Someone once told me about a hidden hotspring in Zhemgang district.
“It’s on a cliff”
“You have to walk for hours”
“The path is steep and dangerous”
So off we went to this mysterious hotspring named Duenmang. The path starts from a place called Praling (field of monkeys) around a 2 hour road trip by Tingtibi. You’ll come across the only restaurant there in Praling and the lady serves really good local food. And without any idea of what was in store for us, we set off to Duenmang Tshachu down the steep mountain from Praling.
Way to Duenmang Hotspring
Duenmang is perhaps one of the least known hot springs in Bhutan, because of its geographical location, and before I started my 2 hour walk to the hotspring many warned me about the treacherous path along the cliff that precariously hangs over the Mangdechhu river. But OH MY GOD I’ve never seen a place like this in Bhutan. In the old days the path down the mountain was so steep and dangerous that travelers would often get stuck due to sudden landslides. On our way down, we were warned about the stone pelting monkeys of the Dunmang Tsha Chhu trail. Yup. Langurs along the trail are known to throw stones at travellers descending towards the Tshachu. But one harrowing story I heard was how a falling boulder killed a Minister of Bhutan in the 90’s. Falling rock or a devious execution by a primate?
After walking for 3 hours and crossing a suspension bridge we finally caught sight of the hotspring. The first thing that’s visible is the long stone staircase and pathway that leads to a 3 storied guest house. Families from all over the country travel to the hotspring and are put up in the guest house for months (sometimes) We’re put in the government guest house overlooking the steep ridges around the hotspring and the emerald green river. The roaring rapids are a constant reminder of the hot spring’s precarious location and the moist stairs near the hot tubs are slippery enough to terrify anyone with a fear of heights. But all I’m going to say is that it’s all worth it.
Nature’s Healing Pools
Traditionally, hot springs are considered to be natural healing sources in Bhutan. Long before modern medicine, many traveled to distant hot springs to heal their ailments & many in rural Bhutan still come soak in these healing waters. No one knows the origin of Duenmang Tshachu but people tell us that the place was discovered by a hunter who came following the footprints of wild animals.
I’ve been to Gelephu and Gasa Tshachu but Duenmang Tshachu in Zhemgang has been a true revelation. As soon as I got to the hot spring I was mesmerized by the beautiful crystal clear hot water surrounded by tall trees and overlooking the emerald green river. It’s surprisingly not as crowded as other hot springs in Bhutan and all of the 4 hot springs are clean (with two of them built with roofs). I met families who traveled from cold districts like Bumthang who needed to heal physical conditions like pressure and arthritis, and many swear by the tsa chu’s healing powers. .
It was like being transported to another place. I did, however, notice a few issues with accommodation. There are no restaurants or changing rooms for now. There is a govt guest house and a 3 storied public where families stay for months with their own ration that they pay porters to carry down. But this is definitely something the district wants to rectify. For now you can contact the dzongkhag to help you book a room at the guest house.
Lots of Topless Bhutanese Women
Throughout the dip I felt uncomfortable getting photographed, meanwhile topless older women didn’t even flinch when we arrived with our cameras. One beautiful woman gave us 20 different poses while she enjoyed the stream of hot water splashing on her back. I think I need to learn a thing or two from these women.
This has definitely been one of my most intense travel schedules. From shooting demo wild animal traps with the Monpa tribes of Jangbi, rekindling childhood memories with folktales from Buli, to literally rubbing shoulders with half naked strangers in Duenmang hot spring, this getaway has made me realize why I feel blessed to be able to travel my country.
The more new paths and stories I discover, the more I realize how little I know of my own country. Remote sacred sites, shielded villages and hidden destinations open like a concealed veil as I write of their poignant effect and power over me. If you’re one of those who’ve chosen to read my arduous long captions, you’ll realize the need to not just see the beauty of these places but to understand its people, culture, history….its story. I hope you’ve been able to do just that & I promise to bring you more such wonderlands tucked away in Bhutan.