A popular and lucrative hot stone business in Punakha 

Chencho Dema| Punakha 

More than a decade ago, Meyche, 42, a resident of Remeythang tried her hands at a small business that didn’t require much investment, but a lot of back-breaking work. Recognising the benefits of tsangchhu (river water), Meyche started a hot stone bath on the banks of river Mochhu.

Despite the ups and downs, she stuck to the business. It is paying dividends as hot stone baths, an age-old practice of soaking old or weak bones in water heated from stones, are becoming a trend. From a single wooden tub, Meyche now has four all separated for privacy and doing a brisk business. 

With winter still not over, Meyche is seeing a lot of customers swarming her Dotso (hot stone bath) business. She is reaping the benefits. “The business is good and it helps me pay the loan I availed for my vehicle,” she says. Her husband and children are helping with the arduous task.

Known to heal a lot of ailments, people begin to arrive as early as 3pm. It is a long night for Mayche and her family members. Sometimes customers soak until 4 am in the morning. Most of her customers are monks from Punakha. Hot stone baths and tshachhu (hot springs) are very popular among monks.

On a good day, Meyche makes about Nu 12,000 a day and a minimum of Nu 7,000.  “This business is the only source of income for my family. I have been able to support my family throughout the years and pay for my four children’s education,” says Meyche. The money is enough to pay the monthly instalment for the loan she took to buy a vehicle.

Locals believe that tsangchhu water has curative properties. Meyche claims that it is good at treating aches, helps in healing fractures and haemorrhoids (piles).

Water from the river is directly pumped for the bath. In a year, the business consumes around 30 truckloads of wood costing Nu 7,000 a truckload. The stones are also gathered from the banks of Mochhu and Phochhu. A bolero (pickup truck) full of stone is enough for a day.

Meanwhile, those visiting the facility claimed that the hot stone bath is good at healing a lot of health problems. Tshering, a resident of Thimphu, stated, “Whenever I visit Punakha over the weekend, I usually make it a point to take a hot stone bath. It helped in healing my back pain.”

There are four commercial hot stone bath facilities in Punakha today. Mechey was the first to start. It is becoming warmer in Punakha and Meyche has limited time to make the most of the winter.