Neten Dorji

Trashigang—Visitors to Trashigang’s Kabtey Menchu, a cherished mineral spring in the heart of Samkhar gewog, need not make makeshift sheds, heat stones in the open or use broken wooden tubs. 

The site is undergoing a transformative facelift, ensuring a more comfortable and accessible experience for visitors. A small kitchen, retrofitted wooden bathtubs, a toilet, a restroom and other facilities will be constructed. 

Trashigang Assistant Economic Development Officer, Kinley Dorji said due to the lack of proper guest rooms, unsafe bathtubs, and poor-conditioned restrooms, it discourage visitors from availing the facilities. 

“The dzongkhag proposed a Global Environment Facility (GEF) Ecotourism Project to provide a safe, convenient and conducive environment for people coming for stone baths,” Kinley Dorji said. 

He said that after the completion of the project, the dzongkhag will hand over the facilities to either the youths of Samkhar or other individuals to manage them.

“It will help keep youths engaged, promote traditional healing for the ageing population, and create access to agricultural produce from local communities,” the AEDO said. 

With funding of Nu 3.2 million from the GEF, the Trashigang dzongkhag administration is implementing the renovation and extension work of Menchu.

Menchu is located approximately 8km from Trashigang town on the way to Rangjung town.

The present Menchu experienced flash floods that washed away many stones and left the area shallow. 

The dzongkhag constructed two wooden bathtubs with roofing for the stone bath. However, amenities built in 2018 are not user-friendly with an increasing number of visitors.

Locals believe that Menchu cures many illnesses such as joint pains, backaches, fever, and arthritis, among others. 

“In the past, people across the country used to visit the Menchu as it was well known for the treatment of tuberculosis,” said a resident, Norgay. 

He said visitors may find visiting the Menchu convenient for the next few months as construction work is ongoing.

Another resident, Tashi said in the absence of accommodation facilities people resort to pitch tents around the Menchu.  

“The lack of proper amenities such as power supply, and bathtubs in the place discourages people from visiting Menchu,” he said. “The people visit this place during autumn and spring season for the stone bath.”

Dorji, 61, from Radhi who visited the Menchu said it was quite difficult for her to pitch a tent.

“It is also risky to live in tents in the area during monsoon since the place is at risk for floods.”

She said Menchu is a renowned Menchu with “great healing power”.

Traditionally, hot stone baths were set in rustic environments, such as a farm shed or by a riverbed, under the open sky with readily available river water. Nowadays, different versions of these baths can be found all over Bhutan, ranging from rustic farmhouses to luxurious five-star resorts.