Some people travel for entertainment, others go to show they were there or for the journey and to explore the heritage, and then there are people visiting other places to obtain wellness treatments – and these journeys of self-renewal do not have a poetic name, but are simply called “wellness tourism”.
JOURNEY TO REGENERATE ENERGY
“Tourism, in its numerous different forms, has become a way of life for many people. People should not go on meaningless trips, or use it as a way to boast about themselves, instead travel to discover the world and find yourself in its infinite flow and people lives.” These words by journalist Truong Anh Ngoc remind me of an article written by a British tourist named Anna Taylor, writing about her experience of going to India. The article did not mention busy cities, world heritage or feature photos showing she had checked-in, but it focused on her journey of finding and pampering her own self on a trip she called wellness tourism.
She wrote: “I came to India with the intention to visit great works like the Palace of Winds, the Taj Mahal, but in the end, the most memorable experience I had was practicing yoga with 35,000 people at Rajpath – King’s Avenue in Delhi on the occasion of International Yoga Day in the morning of 21st June 2015. People meditated, someone practiced difficult yoga movement, everyone smiled gently and stayed calm. Despite being in a sea of people, I felt more serene and happy, the flow of life soaked into all the cells.“
As evident in history books, this type of tourism emerged thousands of years ago when Greek pilgrims travelled from the vast Mediterranean region to the tiny territory of the Saronic Gulf called Epidauria where Asklepios, the god of medicine, was worshiped.Thus, Epidauria became the first wellness tourism destination. Mineral springs used for patients to rest, bath and recover were considered the first form of this type of tourism.
Until this day, wellness tourism is travel for the purpose of promoting health and well-being through physical, psychological, or spiritual activities. It differs from medical tourism, which is travel for medical, surgical or non-surgical purposes.
Travel is not just a movement, on the internet a myriad of articles like “VND40 million trips to Europe” and “Discovering New York with VND20 million” started a craze for cheap travel and wellness travel emerged as a distinct trend within it, attracting people like Anna, who are tired of their busy, suffocating modern life. They opt for less fashionable journeys, such as travelling to Israel for a soak in the Dead Sea or have a white mud wrap, going to India for meditation and yoga, taking a trip to Japan to visit the Onsen Bath or going to China to take a hot spring mineral bath.
“During my wellness trip, I re-energise myself to get ready for the next journey.” said Nguyen Hai, a young women with a passion for travel who just returned from her trip to Nha Trang for surfing and mud mineral baths. Though not yet prominent, wellness tourism is developing increasingly fast. According to the Global Health Research Institute, in 2013, 586.5 million visitors chose to go on wellness trips, which marks a 12% growth since 2012. Global wellness tourism revenues grew to USD563 billion in 2015. The global market for wellness tourism achieved USD489 billion and is predicted to grow to USD679 billion by the end of 2017.
A JOURNEY WITH MANY BENEFITS
Though I have found wellness tourism to be a new trend many people are interested in, there are people who think otherwise. This type of tourism, they would argue, is… dull, especially to those who travel to broaden their horizon, go for the purpose of exploring the world instead of just immersing themselves in the tight and closed life at home.
Arguing about this matter is a waste of time, because I think that every time you start a new journey, you are the one who chooses how it should be. For example, if during a 3-day trip, you just spend time in mud and hot spring mineral baths, it would sound a little bit monotonous to those eager to travel to experience as much as possible and to broaden their mind, however, wellness tourism is not just about enjoying, it also helps you explore the culture and identity of a country. If you go to Thailand and experience the traditional massage method of the Land of the Golden Pagoda, it not only allows you to release your physical and mental stress, but also helps you understand the principle of harmonising the energy of the human body and the energy of the universe and the meridian system. In some places if you are interested, you can even learn some Thai massage methods to apply when returning home. If you go to Israel for a Dead Sea bath and white mud wrap, which are believed to have a lot of health benefits, then you will probably discover that a long time ago, Queen Cleopatra considered the Dead Sea in Israel the world’s first spa. It was where she went for wellness and rejuvenation with natural methods.
In his comment about a trip to Japan on TripAdvisor, Michael Aiden, an English traveller wrote: “Onsen bathing is one of my favourite activities in Japan. It not only retreats the body and spirit, but also supports the treatment of some brain and nerve diseases, bone and joint diseases and especially helps the skin become more beautiful. In addition, I also learned some interesting cultural features such as mixed bathing for both men and women, or that before entering Onsen you must take a bath, and fortunately I do not have any large tattoos on the body, if I did have one I may be mistaken as a yakuza (mafia gang member) and potentially be invited to leave.”
Besides exploring the unique local culture, a trip to both visit famous sites and experience health care is a great combination. For example, in the city of Bad Münstereifel in Germany, in the 16th-17th centuries, a green wall was built several metres high so that the salt water would flow downward to obtain minerals from it. The salt water flowing through the green wall actually cleaned the air. The air around the wall has a lot of negative ions, and it is also moist and clean, therefore recently it has become a place for retreats and purifying the lungs, suitable for people with respiratory diseases. In addition, Bad Münstereifel is a picturesque city. Because it is located in a valley, this place not only nestles in the green of nature, but also has Renaissance architecture restored after wars including the ancient market and the old castle. Therefore, the city is a wonderful get-a-way destination, helping to purify the lungs and satisfying the love for beautiful sights.
“In addition to swimming in the sea, whenever I come to Vung Tau I also go for mud baths. In other places, the wet mud bathing is popular, but in Binh Chau – Vung Tau, they offer dry mud bathing with Melaleuca oil. Compared to the price in Nha Trang, mud bathing in Binh Chau is a bit more expensive, but in return I can experience a mud bath in prime natural forest space,” said Lan Anh, a visitor from Ho Chi Minh City.
In conclusion, wellness travel is not a boring trip, but a refreshing journey, a journey to recognise and nurture yourself, to discover secrets of nature, history and culture of mankind – a journey with innumerable benefits. Wellness tourism in India has grown by 22% to reach 3 million arrivals for wellness in 2016, bringing billions of dollars to the country. Vietnam now has more and more beauty and health rehabilitation centres of large scale with services including hot spring baths, mud baths, medicine baths, acupressure, yoga, meditation, qigong, massage and acupuncture. You can easily find these services in many tourist resorts in places like Nha Trang – Khanh Hoa, Binh Chau – Vung Tau, Phuoc Nhon – Danang.
The world is developing and changing, the borders between countries are no longer great barriers to those who love travel. Whether you go for yoga in India or travel to the country of kimchi for skin and beauty care, besides many health benefits, you will also learn a lot of lessons about life, culture and knowledge on each journey.
Thu Hoai | Wanderlust Tips