Monday, February 24

A dip in health-giving water

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The Panchor Hot Spring can be likened to a place out of time where visitors can try something close to home that is affordable and benefical to health.

Some of the visitors at the hot spring.

Some of the visitors at the hot spring.

NO distraction. No urgent issue. There is nothing to worry about while you are there.

It is a place to relax in the simple earth pond for a warm bath, and enjoy the beauty of the natural setting.

The natural environment adds a relaxed charm to your feet or body soaking session.

It seems to be a place out of time where you try something close to home as well as to be easy on the wallet.

The Panchor Hot Spring may give you all of those and more.

As you arrive, right away you will notice there is a very serene and peaceful calm about the place – no loud noise, no cars or highways, no planes overhead, no modern life.

Many of the first timers may naturally start speaking in whispered tones out of reverence for the environment they are in.

While there, they may be connected to a new level, being removed from the distractions that might have been built around them.

From observations, many enjoy just sitting, closing their eyes and meditating in the hot baths.

It may look very simple, yet the place is truly an awesome site, having a hot water pool for relaxing.

A regular visitor

Bong Yew Foh simply loves relaxing in the spring of Panchor.

He is one of those who has been visiting the place almost everyday.

“Sometimes, I come with other family members. If none of them is free, I will go alone even on school days.

“I will come before or after class. I have been doing this for a few years already,” the 51-year-old teacher said.

While there, you may immerse your tired feet in the natural hot spring water, discharged from 1,000 to 3,000 metres underground, to recuperate from fatigue.

For those who want more than just a footbath, they can dip in their whole body. A wooden platform has been laid in the water for people to sit and relax.

As long as there have been people and hot springs, there have been claims of beneficial healing powers associated with libations and soaking in the hot springs.

In the modern world, many believe these properties are real and the benefits are easily explained.

Many also claim the body-mind mechanism reacts positively to the combination of the heat and minerals found in these waters.

Tourism Ministry permanent secretary Ik Pahon Joyik (centre) dips his feet in the warm water.

Tourism Ministry permanent secretary Ik Pahon Joyik (centre) dips his feet in the warm water.

Not so mysterious

Since the human body is made up of these same minerals and is 60 per cent  water, it is not too far a logical stretch that the benefits of soaking in a hot spring are not mysterious at all.

Geothermal waters normally come from as far underground as 3,000 feet. These waters are heated by the Earth’s natural core temperature.

The waters seep back up above ground through various cracks and splits it makes in the rocks.

One of the typical tell-tale signs of a hot spring is the unmistakable smell of sulphur.

Unlike some people who come to Panchor Hot Spring because of health problems, Bong comes for a different reason.

“Personally, I don’t have any health problems so far and the reason I come is that everytime after bathing here, I will have a very nice sleep at night.

“I feel so relaxed, even after long teaching hours, everytime I have a bath here,” he said.

Bong, however, said he was not sure but had heard from friends that the hot spring has some healing powers.

“A friend from Matang a few years ago shared with me his testimony about the Panchor hot spring, saying he fully recovered from stroke after a few visits.

“Although I don’t have health problems, I still want to try. Since then, I have been visiting Panchor Hot Spring,” he said.

It is understood this place has not only attracted locals but also visitors from South Korea, Japan and other Asian countries.

On of its regular foreign visitors is Chung Koo Hyuk from South Korea.

“I come to this hot spring once a week to relax in the natural hot pool,” he told thesundaypost.

Although Chung is not sure if the water in Panchor Hot Spring has healing powers, he personally likes its heat temperature.

“I have visited many hot springs in other places, including those in Korea, but they are not as good as the one here,” enthused a 68-year-old Korean volunteer music teacher.

“The water heat is moderate, just nice, and natural some more” added Chung who lives near Kampung Tarat, 52km, Kuching-Serian Road.

He also believes the water in Panchor Hot Spring has some health benefits although he is not sure of its mineral contents.

Chung, who has been in the state for more than five years now and can speak Bahasa Malaysia and a bit of local Bidayuh dialect, regards the hot spring a nice place to relax.

Chung (left) and Bong enjoying the hot spring.

Chung (left) and Bong enjoying the hot spring.

Healing potential

Panchor Hot Spring is located at Kampung Panchor Dayak, 40km from Kuching city.

Surrounded by forest and nature, offering a calm and serene atmosphere, the hot spring is said to have healing potential.

The legal classification of a mineral spring is believed to be varied in different parts of the world.

Geothermal studies have established that different native mineral springs have unique chemical compositions.

No geothermal studies have been carried out on the mineral contents of Panchor Hot Spring but anecdotal claims have it that the hot spring in Panchor produces sulphur.

Sulphur, after mixing with water, is said to produce a form of anti-toxic acid which can heal some sickness.

Speaking at the launching of an improvement initiative at the Hot Spring in 2013, Datuk Seri Dr James Dawos, then Tourism Deputy Minister, said the Panchor Hot Spring’s key attraction was its therapeutic values, perceived or otherwise, in treating some illnesses, including skin diseases.

He also revealed he had received feedback from at least three persons who were cleansed of heart ailments after bathing at the Hot Spring.

It is reported hot spring waters are usually mineral-rich. Aside from sulphur, it may also contain lithium, iron, soda, arsenic, boron, potassium, sodium, sulfates and chloride, to name a few.

It is claimed spring waters can increase metabolism, accelerate healing, soothe muscles, improve blood circulation and detoxify the body’s lymphatic system.

Soaking in hot springs allows minerals to pass through your skin and be absorbed and utilized by body cells.

This can fight the effects and symptoms of fatigue, insomnia, edema, poor micro-circulation, repressed immune system, and even arthritis.

Anecdotal testimonies

The Panchor Hot Spring is not lacking in anecdotal testimonies.

The community leader for Bukar area, Penghulu Sirau Lungkis from Kampung Pachor, claimed the healing potential of Panchor Hot Spring was uncovered when a rich Chinese businessman recovered fully from a stroke after dipping in the hot spring a number of times.

He said following the healing, the man wanted to develop the hot spring together with the kampung folk on a joint-venture basis.

“However, most of the local people wanted to do it on their own, so they opened up the place to the public with minimal and simple facilities.”

Sirau said the facilities were eventually upgraded in 2012 when Dawos, who is Mambong MP and currently Natural Resources and Environment Deputy Minister, gave them some funds.

The improvements to the Hot Spring cost about RM450,000 which Dawos approved as Tourism Deputy Minister, under the government’s Community Based Tourism (CBT) programme.

Sirau said most people came to Panchor Hot Spring for health reasons after hearing testimonies of stroke patients who recovered after bathing in the hot water.

“Many of them have become regular visitors,” he added.

Following the upgrading, a number of pools were built with wooden planks surrounding the pools for visitors to sit while soaking their feet in the pools.

The bottom of the pool is laid with hardwood plank to prevent stirring of the mud at the bottom of the pool.

However, there are do’s and don’ts. Simple instructions or advisory notices are laid out at the premises for visitor.

Visitors are advised to dip their hands or legs into the pool first to get a feel of the water temperature.

This is to prevent one from being scalded as different persons have different tolerance threshold to the hotness of the water.

The water temperature at Panchor Hot Spring is said to be about 42 Degree Celsius.

Visitors are advised to slowly dip their body into the water once they are sure the water temperature suits them.

If one feels dizzy or uneasy, one is advised to get out of the pool and take a rest, drink some cold water to cool the body temperature.

Visitors are also advised not to take a bath immediately after getting out of the hot spring, but take a rest and let their body temperature cool to normal level.

The pools are covered with roofings and therefore, rain or shine, visitors can still enjoy the hot spring bath.

Also available are resting huts, complete with benches and tables for the visitors’ convenience.

The Panchor Hot Spring is operated by a management board. Only RM4 per adult and RM1 per child is charged per entry.

The opening hours are from 7am to 10pm daily.C_PC0006521