COME SEE Sai Ngam Hot Springs, Pai. Thailand.
SAI NGAM HOT SPRINGS: THE GUIDE
REGION: Mae Hong Son Province
ACCESSIBILITY: Open 8am-6pm, arrive by private scooter or book a day tour.
BEST TIME TO VISIT: During the cool season (end Nov -Feb), any time of the day.
LOCATION: 3.5 hours from Chiang Mai | 25 mins From Pai | Open in Google Maps
WALKING DISTANCE: 1 min
TIME REQUIRED: 1-2 hours
TOURIST RATING: Quiet
COST: 200 Baht p/person park entrance, 20 Baht for the bike and 20 Baht p/person for the hot springs.
PAI CANYON: THE EXPERIENCE
As told by Jackie Te-Aroha.
If the sound of a crystal clear pool of naturally warmed water surrounded by lush Thai jungle doesn’t make your eyes go heart shaped then close this tab now! If it does, then keep reading.
The Sai Ngam Hot Springs are located 25 minutes north of the quaint mountain township of Pai. We left our hotel around 8am to beat the crowds knowing that this is usually prime breakfast time. The ride up was cool, which was now an unusual feeling having left Australia’s winter two months prior. The roads are wide, winding and well maintained which is a description you can attach to most roads in Northern Thailand.
Before reaching this destination you will be stopped by a somewhat intimidating man dressed in Camo with a large gun strapped to his back who speaks very little English. Don’t be worried (as I was), because he’s just there to collect the Wildlife Sanctuary fees. Fees that I was unaware of due to limited research hence my slight apprehension, so consider yourself warned. Its 200 Baht per person, plus 20 Baht for the scooter.
Once you’ve paid the road continues to wind along, down and back up some beautifully steep hills. There was one in particular that took my breath away just a tad. After driving underneath a canopy of dark, damp trees and we began to ascend yet another hill. As we reached the top I slowed down on the accelerator and squinted a little in disbelief. It was like something straight from a Movie, where the main characters finally find the answers to their complicated yet common question and the director throws all sorts of cinematic techniques at it to enhance this powerful moment. Stunts like 360 degree aerials and dynamic jib movements complimented with rich deep colours and a dramatic audio soundscape… At least this is how it played out it my head. You might have just seen a concrete strip surrounded by green but this is my story so a landscape worthy of cinema it was.
Now, back to that warm natural swimming hole! You’ll know when you arrive at the springs because there’ll be some small stalls set up along side of the road. There’s a guy on the right sight (also dressed in Camo) in a small hut collecting the entry fee. Yeah, you gotta again. Luckily though its only 20 Baht (0.85 AUD) per person. Once in you’ll see a small bridge that goes over towards two small toilet stalls. To the right of this bridge is where the main attraction lays.
We contemplated getting into the second pool tier but just as we were the only three other people already there decided it was time for them to leave. YUUUSSSSS!!! We went to the upper tier and walked our way in. The water was just deep enough for you to float with about 30-50cm of clearance between you and the stone floor. The temperature was a pleasant, ‘little bit warmer than Luke’ and we now had the place all to ourselves.
Zade and I got into a deep conversation about how crazy it is that we were experiencing all these wonders together. We talked about what we might have been doing if we weren’t together, how glad we are that we have similar passions and the reasons we think everybody should give long-term travel a go. Amidst all the floating and conversation we lost track of the time and before we knew it, a small tour van was pulling into the car park. Shit!!! We thought, ‘we should’ve put Frida up to get some swimming shots’. ‘Quick before they come, go babe go’ I said in a panic!… And the rest is a sad story that I’d rather not repeat but lets just say that Frida’s definitely a bird and not a fish 🙁
Overall Sai Ngam was our FAVOURITE Pai destination and think it should be given priority on your ‘Pai Things To Do’ list. We would recommend going early when its cooler because Thailand is a pretty hot and humid place and nobody wants a warm natural spring in 35 degree temperatures. Because the springs are located further from town its more likely that the crowds here will be lower than those at the Tha Pai Hot Springs. Its a family friendly attraction however you may need to organise a tour if your not confident riding with little ones. Appart from that, relax. Loose track of time and enjoy!