Saturday, August 6, 2011

Soaking in the Shade

On the edge
Chumphon is a touristically underrated province in Thailand. Too far away from Bangkok to warrant a weekend trip, too close to make flying there practical. Back (and flash) packers are all on their way to Ko Tao, a veritable divers paradise slowly edging to high end boutique-ness.

However Chumphon sits on a deserted and sometimes exposed coast line. Far from the crowds, the beaches and islands are still mostly silent, falling victim to shrimp farms. But still there are enough places to get away from it all. The beaches of Thung Wualaen, Sairi, Tawan Chai, Thung Makham, Arounothai to name a few.

The hinterland is covered in lushly forested mountains with probably many great waterfalls but as of yet Chumphon's main accessible natural attractions are it's beaches and caves.

Tham Khao

Line up
And here we come to the hot springs. The hot springs of Tham Khao Plu are located at the foot of a limestone outcrop just short / past of the Chumphon's southern most district town of Lamae.

Most web sites dedicate their
entries of this hot spring as follows:
'There are 3 hot spas here at the foot of the mountain slope. In the vicinity, there are also 4 caves with beautiful stalactites and stalagmites. Wildlife such as squirrels, pig-tailed monkeys and birds of different species are scattered around the area'.
Others add:
'Available of the private cabin to relaxing in the hot spring bathtub and pool area in the shade of trees'.
Though only a couple of hundred meters from the audible southern highway (no. 41), the double billing of caves and hot springs fails to draw in any crowds of substance (despite it's popularity) as the well-signposted attraction fails to even have a car park.

Raining, pouring, soaking?
Instead there's a rough terrain next to the entrance which functions as a sort of a place to leave behind your vehicle. It's raining. Pouring. No sign of letting up, nor whether or not a soak exists. Someone has to scout the area as we have only one umbrella. The umbrella is falling apart. Seeing that I'm the expert and the only willing volunteer, it's quickly determined that I will have to leave the dry car and trudge through puddles and seek a soaking place.

The spring in the forest. One of the three.

Past the empty entrance building, past a number of shop fronts, one comes to the foot of the karst. To the left is an enclosure which is a hot water source. Following the path one passes a toilet building next to a smaller bathing pool for which entrance may well cost 10 THB (US$ 0,30).

Hot pool

Beyond the pool is another hot spring well. The path continues and one can go up and into the mountain where a small shrine is in the cave mouth.
Further along the lower path is another pool, abandoned and another source. The path continues most probably to more caves but the rain remains relentless, so I choose to return.

There is
mention made of a private pools but I didn't see any. Probably one of the best web references is a Japanese language website (soma-samui) which has an entry on Tha Satorn hot spring in Surat Thani, Porn Rang in Ranong and Tham Khao Plu. It also has a reference to a flickr site. Which includes a photo of a private bath, not at all bad ...

The source

Getting there
: Just 7 km south of Lamae trown, Tham Khao Plu is a not to be missed turnoff eastwards from the southern highway 41. From the turnoff it's about 500m followed by another north turn. Well signposted (for Thailand).

Soaking experience: Overall there's quite some effort has been put into the soaking facilities, let's make it a passable.

Overall impression: A nice break on a long journey, but the experience isn't special enough to warrant special attention, other than another opportunity to take a break rather than lounging at a petrol station.

p.s. the lead photo is of an abandoned pool ...

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