The winding road of Highway 4 cuts through untouched mountains of tropical jungle as it drops into the heart of Thailand’s wettest province. Ranong is primarily known to travelers as a gateway for VISA runs to Burma and as a jumping off point for island hopping and world class scuba diving in the Andaman Sea. In addition to 8 months of above average rainfall as well as being the least populated of any province in Thailand there are some natural attractions here bubbling their way into Ranong’s claims to fame.
Clear mineral water, at a staggering 65oC (149oF), continuously streams year-round from the hot springs in Raksarawin Park. Thought to hold mystical healing powers the water is often prescribed by doctors as a form of localized treatment. The virtues of the waters are acknowledged by those as high up as King Rama IX, as the same waters were used during ceremonies to celebrate his 60th birthday so, I’d say there must be something special happening here.
Curtains of steam rising through the trees, like smoke from a fire, is the first glimpse of the natural wonder upon arrival. A footpath escorts visitors around a rock wall which opens to a small courtyard where the spring sits on an elevated stage, mystically cascading its smoking water. Arriving early in the morning, when the weather is at its coolest, lets you see the largest clouds of steam billowing from the spring. Set against the jungle backdrop, it makes for a celestial experience and of course a great photo.
To corral the boiling water a well has been constructed around the spring. Throughout the day locals and tourists alike visit to touch and apply the water to their bodies, sit in the steam, fill up large containers to take home as well as take lots of photos. If you get hungry there’s a vendor who roams the area selling sleeves of eggs, 3 large or 6 small quail eggs, for 20 Baht ($0.66) which can be bought, boiled in the well for about 5 minutes and eaten on the spot with some soy sauce.
For those who want to fully experience of the powers of the spring water or just relax in an outdoor tropical bath, you can do so in one of three spring pools. The cost to soak is 40 Baht ($1.31) which provides access all day to the three pools and a towel. The Father pool has the hottest water, around 65oC, and is definitely for the bravest soakers. The water in the Mother pool has been slightly cooled for a more tolerable experience and is around 45oC. The Child pool has the coolest water, similar to a lukewarm bath, and as the name suggests is suitable for kids.
After dipping a toe in and feeling the scorching water I quickly passed on the Father pool. The heat of the Mother pool was up there, and for a while had my sweat sweating. After easing my way in and getting acclimated, it was relaxing to sit and feel the water erase any tension in my body. Perhaps it was the time of year, however, a big positive and contrary to what I had read, was the absence of an overwhelming sulfur smell. Happily, the clean smell of nature was all my nose registered.
A few of the springs many benefits, in addition to its healing powers, are detoxification, stress relief and helping the blood system absorb oxygen and glucose between capillaries and muscle tissue. For any traveler this is a welcome recipe for total relaxation.
Also in the park is a small temple, Wat Tapo Tharam, which is dedicated to the spirit of the springs and offers both hot and cold showers of spring water for a small 10 Baht donation ($0.33). There is also a private spa offering treatments, the only one around allowed to use the spring water for commercial use. Across the river a large golden Buddha sits on a hill which offers a view of the springs and river below.
If you’re looking for relaxation and rejuvenation after pounding the travel path, I highly recommend a visit to Raksarawin to get a first hand experience of true Thai wellness.