Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Not so samui?


Provincial bliss?
Surat Thani is a well established province for tourism, though the fact that all this tourism is concentrated on the boutique island resort of Samui and the full-moon party island of Phangan means that the mainland part of the province is often by-passed, neglected even.


Surat Thani town itself is another typical Thai provincial town: a transfer part to the rest of the province without much charm and acting as a center of purchase symbolized by the Tesco-Lotus or Big C. Nothing in common with either island mentioned before!

Anyway, there is another side to Surat Thani province; away from the coast are extensive jungles and a national park or two (including the upcoming national park destination of Khao Sok), while the coast fringe has it's own blend of fishing villages, agricultural communities and forests.

Into the unknown
Part of the provincial unknowns is the existence of quite a few hot springs. My own list had six links, most linking to the (temporarily defunct?) Thai geothermal database site.

More intense (and time consuming) searching revealed the following. There is Chaiya hot spring (or two), Kaper hot spring (at
Kaeng Krung national park) , Bo Nam Ron, Khao Tok and Po Nam Ron (Kanchanadit).

Khawdee et al. (2007) actually list 9 unnamed hot springs within the province though with no names. They refer to Chaturongkawanich (2001) who studied 8 (?) hot springs in Surat Thani.

Finally, I did find a selected and translated Thai geothermal database on the Russian language site Горячие источники в Таиланде (Hot springs in Thailand). It lists seven hot spring sites in Surat Thani, three of which are in or near Chaiya, others listed are near Wat Tharnnamron (Tashang tambon, another link), Wanghin (Nasarn village) and Kauplu (Naderm village).

And then there's Tha Sathorn.

Disappearing
Complete with it's own Facebook page, Tha Sathorn is probably the best accessible hot spring, located not too far away from Surat Thani town. And it seems quite a bit of public funds have found their way to this soaking site. Entrance is free and it seems the natural spring has been transformed into a sterile park.

Other internet info from a blog entry by Andy. He adds that it also has pool, which may have evaporated since.
Bluechizont has another entry, but only in Thai language which appears to be Tha Sathorn, with pool as well.
It also has more on another unnamed soak, looks a lot more pleasant too.
More photo's on panoramio, back when the site was less developed ...

Tourist information at Tha Sathorn.

Footy
One factor overlooked are signposts leading one to the hot spring. From the 401 from Surat Thani take the 4248 which tends to head to Tha Satorn town. After crossing the railroad near Tha Sathorn take a road inland for 1 or 2 km. In all honesty there are large billboards but with Thai language and hardly any pictures.

So after a couple of wrong turns and many questions asked, we arrive at the grand entrance on a hot day at a parking area with no shade, yea!

Is this it?

Possibly.

We walk to the left, past a building and something that looks like a ticket stall with no one around.

It's a Sunday and there are quite a few people milling around, an ice-cream stall is open. Beyond are changing rooms, modern but deserted, certainly none of the other visitors are using this.

Walk beyond this and there is a moat around a raised walkway. One can get on this walkway and within the circle is a large hot spring. We walk half way round this spring and once off the walkway on the opposite side is a 3m wide bassin, possibly a foot deep but shaded. Some locals are having a foot soak.

Perpendicular to this is another similar set up but with better shade and more people taking the waters.


Apparently that's all there is to this soak, a spring, two foot bassins and a walkway. Why the changing rooms?

Getting there: About 20 km from Surat Thani town down road 4248, turn away from the rails just before Tha Sathorn. Keep asking .....

Soaking experience: Apparently made for footbathing only.

Overall impression: Pro's: in general a nice place; con's: ai, it's been developed and turned into a hotspot. Not enough shade. And where are soakers supposed to soak?


Notes:
Khawdee, P., W. Lohawijarn, H. Duerrast (2007) Geophysical model of Ban Na Doem Hot-spring in Surat Thani Province, Thailand. Seventh National Graduate Research Conference. Prince of Songkla University, Hat Yai, Thailand.

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