We recently had the privilege to travel to Khao Lak in Thailand for a series of meetings with several boutique properties. Our journey was again on Singapore Airlines from Australia to Singapore in Premium Economy Class and with a short transit at Changi Airport, we were en-route to Phuket International Airport flying Silk Air. For those unaware Silk Air is Singapore Airlines short-haul regional carrier, using predominantly Boeing 737-800 aircraft and fly routes generally within 2 hours of flying time from Singapore. The service on board both aircraft were of a high standard as you would expect, and both services were accurate to their timetable with scheduled departure and arrival times as advertised.
On arrival at Phuket International Airport, we completed customs and immigration procedures, collected our baggage, and met with our private driver who safely transferred us the 2 hours from Phuket to Khao Lak. The journey from Phuket to Khao Lak is very picturesque and for the vast majority, driven on very good quality roads. On arrival in Khao Lak, we were presented with the lovely beachside town and very much looking forward to a few rewarding days on the Thailand Coast, minus many of the heavily populated tourist spots in places like Patong. After checking into our hotel bungalow and unpacking it was time to go for a short self-orientating walk and stop for a refreshing drink before returning to the hotel and enjoying a decent night’s sleep.
The following day was at leisure, so upon waking early we headed to our beach to enjoy a swim. I must comment whilst the water was beautiful and refreshing, the sea bottom was very rocky and uneven, therefore not the most pleasant of locations to take a swim. Our hotel was located at the southern end of the township and there is a very big difference in the beach as you head north, and I will address this later in the blog. So after the swim, a short exploring walk in the daylight, and enjoying breakfast at the hotel, it was time to explore the township in greater detail.
Khao Lak is located on the West Coast of the Thailand Peninsula, the opposite side of Phuket, and is a wonderful alternative to visit. One of the hardest-hit areas in Thailand from the Tsunami of 2004 many properties and shops have been rebuilt and whilst in town, everyone should devote a couple of hours to the International Tsunami Museum as this will offer visitors a graphic and in-depth view of the Tsunami that killed over 4000 people. The area of Khao Lak is spread out over a long, thin area, divided on each side by Petchkasem Rd and there is a significant difference between the north and the south of the town. The southern area of Khao Lak is busy, and for tourists it’s this area where the highest concentration of bars, resorts, shops etc is located, consequently it is also the heaviest populated area. The north end of Khao Lak is significantly quieter, and home to higher standard hotels that are more private and secluded, so travelers should be prepared to pay more. It should also be noted the beach in the north end of Khao Lak is also significantly better than down south as up north the beach is wider, there is very little swell year-round, no serious tidal influence, and no rocks on the bottom of the seafloor, so significantly to swim than the beach down south.
As you would expect from a Thailand beachside town, travelers have many choices of outdoor markets, local open-air restaurants & bars, so for us late this morning, we decided to visit the Khao Lak Tsunami Museum. A deeply moving place built in honour and memory of the tragic loss of life from the Tsunami, visitors can wander the complex looking at some of the photography, recalling the events, and watching some of the authentic footage. We would encourage all visitors to Khao Lak to visit the Tsunami Museum. It was now late in the afternoon when we finished so a swim in the ocean, and a cold beer was required, before finding a local restaurant and enjoying a simple seafood meal before returning to the resort and turning in for the night.
Waking early the following morning we again headed to the beach for an early morning swim before getting ready for our 1st meeting of the day. The previous afternoon we hired a Moped for the remainder of our stay, which equated to AUD $15.00 per day, and we had unlimited use. Unlike some other heavily populated areas of Thailand, driving around Khao Lak was very easy, and at no time did we feel out of our depth or in any danger, so for people visiting Khao Lak, if you have experience of riding a motorbike, then this is a great way to see the town and surrounding area.
Our 1st meeting of the day was with a stunning property located in the north end of the beach, named The Sarojin. In our opinion the most exclusive property in Khao Lak, it is, in short, stunning! Situated off the main road in a secluded beachside setting, The Sarojin is a 5 star, luxury boutique resort comprising only 56 luxury guest residences. Rebuilt after the Tsunami the grounds are immaculately manicured, the residences are just stunning, and the staff is amazing. The beach is private and as observed earlier in the blog, the condition of the beach up the north end is much better than down south, and it is nothing short of stunning. The residences are luxurious, with stone baths, rain showers, natural flooring and soft furnishings. The Sarojin is a beautiful property for the discerning traveler and we highly recommend a stay here to visitors of Khao Lak in this market.
Our 2nd meeting of the day was with another property located up the north end of the beach called the Le Menara. Embracing a combination of European and Asian style rooms the property was only 6 months old when we met with them. The property is located on the beach, away from the township of Khao Lak and at the time we met, there was forest on both sides of the property, so it was very quiet and peaceful. The setting for this property is stunning and, 1 feature we love in a beachside property, is a pool located very close to the sand and beach. The Le Menara has a 120-meter pool located very close to the beach, allowing for parents to enjoy a drink relaxing by the pool, whilst the kids can swim in the ocean, with both parties only a few seconds away from each other. We were advised this section of the Andaman Sea does not receive any significant swell, nor rips throughout the year and the ocean is very flat year-round. It is a beautiful setting and certainly one we can envisage everyone enjoying at some stage.
At the conclusion of our meeting, we drove to a nearby waterfall and enjoyed a short bushwalk in the forest. The location of this waterfall is only 10 mins drive from the Sarojin and we learned in our meeting with the Sarojin clients can enjoy a special 3 course, candlelit, private dinner at the foot of the waterfall. The setting for dinner is stunning, and for clients staying at the property, time permitting should enjoy a dinner in this setting, as the setting is simply stunning. After a short walk in the nearby forest, we decided it was time to return to our resort, change into some casual clothes and wander through the streets and enjoy an hour or two of shopping.
Like many other Asian beachside locations, there are several options to wander through markets that sell clothes and other knick-knacks but unlike other beachside locations, store owners or hawkers will not constantly court you and will leave you in peace to decide yourself. In addition to the main shopping strip, it will pay visitors to walk a block or two away from the main area where you will find shops selling similar product however, often at a slightly lower cost as their store does not occupy the profile or real estate of shops on the main shopping strip.
It was a short trip to Khao Lak and a place we will return to again in the next few years for a longer stay no doubt however, our underlying impression is If you are looking at an alternative Thailand getaway to more well-known locations, fewer people, and a relaxed environment then Khao Lak is definitely worth serious consideration.