Asia | China | Yunnan Province | Tengchong – Hot springs
Poor Ajian’s allergy aggrevated, and as guilty as I felt, the lures of the hot springs in Tengchong was too great. Wang Rui and I said goodbye to him, and after a scenic climb through the Gaoligong mountains, we finally set our feet in the town that was once torn apart during WWII. A few days later than we had planned due to the filled buses and landslides, but we made it.
We had some sweet fermented rice soup near a spectacular waterfall, now loud and muddy after a fresh rain fall. The old lady tending the stall had bound feet wrapped in dainty pink silk slippers. I stared at them, as they were the first pair of bound feet I’d seen in over 10 years. She looked at us with a grandmotherly look until we finished the entire bowl of sweet liquid, and carefully put the money under the table cloth, where all her income was kept. A couple middle-aged neighbors coming to chat with her told us that she was only three months away from turn 100 years old.
Our main goal was Re Hai, or Hot Sea, where the hot springs are. We followed a sign up the hill to a hotel that promises room, food, hot spring bath, and free entrance into the park all for 20 yuan a night. Just when I was about to give up hope and drop myt backpack from exhaustion, we saw a row of red brick houses around the bend. This was it. A simple establishment with two beds and nothing else in each room, and the rooms were separated by a thin wall whose cracks were covered by masking tape.
We found a backroad to sneak into the park as promised, and got a look at all the ‘scenic spot’ hot springs, including the Big Boiling Pot, whose temperature is naturally at 88 degrees celsius. Wang Rui and I discussed how to inform each other’s family should we fall into one of these springs. He said, ‘So how does this sound? Auntie, I’m really sorry to tell you that Xiaofeng had a mishap and got boiled in the pot.’
After dinner, it was time to decide whether I was going to take the hot spring bath, what we came here to do. A rotten egg smell came out of the bath houses, and I debated whether I should go in. The black water with some questionable white floaters was a turn off, but what’s the point of coming to Re Hai without inhaling enough rotten egg smell? Thinking that I was the only female guest for the day and no one else had probably used it yet today, I closed my eyes and stepped in. The water was actually clean and the blackness merely a reflection of the bottom of the pool. I enjoyed the warmth until a comforting sleepiness came over me.