Better luck this time!
13.02.2015 - 14.02.2015 33 °C
Our journey from AoNang to Khao Lak was very different from our previous 7 hour epic. The. taxi driver arrived early (fortunately we'd been out first thing to replenish the gin stocks) and just over two hours later we were at the Riverside. The 140km journey north took us up and over two mountains with steep roads winding through pine forests, bright sunshine filtered through the trees. We swept around the final bend and the long sandy beach of Khao Lak appeared below us.
Khao Lak - looking south on Bang Niang beach
The Khao Lak region isn't just one beach but a stretch of 25 miles of beaches, separated by rocky outcrops, along Thailand's west coast about 40 miles north of Phuket. The beaches all have different names, as well as Khao Lak, amongst others you've got Tubkak, Khuk Khak, Pakweeb and Bang Niang which is where we are. All of the beaches are public so although lots of hotels are right behind the beach, they do not have the right to put sunbeds, umbrellas etc. on the sand.... it doesn't stop them doing it though! The main North/South highway runs about 2km inland from the beaches and a series of villages lie between. These beaches took the full force of the 2004 tsunami, everything was destroyed and much of the distressing video footage that you may have seen was shot here. Our taxi driver told us that there was not a single family in the area that did not lose somebody. The famous police patrol boat, out cruising the waters. that was picked up by the wave and deposited 3km inland is still here, where it came to rest by the roadside in Bang Niang.
Bang Niang beach with illegal sunbeds, etc
Consequently, none of the permanent structures along the beach are more than 10 years old, even so, there is still an old fashioned, laid back feel to the place, like the Phuket of 15 years ago. During the day, everyone is at the beach or poolside, the villages are quiet and sleepy with nothing much opening before 10am. People come out in the evening to eat and shop in the little stores or night markets. Pretty much everything closes down in the low season, late April to mid October when it's colder ( by Thai standards, around 25C), it rains a lot, the beaches are windy and the waves are very strong. The beach bars and restaurants shut down and the Similan Islands are closed to divers and snorkellers.
Sunset over the Khao Lak Riverside Redort pool and garden.JPG
Our hotel, Khao Lak Riverside Resort, has a lovely location. It's situated right at the point where the only river in the area meets the sea. We have river and hillside views to our left and to the front we look out over the hotel pool and quite extensive garden and parched lawns, down across the river basin to the beach and sea beyond. Unlike most of the bigger beachfront hotels, every room here has a good view. We have the same room as last year and, like all the others, it is quite vast. Ours is the room that illustrates the hotel website so we know it has some of the best views.
Khao Lak Riverside Resort from the beach (our room is top right)
When we were here before, the hotel was being run by one of the owners who was really not well and unable to cope, now there is Peter, the new Hungarian manager who is helpfulness personified. Our arrival could not have been more different.. last time, when we got here, it was late at night and the whole resort was locked and barred. We couldn't get in and had to spend the night at another hotel.
This time we were met with smiles, welcomes, cold drinks and towel swans on the beds!