Eighteen km west of Lak Xao, on the edge of the town of Ban Nape, there's a small guesthouse that makes its business off a nearby, underground, thermal spring.
We showed up half expecting to take a dip in a natural pool of steamy water, but the reality turns out to be a little different. The water comes from underground, via a pumping station 100m behind the guesthouse along the river. The water is pumped into one of a series of private rooms with bathtubs and toilets. For 10,000kip, you can go in, fill the tub with hot spring water, and take a soak. Not as exciting as a 15m plunge off of a waterfall, to be sure, but the water is piping hot without being scalding, and we found the experience quite relaxing.
The water has, no doubt, purported healthy effects -- it's certainly healthier than that other, more ubiquitous muscle relaxant found throughout Laos in little brown bottles. The water has a slightly sulphurous scent, so you might want to wash up with soap and the cold spring water that's on tap if you don't want to spend the day smelling vaguely of eggshells. For a bit of a giggle, you can wade out into the river beside the pumping station, where you'll find patches of sand that have been heated up by the underground thermal activity, to the point where it gives you a hot foot. It's in a fairly pretty location, and there's a guesthouse here if you want to take the 'spa cure.'
To get here, go west at the roundabout in Lak Xao, and 18km on, you'll see a small blue sign to the right that says "Welcome! To Hot Springs Waters."
Ban Pak Nam Eun, At the hot springs, outside Ban Nape. T: (020) 210 5323
There are two guesthouse buildings here, but one of them was falling apart and unused on our visit. The functional one is a little wooden place with two very spare rooms with private, cold-water baths. Not all the beds had bedding, but we imagine they can scare some up if you want to stay here -- apparently, not many people do. There's a stall along the roadside for a snack, but for meals, head west into Ban Nape and look for a noodle stand. Ban Nape is a quaint, friendly little town, and you'll certainly receive a warm welcome and good deal of attention as a foreigner passing through. Ban Pak Nam Eun is hardly stellar, but It's certainly a quiet, out-of-the-way place, if nothing else! Double with private bath: 30,000 kip
Last updated on 9th February, 2007.