Monday, 14 January 2008

Pha Soet: a hot start to the new year

The main swimming basin, with a small changing room in the background

It may surprise many, but northern Thailand faces a longer cold spell during the months of November - February. Nothing like the freezing temperatures elsewhere in the northern hemisphere though, but enough to make enjoying hot springs a real pleasure.

So with a couple of hours of the first day of 2008 to spare while passing through Chiang Rai, my family and I decided to take the plunge at Pha Soet Hot Springs, located roughly at 20 kms westwards out of town.
This late in the afternoon getting transport willing to take us out of town proved a challenge, but eventually a compliant tuk-tuk chauffeur gave us a break and in we hopped.

The first day of 2008 (and the final day of a 4 day holiday) had brought Chaing Rai's citizens out en masse to a local flower show, winter being a more convenient time of the year for this, rather than the hot and humid months. It being the time of the day everybody was getting pesky, this mass was trying to negotiate the narrow road leading back to Chiang Rai from the flower show grounds, we were the only traffic facing this exodus head on. Our driver was certainly not upbeat, he had hoped for an early return. Eventually we managed to get to the hot springs just shortly before dusk.

In to hot water: just a foot soak!

An hour was what we had negotiated with the driver, so we walked round the site and quickly decided on the the best place to soak. Despite this being the last day of the holidays, the hot springs park like settings were packed. A grass field between the parking area with approximately 10 restaurants and the springs themselves was used as an impromptu camping site with extensive families revelling in the luxury of having the time off, great weather, the outdoors and the possibilities of unleashing their kids without any worries.

The main springs: cemented and fenced in

Despite this being on a heavily touristed trail, we were, like so often on our tours of Thai hot springs, the odd ones out, i.e. the only foreigners currently visiting. The site (which required no entrance fee) looked well maintained and considerable effort had been made to offer visitors a worthy experience. The main springs had been cemented in and special tanks were there for the very Asian-like pursuit of boiling eggs 'au naturel' (the eggs that is) and the possibility of just heating your feet. A nice bigger pool had been built together with changing rooms and there were about 10 separate buildings with 3-4 private pools.

A slow boil, eggs in woven baskets are boiled while you wait (and are not in a hurry!)

As my wife only had her bikini with her, we felt a little out of place for taking the public pool. Fashion trends are well maintained by the Thai damsels when bathing: currently the most daring bathing costume (for women) was the knee length jeans with a sleeveless high cut singlet. Uncomfortable probably, but it's better to be safe!

So we rented a private pool for a minimum hour rate (30 baht = +/- 1 $US per person) and after a little discussion (foreigners oddly enough refrain from using full pools (never know who has bathed before us!); "they want the pools to be filled while they are paying for their hour!")
We got undressed and spent a bit more than half an hour warming ourselves to a medium rare, before getting dressed again and taking the chilly ride back to Chiang Rai town (with our anxious driver).

Pha Soet Hot springs: know what you are getting into

Getting There: Pha Soet Hot springs is located on the only road going directly west out of town, once on this road, there are many signboards, announcing it's impending existence and after 20 km's you pass a bridge with the hot springs site on your left.

Soaking Experience: Though the public pool looked inviting (free form, deep), us being the only foreigners and my wife most probably having the most revealing of all to wear (comparatively), we decided to take a private pool, a meter in diameter and naturally (or not) enclosed on all sides. The private pools were nothing special and there had been some considerable wear and tear, though not enough to effect hygienic standards (we hope). Half hour locked up, seemed to be the maximum.

Wear and tear, quite literally: the inside basins

Overall Impression: Though I may seem a bit finicky, we quite liked the place: laid back, well visited but not too tacky. Understand why the Thai must love it!

No comments:

Post a Comment

Related Posts with Thumbnails
Copyright 2009 © Soaking in Southeast Asia. All rights reserved.
No reproduction or republication without written permission.