Wednesday, December 7, 2011


The lesser developed
With the differing levels of to-be-expected development concerning hot springs in Thailand, there seems to be no rule, bar one: the more remote, the less developed. But even this rule will have to thrown out of the window.

Chaiya district's (Surat Thani province) distant claim to fame is the Suan Mokkh temple. Established just 50 years ago (or earlier) this forest temple was home to Ajahn Buddhadasa Bhikkhu, one of Thailand's most famous monks (source).

But besides the attraction of the road side temple complex, just a one km walk away is a hot spring; delitefully deserted and undeveloped with exception of a stair and an overflow.
Less nice is the small paved street which nearly runs over the spring. And the overflowing garbage bins which give an indication that maybe not mid-morning but certainly at other times of the day, the hot springs see their fair share of visitors.

A familiar Thai natural phenomenon: trash at scenic (soaking) spots!

Guided by spirits?
As said ,it's not too difficult to find. But chugging up or down the highway, one is once more mind-boggled by all the signs pointing to this attraction, though the final signboard indicating that you need to "stop now!" seems to have been omitted. A sudden break and a blind turn-off later we are at the rather busy parking space just outside the temple complex.

Slightly bewildered, we enter the temple site and at the first crossroad inside the busy temple complex we are accustomed by a foreign disciple, totally clad in white gowns.
"We are looking for the hot spring".
"Ah, cross the road via the foot bridge, walk up the road for 100m and then take the sideroad for another 10 minutes walk".
So we cross the busy highway and walk up along this source of noise and stench. Between two shops, follow the country road away from the highway towards the railway and beyond the sea. A not too high mount seems to be the point where this road heads first.
We continue the much longer than 10 minute walk, asking along the way, yes, yes, it's not too far. As the road comes close to the mount, the hot spring appears on the left.

Is this all?
It's a pond with embankment on the far side. From the roadside a stairway leads down which supposedly enables the entering and existing. Along the road side of the pond is an underwater sitting space. There's a huge slurping sound, coming from the overflow, in the middle of the pond. Where the overflow flows to is unknown as the surroundings are devoid of any stream.

The roadway is silent, no changing spaces, hmmm. I take a good soak, especially as I am covered in sweat from the walk here. The water is very hot, but also slightly salty.

After the soak we continue onwards hoping to find where the overflow leads to. But to avail. Further on there 's a meditation centre, whatever that may be.

A good source of information on this hot spring comes from a regular visitor on
thaipulse blog, in which the contributor adds some more info on the surroundings. Specifically he mentions that the Dhamma Meditation Center (the center which lay beyond the springs) has it's own hot springs. Actually, it's called International Meditation Hermitage.

Em and Trev mention the existence of separate hot springs (separate from what? Oh I see, men from ladies ... (picture on men's soak) at the centre:
'The hot springs are in secluded natural settings, and are a welcome relief after evening tea, loosening up those tired back muscles just in time for one last stretch of sessions'.
Friends of Suan Mokkh describe there being two for men, one for women. A piece of advice:
'The water is slightly odorous, so you'll probably need to bathe afterwards'.
Annete mentions a specific problem with separate soaks and meditations retreats:
'We can’t walk back from the hot springs with wet sarongs as the shape of our wet thighs underneath might spur the men into thinking unutterable thoughts ...'.
Another aspect overlooked, described by Roaming Elephant:
'Had a dip in a hot spring. It was like taking a bath. Then it became annoying that we weren't allowed to speak to each other - this was supposed to be a social activity'.
Anyway, that about the other non-public hot springs.

Despite the area being a magnet for spiritualists other than a wooden cushion and a cement bunk, there's little or no accommodation nearby.

Getting there: Chaiya is 590 km from Bangkok, 140 km plus from Chumphon or around 50 km north of Surat Thani. The temple site of Suan Mokkh is 6 km south of Chaiya town along the main highway. Take a small lane towards the sea and after about 1 km you will arrive at the hot spring. More specific directions here from

Soaking experience:
Aaaaah, a Thai hot spring, hardly disturbed by mankind. A luxury, a wee bit hot, for the hot and humid season ...

Overall impression: Suan Mokkh hot spring, a great enchanting place (if there were no slurping sounds from the overflow ....)

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