When we got to breakfast in the morning and pretty much felt as though we could have been in a restaurant in Australia, I had a minor meltdown. But you know, I picked myself up and got over it and remembered that we had deliberately chosen a holiday with three different components – city, mountains, sea – and I just needed to deal and enjoy the differences between each place. So in order to deal, I knew that I needed to do what I do best – research! Time to head up into the “town” along the roadway and check out local tour options.
Let’s go to that trusty source of information, Wikipedia, for some background information on Khao Lak.
The name “Khao Lak” literally means Lak mountain. Lak mountain is one of the main peaks in the hilly small mountainous region (maximum height 1,050 meters) within the Khao Lak-Lam Ru National Park.
The tiny village of Ban Khao Lak, the original beach, Hat Khao Lak, and the bay of Khao Lak (Ao Khao Lak) actually all lie in the Lam Kaen sub-district of Thai Mueang district. But in recent years, presumably for reasons of convenience, commerce and marketing, the generalisation of the name Khao Lak has propagated itself northwards almost as far as the town of Takua Pa.
Khao Lak is approximately 60 kilometers north of the island of Phuket along Phetkasem Road, (Thai Route 4), one of four major highways in Thailand, Khao Lak is serviced regularly by buses. Phuket International Airport (HKT) is 74 kilometres south on the island of Phuket.
Though Thailand’s economy is mostly export-dependent, Khao Lak remains mostly tourist-dependent, with surrounding agriculture and commercial fishing making up a small contribution to Thailand’s overall economy.
Differentiating Khao Lak from neighboring tourist destinations like Phuket are its quiet, up-scale, secluded coastal resorts; uncrowded beaches; family-friendly nighttime environment and provincial ordinances that prohibit structures taller than the height of a coconut palm tree, keeping Khao Lak down to earth (but subject to sprawl).
Khao Lak the area is definitely all of these things. The double lane highway has shops along either side in key areas, servicing the tourist community, but the real attractions lie in the beauty of the national parks nearby. We are here in low season, so the Surin and Similan Islands off the coast are unfortunately closed. Low season is linked to the weather – this is rainy season. We haven’t seen much rain at all, only phenomenal humidity. It looks as though it has been raining overnight however.
While I was up in the village, the kids did want they had been begging us to do since we arrived – spent time in the pool. We discovered in the evening that although we had sunscreened in the morning, we all needed to be more vigilant with reapplication. Dan even got his stomach burned through his t-shirt! That sun is incredibly powerful, and it is easy to forget that when the UV rays are coming through clouds. Clare struggled a bit emotionally in the morning – she is at that tween age where it can be harder to make instant friends, and she suffers from people presuming that she is much younger than she is and treating her accordingly. I sometimes feel like giving her a sign that says “I am eleven years old and quite intelligent”, as I remember the feeling from when I was her age. Stella has had no qualms with playing with other kids in the pool or the kids club, just inserting herself into the action whether she is invited or not!
We had lunch at one of the hotel restaurants. That gave us an opportunity to talk about what we all wanted to do while we were here, and try to timetable it accordingly. I think that this helped Clare to feel a bit more in control, because the day progressed rather beautifully after lunch.
Clare had studied the Kids Club program, and Stella just wanted to check it all out, so the girls went there for fun and face painting while Dan and I went to a cocktail making class that was included in our holiday package. Dan even fitted in a quick trip to the hotel gym before we made cocktails. And it seemed that everyone had fun!
While making cocktails we discovered that lots of people come to the Sands to get married. There are weddings here every couple of days. Some of the people in the class with us were from a group of forty Australians here for one wedding, and others in the class were the bride and groom and their parents from another wedding. And lo and behold, when we headed down to the beach we came across another bride having photos taken for her wedding!
The next couple of photos show you the beach view from the resort, looking left and looking right. It really is rather spectacular and relatively deserted.
On our way to the beach we encountered more local wildlife in the resort. Dan rather fancies himself as a lizard hunter….
We turned right when we got to the beach and went wandering. The girls enjoying playing in the edges of the waves, trying to avoid getting soaked as the water rushed in. The beaches aren’t safe for swimming at the moment. I think it is seasonal, and possibly is unlikely to change throughout the duration of our stay. There is a flag warning system with green, yellow and red flags, and the red flag has been flying since we arrived. It was fun spotting the tiny crabs that weren’t evident until they skittered away as you approached. There were also plenty of the ubiquitous Thai dog community. The dogs aren’t wild, and they’re not necessarily strays, but rather they appear to be “community” dogs. Either way, we’ve told the kids to stay away from them. We also came across a washed up bottle that was covered in barnacles, and they were busy opening and closing and poking in and out of their shells. Very Attenborough.
The beaches in Thailand are public, and during high season they are lined with huts selling food, drinks, massages, tours, and other goods, with associated vendors wandering along the beach. As it is low season most of the huts were empty. Despite the resort seeming to be full, tourist numbers in general are obviously down at this time of year. We came across one fantastic little beachside bar, Peter Bar, quite close to the hotel, where we enjoyed a gin and tonic as we watched the waves crash in. We’ll be back there for a meal and massage at some stage.
The clouds were closing in, necessitating a sprint back to the resort. The thick dark clouds look rather dramatic, although they don’t always seem to produce a great deal during the day. The rain seems to be happening overnight. Dinner was at a restaurant up on the main road, Smile restaurant. The owner and host is French, and his Thai wife is the cook. It was another brilliant meal, with excellent service and the provision of a kids menu that was appropriate but still regionally and nutritionally appropriate. Highly recommended! The kids were exhausted, so we managed to get them straight to sleep when we got back to our room. It’s now shortly after 8.00am on Monday and there is no sign of movement from the rest of the family. Everyone is tired, and it’s a well deserved and much needed sleep in. Today will be a quieter one I think, with massages booked for midday. Maybe a market trip this afternoon, but maybe not. We’ll see! I might finally be able to read some of my book instead.