Sunday, February 14, 2010


Qamdo or Chamdo?
While working my way through Tibet's hot springs, the final prefecture of Tibet Autonomous Region to be featured is that of Qamdo. Qamdo is the term I'll use. I've tried to maintain all names as those that are used in Wikipedia, though even on this they say it's Qamdo, though the accompanying map says Chamdo! So much for being correct.

There is this reference to there being a few [hot?] springs in and around qamdo, but considered the most famous in Qamdo is the hot spring of Yiri:
'The hot spring in Yiri of Riwoqe [county] was famous throughout the world for its curative effect hundreds of years ago'.
A feature describes the springs as follows:
'The hot springs are distributed along a narrow zone of 100 meters, and six of the springs are serviceable with a water temperature 20-40℃. Because the water has an obvious curative effect on some diseases, it is greatly favored by those who suffer from rheumatic arthritis, bone fracture, semi-paralysis, calcium deficiencies and skin disease'.
Daniel Winkler has an extensive report on Yiri hot spring(s). Though part of the reason for going there was to observe the potential of it's hot springs he somehow forgets to report what that potential is / was:
'Once in Yiri (3800m) [after a six hour 95 km drive] we were housed in the newly built hot spring guest house located below the springs. The 43°C hot water wells up on both sides of a creek, which at this point undercuts a 200m cliff of vertical limestone. The only drawback to enjoying the springs was that I was permanently stared at by dozens of friendly people'.
Elsewhere Daniel expands (and puts up a photo):
'There are eight different springs, two of them used for bathing, all of them have their specific medicinal propensities. The main spring itself is contained in a bathhouse. It is supposed to cure 404 sicknesses. Somebody had a lot of time counting possible ailments'.
One of the springs (source).

Baxoi county entertains the Xali (Xiali) hot springs.

Elsewhere in the same county is
Ra'og hot spring (1). At least that's what that source describes which is backed up by That's not to say that it may well be in Riwoqe county ...

Somewhat different is the hot spring of Qennyi which is a cave hot spring. The source puts it as located in Gyamda county which some how does not seem to be part of Qamdo. However it is also backed up by this German language publication. That said, it may well refer to Gongbo'gyamda county but that is in Nyinchi prefecture ...
Possibly Jomda is meant? Qu'nyido hot spring could be meant, which lies in Jomda county (1).

In Dengqen county Tocun hot spring exists.

Yanjing village of Markam county is re-known for it's salt production. The salt can be won by drying brine water welling up from salt water springs. Unclear whether or not these springs provide warm water. A great overview of how this is done can be found here.

A Han tourist enjoys himself in a hot-spring pool beside the Lancangjiang river at a resort in#Tibet #China #曲孜卡 #温泉 #盐井 #芒康 #TheChangingTibet
The above shot refers to Markam county, doesn't look too bad. But not the salt springs ..., source

Nearby though is Quzeka (Qoizeka) hot spring:
Our work group stayed in Quzeka Village by the Lancang River [Mekong], about 10 kilometers away from Yanjing. It has abundant hot spring resources ?reputedly 108 springs whose temperatures range from 20 to 80 degrees centigrade. The waters are believed to be therapeutic and attract many visitors. A holiday resort offering comprehensive tourism services has been built there'.
Some might also be salt springs (1).
Another account:

'When we got to the Naxi ethnic town in Yanjin, it was already dark. We were taken to the Qoizeka Hot Spring, with an elevation of some 2,000 meters. The Hot Spring Swimming Poll, fed with water from 108 springs, is as large s half a football field. As it is close to the Lancang River, our ears were filled with the roaring sound of the river'.
DancingMango, I believe, has visited the hot springs:
'A kilometre or so on from the bridge was a hot spring. This had been turned into a sort of Chinese tourist spa destination, buried in the valley with yellow-brown cliffs either side. A number of hotel-room style changing rooms were provided for the richer tourists. We plumped for the cheaper bathtubs, which resembled the sort of things you see in sports pavilion changing room as baths, only smaller. I was going to take a dip in the hot pool, but one look at the brackish water convinced me this was not a good option'.
Despite that the author does note that
'Soaking in the hot bath was a luxury. Clean again'.
But no details.
Funny though how DancingMango comments on this existence of a brothel here whereas this site comments on

'... the natural hot spring and the nearby nursing home in the Quzika area'.
A case of same, same?
Jessnel delves on the hot spring etiquette here, though not revealing much:
'We didn't know what to expect in terms of the hot spring. The town is right next to the Mekong river, so the scenery is quite nice. There are couple ways to enjoy the hot spring, you can either be in a private concrete bathroom where the hotel has diverted the hot spring water into the room and it's like taking a bath but with hot spring water. Another hotel had a huge outdoor hot spring swimming pool (it was at least Olympic size if not bigger.) (Yes you wear your swim suit). We opted for the swimming pool.
The second morning, Mr. C and Ms. J decided to go to the hot spring pool again to enjoy what might be their last bath before Lhasa. They were enjoying it until some other locals joined them and decided to spit in the pool...'.
Elsewhere in the same county is the hot spring of Butog, though with little additional information.

The same source also mentions Maiyu (or Meiyu?) hot spring, Zogang county as well as Zogyika, Qamdo (?) county:
'... the Maiyu hot spring in Zogang and the Zogyika hot spring in Chamdo are all good destinations for medical care' (source).
The Wonmaika hot springs (in Qamdo county itself) curative propensities though, are limited to 'rheumarthritis'.
[Updated April 2015]
(1) refers to the anonymous publication entitled Travel Guide to Tibet of China, published in 2003 by China International Press.

Monday, February 8, 2010

On expedition

One of the biggest yet least traveled prefecture's of Tibet is the prefecture of Nagqu (alternatively Nagchu). This is all the more illustrated by using for instance flickr. Nagqu only gets 83 hits, less than 1% of the number of hits Shigatse would get!

Anyway, that probably means that the depth of information on hot springs in Nagqu can't be much. With some websites placing Yangbajing hot spring in this prefecture, Yangbajing alone counts for 10.000 or so links, so raking through the potential links, it's quite difficult to find genuine Nagqu hot springs.

But still if one seeks, one finds. Dor Ji [1] mentions Gulug boiling fountain of Nagqu county. Another link to this hot spring is an article entitled, 'Chronology of the Gulu hot spring Cesium deposit in Nagqu, Tibet and it geographical significance'[2].

Dor Ji also mentions a warm spring located in Nagqu town:
'The thermal water has temperature of 40-61C. A small scale geothermal power plant was also constructed here in the 1990s.
In addition, the Nagqu Geothermal Power Plant installed a 1 MW binary unit in 1993 but production was terminated due to serious scaling problems'.
Dor Ji also has a map with lots of red dots showing Tibet's more than 600 estimated hot springs!

A website promoting tourism in Nagqu (if allowed to come) mentions more than 200 sites alone in Nagqu!

Ancient art and soaking
hot springs, Nyima county find themselves often on tour programmes as there are also murals worth visiting:
'The picture on the stone can also change with the change of the season and time'.
An expedition (?) to 'north Tibet" expands our knowledge on these springs:
'There are three layers in the hot springs. We stood on a piece of flat sand land, the first layer. Nearby there is a wading pool of nearly 200 square meters, with numberless spouting spring mouths. At the right of the pool, stalactites have accumulated over thousands of years, and one or two spring mouths can often be found in the middle or beside them. Some mouths have water spouting out, and some have no water but only a sound. At the right corner of the pool there is an earth hole, and the superfluous water of the pool overflows to an underground passage by this way and runs to the small river below.
There are some small spring mouths on the second layer. It is small compared with the spring pool aforementioned. In fact, each spring mouth on the second layer is able to spout enough water to make a pool. These spring mouths are obviously older than the spring pool. The stalactites there are solid and tall, in different shapes, some like a marmot watching the moon with its babies, some like playing monkeys and some like mother giving milk to babies.
The third layer is beside the small river. Tall stalactites have formed exquisite rockwork after being sculpted by superlative craftsmanship over many years. Lucid river water sometimes runs into a cave and flows on to another. There are two spring mouths in the river water at the cave mouth. The spring water spouting out creates an excellent sight with the tall stalactites.
Between the second and the third layer, there are two slopes, frozen now. With sunlight spreading on the ice surface, the colors change. The shape of each spring mouth is different; some only have one spring mouth, overflowing intermittently; the water is lucid and bright, but the sediment at the bottom is of different colors: green, pink, light yellow and milky white.
Rongma hot springs are still in a pure natural state. Except for two stone pagodas and sutra flags beside the upper wading pool, there is no man-made mark. According to local people, nobody goes there except locals washing clothes.
Exposing skin
Also in Nyima county is the hot springs of Wenbo, the excellent aforementioned expedition of north Tibet describes:
'The altitude of the hot spring is 4,516 meters, a little lower than Rongma hot springs, but the climate is much worse. The spring mouth is halfway up the hill. There are only 100 meters from our parking place to the spring mouth, but we spent 20 minutes getting there. We actually panted three times for every step.
There is only one spring mouth, as large as a bowl, overflowing water. Local people dug out two hollows below, one large and one small surrounded by gravel. The larger one has a tall and glossy wall with a small hole for the overflow, available for three people to bathe at once; it is especially for men. The smaller one is especially for women and the wall is less than half a meter. Standing in the men's pool, one can see everything in the women's pool where not only the cold wind cannot be prevented but also privacy is nil.
I could not resist the inducement of that green pool, and began to take off three cold-resistant military overcoats. Once the skin was exposed to the cold wind, it was so cold that I felt the bones hurting, which is unimaginable for people who have never been to northern Tibet in winter. When stepping into the pool, it was so comfortable that I felt each pore was breathing.
The shining sun is just overhead, and the ultraviolet radiation shines on the skin by reflection from the water surface like a lot of small needles. I tried to hide my body under the water and hide my head in the shadow of the wall and began to relax with eyes closed. The northern wind howled outside the wall; the scene inside the wall is exuberant, stalactites covered by green lichen, and the spring water rushing into the pool, making the sound of "large and small pearls falling on a jade plate".
Gongzha told me that during the Bathing Festival every year all people living for hundreds of miles around come here to bathe. The bathing rules are very strict. For example, the first bathing duration is 10 minutes, the second 15 minutes, and the third 20 minutes, and so on until you reach the longest duration you can bear. And then, one should reduce the time by five minutes one after another until returning to the beginning.
During the Bathing Festival every year, as there are so many people, an old Tibetan doctor will arrange the time depending on individual person's situation, such as 15 minutes or half an hour, and everybody will step into the pool by turns. It is said that by bathing for a week during the Bathing Festival one will not catch a cold in a year.
Rongma hot spring photo by Single Singer

As if this was not enough, the expedition to Nagqu as described in Tibetmagazine (alternative link)
features the hot springs of Lhaya (surf to this site for more photo's), however it's unclear where exactly they other other than on the border between Shigatse and Nagqu:
'Lhaya Hot Spring is in the river valley beside the road. From far away we saw mist curling up in the valley and heard the "hiss" of the spurting spring spreading far into the valley.
There are two springs in the center of the river, with one discharging directly into the river, the spring water creating a circle of some one square meter like an umbrella on the river surface; the other one is what people call a 'multicolored spring'. In center of the river, stands a round stalactite some 100 cm higher than the river surface that emits different color from the sun's rays. The spring water spurts out from the middle of the stone, as high as about one meter, and is very beautiful. Many fish without any scales swim around the spring. ... The spring is in the center of the river and access is impossible, which is a pity'.
But Amdo can refer to Amdo county, Nagqu or Amdo as in Qinghai province ...

[1] Dor Ji (2008) Geothermal Resources and Utilization in Tibet and the Himalayas. Presented at the Workshop for Decision Makers on Direct Heating Use of Geothermal Resources in Asia, organized by UNU-GTP, TBLRREM and TBGMED, in Tianjin, China, 11-18 May, 2008.
[2] Zhao Yuanyi , Zhao Xitao , Ma Zhibang & Deng Jian [unknown] Chronology of the Gulu Hot Spring Cesium Deposit in Nagqu, Tibet and It Geological Significance. Institute of Mineral Resources, CAGS, Beijing, China

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Secrets and Not So Secrets

Gega hot spring. Photo from website, but gone .... 
At least soakingspirit still has a copy of the original. With loads of text.

Sweeping along

Completing the sweep along Tibet's southern borders is the remaining prefecture of Nyingchi. Well outside most travelers routes and also at a distance from Lhasa, just a couple of hot springs find their way onto the internet.

Tibet's best kept secret
Receiving most of the soakers attention is the hot spring of Pailong (Paillong / Pailung) with it's 'own' web page existing of some description of where it is, how to get there and how the soaking is. It then ends with this summation:
'Extremely simple, and practically unknown, Pailong consists of just one small stone and brick pool. One of Tibet's best kept secrets, you're not likely to see crowds here'.
Funny that you can read exactly the same text in almost 100 other web entries, that this is one of Tibet's best kept secrets. Elsewhere Pailong hot spring makes China's Top 10 of hot springs. And it's mentioned as
'If you want something more au naturale, then head to the Pailong Hot Springs (排龙温泉) a bit further away'.
More info from this website:
The Pailong Hot spring is located in the north of the Menba Pailong town, abot 140 kilometers away from the Bayi township, and near Road No. 318 of the nation. The hot spring spurt crevice water at the edge of the Palung Tsangpo. It can reach three to five metres high. The temperature of the water is about 45-60 centigrate. The place is shrouded in the steam and the flavor of sulphur.
In favour
Unclear whether or not
Yumai hot spring is another alt for Pailong, even though this site makes a deliberate distinction. More:
'The water of the spring is quite adequ[a]te. It covers an area of about 100 square metres. The [t]emperature of the water is about 40-60 centigrade. It can help to cure many diseases, and the local people are in favor in it'.
Who said there's no democracy in China?

Yumai is also described as 'obscure' (1), though
'... one will feel like in a dreamy world'.
Eye candy (not) and developing heaven
Making it even more confusing is the existence of
Phaga hot spring in Gega village of Pai town. Luckily though is this description:
'The Phaga Hot Spring is located in the steep slope (about 280-300 high) in Gega village of Pai township in Milin [Mainling] county'.
Which excludes it being the same as Pailong which is located along the Brahmaputra river.
Also referred to as Gega hot spring, this
site has an odd idea of soaking:
'... a hot spring nearby Gega, where you can have a good stretch before leaving'.
Phaga hot spring looks set for re-development as a road is being built:
'To build a 3-kilometer road to the hot springs, and other supportive facilities including a hot-spring convalescent hotel in Tibetan style, a leisure resort, a Tibetan medical vapor bath center, a medical vaporous hall, an open-air bathroom, a medical center, a herbal research office, a lobby and so on'.
Cost 2.75 million $US. 
Now look at the photo below. Does this need 2.75 million? How the photo got taken as described by Yellofins, a now-defunct pbase account:
'We paid a local to take us up to the spring. Boy...the journey on foot was so tired as air was thin at high altitudes. We reached the spring and dipped in naked [take note Singapore...!]. The feeling was heavenly. As u can see from the pics. The spring is facing the opposite side of the gorge and theres a stream and waterfall....oh....perfect location for a spa. In warmer weathers, u can even dip in the pool in the evenings under the stars'.
Photo caption:
'Oh Yes...we are butt naked....except for candy'
Not mixing your Nun's and Lama's
Less of a secret, the so-called
Nangpo Gully hot springs feature prominently in Nyingchi prefecture hot springs. 
Officially named Nangpo Gully Scenic Zone, located 50 kms from the tongue twister Gongbo'gyamda county, the gully contains the Nun's hot spring, the Lama's hot spring and Boru (Buru / Bulu) hot spring (for the undecided?).
Adding more to the imagination:
'The water of the Bulu Hot Spring permeates from the rock. There is a mouth of the spring with the size like a bowl, surrounded by green trees and beautiful flowers in four seasons. And the frog is around the spring, too. Since the spring is connected with the subterranean rivers, the voice of the spring can be heard clearly on the ground. So the spring is also called "the hole for listening to the spring". The Bulu spring is the lowest, and the local people often come to take bath. The Lama hot spring in the middle, whose size is as large as a bed, is a rectangled spring pool. It can hold two or three persons to take bath at the same time. The water is quite clear. And it is about one meter deep.
Outside the natural bathing pool, there is a huge piece of rock served as the screen. And there is a hole in it. One can come and go through the hole. The spring in the upper is called "the nun spring". There are often some nuns coming here to get water or take bath. The primeval forest is around the hot springs. And the scream in the forest flows in the valley. There are a number of different holes in the forest, too'.
More info:
'A confluence of local streams, the gully is the birthing place of the Nun's, Lama's, and Boru Hot Springs, a collection of small pools all located near the Bagar Monastery, which is located in a cave adorned with Buddhist murals from the 5th century AD and onward. Below this is another spring, the Karst Hot Springs, which is another opportunity for communion with this distant part of the Earth'.

Elsewhere in Gongbo'gyamda county is Milashan hot spring (source ,link not working].

Then there is Jigong hot spring in Chayu / Zayu county.

[Updated July 2015]


(1) refers to the anonymous publication entitled Travel Guide to Tibet of China, published in 2003 by China International Press.

p.s.: some of the links have lost their ability to link through. As at the original time of writing this chapter they did exist, I've maintained them and their quotes as legacy to history ....

Friday, February 5, 2010

Revoking Holy Soaking Rights

Oiga and it's seven stars
Off hand, the hot springs in Shannan prefecture (alternatively known as Lhokha / Lhoka) are sort of clustered [1], so I am to be believed:
'In the Shannan area most hot springs are distributed at Oiga of Zangri [county] and the Zegu Lake of Cuomai [Comai county]'.
So, let's start by focusing on the Oiga (or some say Woka) area. The above mentioned footnote reference continues:
'Seven hot springs are scattered as stars on the Oiga grassland of Sangri [Zangri] county'.
Among these seven hot springs it lists are:
  • Choiluge:
    'The best known is Choiluge, which legends say is effective on a wide range of diseases',
  • Goigoinbang:
    Goigoinbang Spring, which is said to be powerful in treating stomachache'.
  • Purbo:
    'Purbo for arthritis',
  • Nyima:
    'Nyima spring for eye disease and nasisinusitus' and
  • Banggarge:
    'Banggarge spring for skin disease'.
And that's all the info there is out there. 
With only 5 of the 7 listed, it may be worthwhile to see what else there is to be found on the internet. 
This interesting link notes the following: 
'The Woka Hot Springs is represented by 4 hot springs. The first one is Zhuo Rom Hatem Hot Spring. It is well known for the private hot spring for Panchen Lama. It is said that each time when Panchen Lama pass here to worship in holy lake Lhamo La-tso, he will do clearance here. It's also the hottest hot springs in Woka and well known for its cure for disease. In the north of this hot spring, there is a hot spring can treat gastropathy. North to the Woka Zong Ruins there is a hot spring near a bridge. It's the best-like one for local Tibetans. Each start of summer Tibetans will help their their animals to have bath here getting a way from the residual illness and dust in those cold days. Except that people also come here taking bath after the whole day's farm working. Talking and laughing can be seen anywhere. The 4th hot spring is for youth people especially for the lovers. When the sky turns dark, the young couples talk about love in hot spring which is so romantic'.
The Woka Hot Springs is represented by 4 hot springs. The first one is Zhuo Rom Hatem Hot Spring. It is well known for the private hot spring for Panchen Lama. It is said that each time when Panchen Lama pass here to worship in holy lake Lhamo La-tso, he will do clearance here. It's also the hottest hot springs in Woka and well known for its cure for disease. In the north of this hot spring, there is a hot spring can treat gastropathy. North to the Woka Zong Ruins there is a hot spring near a bridge. It's the best-like one for local Tibetans. Each start of summer Tibetans will help their their animals to have bath here getting a way from the residual illness and dust in those cold days. Except that people also come here taking bath after the whole day's farm working. Talking and laughing can be seen anywhere. The 4th hot spring is for youth people especially for the lovers. When the sky turns dark, the young couples talk about love in hot spring which is so romantic. - See more at:
The Woka Hot Springs is represented by 4 hot springs. The first one is Zhuo Rom Hatem Hot Spring. It is well known for the private hot spring for Panchen Lama. It is said that each time when Panchen Lama pass here to worship in holy lake Lhamo La-tso, he will do clearance here. It's also the hottest hot springs in Woka and well known for its cure for disease. In the north of this hot spring, there is a hot spring can treat gastropathy. North to the Woka Zong Ruins there is a hot spring near a bridge. It's the best-like one for local Tibetans. Each start of summer Tibetans will help their their animals to have bath here getting a way from the residual illness and dust in those cold days. Except that people also come here taking bath after the whole day's farm working. Talking and laughing can be seen anywhere. The 4th hot spring is for youth people especially for the lovers. When the sky turns dark, the young couples talk about love in hot spring which is so romantic. - See more at:

This link comes up with the following: 
'In a small pastureland in the Oiga Town there are seven hot springs. The spring water is effective for treating the stomach and eye diseases and welcomed by local people. Of these hot springs, the Choluka [Choiluge] Hot Spring is exclusive for the Dalai Lamas of various historical stages. The hot springs in Oiga boast beautiful sceneries and a unique local floklore. In the spring and summer, flocks of people come here for bathing'.
You have the right to ...
Then the stories become odd. adds:
'Oiga, a small town situated in Zangri County, Shannan, is generously bestowed by the natural resource of water. Seven hot springs are dotted on the Oiga Plateau, with three rivers winding through the area and respectively symbolizing the three Buddhas: Manjusri Bodhisattva, Avalokitesvara and Vajradhara. The hot springs are en route to Lhamo Latso and formerly served as the resting and bathing places for Dalai Lamas who made their pilgrimages to the lake. Presently, there are four hot springs open to the public, among which, the one called Choluka is exclusive for Dalai Lamas, while another was once honored by Tsong Khapa (1357-1419), founder of the Gelugpa Sect.
The hot springs, with an average temperature of between 30 C-65 C, are popular with the locals for their effects on preventing and curing diseases. Other than a religious adoration associated with Tsong Khapa and Dalai Lamas , the hot springs are indeed endowed with various microelements and mineral resources, which are indispensable and beneficial to the human body.
Public bathrooms have been erected on the four hot springs by the local government, while numerous small bathing pools are built open in air by the local people, with free charges.

So what have we learnt? The Dalai Lama has his own hot spring? That privilege (if ever enjoyed) has been revoked as since 2003 'Oiga hot springs' (and I suppose Choluka) opened to general public. As opposed to being for exclusive use by religious leaders. adds:
'The hot springs in Woka township, once exclusively enjoyed by former Tibetan religious rulers, are now serving as a herders' resort in the Tibet Autonomous Region in southwest China. Earlier report says the local government of Sangri county in Shannan prefecture has opened the seven hot springs in the township to the public for free, which, as the Dalai Lamas' personal resort in the past, were traditionally regarded as a forbidden place by local Tibetans.
According to living Buddha Lobsang at the Qulong Monastery, which is opposite to the hot springs, 13 Dalai Lamas bathed in the Zhuoluoka [Choluka] hot spring--the most famous among the seven, on their worshipping trip to the holy lake Lamulacuo. Another hot spring was said to have served Zongkaba, founder of Gelugba, or Yellow Lamaism, a major sect of Tibetan Buddhism. County officials say the hot springs whose water temperature ranges from 35 to 65 degrees centigrade, are rich in minerals, which are believed to be helpful in curing diseases. And the county will further develop the hot spring area, making it a tourism destination'.
Around Shannan
Then from Lhozhag county there are quite a few mentions of Rapp hot springs, but all in Chinese, so possibly this may be off limits to foreigners. Or not often visited. The following picture (from a Chinese language website) is just another of the quite a few out there, the subtitle is that which is fed to me from google translate ...

'Rapp spa with a variety of minerals, bathing or drinking to treat stomach problems, kidney disease, skin diseases, arthritis, fractures, rheumatism, high blood pressure and many other diseases'.
Though most on Shannan's hot springs is very much sketchy:
'In the outskirts of Qusum county is the famous Siu spring' (1)
Piga is a hot spring worth visiting according to roam china.

Finally, Shannan prefecture has another possible hot spring. underlines the very first reference, alas the link to the article has since disappeared:
'Hot springs in Shannan are located mainly in Oiga in Sangri and Chigu Lake in Comai'
Updated March 2015

[1] refers to the anonymous publication entitled Travel Guide to Tibet of China, published in 2003 by China International Press.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Under the Everest

Xigazê or Shigatse [Xigazê] is a prefecture southwest of Lhasa. Seeing it is en route to Everest there are a number of accounts of hot springs.

Yatung and around

Two hot springs linked heavily (though often with exactly the same phrasing) are Xiqin (Xieqing?) and Yatung (Yadong, though also referred to as 'famous Kambu Qucain hot spring', Kangbu or Kangbo) hot springs. Read with me:
'Xiqin Hot Spring (4010 elevations) is located at Chusha Town in Lhatse (Lhazê) County, 10 km from the county and 0.5 km from the No. 318 national highway. It is said lots of illness can be cured by taking a shower in the hot spring.
Yatung Hot Spring is located at Kangpu Township, Yatung County. It is a healing center with physical therapy, entertainment, health care and accommodation. There are 13 mouths hot spring here with different water temperatures, which has quick curative effect on different kinds of illness including rheumatism, skin disease and fracture'.
The Tibet China: Travel Guide (1) adds:
'People all say that the springs in this area have magical medical effects. The 14 [!] here are different in temperature, mineral resources and effects. Legends say that bathing in these springs can relieve one from bone fracture, stomachache, rheumatism, skin disease and many other illnesses'.

Then this recent blog mentions only 12 different springs. It also mentions the existence of a new thermae.

The hot spring named Xieqing (could it be an alt for Xiqin?) is apparently getting ready for Tibetan New Year according to this recent (Jan 10, 2010) short
news clipping:

'As locals in Xigaze become rich, they choose many different ways to celebrate the traditional Tibetan new year and soaking in hot spring is one of their best choices'.
Soaking rich?
Possibly also referring to Xiqin but spelt as Xiuquian blogging cyclist (or is it cycling blogger?) Brad Davies shares this soaking experience:
'The complex, stuck in the middle of nowhere, was absolutely bizarre. The pool which served as the hot spring had about four inches of water in it despite being two metres deep. After eating I returned to the pool to find it full of Chinese army guys – naked – soaping each other while karaoke music echoed through the complex'.
Again most probably referring to the same hot spring (though not named) was visited by fellow blogging cyclists James and Marg:
'it was amazing to see a 16 by 4 meter pool, concrete painted walls some where to change and there were 8 or so locals there in the water. There was also a sauna, paradise. Cold and howling wind outside, inside aahhh! Had a swim and cleanup, the temp was 28 degrees and hot water issued slowly from a valve. The water is changed weekly, done yesterday. Don’t put your head under. 15Y for us and 5Y for locals'.
Elsewhere in Yatung valley you may also 'find' Liangpu hot spring.

Slimy or not?
A few days later Marg and James visit Tsamda (or Tingri) hot spring:

'Lots of Tibetans and a gent from Sichuan Province were rather bemused by our appearance, hairy, unshaven. Such issues of course do not burden them. Adjacent to the rooms was a hot pool indoors. Very warm within the closed poolroom. This pleasing ambience was let down by the adjacent toilet whose odour permeated the spar. The toilets were open to any one and there were passers by enjoyed our tanned bodies, not. The ladies present did not venture into the open central pool. It sat in a courtyard surrounded by the various rooms and seemed to be a men’s club only. Many stood around watching us looking like content walruses wallowing in the water'.
LP Tibet describes it as a
'slimy communal pool',
which is backed up by this first hand account from
'In the afternoon we headed over to some hot springs also by horsecart. This time the poor horsey had to lug the four of us to the hot springs! Once there we nearly fainted at the sight of the communal 'hot spring'- the slimiest most disgusting pool I've ever seen with all kinds of things floating in it. But we decided to treat ourselves to the private pool which was nice, and had the Brazilian music blaring through the Dutchies' travel speakers making our own little pool party!'
Finally Colin Bolton reveals the truth:
'Now the pool itself looked hot, but also slightly scummy.
we were a little surprise to see a lady carry some vegetables to the small feeder tank and start to wash and peel them in there. With various leaves and peelings floating past
A Chinese group turned up with the intention of having a quick dip and we noticed the vegetable chopping soon stopped and someone washed the scum off the surface pronto - I guess we weren't important enough. As we went to get something to eat more locals started turning up, and not being too shy, were soon naked and splashing around in the pool ...'
Aha, not important enough.

There is also a very recent eperience  by how to visit tibet:
'The odourless, iron-rich springs are about 12km west of Tingri, and are piped directly into the pools of the Tsamda Snow Leopard Hot Spring Hotel (dm Y40, d Y200-280). Most travellers are not very impressed with the public pools, but you can rent a private room with bath for Y50 for a couple hours if the place is not busy. The private bath is a bit rough, too, and stained red in places from the iron in the water, but it’s just the thing for cleaning yourself off after a day or two at Everest Base Camp.
The hotel makes for a better stop than Tingri. There’s a common room on the 2nd floor with outstanding views, and some pleasant easy walks around the nearby hills. And the hot-spring water, despite the basic setup, is actually very good quality and the perfect temperature for  soaking in'.
Source: Colleen 381.
'Tingri - hot spring'.
Lofty heights
Back in Lhatse county contains the hot spring of Mangpu. On the info.tibet site an extensive report is published on soaking here:
'According to the local people, and their well-known doctors, since ancient times people have visited this place. They believe that the hot spring was formed naturally, and call it the "Integration of Water and Fire." As the name infers, one can cure diseases through therapeutic methods of soaking in, bathing in, and even drinking the hot water. It is believed by local people that many diseases can be cured by the hot spring including; gastric diseases, gallbladder diseases, rheumatism, arthritis, eye problems, high blood pressure and dermatitis just to list a few.
The temperature in Mangpu hot spring is a little high. Accordingly, it is inappropriate to stay too long in the water. Following local customs, people should not put on their clothes immediately after bathing but rather cover themselves in a rug or quilt and lay down for about 15 minutes. By doing so people will sweat greatly, resulting in all kinds of germs or poisons from either inside the body or skin are expelled through the capillary vessels, by which one becomes healthy.
Old Kelsong, our guide, told us of an ancient ballad which spoke of "the Lotus Buddha meditating here with fairies and the Buddha of Longevity informed all that this was a sacred place, which people should visit to get rid of their diseases in the hot spring"'.
En passant the report mentions the height of 4800m making it higher than the claim of the world's highest soak (Yangbajing, see Lhasa chapter) as well as mentioning the existence of the hot spring of Nyidong.

Another possible Shigatse hot spring is Rongbuk according to Benoit Perrault. It possibly beats even Mangpu, 5000m height!

[Updated January 2015] 
(1) refers to the anonymous publication entitled Travel Guide to Tibet of China, published in 2003 by China International Press.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Pilgrims and Soakers

The bathing building of Chiu (source).

One of China's western-most administrative divisions is the prefecture of Ngari, still part of the Tibet Autonomous Region, even though it's no less than 1600 km west of Lhasa, Tibet's capital.

Sparsely populated (the 77,000 population can each claim 4 km2 per person), it's a wonder there is any information on hot springs in Ngari prefecture. 
That would have been the fact if the Tibetan holy mountain of Kailash would not be in the eastern part of this prefecture. Walking round this mountain (a kora) is part of Tibetan tradition which has attracted a number of travelers to do likewise. And so, a few hot springs thus stumbled upon have made it to the internet.

A soaking pilgrimage
By far the most mentioned soak in this part of Tibet is the hot spring area of Tirthapuri, a not so Tibetan sounding name. 

Located in Burang county, conveniently situated, it's not too far away from the other pilgrim places of both Kailash mountain (just 80 km) and Lake Manasarovar and it's considered as the third (and final) leg of the trio kora.

This tour site provides more background on the religious significance:
'Tirthapuri' to Hindus, 'Tetapuri' to Tibetans, is the holy power place of the Hindu Goddess Parvati, the consort of Lord Shiva. It is the power place for the Goddess Bajra Barahi and Tara to the Buddhist. The hot spring here is the main holy sight for the pilgrims and it represents the female element, while Mt. Kailash, the male. 'Tirthapuri' considered the third holiest place in Ngari. This is where Heruka subdued Rudra, and according to Tantrism, this holy place is considered one of the 24 major power places on the sub-continent. It is renowned for its blessing of red and white earth from the hot spring'.
Hot springs female, mountains male?

Photo by Katey G. simply entitled
'Tirthapuri hot springs'.
Another Nepali tour site adds:
'Tirthapuri - a region known for medicinal hot springs and a geyser where in a story of Hinduism demon lost the fight to the god was burnt to ash, righteousness finally overcome the unrighteousness'.
Elsewhere on the web, one can find out what to expect when soaking. Here's a snapshot:
'Located on the north bank of the Sutlej River, the Tirthapuri Hot Springs fill the barren landscape with steam. Pilgrims typically come here after completing the Kailash pilgrimage. They bathe in pools fed by the sacred springs, then visit the cave and monastery associated with Guru Rinpoche. Prayer flags stretch across the river gorge and chortens (stupas) add color to the landscape'.
Unfortunately, this otherwise good website has little on the soaking experience itself.

Despite this
report from 2006 claiming the soaks to be 'extremely hot', LP's Tibet guide adds that the hot springs are getting weaker and weaker every year, though possibly this refers to the accompanying geyser. Then again it may be the reason why there's little recent info.
The Fp
Tibet guide mentions that the Tirthapuri waters are clean to bathe in, which is a re-assurement of sorts. It adds:
'From one of the blowholes, however, small white flecks or 'pills' of lime can be found. Tibetans strain the water for these and use them for medicinal purposes, since they are said to have a consecrated power to cure disease'.
Beauty in Divine has an extensive posting on Tirthapuri, though not first hand?

Around Kailash
Nearer Kailash mountain are a number of other hot springs.
Chiu (Chiyu or even Quhu) hot spring seems to be the most often frequented. Located near the monastery with the same name this hot spring actually has its own bathing building complete with glass roof (see top picture).

The village of and surrounding Chiu Gompa.
Note the bathing building on the right near the building (source).

That said, soaking itself seems less than desired:
'As it turned out all the baths either had big gaping holes in them, and none had plugs. They had never been cleaned and the hot spring water came trickling through a spout from a wall. Michael managed to stuff up his drain hole and had a happy full bath. Paul and I had no success. Although feeling sick, I was determined to keep calm as I knew I was extremely privileged to be on the top of the world at one of the holiest sites'.
For a different experience, look at the photo (below) by Rolf Gross, dating from 1995 probably before development of the site took place.

'Here you see Jeroen, Marc, and me soaking in the pleasantly warm water. Notwithstanding that there was no mirror I even shaved! The three women waited on the side. Later I found out that after Padru had also taken an extraordinary dip — Tibetans like the Ladakhi are loath of water — Barbara and Katrina had stripped and jumped in....'
Not so far away from Chiu (21 km north of Raka, but closer to Kailash) is Tagyel Chutse (Tso) or alternatively the King Tiger hot spring. The LP Tibet guide adds:
'... a small collection of gushing geysers, bubbling hot springs, puffing steam outlets, and miscellaneous smoking holes in the ground'.
John Town has a fine set of photo's. It's unclear whether or not soaking takes place ... 

With the single reference (1),
Qoipur (Burang) is something of an anomaly. Little regard for soaking, though there is a geyser which is rumoured to have blasted 900m high, once in 1975. Seeing is believing?

The hot springs of Gyagar are located (link not working) just inside Ngari prefecture. Little other info.

[Updated August 2015]

(1) refers to the anonymous publication entitled Travel Guide to Tibet of China, published in 2003 by China International Press.