Chaiya, Thailand is just north of the city of Suratthani in the Suratthani province. It's about an hour by motorbike or driving a car medium speed. I think it's 60 km away from town. The road is well traveled and fairly safe. I used to make the trip about every other week up to walk around the temple and soak in the saltwater hotspring that was just about 102 degrees F (fahreinheit). I'm not sure what that is in Celsius, but I'll guess it's about 39 degrees C.
Suan Mokkh Buddhist temple (wat) is the place where Buddhadassa Bhikku stayed for many years of his life. He, along with Ajahn Chah were instrumental in reviving the "forest wat" tradition. Buddhadassa Bhikku was a monk that went against the grain by following what he thought the Buddha was saying, instead of what the rest of Thailand's Buddhists were following. He didn't follow traditions that were being followed in Bangkok and did his own thing.
I first heard about Buddhadassa Bhikku and Suan Mokkh Temple in 1997 when I read a book of his, "No Religion". The title fit well with what I believed at the time, and though he was clearly advocating BuddhISM, he had some good points in the book and he seemed to be saying that everything must be experienced by one's SELF to be believed. Anything else is handed to you and you are not to just accept it, you must try it… See if it works for you, and see if it's true for you…
The saltwater hotspring in this photo is located across the highway from Suan Mokkh Temple and is about 1 km down the road leading off the highway and away from the temple. There is also a Dhamma Meditation Center down this road for English speaking persons wanting to join their monthly meditation retreat for 1500 baht or so. The retreat goes for 10 days and is from the 1st of every month until the 10th or 11th.
The saltwater hotspring is only about 20 meters long and 10 across. As I said, the temperature is around 39 C but one can get in slowly and it feels bearable. I'm not one to like hot spas and jacuzzis so this was about as hot as I could stand. But, I know others can handle much hotter. Kids frequently get in and Thais stop here all the time. I saw a couple very elderly Thai people get in too. One man's family told me that the heat makes him feel better as he has pain in his bones… arthritus?
As you're traveling down the road the saltwater hotspring will be on the left side. There will be a steep hill on your right side. I have heard that there are more hotsprings all around that area – but I didn't see any others that seemed clean enough to spend time in. Some teens ran up the steep hill to our right as if they were excited about going somewhere cool, but they could have been smoking or drinking for all I know! As to WHY it is saltwater some women told me that it's close to the sea… Yah, it is… but, what is heating up the saltwater and bringing it inland to bubble up under the ground like this – that's the question… So far I don't have the answer…
There are some hotsprings at the Dhamma Meditation Center that I've been told are open to participants of the monthly meditation program. I was able to go into the center a few times, it's a beautiful sprawling area with dhamma talk hootchies, meditation halls and other buildings. It's beautiful and if you're there when they're not holding a session you'll probably be welcomed to walk around and shoot photos or meditate at your convenience.
If you're there DURING a retreat session a rather unkind, unsmiling small Thai woman with grey hair and lots of frowns – will see that you find your way back out the way you came in!
If you are near Chaiya, Thailand then you really should stop in at Suan Mokkh and see the temple and the saltwater hotspring. The main Suan Mokkh temple is always open except maybe during the rains retreat season… If you're there around the 11th-13th of the month you'll likely get to walk around the dhamma retreat center grounds too. If you're interested in Buddhism at all then before you go you should have a look at Buddhadhassa's books or videos. There are MANY online at Amazon.