KUCHING: A hot spring kept secret for 250 years by early settlers in Annah Rais longhouse is open to the public.
The early settlers regarded it as a holy place to seek blessings and cures for sickness.
Annah Rais Hot Spring is a natural feature caused by underground water being heated by geothermal forces and brought to the surface, where it empties its hot water into Sungai Semadang, more commonly known as Sungai Sarawak Kiri.
Both hot spring and cool river can be enjoyed at an entrance fee of RM5 per head.
I turned up at this site one bright Sunday afternoon around 3pm.
While I was descending the steps, a scenic river with lush bamboo groves growing on both banks came into view.
Small fishes swam in the pristine clear water, and tiny bubbles of gas were intermittently released from the pebbly riverbed.
Two pools – one bigger than the other – are located on the other side of the river. The poolside is fashioned from cement made to look like granite slabs.
The pools collecting hot water diffusing from underground were constructed on Jan 12 this year, according to the inscription on one of them.
Visitors were seen sitting around the bigger pool, dangling their legs in Nature’s hot tub.
They were mostly locals though a few foreign tourists from Kampung Annah Rais homestay had found their way here.
The proximity of the hot spring to the river allows visitors to gravitate between soaking in hot and cold water.
Alternate dunking in hot and cold water is believed to dilate and constrict blood vessels in turn, stimulating an otherwise sluggish circulation.
For instance, a swollen injured ankle alternately dipped in bearably hot and icy cold water, as per doctor’s recommendation, has been known to be efficacious in reducing the swelling if all else has failed.
Since ancient times, soaking in a hot mineral spring has been a form of hydrotherapy to treat disease, injuries and improve health.
Doctors acknowledge the therapeutic benefits of moist heat. Soaking in hot water can speed up healing and relieve pain caused by some types of arthritis and short-term injuries.
A warm soak relaxes muscles, soothing the body and reduces stress. It’s good for arthritis, psoriasis and insomnia.
A regular visitor at Annah Rais hot spring said the hot water had softened the hardened fat located below the back of his neck.
A woman claimed it was effective in relieving her muscle spasms and a young man said it helped him de-stress.
According to health experts, pregnant women and people with diabetes, high blood pressure or cardiovascular disease should not soak in hot water in case it provokes health problems for them. And to avoid infection by protozoa that inhabit some hot springs, avoid being submerged so the water does not go up the nose.
Temperatures can be as high as 70C in hot springs and some may reach boiling point. Immersion in extremely hot water can prove fatal very quickly. Therefore, a little dilution with cooler surface water may be needed.
The water in the Annah Rais hot tub felt too hot that day so the channels were cleared of debris by one of the visitors while another poured cold water from the river into the bigger pool to bring down its temperature. This enabled all of us to soak in the still steaming water.
To cool off, we sat on the pebbly riverbed, and felt the warm sand heated by the hot spring below. We could feel tiny jets of hot water moving upwards before having their heat dispersed by cold currents in the river.
A few outdoor showers and changing rooms complete the basic facilities at the site.
To get there, drive from the 10th Mile Old Penrissen Road – also known as Jalan Puncak Borneo – to Annah Rais longhouse where you cross a Bailey bridge, then a one-km stretch of gravel road before coming to another Bailey bridge.
Cross it and look out on the right for a wooden building with a signboard saying, ‘Welcome to Annah Rais Hot Spring’.