Hot stone bath is one of the very great experiences Bhutan has to offer. The bath, made of wood is constructed on a ground level, outside of the home. Traditionally these bath are done near a river bed with plenty supplies of stones and water. And it would be an all day event with people taking turns to soak into the water. Many families would consult an astrologer to select an auspicious bathing day so as to give the bath its maximum healing power.
It is believed that the heat of the water, the minerals released from the rock, and the local herbs all combine to produce medicinal benefits for joint pains, hypertension, stomach disorders and arthritis.
The process starts with heating round large river stones on a big fire which is then left to heat for hours. Once the stones are glowing red, they are gradually dropped into a wooden tub filled with water and scattered with Artemisia leaves. The roasted rocks slowly heat the water, thus releasing minerals into the water. The section with hot stones is separated by a wooden bar so there is no danger of getting burnt by stones. And water gradually added depending on one’s preference of temperature.
Families in olden days would soak after their seasonal farm work in winter. The long, healing bath relaxed their tired bodies and helped cure backaches and joint pains.
The traditional hot stone bath is very hard to find but for those interested, many resorts and farmhouses offers a luxurious version of hot stone bath with the authenticity to a certain level. Although you will be required to make an appointment in advance so the staff has enough time to build a fire, heat the stones and prepare your bath. Men can wear a short and women in bikini or a sport bra with a short. The wooden tub is usually covered with a tent or has a bamboo sliding door for privacy.
Bhutanese for years practiced the method of soaking in Menchu (medicinal water) for the healing effect. For people interested, Bhutan has natural hot spring (Tshachu) scattered all over the country. The hot springs are believed to have lots of medicinal purposes depending on the location of the hot spring. To name a few:
Gasa Hot Springs
Located on banks of Mochu River in Gasa valley and approximately half an hour walks from the nearest road point
Chuba Hot Spring
Located on the banks of Pho chu river and it takes a day journey from Punakha town. It is often recommending to camp overnight.
Dur Hot Spring
Located in Bumthang valley. Drivable distance from the town
The bath takes place in wooden washtubs.