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Marobo Hot Springs of East Timor: the most remote hot springs in all of Asia?

3 min read

We are within the mountain ranges District of Bobonaro, a days journey West of Dili.
Marobo is a village on the border between the Ermera and Bobonaro provinces in Timor-Leste.
The nearby village of Ilatlaun has a rich cultural history, for example in this region, the well known hand woven Tais of Marobo is usually black and white and the craft has been passed on from generation to generation. Traditionally the women process the hand spun cotton thread, dye with plants to achieve the colors, tye the patterns and dye the cotton.
Hidden in this remote part of the world, down a bumpy, dirt road, are hot springs and the remains of what must have once been an idyllic retreat in a lush, tropical mountain setting.
For obvious reasons, these must be the most remote hot springs in all of Asia.

Who built this resort is a matter of contention. Some sources claim the Japanese constructed it during World War II, while others say the Portuguese created it during their 500-year colonial period.
The truth might sit somewhere between these two versions, with the Japanese renovating and perhaps expanding what the Portuguese had previously started.
Though who actually built what exactly may never be known, what is known is that the local population was forcibly mobilized to undertake the construction work.
Today, the only surviving remains of this resort are a stone building, numerous terraced falls, and the pools, all set in a lush green landscape with a quaint view of the surrounding mountains.
Interestingly, the hot springs produce over 2000 liters of water per minute, and have the characteristic pungent stank of sulphur. They also contain a large quantity of sodium and calcium.
They stream down the mountains and are relatively hot to touch. Bathing in the waters are a common practice of the locals to treat many skin and other illnesses. Locals come here from all over the country to take the waters, and It’s said to be a treatment for everything from skin conditions to epilepsy.
Even troubled teens are brought here by worried parents who believe the waters have a calming effect on mind and body.
The water is hot enough to boil an egg. Or a toe. But I guarantee, once in, it’s hard to get out.

But be careful: despite the roads from Maliana or from Bobonaro are paved, they are dangerous, with some parts even collapsed. The dirt road leading down to the hot springs is very steep and slippery. To reach this location, you need a 4×4 vehicle but, above all, an experienced driver.