allaboutpai.com → Help Save Pai Hot Springs
This is a special Pai Hot Springs page from allaboutpai.com, which has lots of information about Pai, a town in the mountains of Northern Thailand.
There is a wonderful natural hot spring (official name: Tha Pai Hot Springs, not to be confused with the privately-run Tha Pai Spa Camping or Tha Pai Spa Exotic Home) about 8km south of Pai where a cold river and boiling hot source meet in 10"-16"
deep pools. You can freeze your butt off motorbiking there in the pre-dawn hours and then sit and relax as the rays of the just-appearing sun shoot through the steam rising around you. Everywhere you look there are trees and nature, and not a speck of concrete in site.
This local treasure has been run by locals and available for free to all locals for centuries. It has even been free over the last 12 or so years, when it has been under the local Forestry officials' care.
Sadly, in July 2006, for the first time ever in the history of Pai, the Thai Forestry Department in Bangkok wrested control of the hot springs from locals and started charging for entry. Worse yet, the fee rapidly went to 20B
for Thais, and 400B
for foreigners, a 20x difference.
These outrageous prices, and this outrageous price discrimination, which are not just limited to Pai, have been alienating tourists and tour operators for years, spawning a flood of complaints about park fees all across the country.
On 22 November 2007, the Department of National Parks finally began to acknowledge the problem when they introduced a new pricing scheme which reduced fees for some parks. Tha Pai Hot Springs, which is part of Huay Nam Dang National Park, went to 200B for foreigners and 40B for Thais.
200B is still completely, utterly, totally ridiculous. For christ's sake, it's a little muddy hot creek with one little bathroom they have to clean! Give me 200B per person and I will clean the bathroom myself! Even if you believe the nationwide 200-400B "national park fee" is justified for the high costs of maintaining large national parks, 200B is completely out of line for Tha Pai hot springs and can only be ascribed to greed and corruption. For some perspective on 200B, it costs 400B (8.50 Euros) for all-day admission to the Louvre in Paris! Even if you believe farangs should pay more, 5x more is not reasonable by any stretch of the imagination.
The order to charge came from Bangkok and I'm willing to bet the vast majority of the cash goes straight there.
Perhaps the real problem is that Tha Pai Hot Springs is priced along with the rest of Huay Nam Dang National Park. In reality, Tha Pai Hot springs is nowhere near the entrances to Huay Nam Dang, and cannot even compare with the facilities of Huay Nam Dang, which include luxury rental bungalows, a visitor center, restaurants, fancy baths, interpretive trails, miles and miles of hiking trails, etc. Tha Pai Hot Springs is just a little creek with no trails connecting to the rest of the park.
If you feel as annoyed by this as I do, please help by spending a few minutes to do the following.
You can do this when you are in Pai visiting the nearby private hot springs, or you can even help via mail or email. Here's all you need to do:
Print and sign the following bilingual note (for email, just cut and paste it!):
Click here for an easy-to-print PDF file
Click here for an easy-to-print Microsoft Word file
To all management of Tha Pai Hot Springs:
The Tha Pai natural hot springs is one of the main reasons I visited Pai.
I am surprised and shocked that you are charging 200B for entrance. This is far too much.
เมื่อมาถึงแล้วก็ประหลาดใจและตกใจเมื่อพบว่าต้องจ่ายค่าผ่านประตูถึง ๒๐๐ บาท ซึ่งขออนุญาตเรียนตามตรงว่าเป็นราคาที่สูงมากเกินสมควร
I will now be leaving instead of paying you. I want to visit the hot springs, but I can not. I feel sad, but your price is simply not reasonable.
เพราะฉะนั้น พวกเราตัดสินใจจะไม่เข้าไปชม แม้ว่าจะเสียดาย แต่ราคาค่าผ่านประตูไม่สมเหตุสมผล เกินที่จะรับได้
I would be willing to pay 40B per person and 30B per motorbike, as Thais do.
พวกเรายินดีที่จะเสียค่าผ่านประตูในราคา ๔๐ บาท ต่อคน หรือ ๓๐ บาทต่อ รถเครื่อง เหมือนกับที่คนไทยทุกคนต้องจ่าย
Your price and your two-tier price structure for Thais and foreigners makes me feel very unwelcome as a tourist, as if Tha Pai doesn't want us here.
ในเมื่อทางราชการตั้งราคาสูงขนาดนี้ มิหนำยังเป็นระบบสองขั้น คือราคาคนไทยกับราคาฝรั่ง มันทำให้พวกเราอดรู้สึกไม่ได้ว่าท่านไม่ปรารถนาให้เรามาเที่ยว บ่อน้ำร้อนท่าปายไม่ยินดีต้อนรับนักท่องเที่ยว
I am certain that this policy of chasing short-term profits will backfire in the long term, because it stains the reputation of Pai and Thailand for all tourists.
พวกกระผม (ดิฉัน) เห็นว่านโยบายนี้เก็งแค่กำไรสูงสุดในระยะสั้น แต่กลับจะมีผลกระทบต่อชื่อเสียงของการท่องเทียวในปายและประเทศไทยในระยะยาวอย่างแน่นอน
Now deliver the note in as many ways as you can:
- Email the note to:
Huay Nam Dang National Park
- Mail the note to these destinations:
National Park Wildlife and Plant Conservation Department
61 Thanon Pahonyotin
Kwaeng Lat Yao
National Park Conservation Area 16
153 Thanon Charoen Prathet
Tambon Chang Klan
Amphoe Muang Jangwat Chiang Mai
Huay Nam Dang National Park
Tambon Kit Chang
Amphoe Mae Taeng
Jangwat Chiang Mai
- For maximum impact, bring the note directly to the hot springs entrance (you can do this while you're visiting the nearby private hot springs) so the staff can actually see a real person refusing to pay the exorbitant fee, and feel the money slip out of their hands!
In order for this to help, we have to do protest Thai-style, which is very different from farang-style. Here's how it works:
- Go to the natural hot springs entrance.
- When/if the official asks you for 200B, politely and calmly offer to pay the Thai price (40B per person plus 30B per motorbike, or whatever is posted). Please remember that yelling and waving your hands does no good in Thailand, makes you look like a complete idiot, and will not help us in our quest to regain control of our hot springs from the bumbling central government. You can disagree and show your disappointment without raising your voice, and this will be much more effective in Thai culture. Even more effective: you can laugh and make it fun!
- Assuming the official still insists on 200B, gently but firmly assure him that this not acceptable (with hand signals: he will likely speak only a little English), and hand him the note.
Very Important: The note must be sealed and addressed to the management!
Why is this? It's because of a surprising facet of Thai culture. Remember, the gate guard is just a grunt with no ability to change the policy. Our goal is to get him to hand this note up the chain of command instead of throwing it away. While our note is very polite, it has a confrontational subject matter. In Thai culture, those who are subordinate (including junior forestry officials!) feel a strong desire not to confront their superiors or even be the bearer of confrontation. If the letter were not sealed, the gate officer would read it and throw it away so as to "shield" his boss from confrontation. A sealed letter, on the other hand, is a completely different matter. The gate officer can claim he doesn't know what's in the letter (and even if he does, and even if his boss knows he knows, it still counts!). Plus, he is duty-bound not to open his boss's letters and to deliver them! Weird, I know, but that's how it is in Thai culture.
In the PDF and Microsoft Word files above, I have made it easy for you to seal your letter by simply folding it as shown:
Folding the Letter
Or if you have staples or tape you can get all high-tech :)
- Leave. This is the #1, most important part. This is the part where you are exercising the only two kinds of power that you have as a farang in Thailand: buying power and referral power. Now the gate officer, and eventually his superiors, will understand just how many farang baht they will not be seeing because of this outrageous price, and how this policy adversely affects tourism and Thailand's reputation.
After making this brief stop, you can now go visit one of the nearby, private places that have big concrete hot spring pools or private rooms with hot spring water, such as:
- Pai Hotsprings Spa Resort (formerly Tha Pai Spa Camping)
- Joy's Elephant Camp (and several of the other elephant camps too)
- Spa Exotic Home
- probably more places, by the time you read this.
Unfortunately, these places are not natural like Tha Pai hot springs, but at least they don't gouge foreigners. They charge between 40-100B for use of pools.
This will be your reward for helping to take back the natural hot springs from the Bangkok bureaucrats!
It's very important not to give the Bangkok Bureaucrats (or anyone else) any excuse to exclude foreigners from the hot springs. To that end, remember that you are in Thailand and Thai customs in hot springs are quite different than those in the west:
- Don't Bathe Naked! Yes, I know, back in _______ (fill in "California," "Burning Man," "The Rainbow Gathering", "My Back Yard"), naked bathing is a joyous expression of your primal connection with nature. Sorry, but this is Pai. No local Thai wants to see your bare breasts or genitalia at the public hot springs. They find it disgusting and it makes them want to kick you out. Notice how many locals bathe daily in the hot springs, but they always keep themselves discreetly covered with a sarong. You should do the same.
- Nature is Quiet: Keep It That Way Tempting though it is to make a huge drum circle, don't. It does in fact annoy the people who run the hot springs. Notice that there is even a "no drum" sign there. It's not worth the risk of further antagonzing the management.
Forward this hot springs news to your friend by sending him or her the following URL: