Sunday, 9 August 2009

I Love?

The province of Kanchanaburi is a well trodden piece of Thailands tourist path. Besides historical highlights (as in the Burma railway), it excels in natural highlights. In this, the Erawan waterfall meets most tourists expectations of a beautiful tropical waterfall paradise.

But there is much more nature to be discovered. Many more waterfalls and caves. So it may not be surprising that hiking and rafting are increasingly becoming popular pursuits, especially for the more wealthy middle class Bangkok citizens; Bangkok located not more than 2 hours drive from these delights.

Hin Dat hot spring
As said there are a couple of hot springs, non more well-known than that of Hin Dat (or Hindad / Hindard / Hindat / Hin Dad or formerly known as Kuimang; the name on the tickets though is Hindaad). Not only in Kanchanaburi, but Hin Dat rates as one of the more recognized names in hot springs in Thailand.

Located at a fair distance from Kanchanaburi town it's just a km off the near perfect highway 323 heading west. Judging from the ample space for parking, it surely is part of the main tourist road, even a number of coach parking spaces are available. Parking outside the main gate, a small fee was required to enter, though why nationals only get charged 10 Bt and foreigners four times that amount seems a bit weird; do foreigners get more value for money?

Beyond the gate is another parking area with many stalls around, for drinks, food, tourist nick-knacks, souvenirs and orchids / plants. Tickets get checked before a bridge. From the bridge one has a good overview of the hot spring pools themselves. This being a rainy Sunday afternoon around 3 o'clock, the sides of the two pools are lined with soakers, though not many are immersing themselves. Is the water too hot? Just a meter from the pools is a swift flowing stream; it having rained during the preceding days. The banks of the stream are also lined with people half in the water.

Sunday afternoon: packed soakers.

The soak
Leaving a visit for the air-raid shelters (!) for later, I precede to the changing rooms, which are not well-maintained, but probably serve their purpose. Then down to the showers. Oddly it are mostly visitors who are leaving who are using the showers; clearly cleanliness is not an issue.

Finding a dry spot to put my things down is quite a challenge, but once found it's off to find a spot on the side of the pool to adjust to the water. Of course there is still a place available: right next to the source, which is well over 40C apparently. After a couple of minutes I slide into the hotter of the two pools. After a nice soak, I get out and cool off in the stream.

The bank of the stream has been lined with steps of flagstones and though the river current is strong, it's a great pleasure to enjoy a natural cooling off. By the time I'm ready for a second round, the pools are starting to clear of their visitors, possibly having to return to the big smoke. But without the crowds, the soaks are even more enjoyable. A few more rounds follow and to top off a short massage is required. All 'n all a great soak.

Soaking Thai style.

After wrestling back from swimwear to clothing, I walk around the site that includes a number of private soaking bungalows, a temple and the aforementioned air-raid shelters which remained from the second World War. What better protection would you need when soaking?

As stated above Hin Dat is a well-known soak, why remains a mystery. Possibly it's accessibility together with the beautiful location of springs next to swift running stream.

However most mentions of the hot spring concern tourist web sites mentioning the possibility of soaking.
Some credit the Japanese occupiers (during WW II) with finding and enhancing these springs:
'.. discovered beside a stream of cool water by Japanese troops during WWII and two cement wells were then constructed at the site'.
Both pools are still there. However there is also the following mention:
'This hot spring has a long history and has been with the local villagers for over 150 years'.
It does seem logical that the hot springs were there before the Second world war, why the Japanese get the credit for discovering them is beyond me. Though no doubt they did enhance and popularise them.

But it does seem that not much has changed since. The site has been enhanced with ample parking spaces, a bridge, changing rooms, toilets, ticket vending office and private pools. The latter though don't seem to be too popular, but they are located on the hill overlooking the site, without access to the stream and thus probably provide a less superior experience. They also cost the foreigner a foot or more, upto 1,000 Bt (~$US 30). Pay more, get less.

Other bloggers mention
    'Well, what else you need when you got large hot water tubs lined with natural stone - and a clean (!) fresh mountain stream two meters away to cool you down again. You could rent private bath tubs, but what would you need narrow walls and a roof for when the sky’s the limit?
    And don’t trust the name of the nearby Green World Hot Spring & Golf Resort. They have no access to the hot spring water, but talk about repairs and broken pipelines and … screw them.
    All they have is a rotten jacuzzi in the cellar. Go for the real thing at the public bath. The only thing to worry: I always wonder when visiting a public bath in Thailand why you won’t find cleaner toilets than in a Thai public bath. As nobody uses the toilets'.
  • Bluestar guesthouse:
    'the springs are a God send'.
  • caryn:
    'This one is rather simple, yet it attracts numerous tourist'.
  • andydaniels:
    'The springs were really nice, big pools that fit a lot of people and were deep'.
After four: quiet and serene.

Other information
is also a Hin Dat hot spring festival, each year in November:
'In the festival, there are booths of agricultural products and tourism exhibition of Amphoe Thong Pha Phum'.
The waters are said to have as a healing property for various ailments such as beriberi and rheumatism [1], holy water that can cure diseases [2] and gout [3].

There are two locations to stay overnight nearby: the above mentioned Green Valley which might be more appealing to golfers and the Phatad Valley Hot Springs resort, which actually is still a couple of kms away and has nothing to do with the hot springs!

Nearby are also the Pha Tad watertfalls, probably a great place for a swim. As it is a national park, entry is a hefty 100 Bt, unfortunately during my visit three was too much water to make a swim possible. This site has more info on Pha Tad which are only located some 10 km from Hin Dat.

Gushing waterfalls of PhaTad.

Furthermore it should be pointed out that the hot spring is open til 22.00, which means that a late nite soak and picnic are available. Always good to know in hot Thailand.

Then just a mention about the name, the official name is Hindad, however by far most internet links refer to it being Hin Dat. Can someone explain?

Getting There: Traveling from Kanchanaburi town, one only needs to continue on the main 323 highway towards the Burmese border. Past the entrance to Sai Yok National park, the well signposted hot springs are just off the main road at km marker 123.

Soaking Experience: The natural surroundings and the possibilty to cool down in the adjacent stream make Hin Dat are great place to soak. Also the possibility to stay until well into the night add to a great way to soak. The pools are deep, though the bottom is uneven.

Overall Impression: Positive. A great place to while away a few hours preferably on the day edges, as midday sees many visitors. The food stalls even have western food and the masseurs work full time, such is their appeal.
But I always have doubts about hygiene. Currently in Thailand you can sanitize you hands at every reception desk, though it's disputable whether the swine flu can be obtained over the counter. However without batting an eyelid, all soakers jump in in their already-worn clothing to soak; somehow missing out on the hygiene lessons. Outside of Southeast Asia though, customs (based on hygiene) determine that rigorous cleansing should take place before soaking ...

A you tube on Hin Dat?

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