HOT SPRINGS IN THAILAND
There is a distinctly odd feeling about hiking down a jungle path, sweating in the humidity, spying a cascading stream that looks invitingly cool and refreshing, only to discover that when you plunge in, it is almost as hot as a fresh cup of tea. Once you have absorbed the shock though and reconciled yourself to the heat, you will find that you are, most likely, in the process of doing yourself some good.
There are healing powers in natural hot springs. The combination of temperature and minerals in the water being thought to relieve stress, cure ailments, alleviate backache, salve skin conditions and promote all-around health. Like a natural sauna, the heat and consequent perspiration you undergo when soaking in a hot spring has a deeply cleansing effect. The specific mineral content of each spring will offer benefits unique to that one place. According to the principles of Chinese medicine the spring also passes on ‘qi’ or the life-force energy of all five elements of life: the first being earth or the ground from which the spring emerges; the second being metal in the shape of the various minerals found in the water; the third being the water itself; the fourth being wood embodied in the surrounding trees; and the fifth being fire as in the heat of the water and the heat of the sun shining down. This means hot springs have a balancing effect in terms of the cosmos.
According to Taoist philosophy, relaxing in a hot spring allows our qi to run more smoothly through all of the groups of our ‘meridians’ or the ‘yin’ and ‘yang’ channels for the life force. When qi runs in a balanced way along the meridians, it benefits all of our internal organs.
It is not only according to Chinese medicine that the benefits of hot springs are known. In Western medicine too, experts acknowledge that the effects of warm, minerally enriched water are good for you.
It gradually increases the temperature of the body, which kills harmful viruses and germs. It also increases blood circulation and cell oxygenation by increasing hydrostatic pressure on the body, the increased blood flow helping to dissolve and eliminate toxins.
ACCORDING TO TAOIST PHILOSOPHY, RELAXING IN A HOT SPRING ALLOWS OUR QI TO RUN MORE SMOOTHLY THROUGH ALL OF THE GROUPS OF OUR ‘MERIDIANS’ OR THE ‘YIN’ AND ‘YANG’ CHANNELS FOR THE LIFE FORCE.
The flow of oxygen-enriched blood throughout the body also brings improved nourishment to vital organs and tissues. Bathing in thermal water also increases the body’s metabolism, stimulating the secretions of the intestinal tract and the liver and therefore aiding digestion.
Trace amounts of minerals, such as carbon dioxide, sulfur, calcium, magnesium, and lithium, are absorbed through the skin. The healing effects this brings includes stimulation of the immune system, leading to enhanced immunity, physical and mental relaxation and the production of endorphins. It is also said that hot springs contain high amounts of negative ions, which can help promote feelings of psychological and physical well-being.
The water, especially that high in sculpture, can have a therapeutic effect on skin diseases, such as dermatitis, psoriasis and fungal infections. Soaking in the hot water increases the heart rate and lowering blood pressure. It can also aid in good sleep.
It has long been known that the combination of warmth and buoyancy is highly beneficial to those who suffer from arthritis. The buoyancy of the water causes the muscles to relax, and reduces stress on the joints which helps to free movement.
Scientists tell us a hot spring is brought into being by the emergence of geothermally heated water from inside the Earth’s crust, and you find them all over the world. The deeper into the earth’s mantle, the hotter the rock gets. If water seeps deeply enough down into the Earth’s crust, it will be boiled as if by an electric kettle.
Natural hot springs have been discovered in several areas across Thailand. Many of them have been developed into tourist attractions, and some are now purpose built resorts offering health packages combining mineral baths, Thai traditional massage, and fitness facilities. In the north, near Chiang Mai, San Kamphaeng has two of them where they offer a complete course of health treatments. Further into the mountains near Pai in Mae Taeng district, is the Pa Pae hot spring. This is quieter, less developed and set within a well-maintained park in a scenic valley. Heading north from Chiang Mai, to Fang district, there are about fifty hot springs all within a ten-acre forested radius. Three of the springs boil continuously shooting jets of water into the air. Water temperature ranges from 90 to 100 degrees, and the area around is beautifully maintained with excellent facilities for bathing. The northern region also boasts hot springs in Lampang where the Chae Son hot springs are combined with waterfalls in a national park, and in Mae Hong Son at Pong Dueat where four geysers shoot bursts of water high into the air.
SCIENTISTS TELL US A HOT SPRING IS BROUGHT INTO BEING BY THE EMERGENCE OF GEOTHERMALLY HEATED WATER FROM INSIDE THE EARTH’S CRUST, AND YOU FIND THEM ALL OVER THE WORLD. THE DEEPER INTO THE EARTH’S MANTLE, THE HOTTER THE ROCK GETS.
In the south, there are a series of hot springs around Krabi. Klong Thom is about 70 km from Krabi town heading south towards Trang. It is deep in the forest on the floor of a valley. The water cascades across rocks with natural bath tubs hollowed out through the ages. Effectively, you sit and boil in a natural Jacuzzi as the fast flowing water cascades over you. Nearby, in deep jungle, is Si Morakot Emerald Pool. One walks about a kilometer up a heavily wooded path and suddenly the jungle opens out into a watery clearing, the luminous green waters shimmering in the sun. Tham Khao Plu Hot Spring is between Chumphon and Chaiya. There are three hot springs there named ‘Auey Ar-ree Than Thip’,
‘Amarit Thara’ and ‘Preuksa Chonlathan’.
In each, hot mineral water rises from the ground with a temperature of 55-56 degrees Celsius. Ban Bo Dan Hot Springs in Phang Nga are located a few kilometers south of Thai Muang town. The waters have quite a high mineral content, including calcium and sodium, and also various iodides and chlorides. The location is equipped with a swimming pool and spa and a long sandy beach is close by. Raksawarin Park and hot springs in Ranong are some of Thailand’s most famous.
In Central Thailand, in Ban Samo Thong Hot Spring near Uthai Thani, the water is so hot that it can boil an egg in 5 minutes. Bo Khlueng Hot Stream in Ratchaburi flows at 60 degrees Celsius all year round from the nearby Tanaosi hills.
THESE HOT SPRINGS HAVE HAD ROYAL APPROVAL EVER SINCE KING RAMA V VISITED RANONG IN 1890, AND NAMED THE ROAD TO THE HOT SPRINGS ‘CHON RA-U’, MEANING ‘HOT WATER’.
In Thailand, hot springs also have a mystically ‘pure’ significance. In Ranong, for instance, water from its chief attractions, Raksawarin Park Arboretum, is considered so pure that it was used during important ceremonies to celebrate the 60th Birthday of King Bhumibhol, Thailand’s current monarch. These hot springs have had royal approval ever since King Rama V visited Ranong in 1890, and named the road to the hot springs ‘Chon Ra-u’, meaning ‘hot water’. At nearly 65 degrees year round these waters are indeed very hot, and this is one of the most visited of all the hot springs in the Kingdom.
All of these places are popular destinations for a day out amongst Thais. Not only does a dip in a hot spring do you good, it will put a smile on the faces of the children, and give everyone a sociable focus for a picnic and a chat.