Drinking water machines in Chiang Mai

Buying filtered drinking water in Chiang MaiOne thing we’ve just loved here in Thailand is the ease of obtaining clean drinking water. We’ve been staying in a very nice condominium here in Chiang Rai, and around the corner from us is a water dispensing machine. We discovered that for 5 baht – about 16 US cents – we can get about 13 liters of filtered drinking water.

We bought a 6-liter bottle of drinking water for 40 baht ($1.29) before we discovered the drinking-water machine. We went for a walk in the opposite direction to our usual, and discovered the machine in front of a laundry shop – a place where you can pay to wash your clothes in a machine, kind of like a laundromat – literally just a few meters from where we live. So as soon as the water bottle was empty, walked it over to the machine.

We were lucky to get help, as all the instructions were in Thai. The kind woman who runs the laundry shop showed us where to insert the money. We put in 5 baht and the bottle was soon completely full. She must have known there would be leftover when she saw us insert 5 baht, because she came out with a few one-liter bottles and filled them up for herself. She gestured to us that 1 baht would pay for 3 bottles.

Photo of our two big 6-liter bottles and my half-liter bottle -- 13 liters of drinking water. Chiang MaiWell, if that was the case, we could certainly do with another big bottle. We bought a second 6-liter bottle at the grocery store up the street, and as soon as both bottles were empty, we took them to the machine. I brought along another plastic water bottle I found in the condo kitchen. (It’s fully furnished, with kitchen utensils, plates, glasses, etc.)

We found we can completely fill the two 6-liter bottles right to the neck, and then fill my steel water bottle that I carry every day, which I think is about half a liter. So we figure we’re getting 13 liters for 5 baht. Such a deal.

Here’s how the machine looks:

Photo of filtered drinking water dispensing machine in Chiang Mai

Here’s how it works. You use the shelf if your bottle is short, take the lid off and position it under the spout. (If you’re filling a huge bottle, fold the shelf up rest on the back wall of the machine.) Then insert your coins in the slot that’s lit up. If they both are, you can use either. You can use 1-baht or 5-baht coins.

Press the green button above the coin slot and watch the bottle or the digital readout to see how many liters have been dispensed. When you want to stop the flow, press the green button again. Then you can remove the full bottle and place an empty one under the spout, pressing  the green button again to resume the flow.

It’s amazing what a difference it makes to have clean, fresh-tasting water all the time, every day. We’ve traveled in places where water had to be boiled to guarantee its safety, and when you boil water over a wood fire, it can taste truly foul. We actually became faintly nauseated in one place from the taste of the water – and we didn’t even have to boil it ourselves. Our hosts did that for us. So we were grateful, but queasy with it.

The one thing that’s always bothered me, though, is constantly buying all these plastic bottles – it is terrible for the environment, and I hate contributing to that problem. So being able to buy big bottles and refill them is great, a solution we seek whenever we’re settled down for a couple of weeks.


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