I WASN’T raised in the city. I grew up in a small town up north, where life is simple and people are warm and kind. But growing up away from the bustling city with expanding modernisation was also an opportunity to learn how traditionally superstitious people can be.
A girl shouldn’t sit on the front stairs of her house for too long because she’ll end up a spinster, and if it’s sunset, you shouldn’t run around outside because you might accidentally step on “anak hantu” (ghost of a child? Baby ghost? I’m not entirely sure).
Anyway, you get the idea.
As a result, I grew into a cynic but at the same time I’ve always been fascinated by unconventional ways our colourful community sometimes sees the world.
Enter a mundane Friday night, and a friend decided to take me on a little adventure to the hot water springs.
Truth be told, I had never been to one. It’s a common enough occurrence, and I’m sure you know of one near your home.
As a geoscientist, I knew what it was — hot water produced at the surface of the earth as a result of underground thermal activity, possibly with some traces of sulphur in the fluid content.
But as a Malaysian, I knew what it is to some — a miracle water that has the ability to cure sicknesses.
STRANGE AND WARM
What I first noticed upon our arrival was the number of people there. It was a party! It was also a rather odd party, with everyone in their bathing wear, and by everyone I also meant a very old man in tight Speedos walking about holding a pail of fresh, hot spring water.
I couldn’t remember the last time I had seen such nonchalance.
My friend was quick to rent us chairs to sit on and buckets to fill with water. She told me that a guy had once taken her there on a date.
I thought it was rather creative of him, as everyone knows that the way to a girl’s heart is to get her to soak her feet in water that smells faintly of bad eggs while surrounded by uncles minimally dressed in latex. In case you are wondering, it didn’t work out between them.
The hot water was accumulated into three different man-made pools, separated according to their temperatures.
We took a spot at the hottest pool to avoid the crowd. I saw a woman, probably in her 40s, collecting the spring water in many plastic bottles. I presumed that she was taking them home.
It was peculiar to see this, and I began to observe that a lot of people were doing something similar. Is the water here different than the water at home? I did some research later and confirmed my suspicion.
As much as the hot spring water serves as good-old innocent recreational fun, there is a mass community who also feels that it does more. Some claim it can cure skin diseases like eczema and there are online testimonies that it can heal chronic illnesses like heart problems.
I was astounded by this. I’ve heard of alternative, unconventional medical approaches but I suppose being a millennial had made me less aware of the medical popularity of these places.
Once, on a different occasion, I even heard the woman who rented us the chairs and buckets tell another man: “Whenever you feel any type of sickness, any type of discomfort, just soak your feet or bathe in that hot spring water. It clears them all up.” All said with the confidence of a wise-old wellness expert.
I wanted to joke and ask if it also heals broken hearts but decided not to push it.
WASH IT AWAY
First and foremost, let me profess that I am not medically trained (except for the occasional reference to WebMD), nor extensively well-read on the myth or magic of the hot spring water. Therefore, I cannot conclude here the veracity of the situation.
But it does make one wonder about the delicate situation of mind over body. Perhaps there is a medical truth to the miraculous-ness of the warm groundwater seeping through the rocks and onto the surface. That might very well be the case.
Or perhaps there really isn’t anything there at all, and the only healing power of the whole process is the mind thinking that the body can heal.
In aspects of physical health, it becomes evident that the mind has a lot of control over it. Sometimes we are capable of going beyond expectations because of our own mental belief and strength in faith, and not at all anything to do with the hot water accumulated in three different pools.
That’s something to think about.
A GEOSCIENTIST BY DAY AND ASPIRING WRITER BY NIGHT, AMAL GHAZALI
PONDERS ON EVERYTHING, FROM PERPLEXING, MODERN-DAY RELATIONSHIP DILEMMAS TO THE FASCINATING WORLD OF WOMEN’S HEALTH AND WELLBEING. ALL DONE OF COURSE , WHILE HAVING A GOOD LAUGH. READ MORE OF HER STORIES AT BOOTSOVERBOOKS.COM