Tuesday, December 22, 2009

South of the Annapurna's and up the Kali Gandaki


As elsewhere in Nepal, hot springs mostly follow the deeper valley streams and the Kali Gandaki river which flows between the Dhaulagiri and Annapurna mountain rangess is no exception. The other hot springs in this area are near the Modi Khola and Myagdi Khola rivers.
This area is quite accessible and thus sees many (foreign) visitors which together leads to many links and stories on internet.

Though I have seen Kodari mentioned as the number 1 place in Nepal for soaking,
the Tatopani (Tatopani means just hot water in Nepali) is located along the Kali Gandaki and until recently was the last place visited on many of the local treks [2013: road has extended beyond Tatopani]. However it's popularity and thus it's possible status as Nepal's no. 1 soak spot is increasingly being challenged by the much smaller but possibly more pleasant Jhinu.
Elsewhere in the same region, along the Myagdi Khola are a number of hot springs which see many Nepali tourists and hardly any foreigners.

Upper reaches of the Kali Gandaki
Starting the list from the upstream downwards the first hot spring mentioned is Dhima in Mustang (district, formerly a local kingdom) which a few (repetitious) web sites mention as having a hot spring.

Another Mustang town with a hot spring is Jomsom. Smack bang on the tourist route, Jomsom has been mentioned as having hot springs, though the soak sites seem pretty much undiscovered out there on the net.
'A number of hot spring are found in the hillside on the west of the village Jomsom'.
Could the following be the source of preceding:
'On the west bank of the Kali Gandaki river, at the foot of a hillock, are other hot springs. Spring water flows at thirty liters per second here'.
The Tatopani
Located at the end (or beginning) of two of Nepal's most popular treks, Tatopani receives it's fair share of wearied trekkers who use the sizeable town to put their feet up, eat apple pie and soak.

Though officially known as Bhurung Tatopani, the town has become synonymous with the Nepalese term for hot springs Tatopani
. Info on this place is extensive, google gives just under 6,000 hits for this site on blog search only! A recent blog posting:
'On top of all that, any trekker reaching Tatopani (in Nepali, 'hot waters') in the course of the Annapurna Circuit will experience one of the most pleasant sensations of his life: bathing in a hot spring. Oh my! that was good, yes, it felt good! I spent almost 4 hours in the 50ish degree hot water, listening to music and chatting with fellow trekkers (who by now had become some sort of nomad family)'.
Unfortunately due to the road extending from Beni (Myagdi district capital) and beyond to the north this may well result in a change of soaking scene. Then again it's fame might simply attract more ...

'Piscina de agua termal en Tatopani'.
Photo by Pablo y Lucia.

Onsensoakers' Facebook page mentions from a very recent visit a second hot spring at Tatopani, probably located on the other bank of the river:
'I hadn't known there were two soaking spots @ TATOPANI before visiting there, so I was happy to find this rather primitive mixed bath. Admission 50Rs (US$0.5). I heard most soakers came here to cure their disease'.

Not far south of Tatopani is Ratopani, which by the looks of this Japanese language website photo is another great place to soak. Unfortunately not much more info. It should be located on the other side of the Kali Gandaki river. A posting on the LP forum mentions Ratopani briefly. Another poster in the same referring to Tatopani:
'In my opinions, [Tatopani is] not very nice. Now located next to the awful dirt road. It was very nice in 1983 when I visited first'.
Everything used to better in the past, except life expectancy ...
Onsensoakers' Facebook page has recently put up some more info:
'Men's soaking time just started. Lonely Planet and trekking maps don't cover this hot springs, and it was so difficult to make the bus conductor and other passengers understand I want to get off here, not TATOPANI. I had to yell for stop so many times to get off here. After soak, I walked easy but dusty 3km to TATOPANI
RATOPANI @ end of ladies time - men and ladies share this soaking pond every two hours in turn. They welcomed me and asked to take picture of them. left bath was rather hot at 45℃, center at 42℃. non-commercial'. 

Then there are mentions made of hot springs in Dova, the administrative area south of Tatopani which probably is the same hot spring of Do Khola. Dana might also have a hot spring, it is at least listed as such.

Elsewhere in Myagdi
Myagdi district is gifted with quite a few soaks. Heading west from the district capital of Beni one arrives at Singha (Singa) Tatopani. 
I myself have visited here but that was more than 15 years ago. Located next to the river it has since been washed out and renewed. At that time I was quite surprised at the amount of local visitors; the nearby bazaar and village thriving on the visitors expenditure. The Myagdi District Center of Commerce and industry describes it as:
'The Singa Tatopani Pond is used for treatment of varies diseases like gastrotrich, Skin disease etc. Thousands peoples in a year come to take bath from far distance too. Those hot spring ponds are tourism-attracting spot itself for relax and used for treatment too. Therefore, it could be developed health tourism resource also'.
If thousands already visit, is it not a tourist attraction? It has also been described at a congress on geothermal issues.
Furthermore of recently it has it's own Facebook page, it looks as though the improvements have been the building of a roof. It seems a bit strange to build a roof, maybe someone can give me a hint?

From the Singha Tatopani Facebook page: a packed hot spring.

Other Myagdi district hot springs included on lists but to which little or no more can be added are Dagnam, Dhadkharka, Mudi and Dova, all located or referred to in their own Village District Committee administrative borders.

Lying in the shadow of the Annapurna's and along the Modi Khola river lies the hot spring of Jhinu. Though located along a much frequented trekking route (near Chomrong enroute to the Annapurna Base Camp) it seems to evade many. It's only located a 20 minute drop from the village, not always conducive to a soak because one needs to return back up the hill...

Jhinu Danda hot spring. From flickr member Mike Olszewski

Some experiences of soaking in Jhinu from
Dan Keezer:
'The hot springs were nice but crowded. They had some pipes for showers, however, which was really great (HOT SHOWER!)'.
Ek, do, tin, achaar:
'Around 9pm, we went down to the hot spring, about a 20 minute walk. It was pitch dark and through a narrow stone path down into the forest, which was amazing. We heard the river getting louder and it was flowing at a rapid pace. The hot springs were just next to the river, in a cut-out and rock-layered pool of 4 by 6 meters, made by locals. Wow, they were so cosily warm, as if it was nature massaging your limbs and body. We had brought candles for light and it only added more to the special atmosphere. Many shadows flickered on the rocks while the sky above us was filled with stars, so many! We just felt lucky to experience this unspoilt place, especially at the time of the darkened day. The walk up, well, that was a bit harder again after this softening experience. Exhausting we went to bed.zzzzz'.
In an oddly titled blog entry, 'Jap Quality Hotspring in Jhinu' (I believe it's a compliment), Sandy writes :
'Yet, after 20 minutes of walk from the lodge, I got to the hot spring and I was impressed. It’s clean and well maintained, similar to those in Japan. But instead of stripping naked, please cover up and put on a pair of shorts at least (and a tee or swimsuit for the ladies). While it is okay for men to be topless in the hot spring nowadays, apparently, naked or topless appearance in public places in Nepal is considered offensive'.
Jhinu hot spring surely looks great, I have even seen mentions made of cooling off in the adjacent Modi Khola river, though that water is most probably frigid. Beware though during the rainy season, the Annapurna region becomes one waterfall and the hot springs are inundated. See (and read) Eric Lon's photo below:

Finally, along the Seti river in Kaski district near Kharpani is another hot spring. It is part of the so-called Sikles trek, though again not much detail is on offer. Luckily the Gorkhapatra (back in 2008) has a full feature on Kharpani and the attraction of it's hot springs:
'There is a small wonder of nature at Kharpani, Kaski, which lies about 20 km away from Pokhara. Three ponds of hot water on the bank of Seti River attract one and all. It is widely believed that water in those three ponds do have medicinal value. After having taken bath in these ponds, many people have been cured from several physical ailments, say many people. A hot water pond in the icy waters itself startles many. ...Hari Bahadur Sunar, an octogenarian local of Sardikhola VDC told some breathtaking stories about the hot water ponds. "I was a small boy then when my father told me this story. A man from nearby village was regularly visiting to this site where now we can see the ponds. The man was chopping off the tree into small pieces so that he could carry them off easily in small bundles. For this purpose he was visiting the site for several days. During the interval of chopping wood, he noticed that a crow with one of its dangling legs was regularly visiting the site. Out of curiosity, he started watching the activities of the bird. He saw the bird was regularly taking a plunge into a certain place in the river. The bird repeated the act almost every day. Then one day the woodcutter was much surprised when he saw the bird’s dangling leg was completely healed and it was firmly standing on its both of legs". ...
When this scribe met a few ladies in the next pond they looked rather tinged with anger. Sita Gurung from Phulbari, said: "The place is completely mismanaged. The ponds are small and uncomfortable. A little effort is enough to expand the sizes of ponds, which the management has neglected. Our main complain is that at least one pond should be reserved for ladies alone. We feel very uncomfortable to share the same pond with men. And some try to take benefit of the situation".
Meanwhile yet another lady popped out her head from the water and said: "You can also see some people using soap on their bodies and wash it off into the pond. This is disgusting indeed. This is the gross negligence on the part of the management committee. When they take money from us they are morally bound to provide us facilities we require. A small bathroom or two should immediately be constructed so that after a dip in the hot pond, we could wash off our body with the fresh river water"'.

Arunlimbu has [had] some photo's from 2007. Then this is possibly a more recent picture (below). But that pre-dates 2012 ...

'Tatopani hotspring in Kaski, Nepal. Photos: Raj'
Also known as Sardi Khola, Kaski, the Himalayan Times (4-3-2011) has this photo with caption:
'Local women taking a dip in the hot springs at Tatopani Kunda in SardiKhola‚ Kaski on Sunday‚ April 3‚ 2011. The hot springs are believed to have a healing effect on ailments including constipation‚ joint pains and skin diseases'.

Note that since these hot springs have disappeared. Tragically this happened with a massive mudslide which hit non-suspecting soakers in 2012 as well as other villages and towns along the river. The Nepali Times (#654, May 2013):
'It was Saturday morning of 5 May last year and many picnickers from Pokhara had come to the hot springs at Sardi Khola for a dip. Chahana Pun, 13, her family, and neighbours were also by the riverside.
Suddenly there was a roar from the north, the Seti River had turned into a brown wall of mud, boulders, and tree trunks. Chahana’s parents and baby brother were washed away and only she and her elder brother Amrit survived'.
This little reported tragedy ended the lives of no less than 63 persons. Noguchi-ken has an extensive photo reportage shortly after the tragic events in Japanese. If seeking more info, beware of some extremely disturbing pictures and video's of this freak event.
The hot springs have since disappeared.

Finally back to Tatopani. Nepal is a rather conservative society no more so when bathing in public. Though it is common to see women showering half-naked in more remoter areas where the new conservatism has not triumphed over practicality, Tatopani is not the place to adhere to back to the nature soaking. Allie in her blog entry on Tatopani is mystified:
'And now I face a quandary – how much clothing to keep on [while soaking in Tatopani]? Nepalis are very modest; we haven’t seen couples kiss or even hold hands in public, and most women dress with shoulders and knees covered. Stripping down to my bikini seems immodest – appropriate in Turkey, but not here.
In one pool an Italian woman wears a swim ensemble of black ribbons tied together for strategic coverage. She’s getting a lot of attention from the local guys, but seems clueless. Most foreigner women are in one-piece suits and a few wear shirts over their suits. I look for Nepali women to provide some cultural guidance, but there are none. So I go halfway – I keep a long black shirt on over my bikini, but take off my shorts. The water is hot, and it feels AMAZING to soak our bodies after two weeks of bucket washes and cold showers.
As dusk turned to dark, most foreigners leave the pools. We buy a Sprite from the snack shack and settle in. When it is dark, a new group arrives at the pools: a group of young Nepali women. And what do they wear? Tank tops, t-shirts AND shorts! Ah, everything is relative – a half hour earlier I felt slightly prudish in my ensemble, and now I feel half-naked, which compared to these Nepalis, I am'.
Difficult, just lucky that as a male I have less problems with dress-code ...

[Updated June 2013]

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Up the Marsyangdi

Surprisingly there are a great many of smaller hot springs along the Marsyangdi river which first runs north between the Annapurna and Manaslu mountain massifs and then east above the Annapurna's. This is part of the famous multi-week long Annapurna trek to which development is catching up with, in the form of a road.

Same same but still the same?
Starting in Lamjung district, the first hot spring north along the Marsyangdi is that of
Bhulbhule (Bulbule). No pics I'm afraid, but a number of mentions:
'Another hot spring both spot at Bhulbhule'.
'We reach the HOT SPRING bath spot at Bulbule Khar after ascending along the banks of the river'.

'After ascending along the banks of the river, you reach the hot spring bath spot at Bulbule Khar'.
Not very far from Bhulbhule is the hot spring of Bahundanda. Let's hope it's not the same ...

'Bahundanda hot spring on the Main Central Thrust, in the Marsyandi Valley, central Nepal. Waters are heated by the elevated geothermal gradient, and mix with deep-sourced carbon dioxide before degassing at the surface'.

At least I know it must be the same as the photo above, at least if I believe this description:
'Our visit to Bahundanda was made particularly memorable by our early morning side trip to a local hot spring. The tea house owner sent his pint-sized nephew to show us the way. He sang and smiled and taught us the names of the trees and the bitter sweet fruit he picked for us to try. We tried to reciprocate with our own brand of song and dance and discovered "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star" is a more universally recognized tune than previously realized. The hot spring itself was a sulfurous orange pool above the frosty waters of the Marsyangdi that boiled around house-sized boulders 100 meters below'.
xnepali.net has the folowing photo of Bahundanda:  

It also refers to a certain blogger claiming that there are 3-7 hot springs along the Marsyangdi; that blog is this blog!

Another first hand experience (with photo):
'We got off to an early start today and skipped breakfast while Elia, Ryan, Jacque and myself descended back down the 400m we had climbed yesterday to the river for a quick dip in some hot springs. We started by taking a quick dip in the cold river before quickly scrambling back into the empty hot spring pool. After a couple of minutes of soaking in it one of the locals came down and said "hot one up there" and proceeded to insist that we accompany him to the hotter of the pools. There the locals all encouraged us to try the hottest pool and it was quickly discovered that the hottest pool was scorching. The pool was at least 50 degrees and probably closer to 60. So we all settled to relax in the slightly more temperate pool next to it. The locals then proceeded to entertain themselves by watching us drink some local homemade liquor. Man was that stuff strong. After the dip in the hot springs we climbed our way back up to Bahundanda and enjoyed a great breakfast before heading out for that days trekking'.

Then, hardly much more to the north of Bahundanda comes the village / hotspring of Syanje. This hot spring though seems less impressive (note the now broken link ...):
'Our first day took us past Bhulbhule and Bahundanda to the very small village of Syanje, where our map showed a hot spring. Unfortunately, the spring was a mere trickle on the opposite side of the river, and was only luke warm after being piped across through a small garden hose. It was pleasant, however, after hiking for a couple of hours in the rain'.
Precise location (but another broken link):
'Beyond Syange the valley narrows much more. Keep on to Shree Chaur (30 min after Syange) where there´s a hot spring across the river'.
No chance
Possibly Syanje, the next upstream soak is referred to as
Jagat, a place about half an hour's walk away from Syanje. A good description (but a poor link; gone again. What is it with links to inspired Nepali soaks?):
'We find a place to stay called 'Manaslu Lodge' which looks pretty primative. We have heard there is a hot spring near this town so we are eager to find this and have a warm soak. There is still an hour and a half of sunlight left so we bounch of down the road in the direction of the springs with our towels and soap. It has only been two days with any warm water to wash in but we are feeling as filthy as pigs and the prospect of a hot soak is thrilling stuff. Unfortunately to get to the springs we discover we have to descend a 100m down the gorge to the river bed. It is a long way to go. We see some of the others down there and they wave back to us - so we assume it must be OK. We eventually scramble to the bottom of the gorge. The spring is just a little foot deep puddle. Not possible to soak anything other than our footsies. The water is boiling hot, maybe over 40 degrees and a bit of a treat for the feet, but the rest of our bodies are aching and dirty and more than a litle disappointed. No chance of a hair wash for the girls'.
If they would have read this they would have been forewarned:
'There is a hot spring 15 minutes down the hill below the Manaslu lodge, however it is not recommended'.
And to confuse you all, the same Jagat hot spring (and thus possibly Syange hot spring) is also referred to as Chamje hot spring. Leading to think it is one and the same hot spring is this LP forum entry by writetolouis (aaargh ... again the link has disappeared!):
'Chame has a hot spring that I was originally excited about because I thought I could sit in it and soak my legs from trekking, but it turned out that the hot spring was about as big as one of my feet; too bad'.
Another iffy experience:
'In the afternoon KC took me to some hot springs (actually a singular hot spring) which are found on the edge of the Marshyangdi River which runs directly through Chame. Here I was to take a bath, local style. The hot spring was pretty pathetic, it took a while to actually locate the tiny dribble of water it distributed and the water it did spout out was only slightly warmer than tepid. However, it was located on the edge of a beautiful fast flowing river and performing my cleaning rituals with an avid audience of local villagers in a very public spot was a new and interesting experience!' 
Then after entering Manang district comes La Ta Marang hot spring or possible Timang Besi, neither though seems as to be interesting/visitable enough to award a mention on i-net, besides here.

Chame, the Manang district headquarters has it's own hot spring:
'Not much of a hot spring, although it was blistering hot. The remnants of an old pool were right next to the extremely powerful Marsyandgi river. It likely had washed the pool away several times. It was pleasant thought to simply sit and soak our aching feet in the scalding mud'.
Though as elsewhere along the Marsyangdi soakers are disappointed:
'We intentionally chose a lodge on the far side of the village to be close to the hot springs. Our first order of business was to go and check them out. We were immediately disappointed. What we encountered, while a hot spring, was only about 3 ft x 5 ft and only 1-2 ft deep - not ideal for a soak. The only thing you could really do was stick your hands and feet in it. It was very hot, too hot, possibly, to get in anyways. We opted for a shower and doing laundry instead'.
Or do as these did:

'The first hot spring of the trail (Chame Hot Springs)... the pipe was broken and as you can see, these kids were shivering in 2 inches of luke warm water. ...
So we engineers had to prove ourselves, and borrowed a few sections of hose from our hostel and did some siphoning...
And Voila! Hot springs in action. At least 2 dozen folks had come and given up on it before we came to the rescue...'.
The Nar Phu valley, a valley heading north from the Marsyangdi, has a hot spring according to this trekking website:
'A hot spring near the "Hulakin Odar" (Postman cave) on the bank of the Nar River officers a soothings naturall bath!. The bathapart from being a natural therapy is believed to cure sking ailments'.
So herewith concludes the chapter on the Marsyangdi and hot springs. Anywhere between four and eight hot springs.
[updated Feb 2013]

Dhading and Gorkha

Hot pot
In the area to the northwest of Kathmandu, south of the Ganesh Himal and Manaslu, a few less well-known hot springs can be found.
Jharlang hot spring is to be found in the district of Dhading, not so far from from Kathmandu. Jharlang takes it name from the village with the same name. It's a day and a half walk from Dhading Besi (source).

Not so very far away is the hot spring of Chalise (Charlise, Chalish). There is this discription:
'Today we will get rest in the village as we have long way up and down to and will have good communication but there are some sight visiting place called Tatopani where the hot spring. The pot is not very big but it is naturally hot. There are three pond at the same place will take 1:30 hours from the Chalise village'.
Could this be the hot spring?

In Gorkha district we learn there are two hot springs:
'Tatopani hot water spring site (at 3,300ft) half an hour from Khorlabensi [Khola Besi], Machha Khola village hot spring on the other side of Bun [Buri] Gandaki'.
Both hot springs are located along the Budi Gandaki river. Of Tatopani there are a few photo's, not dissimilar to the the above focused hot spring of Jharlang. See the photo below by manngurung, simply entitled 'Tatopani'.

'That night we stop in a town called Tatopani, meaning “hot water”. The village is exploiting a nearby hot spring and that’s where it takes its name from. Before nightfall, I go down to the river. We have never been this close to Buri Gandaki. I find a nice spot on the rocks to sit and look at the blue-greenish alpine water. I stare at the patterns forming in whitewater, just fascinated for a moment. Before I know it, the sun has gone. Time for me to go as well'.
There is though little info on the specific hot spring on the other side of Buri Gandaki. An art lover details:
'Just south of the town of Arughat, along the Buri Gandaki River in central Nepal there is a small hot spring which has been channelled into a public bath. Next to this bath are two small buildings which over the centuries were used as Buddhist and then Hindu shrines'.
Just so as not to confuse: Arughat hot spring near Arughat. Tatopani)hot spring between Machha Khola and Khola Besi. Unless I have them mixed up ...

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

North of the Nepali capital

Chilime hot spring by RP

Closer to Kathmandu are a number of more accessible hot springs.

On the road to Tibet (northeast of Kathmandu) lies Kodari which is the last village before crossing the bridge to China. Note that the persons opposite are nearly 3 hours ahead of the Nepali, forcing them to get up and get to work in the pitch dark.

Anyway Kodari is basically a 2 km long village with houses and buildings along the road and squeezed between the road and the river. The hot springs themselves are far from a delite. More like a hot shower in a damp and dark room. Then again, they are easily accessible and during the winter Nepali flock here to take the waters.
No personal accounts on i-net. Just the following photo.

The hot springs of Kodari. Source.

Closeby is the Last Resort, an action laden resort for the not so faint-hearted. But a great place to stay.

Travelingo.org has an extensive guide on this hot spring:
'The signposted hot springs are at the northern end of the village, down steps towards the river. A hot tub it's not: the water splashes out of pipes into a concrete pool and is used strictly for washing'.

Directly north of Kathmandu up and along the Trisuli river lies the district of Rasuwa and towns such as Dhunche and Syabrubesi, gateways to the Langtang national park and Gosaikunda, a holy mountain lake.

Lately treks (Tamang Heritage Trail) are also heading westwards and are incorporating a hot spring Chilime, though it's also referred to as Tatopani (hot water). Possibly the biggest in Nepal?
I visited there back in 2001, it's a full days walk up the mountain side. From current pictures I deduce that at least the springs themselves have not changed.
'In Tatopani hot springs await you. The thermal baths are known for their health-giving properties for a variety of illnesses. Local people stay here for one week and longer. Please wear Nepali style bathing suits (ankle-length skirts for women, shorts for me'
is what Franziskadoswald adds. Do note that Nepali style bathing suits are pretty much non-existent, so much for the advice.
Back then there were no guesthouses, just a couple of huts to overnight in and hardly any other facilities. That seems to have changed, luckily. It was (and probably still is) quite out of the way and attracts mostly Nepali soakers.

'Early morning, at the height of 2500 meters, in december, it is cool but hot springs are very hot. The next trekking trip at Tatopani, with yoga and hot bath will be in March 2009'.
Eric Lon and Chilime hot spring. Note the (un)dress code.

Elsewhere Syabrubesi (Wikipedia contends it's Syafru-besi) one of the main towns in the area has it's own hot spring, nearby the river. More scientific info has been published on this hot spring.

'Bathing in the hot springs - Syabrubesi'

Then in Langtang near Landslide Lodge (slash hotel) is another hot spring, relatively unknown.
It's not so far from Syabrubesi, though the spring itself is apparently located on the other side of the Langtang river and as such unreachable to tourists. Sources describe this as
'a small hot spring on the opposite river bank at 1810 meter'.
Then there is most probably a hot spring half a days walk north of Syabrubesi into the restricted area of Rasuwagadi. Unfortunately my only proof of this is a map with a Tatopani due north. Possibly it could well be the hot spring of Syabrubesi itself.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Resourcing Nepal and Eastern Nepal

Nepal possess many, many hot springs. So many, that most are still unknown, let alone out there on the internet.

Some of the best sources as of November 2011 are:

  • 'Getting into Hot Water' on colorfulnepal.com. It mentions roughly a dozen hot springs, mostly the more well known.
  • Visitnepal.com mentions
    'more than 50 hot springs exist in Nepal'
    and lists about a dozen hot springs. The list is most probably a copy of the list included in 'Geology for Technical Students'
    by Rajan Kumar Dahal, a course publication for nepali students. Unfortunately only two pages are dedicated to hot springs and not much real information is provided.
  • ECS Nepal has a feature on hot springs in Nepal. Entitled 'Tectonic Gifts Hot Springs of the Himalaya', authored by P. Kauba, it's of March 2011 and gives an enthusiastic call for all readers to soak.
  • Ranjit (2000) is one of the few true scientific overviews. It mentions 28 hot springs with more characteristics on nearly 20 of these.
  • With quite a bit of info on hot spring, the e-book Water and Culture by Shaphalya (2003) provides some great points on hot spring culture in Nepal.
There is other printed material available, I know. Before the so-called Maoist revolt there were a number of tourist magazines and I know that there were various articles focusing on lesser well-known hot springs, but Nepal is not really wired and especially back then.

From the Himalayan Times 3 April 2011 a photo by Krishnamani Baral:
'Local women taking a dip in the hot springs at Tatopani Kunda in SardiKhola‚ Kaski on Sunday‚ April 3‚ 2011. The hot springs are believed to have a healing effect on ailments including constipation‚ joint pains and skin diseases'.

Eastern Nepal
Not many hot springs are known in eastern Nepal. Safe to say there are none near the Everest. However both references above mention Hotiyana (or Hatiya?), Sankhuwasaba district, but nothing more is known.

Then there is the mention of a hot spring at the start of the Nepal / India border river the Mechi:
'"Mechi is said to come from Min Chu Ung Kyong, meaning either "big river," or "hot spring." The name hot spring might sound unlikely, but in Antu, where Mechi starts, it is said that a long time ago people would indeed come to enjoy the hotspring, not only for pleasure but also for curing. The river forms border between Nepal and India and has played an important role in the history of Ilam." '
But that's about all for eastern Nepal.

Ranjit, M. (2000) Geothermal energy update of Nepal. Proceedings World Geothermal Congress 2000. pp. 387-395. International Geothermal Association, Bochum, Germany.
Shiphalya, A (2003) Water & Culture. Jalasrot Vikas Sanrot, Kathmandu, Nepal.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Past posting

Excerpt from an earlier posting on Soaking in Southeast Asia:

'One of the most talked about issues in soaking and taking to the hot springs is when to decide whether the soak is full and how to respect each others private sphere.

Having lived in Nepal and keeping abreast of what's (or better said not) happening I came across this recent photo from Kantipur publications, I'd like to share with you. It shows a hot spring near the town of Beni in Central Nepal, though not the Tatopani located on the round the Annapurna trail.

'People submerge themselves into the Tatopani Pokhari (hot water pond) in Myagdi district. There is a belief that taking dip into the pond help one to get rid of several diseases'.
Photo taken by G. Khadka, 2009-02-13

I've visited this place myself, it's just a couple of hours walk west of the town along the river, nothing too strenuous. Back then (96/97?) it was already quite touristy, but only locals and nowhere as busy as above!

However it was great water, not too hot, nor cold and located directly next to the river. The village around had a couple of simple guesthouses to stay. As you can see, there a number of bathing fashions, from fully clothed to near nothing (in the back). What I remember was that most bathed in their underwear, which might not be so hygienic. Funny thing was that many people carried a slate rock around, twice / three times as large as their hand and when standing up to retreat from the soak the rock was held to cover possible butt cracks and /or more showing up. Quite weird I thought.

Nepal has got quite a few hot springs and is well worth a trip to discover. Besides this one I've been to the Tatopani more north of Beni, Tatopani on the boader with China and one directly north of Kathmandu, west of Langtang valley (Chilime).

There are more, from what I know in Darchula, Surkhet, near above photo's hot springs but another days walk to the west, Manang and probably more to the east'.

Update: Now here's the thing. Since posting this, ekantipur.com have emptied their archive and there's no way to reactivate the link to the photo!
The photo below I believe is from the same location (at least the location where I visited), only less people ... Source.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Soaking in Sikkim

Hot springs in Sikkim
Sikkim is a former independent country that has been part of the Republic of India since 1975. Besides the Indian state of West Bengal to the south, it borders Bhutan to the east, China to the north and Nepal to the west. Distinctly mountainous (it shares the world's third highest mountain peak with Nepal), situated on the south flank of the Himalaya, it's not surprising to find that it contains a number of hot springs.

Sikkim - A Travellers Guide by Arundhati Ray gives a short intro to hot springs in Sikkim (healthy) and has a couple of photo's which give us some insight into soaking couture (page 38/39).Two references list nine hot springs, though what follows are a few more. Possibly some duplication or some unlisted. Who knows?

Legship in South Sikkim could well be the name of the first of a number of hot springs in Sikkim. Alternatively it's known as Reshi hot spring or  Phur Tsachu, there's no consensus on the right name. Legship itself is becoming more well known as it hosts a Shiva temple and is the site of a hydropower station.
The hot spring itself is
located outside of the town itself:
'Situated on the bank of River Rangeet is the hot spring 'Phur Tsa Chu', half an hour drive from Legship and one hour drive from  Jorethang. Pilgrims from all walks of life come to dip in this hot spring during the month of January to March'.
Put differently:
'Ideal spot for bird watching and butterflies. At 8 kms from Legship and 34 km from Ravangla towards Naya Bazaar on the banks of river Rangit, lies the popular hot sulphur springs. It's great medicinal values as well as religious importance attract many tourists and local devotees. The place is also important for two sacred caves Khandosangphu and Sharchog Begphu, where the great Buddhist Saint Padmashambhava is believed to have meditated during His journey to Tibet in 7th century'.
More revelations:
'It flaunts of a hot spring nearby, believed to hold medicinal powers, and footprint inscribed rocks which are attributed to that of the fairies. Lho [cave] Khandro- Sang Phug is said to be associated with the ‘God of Increasing Knowledge’'.

'Hot Spring Legship West Sikkim'.
Siniolchu Travels

Not everyone is however charmed by the hot springs. Experience 1:
'From Kechopari we took a jeep to Legship where there were "hot springs". After a long hike we discovered that these hot springs were a tiny dribble of water by a monestary along the Rangit river. Our dreams of swimming in warm water were dashed. Plus, i had been feeling a bit under the weather already and the smell of sulfer did me in. I spent most of Legship asleep in bed. Sweet sweet hotsprings'.
Experience 2:
'In Legship however things were not so wonderful. There were no rooms at the one hotel that was open. No problem, I could walk to the hot springs where there were huts. I asked around. The consensus, the hot springs don't get hot until DECEMBER. Dear Lonely Planet editiors, this might be something you want to include in your next edition'.
Let's hope they are paying attention in Melbourne ...
Experience 3:
'From Tashiding we went to Legship, a nowhere transit town, but we had a picturesque walk along the river to find the local natural hot springs. Compared to NZ, the hot springs are lukewarm and very shallow. But it was a cultural experience to be pressed firmly between 30 partially-naked, old, local women, and pampered with a mud treatment and constant scoops of hot water over parts of my body freezingly exposed by the shallow water'.
Experience 4:
'The Scorpio again came to halt at the Reshi Hot Springs (also know as Taatopaani in the local lingo). Well but before we could get to see the springs, we had to walk down some real steep steps, cross a creaky suspension bridge & then walk through another narrow path all the way to the banks of the Legship lake. Well once we reached the springs, we saw this small encircled area separated from the lake; that my friends, was were the water was hot.
There were plenty a people who were relaxing in the hot waters of Reshi; more were just flowing in getting out of their clothes in a whim; taking a dip. My personal thoughts were that though the area was pretty, it could be a tad better maintained'.
So to cap it off, the springs are disappointing, poorly maintained and full of old half naked women (sexist?). Raju completes the laments with
'Firstly there is a near vertiginous climb down a narrow flight of steps. Then we had to cross a worn out suspension bridge over the crystal clear river water. Walk for about 200 metres to reach the spot of hot springs. It is a very small pool of water just above the main flow of the river. Hot water overflows from this pool into the river. It was so full of people that we lost the interest of dipping in it'.
The following is a more balanced article:
'It just takes a one hour ride to reach Legship form Jorethang , which is famous for its hot water spring [Tatopani]. On the way to Legship, one can see a board put up wherein it is written Tatopani Bhir. Just on the bank o the river Teesta, there is a 20 x 20 square foot hot water spring. The water is bounded with two steep hills [Bhir], Sanghanath and Miyong hills.
The Legship hot water spring is known for its medicinal proprieties for healing different ailments like chronic skin disease, bronchitis and hearing ailments. The hot water spring is also worshipped by the people and there is a mythical belief that if people with any desire for something here then that is definitely fulfilled, so people come here to fulfill their long pending wishes from far off places like Nepal, Bhutan and the neighbourings states like Assam, Nagaland, Bihar. The pilgrims generally come to the hot water spring in the month of April to November, every yea. More than six thousand people throng here which then turns into a mela. Most of the pilgrims stay at the hot water spring for about a week. The people are allowed to take a bath in tow batches of males and females at a time. Every group is allowed to have a bath for two hours. The Chowkidars [overseeers] that have been appointed by the Tourism Department see to that every thing goes according to order and in time. The department has also built one resting shed with attached bathroom for the pilgrims. The department is also building eco-huts, which is under construction. The eco-huts will provide makeshift lodges for the pilgrims, during their stay at the hot water spring. The six months during which the pilgrims come to the hot water spring gives the local villagers a chance to earn some money by doing various business, along with giving the village the feeling of holding a ‘village fair’'.
Source: The Mail, dated: 10th September 2007.

Furthermore there is one youtube vid.

The above is probably the most well-known of Sikkim's soak. Less well-known are what follows.
Situated close to both the Tibetan and Bhutanese borders it is often referred to by the Bhutanese name for hot springs, tsachu which is mentioned after the location: 
Yumthang Tsachu. Besides it being the location of a hot spring, Yumthang (and the valley in where it is located) is known as the 'enchanted valley of flowers', the flowers sprouting from the alpine meadows and extensive rhododendron forests. The fame of the former is such that the governments organized the International Rhododendron Festival 2010 here.
The hot spring:
'At an altitude of 12,000 ft, 135 km from Gangtok in North Sikkim, a few hundred metres off the road, after crossing river Lachung over a wooden bridge lies a small hut which houses a pool where sulphur water of hotspring is collected for taking a dip'. (source)

'For the convenience of bathers, there is a hut with two pools which contains hot spring water. Hot water rich in sulphuretted hydrogen gas from a spring just behind the hut and is diverted to the pools' (source).

P2061024 Hot water spring, aka "Taato Paani" in Yumthang.

First hand reports often are tepid in their appreciation, others seem more honest as you might agree with after a look at the picture above.
'we wind up at a much advertised and highly unappealing hot spring which is basically a tiny cement ditch containing hot spring water enclosed in a dark and dingy hut (luckily my lonely planet guide had prepared me for this). silla from iceland, the land of beautiful hot springs is very impressed! haha!'
Haha indeed. Welcome to Asia. Sikkim Times (9 October 2009) adds that the facilities will be improved.
Another first hand experience (2010):
'An hour further north and we got to Zero Point, the end of the road, with the hot springs renowned for their medical properties. There are some families that come to hot springs every year for about 2-4 weeks. They sit down in the hot water few times a day, cook and mostly sleep and relax in a hut. They believe that this is the best cure not only to have a beautiful skin but also for any physical problem. They were so hospitable. They made tea for us that warmed our cold body (some people from our group jumped into the hot pool but next day, all of them had a cold:)'.
Yumthang, wikipedia reports, is not year round reachable, during the winter the road there is often closed due to snow fall.

Yumesamdong (or Momay Samdong) is located just up the valley from Yumthang (25 km). There are reputed to be more than 10 hot springs closeby. As it's pretty remote and rugged (snow more or less year round), not much is known about the springs in this area. One can get a first hand report of a trip to Yume Samdong. Beware though, in 2009 tourists died when a rock smashed their car, the Sikkim Times reports.

The photo is from a short blog entry by helena and jakob while visiting Yumesandong.
They also have a reference to Rinjink hot spring, not substantiated anywhere else.

Sikkimtour.net has good information on the close to each hot springs of  Borong and Ralang in South Bhutan:
'Borong and Ralong hot water springs are located within a distance of 7 kms from each other. Popular with visitors from all over the region, these natural spas are said to have strong curative powers. Ralang Cha-chu [or Tsachu] can be reached after an hour long walk from Ralong monastery while Borang Cha-chu is reached after a 7 km drive to Ralong and then a 40 min walk downhill'.
Ralang hot spring is, you might have noticed, above often referred to as Ralong, but it seems Ralang is the most often used. Ralang, like Borong, is apparently very beautiful and Ralang is also home to a Buddhist monastery. The hot spring played an important part in Sikkim's history when in the 18th century the Sikkim ruler was murdered here.

Finding it, is not straight forward Adrian shares with us:
'then set off for a nearby hot spring, that I understood to be 1-2 km away. ... It wasn't... I'm not quite sure how I got this so wrong, but I'd estimate in the end I walked about 10 miles up and down a very steep hill, having neglected to take any water with me. ... The hot spring was a small pool containing water that was quite hot, however by this point hot; undrinkable water was not really the sort I was after. So after a brief rest we [Adrian and a dog] set off back up the hill, which really was very steep'.
More experiences:
'Eventually the jeep came to a stop and when we asked where the hot springs where they told us that they were closed because it was low season... it was incredible how not one person gave us this important piece of information... we would have really taken it into consideration'.
Tarum is a northern Sikkim hot spring which forms part of multi-day trek. Photo's and this description from Lachen's website, a website which has ceased to exist:
'A little beyond the hut [which is Tarum] after crossing the stream there are two hot springs where one can have a relaxing dip. The one on top is being the hotter of the two is considered as the male and the lower one as the female. As per tradition one must always enter the female pond on the top before entering the male one'.
Pirane adds this great blog entry:
'All of a sudden we reach into an opening from where we can see a small house, our residence for the night. It’s a small basic structure with two rooms, a kitchen and a bathroom, as one room is already occupied by two elderly Lepchas [local ethnicity] we make ourselves comfortable in the adjoining one. We take appreciative gulps of piping hot tea to warm our damp bodies. Very quickly we strip ourselves of our wet clothes to immerse our bodies in the female pond. Male and female, that’s the term the locals have given to the two sulphur ponds, the cooler one being the female and the hotter one the male. The locals believe that one should first enter into the female pond before going to the male pond, the reason for which I really did not know but logically it made sense as the male pond was so hot that it made me yelp as I dip my foot in. Nima and myself were thoroughly enjoying as we sit there chatting for more than an hour, coming out occasionally to escape the dizziness from the sulphur fumes'.
The following photo ('male pond') is also from this blog. Looks great.

That's what Carsten Nebel reports as well:
'The walk through overgrown trails in the hot morning makes it hard to enjoy the hot spring in Tsarum at first. But after a rinse in the cold creek, it feels wonderful to sit under the pipes with hot water. Unlike other hot springs, this one is kept very clean, is visited by few people and the water doesn't even smell bad. It's definitely one of the top-3 hot springs in the Himalayas'.
Possibly unknown but only to geological insiders [PDF] is Zee hot spring in northern Sikkim, though it was also listed in this list on sikkimonline.info.
References also list Shagyong (source), again in northern Sikkim. 

Another mentioned is Gangyap in Western Sikkim. Sometimes referenced as (possibly?) Tashiding, there are a few links.

'Tashiding - Tattapani (Hot Spring)'
Then again here is another link to another possible claim.

The Himalayan Beacon (link lost to eternity), while expressing concerns about development in general and specifically hydro dams, mentions (Tholung) Kongsa hot spring:
'Dzongu contains a number of important sacred sites such as caves where Guru Rinpoche meditated, the Keshong Lake, the Kongsa hot springs, and the Tholung temple that is revered not merely by the Lepchas, but by all the Buddhists of Sikkim'.
Could it be just another name for Tarum? No (?), it is the same as Tholung Tsachu which is another hot spring along a trekking route, though less well known. Tholung is located in northern Sikkim and is home to a Tibetan monastery as well as the nearby hot springs.
Mayal Lyang homestay advises a trip here:
'Enjoy the serenity of the place and spend some time meditating. A traditional bamboo bridge from here takes you to a hot water spring. Spend some time soothing your tired limbs here'.
Another soak is Khandum as blogged by Ugen Chopel Dorji:
'After about 2 hours drive we reached the place called Khandum Tshachu, which literally means Hot spring water of Goddesses. We all dropped by the nearby hot spring and just took a little patched washed as we did not have time to halt for the whole day'.
Finally, there is the drilling for a hydro dam which resulted in the existence of a hot spring according to the Voice of Sikkim:

'In what could be a repeat of 1949, the Himagiri Power Project staff discovered hot-spring at the site where they were drilling rock, about 150 ft above Lingdem Road on September 10. .
Talking to media persons Zilla member of the area, Dubzor Lepcha and the local people informed that the same hot spring was discovered at the same place in the year 1949 but suddenly submerged after two years. “This year, this hot spring has suddenly emerged with drilling works being carried out at the same place,” they said'.
Just recently the Sikkim government has earmarked funds 
'for development of Allied facilities for Lingdem Hot Spring, Upper Dzongu, North Sikkim'.
Soaking in Sikkim 
While trying to enjoy Sikkim's hot springs please take in the following [PDF]:
'The increase in human activities in the hot spring areas has lead to various ecological stresses. The people demand on the surrounding forests for firewood due to lack of alternative fuel. There is a lack of proper solid waste disposal as huge quantities of solid wastes are generated during peak season. Waste materials lie scattered along the surrounding huts and the river banks. The sanitary facilities available are unhygienic and insufficient as temporary toilets are constructed on the river bank where the faecal matter is directly discharged into the river without any treatment. The demand for meat and meat products had further accelerated the rate of fishing in the rivers. The large number of patients with various communicable diseases frequenting this hot spring may further spread these diseases. It is feared that due to the unhygienic conditions prevailing around these hot springs, the people on their way back may be infected by new diseases. The hot springs of Sikkim are regarded as places of worship and hold a high religious esteem in the hearts of the local people. The people drink the hot water and bathe in it, considering these factors detailed microbiological and radio-activity study of these water is felt essential taking into account, the study of the geomorphologic aspect of these hot springs and their economic exploitation'.
Happy soaking Sikkim!