First Time Bathing In Natural Springs – Ranau – Poring Hot Springs
The Rafflesia is a large flowered plant found in Borneo, Java, and a few other choice locations. Its flowers can grow up to almost a metre in diameter – making it the largest single flowering plant in the world. The flowers take months to form, and die off after only a couple of weeks. Rather than a sweet smell, the plant emits an odour that is commonly described as rotting meat. Charming.
As a child, I had an interest in flora and fauna that could probably be described as obsessive, and the rafflesia, with its record-breaking size, curious shape and by all accounts terrible odour, was a particular target of my fascination.
We woke up on our first morning in Ranau, aiming to be up early enough to see Mount Kinabalu before it was again enshrouded in cloud. We also had to find somewhere new to sleep, as the hostel we were in was fully booked. We ended up in the Huda Inn, who allowed us to drop our bags early, freeing us up to make our way to Poring Hot Springs.
We turned up at Ranau bus station to find that here were no taxis leaving to the springs. After some discussion, an older gentleman – who we later learned was named Mohammed – offered to drive us to Poring in what appeared to be an ad hoc bus/taxi service being run from the station itself. He quoted a cost of 40 ringgit to take us there – about £7, and we were more than happy to pay.
The road to Poring Hot Springs continued in much the same way as the road to Ranau. Flanked by luscious greens at the roadside giving way to darker greens of the deep forest in the distance, it was a beautiful road. We spoke with Mohammed in the car and discovered that he was only a driver part time, and his regular job was as a Policeman, he’d climbed Kota Kinabalu and had found that it was a difficult climb. As we’d also read that the rafflesia centre was nearby, we asked if he’d seen a rafflesia, he said that he had, saying how short a period they remain flowering for, and I told him about my fascination with them as a child.
A minute or two later we passed a sign saying Rafflesia Garden, and Mohammed brought the car to a screeching halt, giving us the opportunity to go and have a look at them. We paid the owner at the roadside and ventured in. As we walked in we saw a number of different plants which were labelled – we saw a couple of hibiscus plants, with bright red flowers, we also saw a number of rubber trees, which had had notches cut into them to allow their sap to be collected. We then rounded a corner to see a darker area cordoned off beneath some bent over giant bamboo, as we got nearer we could see the Rafflesia come into view! According to the guide the flower that we saw was 76cm in diameter, with the petals bearing a resemblance to the Demogorgon from Stranger Things. The smell that I’d always wondered about as a child, whilst quite pungent, sadly wasn’t quite as dramatic as I’d hoped. Ah well, they say you should never meet your heroes.
We returned to the the roadside to meet Mohammed making conversation in Malay with the owner, and we were soon back en route to the hot springs. Once back in the car, Mohammed was very keen to show us his cd, containing a number of better known country classics. Soundtracked by the likes of Lobo, we whisked along the Malaysian countryside and Poring Hot Springs was soon upon us. We paid Mohammed, and agreed to meet him back at the front gate at 4pm, as everything was closing. We then paid admission and made our way over a bridge spanning a beautiful river towards the springs.
The springs themselves were a curious sight. The tourist part of it was constructed during the Japanese occupation of Borneo, and the architecture of the place appeared to reflect that fact. Rather than bathing directly in the springs, which were far too hot to set foot in, there was a system of baths, which could be individually filled with water piped directly from the spring, along with cold water. After getting changed, Laura and I climbed into the nearest tub, a large tub which was reasonably full.
After two weeks using showers varying in both efficacy and cleanliness, we were quite glad to lay in a warm bath and relax for a while, although we soon decided that we would like something warmer and smaller, which probably hadn’t been shared with multiple occupants recently. We found a new, smaller bath, and started running a mixture of hot and cold into it, and after half an hour, it reached a reasonable depth. Fortunately, with the temperature outside of the water closely matching the inside temperature, it was still a fairly nice experience as it ran.
We soon had our fill – pun intended – of the bath, and then the freezing cold swimming pool, and elected to have some lunch. We were fairly shocked by the prices of the food (and more importantly, the drink!) at the restaurant in Poring Hot Springs, with our combined meal costing a little under £15. It was definitely welcome though.
We met up with Mohammed outside the front of Poring Hot Springs and were soon on our way back to Ranau.