Looking for something different to do during the coming long weekend? You could try dipping your toes, or even your whole body, into the bubbling hot water at Sungai Serai Hot Springs, just a short drive outside of Kuala Lumpur.
More than sixty hot springs have so far been discovered in Peninsula Malaysia which seems quite a high number considering that Malaysia falls outside the Ring of Fire and is not prone to volcanic activity or serious earthquakes (touch wood).
These naturally hot groundwaters seep from the earth’s crust via small fractures or faults from deep underground where they are geothermally heated by magma. During their long journey through the underworld, these spring waters come into contact with various beneficial minerals which, in some cases, are said to imbue therapeutic qualities to the water to soothe sufferers of rheumatism, arthritis, stiff joints and so on.
Some of Malaysia’s hot springs have been turned into health spas such as the luxurious Banjaran Hot Springs Retreat in Ipoh. Sungai Serai on the other hand has been left more or less in its natural state and looks like a large puddle with a few plastic chairs in it.
The water is hot but bearable, a bit like a bath when you have left the hot tap running for too long. The sources of the water can be identified by bubbles floating up from the bottom and these areas should be avoided as they are scalding.
The colour of the water is a rather unappealing green and I have to wonder whether any harmful bacteria are mixed up with the beneficial minerals. While some people immerse themselves fully in the pond, I was not taking any risks with my delicate constitution and only submerged myself up to the knees. Five minutes later my feet were parboiled and had a healthy pink/red glow.
The owners of the land on which the spring is located have started charging admission of RM1 per person and another RM1 for parking. They are using the proceeds to make various ‘improvements’ such as the breeze-block toilet cubicle which has been built rather too close to the pond. Hopefully they won’t encase the whole hot spring in concrete which has happened in so many other springs in Malaysia.