Do you ever want to just… play with mud?
The idea was planted in my head when I started seeing photos in travel agencies around town of people covered in gooey mud. They were customers of Thap Ba Hot Springs in Nha Trang, a brilliant incarnation of the cheap South East Asian spa treatment. I was determined to go: I too wanted a Facebook profile picture of myself covered in mud.
This wasn’t my first Hot Spring, as I visited one during my high school trip to Costa Rica and absolutely loved it. And I guess technically it wouldn’t be my first mud bath either, thanks to the time rain turned our outdoor frisbee session in Thailand into one.
The Thap Ba Hot Springs may be one of Nha Trang’s most popular attractions, but that doesn’t mean they are easy to find. When we finally arrived after a few rounds of getting lost on our rental motorbikes, we had no idea what we were getting ourselves into. What I did know was that the place had cut-out photo-ops, so basically I liked it already.
The options for what treatments to get and such were pretty confusing, but we ended up going for the most basic package, which was about $6 each. We were warned that we would be in a tub with “many people” but the alternate was paying a ridiculous price, so we agreed. Here’s what to expect at the Thap Ba Hot Springs:
Step One: Change into your swimwear. Get a free locker (you will have to leave a deposit) and put everything in it except for your towel.
Step Two: Shower in warm, high pressure mineral water. Feel super self conscious in your bikini while Asian tourists are in full clothing.
Step Three: Somehow luck out and get a private tub despite the fact that you are 90% sure you paid for a communal one.
Perhaps do not try dunking your entire face underwater unless you would like to feel the sting of mineral mud in your eyes and spend the next week trying to remove mineral mud from your ears.
Perhaps do try seeing how easy it is to float, even for the least buoyant person on Earth. (That would Mark by the way. Sad to say I can’t claim that title.)
After about 45 minutes, the mud will begin to get a bit chilly. At this point you are meant to sunbathe for 15 minutes and let the mud dry into your skin, but for us it was evening and we decided to give that a miss.
Step Four: Shower off again in the mineral showers, this time with the impossible task of removing mud from every nook and cranny of your body and bathing suit.
Step Five: Take a spin through what I call the “human car wash” and what they call “hydrotherapy” in attempt number two to wash away all the mud.
Step 5: Get into a blissfully warm mineral hot bath and soak away the stress. Stay for as long as you can manage before the mosquitoes drive you away.
Step 6: Head to the pool area, but stop first at the warm high pressure waterfall that will give you a free back massage.
Step Seven: Enjoy the pool area for as long as you please! We visited in the evening, so we didn’t stick around too long for fear of driving back in the pitch black. But for those visiting during the day you could really get your money’s worth and hang for hours. Note: As of November 2011 the large pool is currently under construction. The smaller pool has very warm water that might not be pleasant on a hot day.
When to Go: The baths are open until about 8pm, so we went during the evening, which allowed us to enjoy the “warm water” parts of the experience more, such as the waterfall and the mineral hot bath. But we missed out on spending the day at the pool and letting the sun dry the mud into our skin, plus the mosquitoes were pretty bad. So there are benefits and drawbacks to visiting at either time!
What to Do: I highly recommend the cheapest option for best value. While I can’t promise you’ll end up with a private tub like we did, chances are higher in the evening when the place is a little less crowded. For more money you can upgrade to private tubs, massages, and access to “VIP areas.”
My Thoughts: I’m not sure if I felt the supposed healing benefits of the minerals in the baths and mud, but I did have a great time and try something new for only $6 USD! And while Mark was pretty hesitant at first, he loved it too. This is something I look forward to doing in the future!
Have you ever been to a mud bath? Did you have as much fun as we did?