Bentong’s public hot springs may not resemble the finest spas of Europe or the exquisite baths of England and Rome, nevertheless its warm bubbling waters are a community treasure.
Located along the old Gombak road (Highway 68) between Bukit Tinggi and Bentong, I first discovered the hot springs on a recce for a photo spread for Malaysian EVO, a car magazine licensed from the UK. It must have been 2005 or 2006 but the hot springs were pretty dismal – the surface of the tiled pool was covered in a film of slimy green algae and its two sad bathrooms were in disrepair – clearly used but never cleaned. It was not good. But things have changed. I revisited it again this year with Richard in April after a visit to Bentong town, and Khairul in May following a hike to Lata Hammers.
The public area consists of two pools that are surprisingly larger than I remember, despite Suria Hot Springs Resort having carved out a portion for commercial use. Sadly, much of the greenery that used to surround the area has been sacrificed for the resort, and the toilets are no more. Instead there are 3 makeshift changing rooms, little more than a concrete hut with hangers on the walls, but they do the job. Most importantly, the rubbish is gone and the pools though naturally murky are clean.
I tested both pools. The tiled one on the right is warm and a great introduction to the experience; the left pool is much hotter and the the source of the twin pool’s heat, as evidenced by the tiny bubbles I watched burbling up from its centre.
Beyond the concrete stairs, the bottom of the pools have been left bare and locals often gather mud from here and slather it on their skin for the purported health benefits. Being a bit of a coward I stuck to the safety of the steps but hey, at least with water this hot I was safe in the knowledge that there won’t be any frogs, fishes or snakes wanting to be my friend.
The thermal baths are frequented by locals from Bentong and neighbouring Janda Baik, and passing cyclists and hikers (like me), and despite the simplicity of its setting and basic facilities the hot springs are clearly much loved by the community, who use it for bathing and swimming.
On the occasion that Richard and I visited, an elderly man with a net was busy fishing out stray detritus from the water and picking up rubbish – a job for which he volunteered and is paid nothing.
In a report carried by The Star newspaper, Bentong MP Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai has promised that Bentong hot springs will remain open to the public and free, which is terrific – after all natural wonders should not belong to private entities. However more could be done, such as providing:
– proper changing rooms,
– a shower for rinsing off before and after entering the pools,
– a storage area or rack for bags and clothing – locals don’t carry a lot of gear with them, nevertheless somewhere to place your items away from on the ground would be welcomed, and
– minor landscaping to buffer the public area from the road and resort, and create some privacy.
That Suria Hot Springs Resort exists points to the potential of Bentong’s geothermal attraction, and perhaps the resort having carved out some of it for themselves, and/or the municipality which may have gained from the rent or sale of the land to Suria Resorts, could pour money back into the public portion of the thermal springs for public good.
For visitors who want a less em, “rustic” experience, the resort is geared for families. There are Villa units for couples, but the Triple and Quad rooms are set up for parties 3 and 4 respectively.
I thought the rack rates were on the high side, however Agoda does offer rooms for under RM200/night, or if you’re quick, you could bag this Groupon deal which is offering a 2D/1N stay for 3 for RM180 upwards.