Saturday, 16 January 2010

Under water

This concerns a re-posting from Soaking in Siam.

The first day of this year saw me visit two waterfalls (Cyber and Pha Rom Yen), the day to be capped off with a visit to the local hot spring. One of the first problems with finding soaking sites in Thailand is exactly that, the finding.

From info I had printed before I knew that Samo Thong was a hot spring in Uthai Thani province. Somewhere in Tambon Khok Khwai. From highway 3282 north of Ban Rai the hot spring was mentioned to be a whopping 24 kms from the highway.

Samo Thong hot spring had been an usual hot spring, the water gushing from the ground and flowing away. However the area around it had been flooded when a large irrigation dam was constructed, creating Huai Khun Kaeo reservoir. But a decision was made to save the springs and a earth bund had been erected around and over the springs so that they would not be flooded.

The above mentioned highway follows the northern stretches of the reservoir and the turn off (a ridiculous 150 degree turn) were clear, only 24 km to go. Surprise, surprise, it's just a km up this road. Why the disinformation?

Development awaited
After saving the springs, it was thought that the soaks would become attraction points and a larger island was created to stimulate future recreative development. Thus when one arrives there's a big car park with to your right a single restaurant. Left is an official building which it turns out sells soaking tickets, rents out bicycles, where you pay for camping and provides a massage if required.

Before purchasing the right to a soak though, let's discover what the soak entails. Along 1 shore are a number of soak cells. Still fail to grasp why they would put these at such a place with that beautiful view; if the 4 person tubs inside fail to have any view than that of the inner walls and roof which does excellent work to capture the hot air, why come here? Towards the back are bigger cells, with bigger tubs and the exclusivity of being able to access a toilet. Somewhere forlorn between the various structures is a covered foot bath which is packed this New Year's day.

Biding your time, waiting for a space to soak your feet?

The springs
Clearly it's a hot spring resort but where is the hot spring itself? In a depression one sees a pond with water bubbling up. that must be it. But on closer inspection the bubbles come from blue pipes and soon this flow stops temporarily as a mechanic is throwing some taps. Opposite this though are 2 cement rings sticky up, revealing two deep hot water sources. One distinctly has some sulfur smells.

The source?

This being a family day we and the mother-in-law rent ourselves a cabin. The moment we take possession of our cell the tub is empty, but water flows in swiftly, but also disappears just as fast. The attendant gets down the slope of the reservoir slope turns the discharge tap and our tub begins to fill. We close the door, undress and envelop ourselves in the heat.

Your Thai soak cell.
For the faithful
After the soak we wander around the island which has a second attraction a 20m high golden Buddha. It sees nearly more visitors than the springs themselves. But that's all there is to see.

Experience discussed
I must say I enjoyed this find. But what always trouble's me is that much more could be made of the location. The reservoir continues for miles to the southwest, in the opposing direction are high mountains (the 1500m + Khao Yai). Due to it be an island seclusion, privacy is guaranteed on three sides.

Soaks should be followed by a refreshing plunge and lo and behold this lake is just meters away from the soak sites, but inaccessible. When will be a real soak established in Thailand?

Just the other day I was looking at a programme which is aired every weekend on Channelnewsasia. It involves two middle age Japanese ladies who are traveling and discovering their own country, Japan. They focus mostly on food but yesterday they also visited 3 onsens on the Izu peninsula. But hey, two onsens were really special (one added brime, the other Arame, edible sea weed) while the third had a beautiful sweeping view of the sea. Why is that not possible here?

From the internet
Tourism Thailand:
'This is a small spring that sprouts up to the surface. The hot water from underground converges to form a little stream that flows down to Than Khok Khwai or Huai Khun Kaeo. The water is clear and pungent with the aroma of sulphur. The water is so hot that it can boil an egg in 5 minutes. The Royla Irrigation Department has constructed Huai Khun Kaeo Reservoir, flooding the stream and the spring itself. However, and earth levee has been developed around the spring and some landscaping has been done to create a good rest area for visitors. The spring has an area of 4,000 square metres and consists of 3 springs. A mineral bath is available for tourists and nearby is a 20-metre-high Buddha image sitting high amidst the wonderful scenery of the area'.
The only other original source is a blog on Uthai thani province:
'Formerly a natural hot spring gushing over the ground's surface, the water is clear, but with a sulfur dioxide semll. The temperature of the spring sits between 80-86 C, hot enough to boil an egg in five minutes. The hot spring has now been modified into a public park 4,00o square meter with bathing pools for visitors to enjoy a healthy bath. The public park has three hot spring wells 4-5 meters deep, with cement rimes around them one meter high. In the middle of the park sits a Buddha statue some 20 meters tall painted in gold, which can be seen from a good distance. Near the statue you'll find a reservoir. This landscape forms a beautiful scene and a pleasant atmosphere. visitors can enjoy fishing or cycling around the reservoir'.
Cement rimes?

Getting there: From Ban Rai take the 3282 highway north in the direction of Lan Sak. At km marker 41 follow the road heading due east (you'll be coming from the northeast) and follow for 1 km and you are there.

Soaking experience: This being a relatively cool day, the soak at the end of the afternoon certainly was worth the visit. That said, once inside the soaking cell, the experience is the same whether you are in Samo Thong or somewhere else in Thailand. Depends on your mood.

Overall impression:
Good, the area around is certainly relaxing. Possible because of new year, business (such as refreshments and restaurants) were doing well, adding to a conducive atmosphere. A stroll around the island is possible and pleasing with sights of mountains and the lake.

Add ImageStriking a pose for 2010?

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