We stayed in Fang, a provincial town of Chiang Mai, for two nights. Whilst it has few sights, it was a reasonable base for exploring the nearby area.
FANG HOT SPRINGS
Fang hot springs, 12 km from our hotel, are located in Doi Pha Hom Pok National Park. Having paid the 300 Baht (£7.50) entrance fee for foreigners, we weren’t sure what to expect although we’d been told to take swim suits and I’d read you could boil eggs.
The first thing we noticed was a huge geyser, like Yellowstone’s Old Faithful, which is said to erupt regularly for 20 minutes, every half hour. Here our guide took clever photographs to make it appear that the 50-metre steam jet was coming from our mouths.
Both hen and quail eggs were for sale, and we bought four hen eggs in a raffia basket which we hooked over the edge into a large hole with boiling water and a strong sulphur smell.
We continued on through flat grounds with over 50 small pools bubbling up and arrived at the main pool area. In the locker room we changed into swimsuits and headed for the steam rooms where faces on the doors depicted whether they were male or female. We chose a blank door so we could go in together. It was so steamy it was hard to tell whether anyone was already in there and as we felt for the bench, we hoped all we were feeling was seating. It was also hot, and after 10-minutes we had to get out.
We ventured into our respective segregated pools. In the female area were two circular turquoise tiled pools with a couple of steps into them and a ledge for sitting on, which left your upper body exposed to the fairly chilly air. However, on a Sunday at 9.15am, there was no one else around and I laid flat and soaked my whole body. One appeared to be slightly warmer than the other, but as the signs were only in Thai, I wasn’t sure whether there was any difference. The water was silky and soapy and signs and we’d been told not to stay in for more than 20 minutes.
Having dried off, we sat and ate our now-boiled eggs which our guide had collected whilst we’d been dipping. As we left, a large group of Thais arrived so our timing was excellent.
On the way back from the hot springs, we visited two wats or temples. The first appeared to be the local temple in honour of the Fang king and queen who’d sacrificed themselves for the town many years before. In the second, Wat Tonroong, which had been built in 1923, we met a saffron-robed monk sat cross legged on a raised platform who invited us to sit and chat. He told us he’d worked as a civil engineer in Laos for ten years and had been a monk for six. He talked about the ‘top ten monks’ and other subjects which made little sense, but he was keen for us to have his photo taken with him. Unfortunately, I nearly committed a Buddha sin and sat on the dais next to him, rather than on the floor below him. Before we left, he insisted on sharing some of the offerings he’d been given which included jelly like sweets and a bottle of water.
Our two-night stay coincided with the weekly Sunday night market and at 5.30pm it was in full swing. It was mainly a food market and lots of fresh dishes were being cooked: tiny quails rotated on a grill, whole salted fish, round sausages in a coil and meat skewers were being barbecued over hot coals, quails eggs were fried in a doughnut maker, bamboo sticks full of sticky rice was griddled and being pounded and mystery items were carefully wrapped in banana skins, whilst pots and woks bubbled with Thai curries and stir fries.
Other food was ready to go: silk worms, dried shrimps and dancing shrimp or Goong Ten, literally raw translucent shrimps eaten alive with chilli and other spices.
There were cold dishes you could prepare: a help yourself salad bar with the individual ingredients in washing up bowls and green papaya salad pounded in a pestle and mortar with as many chillies as you wanted. And whilst most of the food was traditionally Thai, there was a solitary pizza stall.
For pudding, there were donuts, cakes, ice-cream and candy floss roti and dotted around were hill tribe villagers selling fresh produce including ladies’ finger, lettuce, strawberries, sweet potatoes and mangoes etc.
Low tables and chairs were set out for al fresco eating and at the end of the long street, the food merged into general market stalls with clothes, shoes and toys.
Fang is not really a major tourist town and we were pleased our visit had coincided with this weekly market. Our guide did however come up with one coup. On hearing my partner saying he needed of his weekly ‘zero’ head shave, he found an excellent female barber whose A board said ‘I speak UK’. She did a grand job for 60 Baht or less than £2 and was so good, our driver and guide followed suit. I declined.