Though there is scientific credence (Xian Daxian, 1987) given to Pu'er prefecture having 17 (known) hot springs, the only hot spring mentioned is Manzhongtian hot spring which lies to the south(east?) of Pu'er prefecture's capital of Simao (Mayhew et. al., 2002).Further afield, to the west, is the county of Menglian which is home to Mengmazhen (Mengma or Mountain Mussel [!]) hot spring with temperatures varying from 26-54 (source). A picture here.

A painting by He Kun, native of Puer , entitled 'Hot Spring 3' (source).

Then there is a mention of Lancang Lahu Spa by Deja Vu and Jinggu county has a hot spring in Fengshan village which doubles up with a local temple as the village's attractions (source). A picture can be found here. So that's at least four soaking sites.

Lincang prefecture is home to
Yuhengchang Hot Spring hotel (tripadvisor). The same source also mentions Lincang Garden Hot Spring hotel.

Elsewhere there was a mention made of Fengqing county being geothermal rich. A Chinese language
website refers to Zhenkang county hot spring where you can 'barbeque' yourself, i.e. make your own sauna. 
Whether or not referring to one of the hot springs above (the respondent claims it to be Lincang) he/she notes:
'In 2008, I stayed one day in Lincang. The city just had no big difference from any others in Yunnan. The runway airport was build in middle of a mountain. Probably the hot spring hotel outside the city is worthwhile to try, the water contains so rich minerals that feels like liquid soap. Just hope that they have fixed minor electricity leakage in the pool!' 
This website once reported that Maolan, Yun county, had at least one hot spring, with mentions of a temperature of 68℃. According to the same source referred to originally, Shuangjiang county also has a hot spring with temperatures from 52-58. I mentioned it looked nice.  
Then there's a photo on panaramio of Yunxian hot spring as well as Chinese language photoblog.

Another Yunxian hot spring. Reference adds:
'Just boiled eggs dipped in chili powder to eat'.

Most beautiful
Xishuangbanna is reputed to have more than 50 hot springs (
Xian Daxian, 1987). 
In the prefecture's capital of Jinghong is Dai Nam (source, see also their photo's), Nanni or Gasa (sandy street) hot spring (source) which is a large resort and is supposedly very clean and
'... there’s an assortment of steaming hot pools you can soak in, each one with its own special fragrance (coffee, tea, rose petals, coconut milk, etc)' (source).
It's going with the times, as can be witnessed by the availability of Dr. Fish treatment. It's even considered as 1 of China's most beautiful places. The accompanying info is mostly gibberish, though it does mention that the hot spring is 5 km from Jinghong.

Tripadvisor notes Xiaojie county hot spring, Jinghong.


The autonomous prefecture (AP) of Honghe is famous for it's rice terraces (which have been bestowed World Heritage status) and are located in Yuanyang county. This centrally located county is believed to have 5 hot springs (Xian Daxian, 1987); here at least a mention is made of
'To Rie Shiu Tan (??), 2.5hrs walk, an hot spring where you can cook yourself up!!'
Still, there are other more well-known hot springs in Honghe. Mile county is home to Mile Hot Spring hotel. Tripadvisor alone has more than 50 reviews on this accommodation:
'It is a vast modern complex. The hot springs were only partially open when we were there, however they still let all the 'day trippers' in which meant they was a heaving mass of people. We didn't see any westerners there (which is a plus point!)'.
Others mention that visitors should only stay here if they love hot springs as there is nothing else to do.

Buckchucko liked the stay and besides many photo's includes a little more on what to expect:
'In the middle of nowhere stands ultra modern buildings, a 495 acre man made ecological lake preserve filled with clean clear spring water. Their showcase piece is the Huquan Resort and Spa smack dab in the middle of this preserve. Lagoons, sandy beach fronts, natural hot springs, and water activities showcase this resort complex. The resort is “set” in water so from your room it is as if you are virtually living in the lake. This 5 star complex is about as lavish as it gets'.
The acclaimed Hotspring Tours site adds this:
'Minority “fans” usually spend one or two nights in Mile when they head for Yuanyang to witness Hani Terraced Fields. Huquan Hotel is their favorite place to stay in since natural spring spa is available inside. Mile boasts rich geothermal resources. Its Huquan Hotel enjoys the highest popularity in Honghe (Red River) Prefecture for spring spas. It is a good place for recreation and relaxation'.
Eyebrow raising?
But none seem to match the fame or notoriety of Mengla hot spring, Jinping county. It's just how you look at it. Fame in the sense of the great amounts of links to this hot spring, notoriety as the local Dai people seem less concerned with adhering to the latest fashion whims.

Though some credence is given to the existence to

' "masseuse rocks" that knead muscles as you simply lie there',
it seems that most references are more interested in the supposedly outlandish habit of the locals, with special emphasis on the females. Thus it even makes China's Top 10 hot springs! Hotspring Tours advocates a trip here thus:
'Men and women enjoying Naked Bath is a traditional custom of Dai people living in Jinping County, which makes Mengla Hotspring known to the outside world. Dai youth there take Naked Bath together while chitchatting in huddles. Sometimes they just immerse themselves in the pond, quite similar with swimming fish, a peculiar spotlighted view'.
Peculiar? Chitchatting in huddles? Naked bath together? No, I'm more interested in how they immerse themselves. This reference though avoids the hash:
'Yunnan, the indispensible China destination. Where karst towers draped in snarls of jungle jut out of tropical forests to stand as monuments lording over scenes from another planet. Awe-inspiring and oft photographed to be sure, Yunnan’s got something for hot springs lovers too: the Jinping Mengla Hot Spring.
Issuing from the caves at 50-60 degrees centigrade, waters flush with curative elements run over colorful rocks. Visitors will find a host of curative natural effects, from bubbling waters to "masseuse rocks" that knead muscles as you simply lie there.
Immediate surroundings are well worth the time to explore too. The lush forests conceal ravines, waterfalls, mirror-like lakes and karst landforms under their canopies.
Accommodations can be found in the nearby town of Gejiu, 7 kilometers away. You'll find the four-star Century Plaza Gejiu ... comfortable, though the befuddled staff might leave you with a raised eyebrow or two'.
Like the way they finish that segment.

This Chinese website mentions that the hot spring has temperatures from 50-60
°C and is indeed famous for skinny dipping (ethnically of course) locals. And another Chinese language website describes it as
'paradise on earth: men and women bathing together',
though it also has this, not so often heard mantra:
'These hot springs are open, no fences, no tickets'.
It comes complete with many a picture, including one of hungry male photographers!
Just an example (sorry original link gone ...) of mainstream (dim, but clear!) view of non-mainstream soakers:

'Here, a pool of men and women bathing together, without proof, without any obstructions apart. Bathed in the embrace of nature, like a naughty child fish prowling the pool, young men and women or small groups, side bath while engaged in small talk, or soft to the mental and physical immersion in water. Occasionally, the branch support folk songs accompanied by "rushing" sound of spring, a long time This is Dai among young men and women sing folk songs in a pool of love songs. It is said that the local guy a girl falling in love Dai spa night to "wash duck bath" practices'
Building bodies
Located nearly 40 km from Honghe's capital of Gejiu is
Yashadi hot spring. And though the scenery is beautiful and the waters hot (90
'It merges tour, recreation and body-building into one whole'.
The aforementioned were a website now no longer existing. It is also praised Yashadi for it's many karaoke bars. There's little more info here. Sometimes it is is also referred to as Jiasha hot spring, the name of the river nearby.

Matt Hartzell:
scenery and multicolored pools at the hot springs in Gejiu, Yunnan, China'.
Wuzhe hot spring is another Honghe AP hot spring, located in Luxi county. This link provides 2 pictures. Apparently it's up for sale on this site:
'Wuzhe hot spring scenic spot was constructed in 1998. It occupies hot springs at 78°C at outlet, annaul hydraulic discharge 220,000 cubic meters. Because it contains many types of microelements and mineral compositions, it is appropriate for bathing'.

This website adds that there are deep-water swimming pools. 

Less well known is Meihua hot spring which translates as plum hot spring. This website has some photo's which is in the west of Honghe
This link also recommends Xiao Qin Tian hot spring (in the northeast) and Xiao Zhai (or Small Village) hot spring.

Same same
Wenshan prefecture in the southeast of Yunnan gains less soaking attention apparently. does mention the Baishapo (White Sand Slope) hot spring,
Guangnan county. Part of their description:
'Besides the bathing pools with separate sections for men and women, there is also a new-built swimming pool in the open air which can be used by nearly one thousand people at the same time'.
[Updated January 2014]

Mayhew, B., K. Miller, A. English (2002) South-West China, 2nd edition. Lonely Planet, Melbourne, Australia.
Xian Daxian (1987) The distribution of hot springs and their features in Xishuang Banna and its adjacent areas. Yunnan Geology 1987, vol. 1. Kunming, China.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Gap stopping

On the way from the tourist hub of Dali to the even bigger tourist hub of Lijiang, lies the hot spring of Er Yuan. Though the SeeYunnan web site says it's
'simple and inexpensive',
it looks quite far from simple.

There is this
extensive review of the Er Yuan Hot Springs hotel which has comments such as:
'The Er Yuan Hot Spring Hotel had well cleaned and well swept grounds which provided for a pleasant ambiance'.

Hotspring Tours adds this description:
'Dali Geothermal State is located 2 kilometers northeast of Er’yuan county seat and adjacent to Cibi Lake. It’s about 50 kilometers from Dali Old Town. Er’yuan is known as hometown of hot springs in Dali. It’s said that Jianwen Emperor of the Ming Dynasty once enjoyed hoLinkt spring bath here. Most of the hot springs in Er’yuan County exhibits water temperature from 70 to 90 degrees Celsius, and contain potassium, calcium, magnesium, ferrum and other minerals. Bathing and “steamed” in such springs is believed to help cure some diseases, for which Er’yuan geothermal state is regarded as “a natural therapy hospital”. Covering nearly 1,000 Mu (Chinese acre), it has been the largest open-air hot spring bath spot in Asia'.
There are even claims that Er Yuan hot springs are the largest in Asia.

Further away in Dali AP there is the hot spring located not far out of town of Xiaguan also known under it's commercial name of Phoenix (Fenghuang) Hot Spring Resort.
'The Resort is characterized by natural hot spring development. Dali hot spring comes from 3800 meters deep below the earth's crust, therefore, the water quality is very high'.
On the other side of Yunnan, in the northeast, lies the
Western Grand Canyon hot springs in Shuifu county of Zhaotong prefecture.
Eyes on China adds:
'There is a wonderful spring hidden under the beautiful canyon at the depth of 2380 meters. It was discovered by the Surveying Party of Yunnan province while they were drilling a well. Evaluated by the national-grade experts, the high temperature (85℃ ) , the high pressure and large amount (more than 8000 cubic meters every day) are the No.1 in the country. The hot spring is rich in partial-silici acid, sulfur, technetium, lithium, selenium, selenium-radon, copper and strontium, etc, which are beneficial for human health'.
On her journey she comes aware that by now the hot springs will have gone underwater as a dam is being built just downstream.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

The mundane

Hou Yi's wife
The mountainous province of Yunnan is home to not only a diverse selection of minorities it is also home to many hot springs. In this blog entry I will be focusing on the regions with less hot springs to the South and West of the province's capital, Kunming.

Starting off by going south east, Yuxi prefecture, contains another high number of hot springs.
Dayinjie (Hongta district), a 15 minute drive from Yuxi city, is reputed to be the home of many a hot spring. Chris Horton writes:
'The nicest of these is Moon Lake, comprised of a series of 12 pools with different herbs, mineral salts, and liquors to soak away a day'.
Note that there is also accommodation in Dayin(jie) called Moon Lake Hot Spring Hostel (tripadvisor).
'Moon Lake Spa is a traditional Japanese-style hot spring resort, a blend of the most traditional spa culture and the most fashionable casual concept, promote health, recreation and ecological balance, the nature of the clear sky and hot springs leisurely leisure appropriate to bring every visitor, for the love of life and health of people has created an oasis in a bustling city' (source link since original posting in 2011 not working).
Probably the most prosaic description includes this:
'As the saying goes: Chang-e Xiafan only look for home on earth, Hou Yi's wife up on why the palace of heaven - to the Chinese Restaurant Tam!'
? Well, I bet it makes more sense in Chinese (I hope).

Elsewhere in Dayinjie is the hot spring of Yingyuetan (tripadvisor). This should not be confused with the Yingyue hot spring of Chongqing. People's Daily (August 16, 2013) adds:
'The full name of Yingyuetan Hot Spring is Yingyuetan Leisure and Cultural Center. It is located in the Daying Street of Yuxi City. It consists of Yingyuetan Hot Spring, Yingyuetan Water Fitness Center, Gratitude Shopping Street, Yingyue Hot Spring Inn, Sakya Cultural Garden and Yuquan Temple.
While you are in a spring pool, you can hear the sound of fountain, and look at the beautiful moon and shining stars. You will have a wonderful night here'.
And Bailong (hot?) spring (tripadvisor). It's listed under geysers / hot springs, so ...

Anyway this person went to a hot spring near Yuxi (but no name) and mentions:

'Yesterday, most of us decided to visit a local hot spring."Having never been to a hot spring in China, I was excited about relaxing in a mountain pool, getting a massage, and generally spending the afternoon in a stupor.Our "hot spring" was not that sort of place. Instead, we found an odd mix of a public pool and an amusement park. We began the afternoon with "bump bump boats," basically floating bumper cars. These only cost us about $1 USD and fell into the category of awesome, dangerous activities that cannot be found in the US (see my earlier post on the Great Wall slide)'.
The Zaojie (or
Zhaojia) hot springs (Jiangchuan county) see little internet reference though Angsana hotels:
'Zaojie Hot Spring is situated at the foot of Lijia Hill in Jiangchuan County. A unique group of hot springs can be found along the banks of Fuxian Lake and Xingyun Lake, with closely packed spring openings stretching from one point to another in the village. There are springs with double openings and small pools with just a single opening. The strongest flow of water is concentrated at a point with six openings. It is certainly not an exaggeration to say that a spring opening can be found around every corner in the village. The water, which is of a carbonate composition, is clear and refreshing, and ideal for both drinking and bathing. Water temperatures generally range from 20℃ to 30℃. The difference in temperature between the two springs that are furthest apart is as large as 9℃. It is believed that drinking from the pool and bathing in it regularly is an effective way of relieving rheumatism'.
This link continues:
'The Xingyun Lake [also known as Nebula lake] has many hot springs, such as the Luozhipu [or Luosipu] Hot-spring located in Zhaojiawan on the east, and the Haixicun Hot-spring and Shuangjing Hot-spring on the west. From north to south, 5 springs lie in a line. A peculiar thing is that the temperature of these springs is increasing from the north one to the south one, with a total difference of 8 to 9 C. These hot springs are ideal bathing places as well as rest and recuperate resorts along the Xingyun Lake'.
In the same county is also the Fish Spring (tripadvisor) as well as a reference to Shenyu hot spring:
'The village is called Xujiatou Village and it is bestowed with rich hot-spring resources. In the village there is a stone-paved road on both of which houses from late Qing Dynasty are lined. Among the springs scattered in the village there is one called Shenyu Spring'.
This link though explains Shenyu means divine fish and fish live in the spring probably meaning that this is not a hot spring. The link does add:
'In the area, there are also sewage fish and toilet fish, which makes up amazing fish culture'.
In fact adds :
'The water of the Shenyu Spring remains between 28 ℃ to 30 ℃ round the year. Now there are 300 black carps in the spring'.
So a warm spring. No soaking by the way.

Hot and warm
Another purportedly not so hot spring is to be found in Tonghai county, the Warm Water Pond. The same
source also has a reference to the Hot Water Pond of Chengjiang county. Chengjiang also has hot springs in Haikouxiang, the hot water cave of Luchong and the hot water river of Jiucun (source). Though I believe these would be located near the above mentioned Xingyun lake, Mansfield and Walters [1] mention Jiucun village on Fuxian lake as having 'attractive' hot springs.

The aforementioned also adds the existence of a hot spring in Meiyun Lao’ao Village (Yimen County).
Wana hot spring is located in Yuanjiang county, apparently development is needed (link not working).

Eshan county as far as this blog knows has three hot springs. The lesser known is that of Dalongtan (source). The other lesser known hot spring is Baoquan (source).

More well known is Tianzi (Tianziyuan) hot spring which is a rather large bathing facility with a connected hotel (tripadvisor).
'The spring is rich in geothermal water resources and the temperature is between 39 – 43 ℃ around the year. The water is abundant in calcium, magnesium, zinc, strontium, and oxygen, which is supposed to be good for health and keeping good looks with medical effects' (source).
The eastern most county, Huaning, has the famous hot spring of Xiangbi (or Elephant Trunk Mountain) hot spring which is 8 km from from Huaning county:
'Xiangbi Hot-spring was developed in East Han Dynasty which was about 2,000 years ago. The water temperature remains between 39℃ to 41℃. The water quality is of high level that can be used for bathing as well as drinking. According to a state appraisal, there are 24 microelements in the water that are essential to human body. Three of the elements, namely metasilicate, strontium and lithium, reach the national standard on drinkable natural spring water. The water also has therapy function' (source). (link now not working) adds quite a bit including this:
'Its beauty has inspired a poem that goes like this: “Great springs of the universe do not be arrogant, as waters in Wenzhao concede to Huaning'.
Ostensibly it compares quality wise to Perrier! The springs have a large indoor pool (source).

Elsewhere in Huaning, is Tobacco hot spring (tripadvisor).

Updated December 2013
[1] Mansfield, S. and M. Walters (2007) China: Yunnan province. Bradt Travel Guides, Bucks, United Kingdom.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Way Forward

Developing Yunnan
In all, it's said that there are 654 centers of hot springs within Yunnan. The provincial government tourism website, Seeyunnan, purports there to be 700. The Yunnan Provincial Tourism Adminstration has actually set up a site with descriptions of 28 hot springs, all over Yunnan.
Yunnan has a considerable reputation for being a hot spring destination. 
Take the example of Tengchong county where Baoshan is marketed as the hot spring home of China. 
Another aspect in the marketing of Yunnan's hot springs are the fact that they often frequented on a daily basis by locals, though often referred to as minorities. They have been using the springs since time immemorial and have included the soaks in their traditions. What's more they tend to take the waters with little or no shame, a fact which enthralls the hordes of tour groups, rendering this part of the tradition as something of the past. But the legends continue thanks to modern day marketing ...

Embracing tourism not only negatively influences the privacy of the soakers, many a hot spring falls prey to developers who see money in turning nature into concrete (?). 

Much destruction has already taken place. 
On a more positive note the local government seeks to introduce standards for hot spring facilities:
'China Yunnan Tengchong Volcano Atami Tourism Development and Management Corporation, Dianchi Spring Spa, Kunming Spring Soul Garden Spa & Resort , and Kunming Junhao Spa have passed the assessment of the Yunnan Spa and Hot Spring Rating Assessment Committee and have all been awarded five-crown certificates and plates — becoming the first enterprises that have passed the assessment both in Yunnan and in China.
In 2008 Yunnan province published China's first comprehensive set of local hot spring standards, including the Standard for Tourist Hot Spring Sign Usage, Hot Spring Tourism Service Specifications, Hot Spring Tourism Operators Grading and Evaluation, and Spa Operators Grading and Evaluation.
The committee evaluated the business facilities and services, facilities and equipment maintenance, cleaning and service quality, and the management of the four hot spring enterprises'.
Though no doubt well intended, the outcome means that the nominees go upmarket and if not already excluding the locals, they'll become sterile nothings for the well-heeled noveau-riche. Yes, they will be stylish, peaceful and attentive, but isn't the journey there as much if not more important? And what if the like minded are also sterile loving, upward mobilites? Does one seek a mirror of one self?

Around the capital
Well, as you can see in the sidebar menu Hot Soaks of the Himalaya has carved the Yunnan province into bite sizes, each entry representing an administrative division. 
With exception of this entry. 
This blog entry will include much of the hot springs surrounding Yunnan's provincial capital of Kunming.

Deja vu has a nice entry on Kunming and it's surrounding hot springs (2010 edition), listing no less than 18 hot springs, some though will require a better part of a week to visit. 

Let's focus a little more nearby.
Kunming, Yunnan's provincial capital, is known for it's eternal spring: it never get's too hot nor does it stay cold for long: an ideal tourism destination.
There are quite a few hot spring hotels located in and around Kunming. Not clear whether or not these are all natural. the current hausse suggests that some of the resorts may well be cutting corners.
These are
(mostly referenced by tripadvisor):
  • Dianchi Garden Hotel Spa, Kunming (virtual tourist); nearly 300 rooms; Hotspring Tours:
    'Quasi silicate hot spring is available with its water being piped from 1,100 meters under ground'.
  • Tianyi Hot Spring Hotel, Kunming (tripadvisor),
  • Yisite Hot Spring Hotel (tripadvisor),
  • Yunhai Lantianyu Hot Spring (tripadvisor),
  • Yunwu Hot Spring Hotel (tripadvisor),
  • Herton hot sspring hotel (tripadvisor),
  • Eshan Hot Spring hotel, Kunming (tripadvisor)
  • Fude Hot Spring Hot Spring Hotel (tripadvisor),
  • Golden Pond Hot Spring Hotel (tripadvisor),
  • Dali Dongyuan Hot Spring Hotel (tripadvisor),
  • Haigeng Yishan Hot Spring Hotel (tripadvisor),
  • Yangzonghai Brilliant Spa, 37 km from Kunming (website and short description); Hotspring Tours:
    'For those who pursue more comfortable and elegant hot-spring bathing, the recommended one is Brilliant Spa in Yangzong Lake, where one could choose to stay in any of the 26 different spas featured as aroma, forest, therapy and lake view. The spas here are totally natural sulfur hot springs, with water temperature being between 68℃ and 72℃ to make it wholesome. Here, spas of different sizes are equipped with convenient facilities and the price is reasonable. The best hot-spring bathing and intriguing sceneries would be enjoyed in Brilliant Spa Resort'.
  • Xizhu Spa Country Estate, the entry on Hotspring Tours; 15 km northwest of the city.
Most of these have been added in the last 5 years, so expect a lot of swanky buildings, little of substance on the soaks though ... 

Nearby Anning, 21 km southwest of Kunming, is noted as it has 11 hot springs to invest in. 
Surprisingly in the past, LP has advised travelers to give this place a miss (source). has a short overview of the characteristics of Anning's hot springs, very informative stuff:
'The welltemperature curves can be grouped into four types,i.e.,the temperature-increasing type,the constant-temperature type,the suddenly increasing-decreasing type and the temperature-increasing-temperature-decreasing type'.
An overview of some of the hot springs of Anning:
  • Jinfang (Golden) Forest Hot Spring is by far the best known, which is listed in China's Top 10 of hot springs. One first hand described visit:
    'Although the hot springs at Senlin are shared, there are enough of them (around 20) to allow for relaxing privacy. Other visitors are generally polite. They also don’t want to share a hot spring that’s occupied. On the other hand, they may be repulsed by the prospect of sharing bathwater with a waiguoren, the all-purpose word for anyone non-Chinese'.
A nice tale from a group of westerners to Anning includes
'Befitting the theme of our trip, every time our group entered a spring, the incumbent Chinese family immediately departed. We didn’t mind. After our trying day, it took 4 hours of physical and spiritual cleansing before we were ready to part from the heavenly warmth of those hot springs. The experience was worth every penny and every wrinkled finger and toe. ...
All in all, one of the most exciting weekends of my life.
And that's how soaking should be.

Updated May 2015

Sunday, June 19, 2011

China's outback?

East of Baoshan lies Dehong AP, a prefecture with mostly minority inhabitants in a corner with Burma.

The city of Luxi (or Mang(xi), Dehong's prefectural seat) is mentioned as having the Daijingxiang Hot Spring Hotel which is located in Fapa (tripadvisor and looks very posh) as well as the Fapa Hot Spring Village (tripadvisor).

Eight kms from Luxi is Pago Mans Hot Spring resort:
' ... a group of hot springs, water temperature around 46 ℃, flow stability, clear spring water, water does not contain harmful elements. Get-together in 1956 during the Sino-Burmese border between China and Myanmar Prime Minister and the guests have to welcome home. In recent years, new resorts, equipment, more complete' (source).
Elsewhere in Mang/Luxi is the more rustic Luxi Shudong hot spring (source). At a distance of 25 km is the Bamboo River hot spring (source).

Odd, a Luxi hot spring located further away in the direction of Ruili county is mentioned as
'China's five famous nude bathing customs (中国五大著名裸浴风俗)' (source).
Another website lists this spring in its China's most famous nude bathing, surprisingly with very a photo of very conservatively dressed ladies!

Unfortunately the name is not so translatable, it could well be the "Collapse of the Dragon". It's pretty well-known. It is a hot spring that once was beside a banyan tree but is now partially under it. One can enter these holes and bath under the tree as well as the adjacent pond. This Chinese language
website also has a couple of photo's (though no mention of soaking couture). Reference is given to it being in Mangbang which rings a bell. This blog mentions Meichan hot spring, Mangbang, Zhefangzhen. A look at a map puts Zhefang between Riuli and Luxi / Mang close to the Burmese border. Looks very idyllic (below).

A great photo shoot, this is regarded as China's top 5 skinny dips?


Others mention the above hot spring as Longchi, but all web searches link through to a hot spring in Sichuan. Some mention even Moli as in Moli Tropical Rainforest Eco-tourism Area. Then again not so sure. Possibly a totally different hot spring. From this website:
'Moli Tropical Rain Forest Area is a national 4A scenic area, and was constructed by Taiwanese businessman Zhan Maosheng. It is located in Moli Valley in the northwest of Wanrui Bridge and is about 21 kilometers away from the downtown Ruili. The entire area is in a small basin with an altitude of 940 meters.
It covers an area of about 7 square kilometers. It is pleasant and sunny there with a tropical rainforest climate. By taking advantage of the existing natural landscape, forest resources and hot spring energy, builders has created a comprehensive ecological tourism area integrating functions of holidays, scientific research, rehabilitation, leisure and entertainment'.
So now we are in Ruili county. Close by to the collapsed dragon (or Zhefang) is Law Pa hot spring. This website shows a big cement pool with (if I read the translation correctly) a men and a women's pool. This website mentions a joint venture and presents a photographic overview of the not so enticing surroundings.
Riuli county also counts the Bada Hot Spring Hotel (tripadvisor) as well as Yurui Hot Spring hotel (tripadvisor) and despite the photo of a slab of concrete the Chinese commentaries pick up on the villa's with hot springs.

Other counties
In Yangjiang county is the Fenghuang Hot Spring Resort (tripadvisor). Another hot spring in Yangjiang is Mangyun hot spring (source).

Lianghe county has the Longwo hot spring (Panaramio). More fame is given to big boiling pot (Dagunguo):
'The most magnificent view of the "hot sea" is the boiling pool with a temperature of 97℃. So it is called "the Big Boiling Pot" by the local people. It is above 3 meters in diameter and 1.5 meters deep. There are dozens of big springs of vapor with a temperature of 94℃ at the mouths of the springs, where you can steam food. There was a legend that once upon a time, an ox drank salty water of spring and dropped into it owing to its carefulness. When the shepherd boy turned back with villagers, the ox has already become beef. The two Chinese characters "热海" (Hot Sea) were carved on the stone standing 30 meters away from "the big boiling pot". There are some bathrooms and steam beds for people to take a steam bath or receive medical treatment'. (source)
Though I have doubts whether it really is located in Lianghe (rather in Tengchong, Baoshan), let's just list it twice ....