“ Hot springs located near Nha Trang in Vietnam „
I visited Thap Ba Hot Springs as part of a trip to Vietnam with a mate in March 2009. We had two days in Nha Trang, and used the first for snorkeling. Having templed ourselves out (pretty easy to do in Asia) over the previous week of the trip, we had a flick through our Lonely Planet Guidebook for something slightly more offbeat to do.
We discovered this place, famous for its mud baths. We enquired at our hotel for how to get there, and ended up catching a bus from the pretty small tourist centre of town. The Thap Ba Hot Springs are about two miles north of the city centre, past some pretty rundown areas of town (in Vietnam that's about half of everywhere) and we were dropped off at the entrance. We bought a ticket and went in.
The mud baths are on a kind of terraced area at the south end of the complex. You head to those first, and are shown where to shower and where to go. I was expecting a thick treacle-like substance, but the mud was more like brown, grainy, luke-warm water about six inches deep in our little pool. You wear a bathing suit, which is just as well as about five minutes we were abruptly joined by a guy and his girlfriend, and we sat there, the four of us, making polite conversation and feeling a little odd to be sharing such a small space with some total strangers. Apparently you can get private baths, for three times the regular price.
While we were there, a photographer appeared out of nowhere and took a photo of my friend and I in the mud bath. We had to pay for the photograph later, and my only disappointment was that the photographer seemed to be some random private enterprise not connected to the actual place itself, perhaps sub-contracted. We got a nice photo for a small cost (I forget now but it was no more than a pound) but you could have an official photograph put on to the side of a mug which looked like an awesome souvenir. However, I didn't know where I had to sign up for this so obviously our inability to speak Vietnamese (or be clued up to the situation) meant we missed out.
After fifteen minutes or so in the mud bath, we went and showered off, and headed to the relaxation area which makes up the rest of the complex. There were a couple of regular swimming pools, a thermally heated swimming pool (quite a shock when I bomb-dived into 40C water!) and a mineral waterfall. In addition, there were a couple of bars, a restaurant and several lounger areas. We spent the rest of the afternoon loafing around, drinking cocktails. It was a pretty nice way to spend the day. If I ever end up in Nha Trang again, this place will be pretty high up on my list of places to visit.
Entry to the centre cost 60,000 Dong (currently 1.74), but as per the economies of most developing countries I imagine it costs more than that now. A private tub bath was 180,000 Dong.
I visited Thap Ba Hot Springs in November 2010 as part of my Intrepid trip. It was a little far out from Nha Trang and the last leg of the bus journey is up a windy street past the poorer part of town. On arrival you buy your ticket, but ours were prebooked by our leader and you can rent a towel or bring your own. Everyone gets changed in the lockers near by (grab a cubicle or there may be a short wait). We were led up some steps in a bank to where there must be 20 or more baths or various sizes. I imagine this would be packed in summer but we were unlucky enough to have a dull day (we escaped rain for once!).
On arrival a member of staff showed my group to two baths full of a browny liquid, more watery than typical mud. I half expected a thick mud but this was very runny and not that warm at first. You step inside and sit down and cover yourself from top to toe. You can even use the jugs on the side to cover yourself even further. For the full effect I covered everywhere but my face, including my hair. We atayed in for around 30 minutes. It was fun being with a group as there was the expected messing around and covering each other in mud. Very fun and enjoyable.
Usually when the sun is out you go to sit down and let it bake, but as we had miserable weather we were led to a single sex outdoor area to shower off. This was a weird experience as the mus goes everywhere and you must try your best to remove it whilst in front of your companions. Next we were led back down the other side of the bank and went through a wall which blasted hot water at you. It was really refreshing. Next we went to two tubs filled with hot spring water. it was so warming and relaxing. Air jets pumped the water round. It was bliss.
To finish off there are 2 pools to relax in which are very spacious and clean. I opted for the heated pool given the poor weather. It was nice to float around in and relax. After that I sat under the waterfall.
Overall it was a lovely day, more fun than relaxing and definitely worth visiting. I must say even after showering (we didnt use products as advised) my skin felt a little sticky and I didn't see or feel much difference! I would go again, more because it was fun and querky rather than for its spa effect!
One attraction that appealed to us whilst staying in the Vietnamese beach resort of Nha Trang is a visit to the Thap Ba Hot Springs for a mud bath. It is actually a little way out of town and will probably cost you VND80,000 (US$4/UK£2.65) in a metered taxi each way. The journey takes about 15-20 mins depending on traffic from central Nha Trang and it is very popular, even though it is quite out of the way. When you arrive it can be quite confusing as there are so many packages on offer and you don't really know what to go for and signage is not always good in English. Fortunately there are ladies around to help you and explain, they will try and tell you about the more expensive packages first, but tell them you want something cheaper and they will offer you the next one down. Our Couple package cost approx VND 450,000, which we paid in US$. I don't think we got the best rate, but it was about $25 for both of us (£15). If you are so inclined you can upscale to a package with massages, or have a private villa. Downscaling would be sitting in a communal mud bath.
Our first stop was to the changing rooms. There are separate male and female ones, but the female ones only have a curtain to inadequately cover your modesty in the cubicle, and like most baths of any description are quite wet on the floor. They have lockers for your valuables for a VND10,000 refundable deposit each (your key goes round your wrist like at swimming baths), and you get a towel provided free. I believe they also provide swimming costumes if you need it, but I would rather wear my own! We lost one of our towels by the end, and they were happy to give us another one. After changing we were directed to the mud bath area, which is just as well as with so many people milling about it was quite confusing. The man in charge of that area got us to shower first (open air) and then ran us a mud bath in a double tub. The mud is smooth and not thick or clumpy and is warm like a bath, so it looked like you were sitting in a vat of milky hot chocolate. The mud has mineral properties in it, and is supposed to be good for a variety of skin and joint complaints such as arthritis. You are outside the whole time, and there are parasols above you and the attendant will adjust the movable hanging screens so the sun isn't in your eyes. It was very pleasant and it is recommended that you stay in the bath for 20 minutes, by which time it has cooled down to air temperature, the minerals cause you to float, so I needed to anchor my foot under my partner's leg to keep myself down. As it was quiet the attendant didn't rush us and got about cleaning the baths and the area with clean water. Beside you is a bucket of water with a half coconut shell scoop should you wish to rinse the mud off any part of you. Some people submerged themselves completely but I just smoothed some over my face. A photographer came round and would take your photo for the equivalent of a few pounds which you could purchase at the end, but we declined. My face slathered in mud isn't my best look.
After you have absorbed the mud you are encouraged to sit on some wooden loungers for about 10 minutes to allow the mud to dry on your skin. The attendant regularly washes these down. After that you need to shower the mud off, initially it comes off quite easily but it takes longer to get the little bits out. My partner got mud between the lining and the outer part of his swim shorts which was difficult to get out, and shorts pockets seem to hold mud in them too. Once you have got as much mud off as you can, the next stage is what I called the two-part Jacuzzi. In a different, but nearby, section of the baths you stand between two stone walls and jets of water violently pummel you, and then your new attendant will fill up your private hot spring bath, which is at Jacuzzi temperature without the jets (which you already had). These baths, like the mud baths are different sizes depending on your group, so we had a heart shaped two-person bath. I liked that we didn't have to sit in baths that others had already sat in too; the water was changed each time. If you were on your own you could have a private bath or go into a larger communal one. There were also baths that suited groups of six or eight.
After your two-part Jacuzzi (again we weren't rushed, you could stay here an unlimited amount of time), you could go and swim in an outdoor mineral pool with waterfall. We elected to skip this as we were tight for time, having plans for the evening, so dried off (after getting a new towel) and got changed and handed our locker keys back. Don't forget to check your lockers, they have a shelf in, so things could be out of sight (such as my boyfriend's sunglasses which he had bought at the airport four days before). As you leave there are usually metered taxis from Mai Linh, one of the main taxi firms in Vietnam, and a rep from the firm co-ordinating. The baths are several kilometres from anywhere, so taxis or an organised excursion are the only ways to get here. Overall we had a very relaxing two hours here, my skin felt smooth, and I didn't feel like I needed to put moisturiser on it. If you are staying in Nha Trang, then I do think it is worth a trip out here. The basic package is about VND100,000 (US$5 or £3.35), so really there is something to suit most budgets. If I was to go again and had the time I would try a massage. I heard from someone else that they are very vigorous, so you have been warned.