Tempting as the turquoise green pool looked, a swim would’ve been painful.
Steam rising from the water was barely visible, but as I came closer, I didn’t fail to notice the significant increase in accumulated heat – and a moment later I was oozing buckets of sweat, struggling to avoid my inevitable funky smell.
Plai-Poo Hot Springs are about 100 years old and situated in the district of Kapong close to Phu Ta Jor, which is one of the highest peaks in Phang-Nga province at nearly 1,400 metres.
Unlike Phu Ta Jor that is a new tourist attraction, Plai-Poo Hot Springs are still fairly unknown even among villagers. No English-speaking travel blogger has ever written about it before, and those very few farangs who’ve made it here have never shown up without the company of a local, Plai-Poo’s egg vendor said.
Far from crap, as the name suggests, Plai-Poo Hot Springs are suitable for geothermal energy production, the Phang-Nga Provincial Administrative Organization revealed.
The hot springs with an area of about 12 rai (1,600m2) aren’t easy to find, and you can almost bet you won’t meet a Thai that speaks decent English, let alone a foreign national who knows the locality.
Well, if you let me show you Plai-Poo, you’ll discover a retreat that really is something to write home about.
I heard an ‘okay’.
Aight! Let’s jump in.
As chance would have it, I met Kwan at a 7eleven shop in Pak Phu, a fiftyish Thai woman who spoke excellent English.
She’d also seen the wide eyes of the two cashiers who did neither understand ‘petrol station’ nor ‘gasoline’, and chimed in, ‘There is a petrol station very close by. I can take you there if you want.’
Kwan noticed that I was trying to read Google Maps, and outrageously caring as she is, she offered to literally go the extra mile.
‘Do you want me to show you the way to Plai-Poo?’ she asked.
‘Oh yes, please.’ Little did I know that trying to keep up with her would be an adventure in itself.
Kwan was riding her motorcycle like a maniac, driving at a speed that isn’t typical for a woman her age, deftly dodging large potholes and rocks the size of footballs. Failing to swerve in time when yet another elephantine hole was looming before me, I whinged to myself after hurting my back probably less than my precious motorcycle.
As I was crossing the dilapidated wooden bridge that leads to the hot spring, the gurgling sound of the stream dispelled my concerns of the structure not being solid enough.
A group of Thai people turned their heads in surprise. They were not the only ones that were astonished. Seeing them sitting in the river amazed me just as much as the sight of this weirdo farang traipsing to Plai-Poo amazed them. I’d thought the naturally heated stream would be too hot and couldn’t help taking pictures of that local scene, but Kwan wised me up and said the river was cool. It only gets warm where the hot springs’ waters invite the brook for a gentle dance down the canal.
In the rainy season when downpours flood the hot pond, the water in the canal has an average temperature of 75 degrees Celsius, making it a near-perfect spa. These hot springs are able to treat beriberi, rheumatoid arthritis, paralysis, and other medical conditions.
A little girl screwed up her courage and made it clear that she wanted to have a photo of her and me.
And before long, one of the Thai women offered me Som Tam (papaya salad) in a bowl with used cutlery.
‘Ao mai?’ (Do you want some?) she asked.
I understood the word ‘pet’, which means ‘spicy’ in Thai, and confirmed that I wanted to tickle my taste buds with piquant food. ‘Ao kap,’ I answered, still capable of smiling.
In parts, the riverbed was as heated as my head breaking into a hot flush. My red visage must’ve looked as funny as the fishes quickly turning on their heels when they got a bit too close to the hot side of the stream, such was the Thais’ giggling.
A trip to Plai-Poo wouldn’t be complete without cooking your own food here, so why not buy some tasty eggs and boil them on the spot? It takes about 15 minutes till you can tuck into them.
There are 4-6 smaller ponds along the canal and a big one the size of a fat cat’s swimming pool just after the bridge. But don’t forget to bring Maggi or at least some salt, the egg vendor has yet to provide that.
Okay – but which eggs? That’s the question…
The Eggs That’ll Spoil You For Choice
For a paltry 22 baht (0.70 USD), you can get 6 chicken eggs that come with a handmade bamboo basket.
Bamboo won’t burn in the hot springs, you’re good to go.
The Chinese-looking egg vendor also sells small greyish black-spotted bird eggs for 2 baht each. And at 7 baht, the duck’s masterpiece of brilliant packaging – you can scarcely tell it apart from chicken eggs – costs hardly more.
Clumsy as I was being, I managed to let even the bamboo basket’s handle go diving in the boiling water. Mind you, I was able to prevent myself from taking a dip.
Apparently, an accommodating Thai wanted to make sure of that and came to my rescue, sparing my blushes, saving my face literally.
How to Get There
Plai-Poo Hot Springs are located at Moo 4 in Tha Na Sub-district. If you’re coming from Phuket, keep your eyes peeled for the road sign that reads ‘Phu Ta Cho Km.24 =>’, and turn right after Suan Hlang Baan Mini Café that’s on your right. Then, keep going straight.
Don’t be baffled if you thought you were 17kms away from the hot springs and spot a sign that says ‘Pak Phu Hot Spring 17’. This is just another dialect.
Thais call it Plai-Poo in the tiny village of Pak Tassel, as opposed to Pak Phu in Pak Phu, a 300-citizen community. Is there perhaps some rivalry between the two settlements?
Be that as it may, Google Maps didn’t know the name Pak Phu Hot Springs, but it had heard of Plai-Poo before.
After the 17km-sign is where it gets a little tricky. But come on, there’s no harm in going on a little adventure, is there?
Get hopelessly lost, accost locals, enjoy the quiet setting and treat yourself to a warm bath in a free spa, before you have to pay a national park fee.
Guest Author: Philipp Meier
I’m Philipp Meier, Freelance Health and Travel Writer / Translator. Formerly an accountant and English teacher, I now enjoy a quieter life as an expat in Thailand, writing travel, alternative and mental health-related articles. I’m particularly passionate about Thai culture and traveling off the beaten path in the Land of Smiles. Find me at writerphilippmeier.com.