Wednesday, September 29, 2010


Afghanistan is a logical extension of the many regions and countries highlighted in this blog. Certainly geographically. But in soaking customs one would suspect not.

Problem though is that references to Afghani soaks are scarce. Luckily this
is counterbalanced by the excellent insight gained by Saba et. al's (2004) publication on Afghanistans potential for geothermal energy. Large extracts are as follows:

'The use of geothermal resources in Afghanistan might have begun with the settlement of the first people in the vicinity of the many hot springs in the valleys of Hindu Kush, where these springs, served as a source of warmth, and cleansing, and their mineral water as a source of healing. In this way, probably, long time ago, these people learned to use the healing properties of the hot water that came naturally out of the ground to make their life easier. Through experience, they might have discovered that a good soak in those hot springs cured certain ailments, e.g., stiff muscles and sore backs became limbed, skin diseases cleared up, and wounds healed. For this particular reason, many of these hot springs in Afghanistan are called "chashma-e shafa", meaning the healing spring, a property that deemed them sacred. Thus, the communities all over the country rightfully consider the protection of these springs as their duty.
Modern use of mineral thermal springs in Afghanistan goes back to 1940s, when few thermal springs in Herat (Obe and Safed Koh), Balkh (Aabe Garm), and Orezgan [Uruzgan, possibly named Ghorghory] were developed for therapeutic purposes. However, soon these developments were abandoned. In 1974, the Obe springs in Herat were renovated for bathhouse usage (Akhi, 2001). Probably, at the same times, single bathrooms were built on hot springs along the Kabul-Mazare Sharif highway in Pole-khumri and Hairatan towns. The rest of the hot springs of Afghanistan are left undeveloped to date, but the people continue to use them in their traditional ways'.
Included in this publication is an extensive list of geothermal sites most of which no other references exist. In all, it seems that this publication refers to over 200 hot springs, which would make Afghanistan a potential hot spring heaven.

Afghani hot springs. In depth
Some more info is available on Obe
[Obey / Obay] hot spring which Saba et al (2004) mention more prominently. On internet there was a photo (from 2004) with the following text:
'New development on the hillside, opposite to the lower hot spring of the Obe Hot Springs Valley. This is one of few places that Herat is adventure in the wilderness and tap into the healing power of its geothermal and mineral waters'.
Another prominent area to find hot soaks in Afghanistan is the northern Wakhan valley. The Wakhan river forms the boundary with Tajikistan where also hot springs are found more easily it seems as access is way better. See the Tajikistan chapter for more information on this.
On the Afghan side of the Wakhan I found this mention from the
Letters from Afghanistan blog:
'On the fifth day we descended from the mountains to the valley and the road. We dropped 5,000 feet in altitude to the village of Kip Kut. That night we soaked in a natural hot spring. Slipping into the steamy, sulphurous water, we felt every inch of our burned and cut skin cry out, but what ecstasy!'
The site used to add:
'Hot Springs are located in various places down the Wakhan Corridor. This hot spring is located in Sargez just past Kipkut.Two mud huts have been built over the hot spring for privacy. It is not five star but when you have been short of hot water it's a welcome treat. The water is emptied after each person, so it can take a short time to fill. The man who runs it is extremely friendly, we paid 100 Afghanis each to support his work. The Spring is signposted and will take you on a path around the left side of a mountain. Its' about 5-10 minutes walk from the road. GPS location - N36d 58m 06.3s, E072d 54m 53.6s'.
The only other webtext on hot springs in Afghanistan is the following:
'Chishmah-i-Ayyub (Shrine built over hot spring where Ayyub – Job – is believed to have rested while journeying through Afghanistan)'.
And that, would you believe it, concludes all that can be found on hot springs in Afghanistan.

Hot Springs 2
'Me and the major at the springs'
by gvsea. Possibly Hairaton (Hairatan / Airaton)? Another few photo's are on picasa.

[Updated March 2015]

Akhi, M. Wazir (2001) The Services of Abdullah Khan Malekyar in Herat. Hand scripted biography, in Persian. London, Ontario, Canada, 605pp.
Saba, D. S., Najaf, M. E., Musazai, A. M., and Taraki, S. A. (2004) Geothermal Energy in Afghanistan: Prospects and Potential. Center on International Cooperation, New York University, New York, USA. & Afghanistan Center for Policy and Development Studies, Kabul, Afghanistan.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Soaking with six of the seven sisters

Nestled among the Himalaya itself and the surrounding mountains lie the so-called seven sister states of Northeast India.

Way back in January 2010, Arunachal Pradesh, the most mountainous sister, had been highlighted but the remaining six states warrant some soaking attention.

Soaking for elephants. Not.
The biggest and least mountainous state, Assam has no less than 2 Garampani's; places which denote a spring of hot water. Most mentioned is the hot spring located in Nambar Forest Reserve, but exactly which Garampani it is, is unclear. In 2010 this website gave this information:
'... the two more famous ones [hot springs] are located in Golaghat district and North Cachar Hills. The one in Golaghat district is located in the Nambar Reserve Forest about 19 km southwest of Golaghat town. The water of this spring contains hydrogen sulphide and its temperature is 530C to 580C'.
Let's call this the Nambar Garampani. Other striking info on Nambar comes from this website:
'Elephants have now been denied the right to drink water out of Mother Nature’s very own hot spring in the wilderness of Assam. The Garampani hot spring by the side of National Highway 39 in Karbi Anglong district, Nambor Reserve forest, is now guarded by a huge ugly concrete wall. The area is an elephant corridor which the jumbos use almost on a regular basis'.
Looking more intently at the photo of this spring it seems that the wall is just for safety reasons with elephants as well as humans being protected for their own good. Sad though, that the elephants can no longer soak. 

A video of Garampani.
Then aforementioned citation (from 2010) concludes that there is another Garampani hot spring in Assam state near the

'... headstream of Kapili is at a distance of 33 km east of Jowai. Its water is 350C warm'.
Let's say the Kapili hot spring or Kopili as I have seen or Umrangshu (Umrongso?), an often used alt. This Garampani is located close to the border with Meghalaya state in an area known for tea plantations and the hydro project on the Kapili. This website mentions:
'The beautiful Umrongso Lake, the quite valley, the hot water springs and the exquisite scenery are enough to captivate attention. The visitors in this area can enjoy both hot and cold bath and fishing in the river Kopili'.
It's unclear to me whether this hot spring still exists. Here I read
'7-km away from Umrangshu in Meghalaya , the hot spring Garampani is lost in the water of Kapili Hydro-Electric Project. Barrage and dams are constructed on the Kapli River along 19-km area from Umrangshu to Hot Spring. A Lake has already come up over here'.
Wikipedia finally mentions that the hot spring is
'now lost'.
More sisters
In reality there is little info on hot springs in the North-eastern states of India.  Tripura and Mizoram seem to contain no hot springs. 

For Nagaland I found one mention of Tangkum Marok but am unsure whether or not this spring is hot.
Manipur contains Ukhrul saline springs. This link mentions:
'The Saline Springs of Ukhrul are the Salt springs of Ukhrul located in the outskirts of the town.
Ukhrul has a number of brine wells located at Chingai, Challao, Nameri, Luchai-Khullen, Mariem and Kharawam. The water from these springsis used in making salt cakes'.
Again uncertainty remains about the supposed heat of the springs at hand.
That leaves us with world's wettest region, the state of Meghalaya.
By far the most often mentioned in Meghalaya is the hot spring of Jakrem (Lawblei). Unfortunately most mentions are as follows:
'Jakrem in Meghalaya is fast gaining popularity among tourists as it is a wonderful health resort. It is blessed with hot-springs of sulphur water which lure people from across the globe. It is believed that the water of the hot springs is endowed with curative medicinal properties. People come here to bathe in these hot-springs for good health'.
From photo's of Jakrem one can only conclude that the claim that it lures people from all over the world seems a little hollow, though the surroundings are appealing.

From the Megha hot spring resort website.

The state Department of Tourism adds:
'Jakrem has now developed as a potential health resort. People from all parts of the region throng here to take a dip in the hot spring. Bathing compartments are available around the spring for the use of the public. It is also a favourite picnic spot during winter'.
The Shillong Times notes (December 8, 2013) that a bacteria was found here which was previously uncharacterised.

Elsewhere there are only lesser known hot springs in Meghalaya such as the hot spring of Umngi which is situated along a trekking route:
'Weiloi to Ponkung / Pongkung to Umngi: One can reach Weiloi village from Shillong by car / bus. On the way from Weiloi to Umngi there exist two natural mineral water springs. The Hot Spring of Umngi has the potential for becoming a health resort'.
Possibly 2 hot springs?

Resubelpara is the name of a town in north of Meghalaya which possibly moonlights under the name of Williamnagar. Some 15 kms away (from Williamnagar) is apparently a hot spring by the name of Bakra (source). There's even a small photo album on Facebook.

[updated August 2014]

Friday, September 17, 2010

Soaking on the steppe

The Mongols and their baths
In the ever expanding list of highlighted countries, being vaguely in the direction of the Himalaya seems to compel this blogs author to churn out another summation of possible soak sites. In this respect the country referred to as Mongolia is next in line.
So have I determined.

Having a culture which partially stems from the other side of the Himal seems to be a major swaying point to include Mongolia as an entry in this blog, though no doubt images conjured of soakers viewing the rolling steppe limited only by the end of the horizon has a great part to do with aforementioned decision. But will this remain a dream?

Mongolia, we learn, is not a real geothermally active place but nontheless the readable article on harnessing the nation's warmth (Tseesuren, 2001) does list 40 odd hot springs. Though seen mostly from the perspective of possible future power generation it does briefly touch on Mongolian soakers.
'People have used hot springs for bathing and washing clothes since the dawn of civilisation in many parts of the world. In the same way, Mongolia has a considerable experience in health resorts using geothermal water'.
This expression seems to contrast with what seems to be a commonality within Mongolia: the lack of a bathing culture as such. No doubt with the temperature being exceedingly cold most of the year, bathing may not be Mongolians number 1 love. Then again the same temperature must surely be irresistible to most.

Following is a list of over 40 hot springs which Tseesuren (2001) sums up but to which I've been unable to add any additional info. These little known hot springs are Utaat Minjuur (Domod province), Bol Tal, Chuluut, Tsagaan Sum, Gyalgar, Noyon (all Arkhangai), Tsetsuuh, Zaart, Khojuul, Otgontenger, Ulaan Khaalga (Zavkhan), Euruu (Selenge), Saikhan Khulj (Bulgan), Khamar, Gyatruun, Sharga, Emt (Uvurkhangai), Tsokhiot, Uheg, Örgööt (Bayankhongor), Bulgan (Khovd), Gants mog, Chihert (Bayan Ulgii), Salbart, Urtrag, Tsuvraa and Khunjil (Khuvsgul).

Zanabazar the zoaker?
While trying to find more on hot springs in Mongolia there's no avoiding Don Croner's
blog on Zanabazar, Mongolia's first Bogd Gegen or relgous leader. Living back in the 16th and 17th century besides relieving spiritual needs, he seems to have been a penchant soaker (see for instance this blogs entry on Qinghai). Happy Mongolia mentions
'According to tradition, Zanabazar identified up to twenty individual mineral springs here and gave very specific instructions on how they were to be used'.
The same site adds some additional info for the spiritual soaker:
'The best time to use the springs is in the spring or autumn, and and for a full treatment they should be used daily for regimens of twenty-one, twenty-seven, or thirty-one days. Odd-numbered days are considered better. Also, there is one day in each month which is thought to be the most beneficial to use the springs, for example the eighth day of the eighth month, according to the Tibeto-Mongolian lunar calendar'.
I wonder whether more is known about best soaking days. Are they dependent on a lunar calender of sorts?

Don on his travails to trace Zanabazar steps is often ending at hot springs. The hot spring(s) of Onon (Khentli province) seem a favourite. Don:
'it was Zanabazar, the First Bogd Gegeen of Mongolia (1635–1723) who reportedly first studied the medicinal properties of the Onon Hot Springs Complex. They are thought to be especially suited for treating lower back problems, which is why Zegvee and I came here. There are nine bathhouses at the Hot Springs, each with water of differing water temperatures. The usual course of treatment is to soak in the cooler hot springs and then proceed to the hotter ones'.
Other info on Onon hot spring:
'The hottest spring of Mongolia is Onon's hot spring with temperature of 70-80°. Its ingredients are chloride, hydro-carbonate, natrium and magnum and it is pellucid liquid that tastes and smells like sulfur-hydroxide.
This spring has been used to cure illnesses such as central and peripheral nerve system diseases, joint diseases, skin diseases, injury and wound.

Setsen khan Sholoi's barn that was built during the 13th century remained till recent time and at that time of khan's only dignitaries used to own the spring and use it in a suitable time of year when it is good for treatment.

Good men who were considered to be heroes of this time used to boil raw frozen meat in this hot spring. At present, people are working to create a comfortable environment at this place and many searches have been made in order to use this hot spring for treatment'.
Another of Zanabazar's haunts was Khujirt (or Khujert, Uvurkhangai province).
'Zanabazar was a renowned polymath who applied his energy to the study of a staggering array of subjects. One of his interests was the medicinal properties of hot springs. He is known to have studied the waters of least four hot spring complexes in Mongolia and no doubt he himself took advantage of their curative and restorative powers.
While traveling between the monastery of Baruun Khüree and his workshop at Tövkhon Zanabazar would have had numerous opportunities to stop at the extensive hot springs complex at Khujirt, on the edge of the Orkhon Valley. According to locals it was he who first studied the medicinal properties of these springs. Khujirt, located between what is now the popular tourist attraction of Erdene Zuu and the famous Orkhon Waterfall in the upper Orkhon Valley and easily accessible by road from Ulaan Baatar, is today a major resort with a sanatorium, hotels, and ger camps'.
The above is attributed to the site's highlight of Zanabazar's hot spring hide-outs. Don has more on Khujirt.
Otherwise there is this to add on Khujirt hot spring:
'Khujirt is a sanatorium of hot spring (54.5 C) and mud treatment, found in the territory of Khujirt soum of Ovorkhangai Province at 2660 m ASL, 420 km from Ulaanbaatar, 80 km from Arvaikheer and 54 km from Kharkhorin. The hot spring was used by local people starting from many centuries ago. The water has the smell of sulphur, has no color and it is rich in sodium, calcium. Khujirt is one of the first State sanatorium of Mongolia for treatment of nervous, gynecology, kidney, bone, heart and other ailments. The sanatorium has recently opened a special section for foreign tourists. And there is a tourist ger camp not far from the sanatorium. The area is excellent for hiking'. (source)
Finally it was the hot spring of Estiyn (Yestin) which Zanabazar also frequented.
'While overseeing the construction of Saridag Khiyd (see above-below) from 1654 to 1680 Zanabazar would have ample opportunities to visit Estiyn Rashaan (rashaan = mineral springs) twelve miles to the northwest. According to tradition he identified here up to twenty individual mineral springs and determined the medicinal properties of each. Even now some of the springs have small signs in Tibetan indicating what the water is to be used for, including ailments of the heart, teeth, eyes (one for the left eye and one for the right), nerves, nose, ears, innards, lungs, and so on. There are also two log bath houses with bathing pits. Herdsmen from the Tuul and Kherlen valleys still here by horse to take cures and retreats. My horseman when I visited here told me his cousin came here for seven days after a bad fall from a horse and after bathing daily in the bath houses came away cured. Locals also maintain that bathing in the larger of the baths will atone for big sins, while bathing in the smaller one atones for little sin'.
The most well-known hot spring of Mongolia seems to be
Tsenkher. It even has it's own organisation, Hot Spring Water’s Efficiency Association, though this seems more dedicated to exploiting greenhouses than encouraging soaking.
Besides the organisation there's also mention made of the following:
'Mongolian “Bridge” Group and Japanese “Tsagaan Sogoo” company established the “Tsenkher Jiguur” tourist camp in 1995 pursuing two main goals, the development of tourism based on a hot spa, which is situated in Tsenkher sum of Arkhangai prefecture and the contribution to the local area development ... Please, take off your clothes first, then have a shower and be clean before you bathing in a hot spring! For hygienic purposes it is regulatory to take bath naked in the hot spa.'
That said there is little proof of such on internet at least.

'Teel Rashaan (Hot Springs) on the Olziit River. Water is said to be good for digestive problems'. Photo by Don Croner.

On the map
Lesser well known are the following hot springs.
(Tuv province):
'Estii rashaan is a hot spring (+34°c) in the valley of the Estii River'.(source)
Khuremt (Uvurkhangai province):
'The Khuremt hot spring has been used since ancient times. Components include bicarbonate and sodium. The maximum temperature of the water reaches 58.8C. There are 10 streams, and the spa water is used for extremities and nervous diseases'. source
Mogoit or Khangain Tsagaan Chuluu (Uvurkhangai province):
'Khangain Tsagaan Chuluu. Is a picturesque white and marble rock on the south east side of the hot spa at Mogoit. It is over 10 meters high taken by someone because of worshipped rock'. (source)
There are also a few photo's on flickr (not interesting enough(?) to repost here).

Taats (Tsaats?) hot spring has received funding from UNDP's GEF to initiate 'development'. Also located in Uvurkhangai province.

Teel hot spring (see photo above this paragraph) is located in Bayankhongor province.

Shivert (Arkhangai province) seems to be Mongolia's only really developed hot spring. Visit the website of Hasu Shivert resort to find the following text:
'Shivert Resort provides state-of-the art wellness center built around natural hot springs. Our staff team is dedicated to answer all your questions and needs during your stay. Newly renovated facility includes outdoor pools, natural treatment centers, sports facilities, large conference and dining rooms all in the middle of wilderness of Mongolia'.
Khaluun us (or Tsenkheriin, Zavkhan province):
'...remarkable Hot Spa of Tsenkheriin Khaluun Us , which is now serving as a health spa for tourists, it lies 30 kms south of Tsetserleg town. The water of Tsenkheriin Khaluun Us spring is remarkably hot at +86.5 C and contains hydrogen sulfide'. (source)
Photo by smee:
'Mongolia. Hot Spa of Tsenkheriin Khaluun Us - 30 kilometers south of Tsetserleg town. The Shiveet Mankhan tourist camp in the back'.

Bulnai (Khuvsgul province) hot spring resort is described as
'offering simple cabins around a former Soviet resort'.
A first hand
'I was thinking more of a geyser in the ground - the 'springs' were situated in little wooden huts and were basically just a rectangular hole cut in the wooden floor containing very hot water. The baths came in temperature grades of 38, 43 and 48 degrees centigrade and although you were not permitted to take in soap or shower gel, we spent a good 30 minutes just soaking and trying to expunge the dirt we had accumulated from the previous few days' riding'.
Bugat hot spring (Bayan Ulgii province) is a hot spring not included in Tseesuren's (2001) list. This web site adds to the precise coordinates:
'It is a hydro carbonat sulfas natrii hot spring'.
Tsagaan gol (Bayan Ulgii province):
'Locals come to this hot spring to have medical baths and drink the water. There are small wooden houses for hot baths'. source
Commercial property?
The hot spring of Jargalant Soum (or Jalga, presumed to be in Khuvsgul province):
'This hot spring smells and tastes little bit sulfate, transparent, it flows through various stones, like kidney-stones, very thick placed sandy soil. Nearby beautiful high mountains and amazing forest, which has different trees, like pines, ebony, asp, cedar are around the hot spring. Temperature of the hot spring’s water is 45-50C hot'.(source)
More info:
'Jargal Jiguur hot springs, sulphar springs that emerge from the ground (150m) at 70 degrees Celsius. Facilities include outdoor baths (male and female), showers and accommodation'.
It does seem that Jargal Jiguur is the commercial name for Khunjil, the prize winning text of which goes as follows:
'Nestled amid 70 Celsius natural mineral springs, with a knowledgeable, friendly, and professional staff, Jargal Jiguur offers an amazing spa experience. At this premier choice of Jargal Jiguur spas, cascading waters nurture more than skin and body -- they soothe the heart and soul. Visit our recently renovated, Japanese-style spa. Select from a bountiful array of soothing treatments from full body massages to anti-fatigue treatments. Whether you desire a dip in one of our naturally heated mineral spas or a private massage, you ’ll enjoy it in soul-relaxing fashion at our Jargal Jiguur hot springs spa resort'.
Shargaljuut hot spring is a more often visited and more developed hot spring in Bayankhongor province. This web site describes Shargaljuut as 'well-known' and 'popular among Mongolians'.

And now we return to the aforementioned vision of soaking in Mongolia. This blogger had a different vision:
'Upon entering the Shargaljuut springs, it immediately struck us that it was not as developed as we had hoped for. We had dreamt of large pools of water, immaculate service and Russian saunas. None of that. We had to cross some smaller rivers, made it this time, and ended up in a very basic ger camp. The hot springs are symbolic for the Mongol approach. Leaking tubes, old wooden gers, rundown buildings, unclear directions and too many people just hanging about. A hot spring was nothing more than a standard bath in a ger, to be filled with water. However, it must be said the water was fantastic and we felt like new'.
'Our private hot spring bath: luxury old school Russian bath tubs hiding inside'.
Taken in 2005 by

Tseesuren, B. (2001) Geothermal Resources in Mongolia and Potential Uses. United Nations University. Geothermal Training Programme. Reports 2001, no. 15. Reykjavík, Iceland

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Northern boundary?

The leftovers
With blogs listing details on the hot springs of both Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan, it's only natural to expect their neighbours, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan, to also be highlighted. Because there aren't that many hot springs this single blog post will cover all three countries.

Soaking in Uzbekistan - no way!
Starting off with Uzbekistan is the most simplest as I have yet to find out whether or not there are hot springs in this country.

Big country, little soaks
To the north of Uzbekistan lies the immense country of Kazakhstan. Here a few hot springs can be found in the mountains bordering Kyrgyzstan and China. However knowing that there are hot springs does not mean that they can be highlighted. Take for instance the hot spring located near Chimkent (Shymkent). Just the one mention:
'hot spring health spas'.
Elsewhere there is more info on two close to each other located hot springs, Alma Arasan and Zharkent-Arasan.
'There are 51 groundwater springs, many of which are used for spa therapy purposes. The Alma- Arasan hot spring water is similar in its chemical composition to French mineral waters of the Pyre-nean type (Aix les Bains, etc.)
The temperature of major springs constitutes 35-37 degrees centigrade. With regard to water content, temperature and radioactivity the water is similar to Tshaltubo Springs [famous hot spring in Georgia, the country]. The springs have a good influence on people who suffer from rheumatism, metabolic disease, diseases of peripheral system and blood vessels, as well as on the diseases of women and on the people who were poisoned with copper, lead and other metals. Every year Arasan-Kapal Resort accepts around 2000 patients'.
Other info on Alma concern it's establishment in 1886.

On Zharkent which, by the way, was established in 1967:
'The main medicinal factors are: nitric, chloride-sulphate, sodium water (36C) which contains fluorine, organic substances used for bath and shower'.(source)
Kapal (not(?) to be confused with Kapal-Arasan) possesses a mineral spring with a temperature of 25-28C, not quite soakable?
There are also mentions made of the following hot springs in Kazakhstan: Tamshaly, Ayak-Kalkan (hot spring 180 km from Almaty, in the village of Baseit), a so-called Mountain Thermal Water Resort.

A flickr photo reference to a hot spring in their Kazakhstan set. Have my doubts though.

Going underground
Turkmenistan features an extra ordinary hot spring. Referred to as Kow Ata (Kov Ata, Kovata, Kowata or Bakharden) this a subterranean hot spring. One needs to climb down sets of stairs to get to the thermal waters 60m below ground level.
'The underground lake is formed by a hot spring in a cave 60 m below the ground and stretches over several kilometres. Only the first 70 metres are accessible and sufficiently lit and provide the occasion for a dip in the 36°C water'.
A great photo can be found on flickr (but not posted). An experience:
'Kowata is an underground hot spring where they took all the trainees swimming a week ago. It is about 45 minutes from the capital and about 5 kilometers from the border with Iran. You descend down about seven flights of slippery steps with wobbly hand rails, wishing you were wearing metal cleats. As you descend the dimly lit corridor, the air grows hotter and more humid, and eventually carries the smell of eggs from the sulfurous waters of the lake. The water is lovely to swim in; about 82 degrees Fahrenheit, it is like being in a bath. The depth of the water wasn’t clear, but nobody’s feet touched the bottom. However, there were many jutting rocks and ledges where you could rest. We spent about two hours swimming before learning that a half-hour was advised, probably for the same reason that excessive time in a hot tub should be avoided. Still, the water is supposed to be medicinal for your skin, and I have not seen any ill effects. When I told my family in Herrick-Gala that I swam, however, they were extremely apologetic because they don’t know how to swim'.
Not always are experiences in such a positive light.
'We drove for a couple of hours out into the middle of nowhere. The engineer led us to a cave and we went inside. Once our eyes adjusted to the dark we saw a large pool of water. There was a single electric lamp on one side of the cave which didn't do much to cut through the gloomy darkness. Bats hung from the ceiling above and the air was thick with steam and the heavy smell of sulphur.
My colleague and I stripped down to our bathing suits and jumped in. The water was bathtub temperature and very murky. I held my breath and let myself sink down as far as I dared but I couldn't touch the bottom.
Strangely the engineer refused to join us but preferred instead to hang out at the cave's entrance and smoke.
The water temperature was pleasant but the sulphurous smell became overbearing after a while and the atmosphere was just plain creepy. My colleague and I climbed out, dried off and put our clothes back on in silence.
We exited the cave and were climbing back into the car when a rickety, rusted-out old bus pulled up and a dozen locals piled out. They were dressed in colorful, ratty garments and were a pretty ragtag bunch.
"Who are they?" I asked our guide.
"Oh them."
And then he told me that this particular hot spring is famous throughout the country. That its warm sulphur waters supposedly have healing properties and that people with otherwise incurable skin diseases were bussed in to bathe here in as a last resort for a cure...
It took weeks before I was convinced that I hadn't contracted leprosy...'.

Kow Ata Underground Lake / Turkmenistan, Bakharden
Photo by flydime:
'The Bakharden Underground lake Kow Ata is an unusual natural site in the biggest cave of the Kopetdag mountains, located about 107 km south-west of Ashgabat. The Turkmen name Kov-Ata means "father of caves". At a first glance, this underground area looks like a magnificent auditorium : the overall length of the cave is 230 m, its height goes up to 20 m, and its width is at some points 57 m ('.
Otherwise in Turkmenistan there is just one mention of another hot spring, Koytendag:
'the, unique hydrogen sulphate hot spring, "Gainar Baba"'.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

China's South-east

Besides the many hot springs previously featured on the many entries on China, China possesses an astounding amount of hot springs scattered elsewhere in the country. What follows are just some of the more special hot springs. If you believe that a certain hot spring should be added, feel free to contact me (see sidebar).

Unfortunately this blog entry will only focus on Guangxi and Guizhou, these regions contain a number of hot springs sufficient to warrant their own blog entry ...

Guizhou and Miao custom
Though most hot soaks derive their inclusion in this chapter due to their uniqueness, the hot spring of Jianhe (Qiandongnan Miao and Dong AP, Guizhou) is here for the way in which the hot springs are enjoyed. From the following:
'When the Miao drum dance performance ended, it was five o'clock in the afternoon. We took a car to the hot spring, which was 1.5 km away. It took only a short time to get there. Jianhe Hot Spring is located at the foot of a slope, surrounded by mountains on three sides and facing a flatland on one side. In 1998 Jianhe County introduced 6 million yuan of overseas investment to build a swimming pool and some auxiliary facilities at the hot springs. It opened to tourists not long ago. Every day 50-100 people come here to have a hot spring bath.
When we arrived here, local Miao People were bathing in the two pools, one for men, and the other for women. The pool for men was on the upper level. Five Miao young men were having a bath, stark naked. The pool for women was on a lower level with some having a bath and the rest washing clothes. Seeing me, the women turned their backs and said "Shame," while giggling. A young Miao man who came with me told them in their bathing and washing.
According to local tour guides, it is an ancient local custom to have a bath in hot springs, but no one knows when this custom began. For generations the Miao people have been doing just this.
Because the Miaos often have baths in hot springs, they have good skin and are strong and attractive. It seems that frequent hot spring bathing helps maintain a healthy metabolism, keep skin fair and also make you attractive as well'.
Soaking the recipe for success for the longevity?
Lizzy and Nathelie had a different experience. Dated from 2013 their visit to Jianhe  is as follows:
'Natalie and I (Lizzy) were warned that the water at the hot springs was great, but that the facilities were "backwards."
The Jianhe Hot Springs were quite nice in comparison with many US hot springs. The pool was clean and we were provided with a personal locker to store our belongings. The changing rooms and shower rooms were overcrowded, but that's to be expected in China'.
It seems things are changing or there have been facilities created for tourists?

 The modern Jianhe? Source. Vs the traditional soak:

Elsewhere in Guizhou province there are believed to be 18 other natural hot springs (source), while there are also 9 less natural hot springs.

Xifeng  hot springs are noted for their high volumes of flow (source). Other sources of info on Xifeng can be found here, here and here.

'There is a hot spring on both sides of the valley in one section, and there are ethnic houses near them. The water temperature of the hot spring stays between 38°C and 40°C all the year round'.
Wudang district is mentioned here for having three hot springs: 
'.... including the Baoli international hot spring [hotel], Guiyu hot spring and Quan Tianxia hot spring [hotel]'.

Shiqian is another town where highlighting hot springs through a festival seems commonplace. This article highlights Shiqian's Hot Spring Festival Culture and Tourism:
'It is understood that Shiqian County is located in the northeast of Guizhou is the old revolutionary base areas, when Red Army had twice been shiqian. Now in this piece of forest cover close to 48 percent of the clay on the ground, not only state-level key cultural relics Longevity Palace, as well as Chinese history and culture village upstairs Guzhai, especially the very rich in geothermal resources are currently known to the hot springs out of the dew point there are 20 of the 36 daily flow of 2.2 million metric tons, the water temperature 45 degrees Celsius, the water generally contain zinc, selenium, radon, strontium, lithium, silica and other trace elements beneficial to humans, water quality consistent with the medical mineral water standards and consistent with standards of drinking mineral water can be directly bathing, drinking, the country's unique rare in the world. Spa group in the core area of the layout of the county seat, and water resources, the largest in the country has only Shiqian, in the development and utilization of the hot springs for centuries formed a unique "hot spring culture," known as "spring city" reputation'.
There are no less than 17 hot springs in or around Shiqian (source).  This website adds:
'The springs rise some distance up the mountainside, so in the old days local officials built their bathhouse at the town's highest point in order to get the hottest, cleanest water. Below that was the public men's bath and, right at the bottom, the women's bath, whose water was also used for washing clothes.
None but the oldest residents remember this arrangement. Today the public bathhouse by the riverside is divided into men's and women's sections, while up the hill is a single complex housing private tubs that cost from 20 yuan to 40 yuan an hour. It's tremendously popular with locals¡ªstreams of wet-haired bathers accompanied me back into town along the ancient street that runs parallel with the river'.
Another experience:
'In Shiqian, there is a hotel, build on top of the springs and to enjoy them, you must pay the hotel for either the public bath or the private one. Since the school was paying we went for the private one and while there was no nature to enjoy, save for the hot spring water itself, the experience was the most soothing I have had in China. The private room was actually quite nice. The tub was a on the right side of the room and was a little small, but workable. On the left side of the room was what looked like a lay-in shallow jacuzzi, but the attendant said it didn’t work. There was also a toilet and a stand up shower in the back of the room and shampoo and body wash. The water that filled the tub was the perfect temperature for me and as I stepped in I could feel all of the noise and tension that China dumps on me on a daily basis disappearing into the steam. I always love returning to the element I feel most at home in, and this time there was more than ever to enjoy – the minerals, the heat, the silence, the relief, the meditation'.  
But how many are there really? This website draws attention to Sinan county, Tongren prefecture: 
'The county, rich in geothermal resources, boasts 11 hot spring sites in Yingwuxi Town, Xinglong Township, Sandaoshui Township and Tianqiao Township, which produce 12,000 tons of spring water per day. The water is rich in various minerals and ranges in temperature from 40°C to 58°C. There are presently four spa resorts under development: Yingwuxi Spa Resort, Luowantuo Spa Resort, Xinglong Spa Resort and Tianqiao Spa Resort'.

A cave soak
West of Guizhou lies the coastal province of Guangxi which is home to one of China's most prized natural tourist destinations, Guilin

Not far from Guilin is Yangshuo. Aside of the rice terraces (one of the main attractions of Yangshuo) is the Longsheng Hot Springs National Forest Park:
'The best known attraction in the park is the sixteen hot springs. These springs can spout over 1,200 meters from underground with water temperatures ranging from 45C(113F) to 58C(136F). Experts have determined that the waters contain various elements including zinc, manganese, lithium, strontium and iron that are beneficial to health. Bathing in the springs is not only healthful, but can reputedly alleviate diseases such as cardiopathy and rheumatism as well as certain skin conditions. Unlike other hot springs, the water here is so pure and limpid that it can be drunk directly from the source. It is no wonder that Longsheng is the most famous hot springs in south China'.
One of the hot springs is located inside a cave. An experience:
'We ventured out the the Moon Water Cave, a ridiculously enormous cavern in one of the mountains that also held a natural hot spring and mud bath. The mud bath turned out to be freezing, but it was a nice warm-up to the hot spring - and a quality photo-op as well'.
There is what this blogger describes as a 'mega posh' hotel (Longsheng Hot Springs Hotel) with no guests. An accompanying photo is intriguing entitled 'Rub-a-dub-dub' the authors are bathing in hot tubs with a large plastic bag on the inside presumably for keeping the tub water tight? Another reviewer described it as follows:
'life is too short to spend any of it here'
As said nearby is the cave (Moon Water Cave) with a mud pool (cold) and an unique hot spring inside the cave. However most visitors focus on the cold mud experience ...

hot springs inside yangshuo's water caveFrom eikzilla.
'hot springs inside yangshuo's water cave'
Eikzilla also has a nice picture of the corresponding signboard announcing the attraction.

Like the Zhuang do?
Elsewhere in Guangxi are hot springs of Lingshui, Jiiu Qu Wan, Jiahecheng, Hezhou (Gupo Mountain), Hezhou (Luhua), Xiangzhou

('The Hot Spring of Xiangzhou is known as “No. 1 hot spring in the middle-of –south of China”'. source)
and Yulin the city of which has no less than six hot springs:
'Land Sichuan hot spring, Xie Lu hot spring, Sand Lake hot spring, Warm Luo hot spring, Lebanon Village hot spring, Mausoleum Mountain hot spring' (source).
The aforementioned Hezhou hot spring(s?) are apparently better known for their bathing habits, especially of the
'young women of Zhuang ethnic group'.
Click further for the web entry complete with pictures. Whether or not this is just a cheap ploy to attract half the world's population (or more) or a correct presentation of reality is not entirely clear. At least there is the following info:
'There are three hot springs in the mountain town [Hezhou] and local Zhuang people maintain the ancient custom of bathing in the open air. They believe that bathing without baring one’s body completely will profane the sacred water'.
Others would describe exactly this as profane ...
Updated June 2014