I’m not exactly au fait with spas of any sort, but a chicken coop sauna certainly wasn’t something I ever expected to see. In the Chong Changtune community in Thailand’s Trat province, they’ve invented a new kind of sauna experience, simply involving a traditional style chicken coop, a rice cooker and some local herbs.
Are you as intrigued as I was?
Chicken Coop Herbal Steams in Thailand
The steam sauna was originally used for women who had given birth so they could ‘sweat out impurities’ and recover quicker. A local woman who goes by the name of Sam Nao came up with the idea of adapting the community’s chicken coop steam saunas for tourists as part of a community based tourism initiative in Thailand.
A Thai chicken coop is basically a circular dome shaped pen, which locals use to keep their chickens in one place overnight. As part of adapting it’s use for steams, they’ve cut a larger a hole cut into the top for you to pop your head through. Underneath the coop, you sit on a small wooden stall and a rice cooker filled with herbs chugs out steam.
It took me a while to get over the strangeness of having just my head peeking out of what seemed to me like a big upside down bamboo basket, but thanks to the gorgeous aromatic smells rising up in the steam I got there eventually. After sweating under the coop for 15 minutes, they lifted the dome off over my head.
The previously clammy, 30’c Thailand temperature suddenly felt like a cool relief. I promptly grabbed for my glass of star fruit juice but one of the Chong people said I should wait five minutes as it wasn’t good to introduce something so cold into your body so soon after the heat. I’m glad she told me!
Sustainability in the Chong Changtune Community
In the past, the herbal steam used 32 different kinds of herbs, but unfortunately due to vegetation in the area being cut down for mining many of those herbs species were lost. These days only 10 types of herb are used in the steam. The Chong people are now trying to recultivate the lost herbs.
The community use natural products and herbs not only for their chicken coop saunas, but for food, soaps, exfoliating scrubs, massages, and even these little inventions called ‘sniff jars’ which are filled with herbs and spices that have a pungent smell like Vicks to unblock your sinuses.
For every herb that the community picks, they replant another to replace it. This is part of their efforts to use their natural resources in a sustainable way.
Community Based Tourism in Thailand
The Chong Changtune community are quite new to Thailand’s community based tourism movement, but with their commitment to the sustainable use of vegetation and their understanding of the body, they are the perfect hosts.
As someone who cares a lot about sustainable use of natural resources and also taking care of our bodies, meeting the warm-hearted community at Chong Changtune and learning about their lifestyle was an amazing cultural experience.
Thanks to the Tourism Authority of Thailand and Local Alike for organising the trip to visit this wonderful community.