A Weekend in Khao Lak
Khao Lak was just getting to be very popular in 2004. A quiet alternative to Phuket, very nice beaches and easy to reach - just fly in to Phuket Airport and get a taxi north. It's not much further to Khao Lak than it is to Patong Beach, just in the other direction and to be honest, with the traffic, probably takes about the same time. And then, 26th December 2004. The Tsunami. Phuket was hit, but Khao Lak was hit far worse. Killed thousands in the area, compared to hundreds in Phuket. Many hotels were (and are!) right by the beach. The fishing village of Ban Nam Khem a little north was flattened. In places the water reached more than 1km inland. Recovery was quick, but in places the rebuilding took years. Phuket was quickly back on the tourism map and I felt that Khao Lak was a little bit forgotten. Not pushed as a destination by travel companies, more likely to attract independent tourists looking for a quiet place to stay. And even in high season, Khao Lak is not that busy. Hotels are strung out along a 20km coastline, some hotels are quite remote, some are in more built up areas. We did several short trips to Khao Lak back in 2013 - see Holidays in Khao Lak - we had some relaxing days and did trips to Koh Tachai island and visited the tsunami memorials.
I had wanted to take another weekend in Khao Lak, but just to relax and do nothing. My dear wife didn't fancy it .. "nothing to do", she said. Exactly! A relaxing weekend at a nice hotel, with crazy low season prices, sit by the pool, go to the beach, have a night in a hotel, and maybe visit a nearby waterfall or something. Perfect! Well, we finally got a night in Khao Lak on August 15th, and got lucky with the low season weather. We had first been white water rafting in Phang Nga and then drove to the west to Khao Lak, only about 45 minutes drive. Previously we'd stayed at Nangthong Bay Resort. This time, something new - The Leaf On The Sands, which is owned by Katathani resorts. They also run The Sands Resort, which is right next to The Leaf, and there's the Katathani and The Shore in Phuket.
As I understand it, The Leaf is the cheaper sister of The Sands. To reach the beach from The Leaf you take a path next to The Sands, takes about 5 - 10 minutes to walk to the beach depending on your walking speed. We checked in mid afternoon and I liked it right away!
(above) The Leaf On The Sands. Our room was one of these by the pool :)
And the room rate? Not much more than 1,000 Baht! Low season prices can be a little bit nuts here! High season rates start around 3,000 Baht. We were straight into the pool for a splash about with the kids. There is also a second pool with a swim up bar, so I headed there too for a cold Chang with friends (we did this weekend with our friends from the Easy Day Thailand tour company). It's not a huge resort, has about 90 rooms. All with free WiFi, thank you! That has to be a given these days .. any hotel that charges for WiFi should be ashamed. Our room was comfortable, huge bed, big bathroom. Aircon maybe a little too powerful for the size of room, but .. right by the pool, inexpensive... I do like low season! We are lucky of course because we can decide last minute to take a trip. We can wake up Saturday morning and check the weather. Sunny? Let's go out! If you have a pre-booked holiday, well, you just have to be lucky.
I took a late afternoon walk down to the beach. Khao Lak has many different beach areas. This is Nangthong Beach. The hotel we stayed in before is just a 10 minute walk along the beach. Very quiet at this time of year, very few people around. I watched a few guys fishing from the rocks...
That evening our group all got together for a big dinner at a place called Baan Khao Lak Seafood, which is actually a few km south of the main Khao Lak beaches. I think it's more of a locals place to eat, being not that close to any hotels. We had a big spread of fried fish, penang curry and shrimp tom yum. And a beer or 2 :) And back to the hotel. I was back in the pool to let the kids jump on me, then popped out for a couple of beers at a small Italian restaurant over the street from the hotel, and enjoyed sitting with my wife on the hotel balcony. Easy life!
Next morning, no rush, but was woken about 7:15am by the kids (ours and their friends) who were already splashing around in the pool!
(above) View from our room about 7:20am, Sunday morning.
So no sleep in for me! Another jump in the pool and then off for breakfast. Now .. hotels in Thailand do sometimes have very basic breakfasts. Often cold fried eggs, crappy white bread for toast, only sachets of instant coffee. I am happy to say that The Leaf was a good one. Fresh brewed coffee, and a cook who was making eggs to order. In my book, that's fancy, but then again we don't tend to stay at fancy hotels! Breakfast was included in the room rate too. A very good low season deal. After breakfast, I had to run to catch up with my son and a few of his buddies, who were heading down to the beach. It was a beautiful morning. As good as any high season morning. No big waves, just a gentle surf. Blue skies, empty sands. A shame it was Monday and back to school and work next day, I wanted another night!
(above) On the beach, Sunday 16th August
We all took a walk up the beach, kids darting in and out of the water, body surfing the waves. They can all swim pretty well, my kids and our friend's kids, but anyway, best to have some adult supervision. I don't think any of them wanted to leave either!
(above) My boy and a couple of buddies enjoying a perfect beach morning in Khao Lak.
Oh to be 10 years old again! Life is simple.
A very good weekend, with the rafting on Saturday and a relaxing night in Khao Lak. And my wife now wants to go again. I have finally convinced her that doing nothing for a weekend can be fun! Well, almost nothing ... we left from Khao Lak just about midday and headed back south to Phuket, stopping off at Lampi Waterfall on the way. It's not a really long drive from home to Khao Lak, we drive slow and it takes less than 2 hours. So, when will be our next Khao Lak trip?!