In Ta Phin commune of SaPa district, medicinal bathing is a local feature of the indigenous Red Dao in the northern mountainous province of Lao Cai. It is widely known, not only for its natural beauty, attractive caves, colourful brocades and traditional culture, but also for its specialty medicinal baths by the Red Dao ethnic minority, based on ancient remedies handed down over the generations.Tourists can spot many families drying herbs in their front yards, this practice proves both effective and salubrious, a majority of Kinh people have considered it a unique feature of Red Dao culture.
There are two types of herbal bath: a single for one wishing to bath alone and a double for couples to share. Bathing with medicinal herbs is a traditional practice of the Red Dao since forever, the SaPa Spa is famous for curing bone, joint, and muscle pains, common cold and flu symptoms. The Red Dao treatment secrets have been passed down from generation to generation. Today, some medicinal remedies are given in SaPa as a special tourist service. Each herbal remedy for bathing is created from different medicinal herbs collected in the forests by the Red Dao people. They are very careful in setting the time to start off on a trip to pick medicinal herbs. If met by somebody on the way, they will never let him know the purpose of their trip, it’s a taboo. Picked herbs are washed clean and put into pots to be boiled, a little alcohol is added, then family members take baths in turn, of course, the bath water is changed after each turn, firstly parents, then children. Guests are prioritized.
Bath water is made up of ten herbal plants; there are even roots which are used, dry or fresh. The herbs are boiled for 3-4 hours and then the water is kept at 30 – 37C, giving the bath a strong scent. The scent is naturally kept for a few days. Bath-tubs are made of precious wood. Essential red oil is added, and then the water is poured into the wooden bathtubs. Once you enter the steamy, fragrant room, the calming properties of the herbs soon take effect.
Strong people can bathe from 25 – 30 minutes, weaker ones just 15 – 20 minutes, to avoid an overdose. After a bath, tourists will feel relaxed and comfortable; all weariness seems to be gone.
According to the wisdom of the Red Dao people, an herbal spa is especially helpful for physical and mental fatigue, as it relaxes your body and renews your energy by enhancing overall circulation, soothing your daily tensions. For women, the herbal bath promotes skin beauty by opening pores, removing dead skin and impurities, and leaving the skin soft, clean, and silky smooth. The bath also relieves some chronic illnesses including rheumatism and joint pain.
If you have a chance to visit Ta Phin, consider giving these amazing baths a try. It’s relaxing indeed!