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Gasa Tshachhu - Only a four-hour trek
Laya Gasa
The healing waters of the famous Gasa Tshachhu (hot springs) is only a four-hour walk with the motor road having reached Goen Damje.

"The number of people visiting the Tshachhu is increasing," said Tsechu, a shopkeeper in the vicinity of the hot springs

The coming of electricity on May 8 this month has made soaking in the waters all the more convenient. "People used candles and kerosene lamps before, but now, more people have started using the Tshachhu at night," said Dago, the caretaker of the Tshachhu.

Soaking in the Tshachhu is believed to help people suffering from sinusitis, rheumatism, arthritis, ulcers, indigestion, skin diseases, sexually transmitted infections, tuberculosis and even paralysis.

Gasa Hotspring
While there is no scientific evidence of its curative powers most visitors say that it yields positive results. It is believed that the results are better if one visited the Tshachhu for three consecutive years.

Sangay, 36, from Thimphu first visited the Tshachhu in 2003 hoping to cure his sinusitis which western medicine had failed to provide any relief. On his fourth year to the Tshachhu, Sangay does not take any medicines today. He believes his illness was cured by the hot spring.

Besides visitors from Paro, Chapcha and Haa, people from as far as Singye Dzong also visit the Tshachhu," said caretaker Dago. Most visitors stay for about 11 days.In the past, the motor road from Punakha ended at Tashuthang and the walk to the Tshachhu took two whole days.

The road is expected to reach Zameyzam at the foot of the Gasa ridge on which the Gasa Dzong stands in the next two years, which would reduce the walk to the Tshachhu to half an hour.

In anticipation of an increase in visitors in the future the dzongkhag administration has started building a suspension bridge across the Mochu so that visitors to the Tshachhu can pitch tents on the other side of the river. As of now, visitors pitch tents near the Tshachhu and during peak season, in winter and spring, the area near the Tshachhu is crammed.

Anim Ugyen Choden, 64, said that when she visited the Tshachhu for the first time 50 years ago she walked for four days from Wangduephodrang.

"There was a large single natural pool which was divided into four smaller pools by wooden fences," said Aum Ugyen Choden. "People used to take bath and wash clothes inside the pool but now, it is far cleaner."

Today, the four pools have concrete walls, roofs and a well-maintained drainage system. Each pool is believed to have specific curative powers.

According to residents, apart from the Gasa Tshachhu, there are about 108 menchus (medicinal waters) in Gasa dzongkhag. The Jage Menchu helps cure dry cough and asthma and the Zamae Menchu relieves joint pains.

Contributed by Kesang Dema, KUENSEL, Bhutan's National Newspaper

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