Tuesday, 23 October 2007


Well, some hot springs in Thailand can be derided due to their lack of facilities, others are just too over-developed. One of those is Samkhampaeng hot springs, located in Chiang Mai province, actually not far from Chiang Mai city (45 minutes). Samkhampaeng is easy to find, just follow the touring buses. There's an enormous parking area after which a small entrance fee is paid (strange it is a national park). Then there are a dozen or so shops to wade past to one comes to the 'park' area. To your left are the bathing facilities, mostly brick / cement huts, though there is one big pool. For the use of all, extra fees are required.

As we visited on a Sunday, the park was simply too packed to be comfortable. The big pool, though big, is walled in and roofed in, so not much fun there. As we had experienced better facilities surroundings earlier on in our visit, we gave the bathing facilities a skip.

Besides the bathing facilities, it's also possible to make use of the 'foot' stream, a stream where everybody puts their feet in. As other attractions, this has been lined with cement.

Then, there is the geyser itself. To make the facilities more attractive to the Thai tourists, the water level is raised to make a pool of half a meter deep. In the middle the geyser itself which is actually artificial the water pumped and pushed up! And the pool, it is loaded with eggs, as boiling eggs is the thing to do.

Well, now you know what Disney would make of a hot springs if they ever opened up a shop in Thailand. Avoid the place especially in the weekends!

  • Another blogger shares his experience, with great photo's. See the soaking experience for real!
  • Two ladies share their experiences.
  • And another blog.
  • And an official looking site

Monday, 22 October 2007

Relaxing in Pai

Tha Pai hot springs are found close to Pai district town in Mae Hong Son province in the northwestern tip of Thailand.

I and my family visited the area in 2006, Pai is a great place to hang around, very rural but with plenty to do, great (and affordable) accommodation, good restaurants.

One way of passing time is going to the Tha Pai hot springs, just about 10 km out of town just off the road to Chiang Mai, but still within the Pai valley. From other sites I've included a couple of photo's just to let you know what it looks like.

There are apparently not that many facilities and bathing is restricted to easing one into a shallow stream. That catch though is that it costs 400 THB (more than 10 $US) for the privilege of viewing this, way too steep.

That fact has made quite some noise. There's even a site (Help Save Pai Hot Springs) up solely to protest the raise in fees for foreigners. Take a look at it for extra information on the springs and how you might be assist in changing this. More comments on this can be found on a forum here.

There is an alternative. One of these is to use the pools at Tha Pai Spa, see the link below. Ourselves, we went on an elephant tour nearby after which we could enjoy the waters in a private setting, not very exclusive though! Like the tiles:

Some links:
  • Commercial site: Discovery Thailand
  • Guesthouse accommodation with their own source to the hot springs, Tha Pai Spa Camping. It has a variety of styles of accommodation, huts, villas, rooms and dormitory. When I visited there it was in need of some refurbishment, following a devastating flood earlier that year. Though I believe they have now some great villa's which have private soaking facilities on the riverside! If you just want to use the springs it's 50 THB.
More info on hot springs in the Pai area, taken from the Thai language publication Trips (July 2007, issue no.129). It's their original script, not mine!
'Mueang Paeng Hot Spring
35 kms from Pai Muang Paeng is a little bit far from the town, but its wonder always attracts tourists to come visit. From Pai, take the highway 1095 at km 85-86 and take a right turn onto the the highway no.1265 at km 24, cross Muang Paeng Bridge and turn left for another 2 kms, at the end is the hot spring.
The hot spring is made of a geyser with currents at the temperature as high as 95 degrees Celsius. Tourists should watch their steps for safety. In winter villagers will come out for the warmth from this natural fireplace as it is in the heart of the fields.

Pong Pa Hot spring

Location: Mooban Na Chalong, 7 kms away from Pai. This hot spring is just a huge flat land with some water covered with white fog lines. You will see the original lifestyle of the Pai locals from the moments you enter the village. After a visit to Pong Pa Hot Spring, you may also walk along to enjoy Pai river’s mudding for beauty. If you don’t want to go back the same way, you may take raft to admire both sides of the river, making this visit not just for a hot spring'.

Thailand's best? Pong Duet?

My family and I have quite some experience on hot springs worldwide ( Nepal, Thailand, NZ). Our best experience in Southeast Asia until now was Chiang Mai province's Pong Duet. It is also known as Pon Dueat or Pon Duat, basically sounding the same but written differently.

The springs' geysers themselves are in the middle of a forested area, high up on a north facing mountain side. The springs are in a national park (Huai Nam Dang NP), so admission (400 THB per person!) limits the number of visitors. However don't let this deter you, it certainly is worthwhile. From the parking area, it's a 20-minute walk to the boiling cauldrons. The water jumps continuously, half meter high; you bet it's hot!

Boiling hot

The water then starts flowing downhill. There's a path that follows the river downhill for about 15 minutes, which ends at a bridge, near the soaks. You can use the river for soaking (for free) before the bridge, but it is still very hot. For a small amount (20B?) you can use the public pools which you can see in the picture below. There are also private cubicles, but though you can bathe 'au naturel' you are stuck looking at the four concrete walls. Better though are the outside pools, you have beautiful views and the baths are huge, the water is also appreciable, but not private. Let's hope these newly built 'tubs' can be maintained (we visited here in November 2006). If the amount of visitors are anything to go by, that might turn out to be difficult.

The 'tubs', with a natural look and greenish water

To get here, you would need your own means of transport, it's about 10 minutes drive off the Ciang Mai - Pai - Mae Hong Son Highway. There is a small restaurant with only Thai food. There are also some cabins and some structure that resembles a hotel.

Other links to this site are:
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