A perfect hot spot

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 "Well baked" visitors share a photo-op

Among the mountains of southeastern Vietnam, amidst the lush greenery of a primary forest, a perfect hot spot awaits your discovery.

Literally.

The Binh Chau - Ho Coc area teems with hot springs hidden in forests. They were "discovered" in 1928 by a French doctor named Salle.

The area consists of more than 70 visible hot springs with water temperatures ranging from 37 to 82 degree Celsius.

Tourists have been flocking to Binh Chau - Ho Coc hot springs since 1989 in search of relaxation and relief.

Experts say the water contains many substances like silica, nitrogen, sulfur, sodium, and chlorine that are useful for treating many types of illnesses.

The minerals in the water are said to be beneficial for the bones, muscles and skin, and to improve blood circulation, thus strengthening the immune system and facilitating the healing process.

Visitors soak their feet in hot water along a concrete channel winding through the area, and usually, do not forgo the opportunity to boil eggs in the 80°C wells.

GETTING THERE

"¢ Binh Chau Ho Coc tourism site is located in Bung Rieng Commune, Xuyen Moc District, Ba Ria - Vung Tau Province, around 150 kilometers from Ho Chi Minh City.

"¢ From HCMC, travel along the National Highway 51 for 100 kilometers until Ba Ria Town. Then turn left to drive long the National Highway 55 for another 55 kilometers to reach Binh Chau Ho Coc.

"¢ Tourists wanting to come to the site by bus can buy tickets from the Mien Dong Bus Station at 292 Dinh Bo Linh Street in HCMC's Binh Thanh District. Buses on the Saigon Binh Chau route depart from 7 to 14:30 every day.

"¢ To book tours, contact Saigon Binh Chau - Ho Coc Eco-tourist Resort at (064) 3 871 131 /3 871 623 or (08) 3 997 0677. The website www.saigonbinhchauecoresort.com provides more information.


A visitor enjoys a pedicure at Binh Chau hot spring

We reached Binh Chau - Ho Coc after spending three hours on the bus from Ho Chi Minh City. The stiffness and muscle tensions of a somewhat long journey disappeared as we immersed ourselves in a pool where the water stayed at 37 degrees Celsius.

Beside the hot-water baths, the site now offers mud-baths, sauna, massage, jacuzzi and steam baths.

A sports-leisure complex to play golf, volleyball and tennis as well as a garden named Vuon Trang with a 1,000-seat open air stage have been added to the area to lure more visitors. The last-mentioned facility is often hired by companies for team-building activities and by others for concerts, dance performances and so on.

Other "attractions" include river fishing and rides on horse-carriages.

For the more scientifically inclined, or those looking for added adventure, the Binh Chau forest is an ideal place to explore.

Accommodation in Binh Chau is offered by eight hotels with the usual range of rooms, not to mention a few villas.

In 2003, the Binh Chau Hot Spring area was recognized by the World Tourism Organization as one of 65 sustainable ecotourism areas located in 47 countries worldwide.

Those visiting Binh Chau can also head to the Ho Coc Beach, around 15 kilometers from the hot springs.

The three-kilometer long, white sandy beach is more or less unspoilt an idyllic get-away spot.

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