In October 2015, my boyfriend took me on a birthday jaunt from Chiang Mai up to Pai, the delightful little hippy town in the mountains, surrounded by a fantastic landscape of waterfalls, canyons, and hot springs. It was totally amazing, mainly because for four blissful days, we were allowed to forget about bills, rent, and our unemployment, and pretend that we were travellers, like everybody else. On our third day, we decided that we wanted to visit the Pai hot springs to have a little chill-ax, however we found that there are two: the commonly known one, and Pai secret hot springs.
TripAdvisor reviews show that Pai Hot Springs, the closest and easiest-to-find option, is ridiculously overpriced for Thailand, at a whopping 300 baht per person, and full of tourists. We had heard through the grapevine that there was another option, Pai secret hot springs, that were a lot cheaper and quieter (they’re not actually ‘secret’, as pretty much everyone knows about them, but finding them is an adventure all in itself). A search on Google revealed two frustratingly contradictory instructions for finding them, so I’ve opted to write my own nice and simple set of instructions.
The hot springs in question are actually called Sai Ngam hot springs, and will cost you 20 baht per person for entry, plus 20 baht for your scooter, that you will need to access this hidden gem. Get on the 1095 road out of Pai, heading towards Mae Hong Son. It’s pretty hard to miss, it’s the massive main road. You’re going to drive along it for about 11km, it’s quite a nice road, with big bends and great scenery. About 5km out of Pai, you will cross a cement bridge, keep on going! About 5km later, you will cross another cement bridge, by which point you will be questioning if you’ve gone too far and if it’s actually worth it, but keep on trucking! As you climb the hill past the second bridge, you will eventually see a blue sign on your left for the hot springs. Take the next turning on the right, that has lots of different signs in Thai. You’ll know that it’s the right turning, as there is a little wooden hut just off the road, that belongs to the forestry commission, and that is where you pay your 20 baht ‘entry’ fee.
This trip is not for the faint-hearted. If you are not confident riding a scooter, then this is not for you. The road is incredibly windy, and goes up and down like a rollercoaster. You’ll have to pick up speed in order to make it up the hills, whilst going round hairpin bends.
Follow this windy road for about 4km, and then on your left you will see this sign:
That’s it, you have found the secret hot springs! We arrived at about midday, and it was surprisingly busy, with some terrible Western ‘lads’ that were littering that made me incredibly angry, ashamed to be white, and ruined the experience a bit, but there you go! There will be some locals splashing around with their kids, and that’s lovely to see. The water was bath temperature, and the sun dapples in through the trees making it a very chilled experience. I recommend!
So, good luck finding Pai secret hot springs. If you manage to find them, please let me know what you thought!