We just got back on Sunday from our 2 weeks in Thailand, seems like a lifetime ago already! We had 3 nights in Karon to chill and acclimatise to the weather before heading off to Khao Sok national park for 2 nights with Paddleasia, followed by 7 nights in Khao Lak and then a frantic one night in Bangkok.
This was our 3rd time in Thailand, and last year we spent a week in Kata at the Sawasdee Village. This time we stayed at the Karon Horizon Resort, at the Kata end of Karon. I will do a review of the hotel separately but the location didn’t suit us. The area was too busy, constant harassment from every tailor and massage parlour, and just generally not for us. I didn’t honestly think I would have a problem with it but found everything just a bit too much in your face all the time.
So it was with some relief that we left for Khao Sok 3 days later. We had organised the trip with Paddleasia as they seemed to offer the package that suited us for concentrating on birdlife and ability to give us guides experienced in birds. The trip wasn’t too long, I think 2 hours by minibus, then an hour’s boat trip to the camp site. Not too bad really but for the fact that poor Alan had started to feel unwell just as we were about to be picked up, and the next 24-36 hours were awful. He couldn’t keep anything in/down and missed most of the trip. I was ill about 12 hours after him but nowhere near as bad and managed to keep going. That aside, the site itself was pretty amazing, staying in bamboo huts on the edge of the reservoir. There was about 3 hours kayaking each morning (6am wake up) and late afternoon, with a trek in the jungle after lunch when it was too hot to see any birds. I had thought we’d see more birdlife but it was really only later that I realised how much of it is down to luck. Overall though, I saw quite a few different kingfishers, hornbills, a woodpecker, owl, macaques and dusky langurs, a drongo and lots of Chinese heron. Several sea eagles and osprey too. We were in a group of 7 so it was a nice size. Would I recommend it? Definitely, and I would probably say a 3 night trip is better than our 2 night one as the time just flew by. If anyone wants to know more about the trip, ask away. I’m not into camping or roughing it in any way shape or form, but if I can cope with it, and being ill at that too, then anyone can! This is really a trip designed for those keen on nature though. The guides are wonderfully knowledgeable and lovely people and you could not ask for better folk to help spot the birds.
After that we headed off to Khao Lak for 7 days, staying at the Baan Khao Lak. Now having stayed in a bamboo hut with the loo about 50 metres away, shared with spiders and frogs adn who knows what else, anywhere would have been wonderful in comparison. The BKL was just divine though. We had opted for the cheapest rooms, the 2 storey cottage, and it was just perfect. The rooms were large, bed huge, bathroom really spacious and only criticism of the rooms would be that the shower was pretty weak. The breakfasts weren’t all that great either, lots of little bugs around the fruit all the time, and some dodgy looking hot food, but if you were happy with fruit and toast/pastries, as we were, it was fine. The pool looked tiny at first glance but was really nice as it was pretty quiet all the time, and we had some well deserved days just lying in the sun.
As everyone has commented before me, we found Khao Lak to be absolutely wonderful. The town was big enough to have lots of different restaurants and enough shops to buy a few things, and we found it so refreshing that we weren’t harassed by the tailors or restaurant owners. It was a relief after Karon and it really made our trip finish well. I can’t really comment on any restaurants though. Unfortunately, after Alan’s bad experience, he just couldn’t face any Thai food and so the Viking Restaurant was frequented 5 out of 7 nights. It was a real shame really because he loves Thai food but I could well understand how he felt. We did manage to try Jai twice, with Alan choosing something very European, and so I got a few thai curries which were yummy, but unfortunately all I can say is that the Viking does pretty good pizzas. Ah well, it could have been worse…..
Anyway, food aside, we had a couple of great days walking along the beach for hours, and saw pretty fantastic birdlife along the beach. Kingfishers, heron, cormorant, and lots of tiny little yellow birds, and others that we will never know the names of. It was great. Also saw a dead puffer fish on the beach too. A bit gruesome but pretty interesting. We had planned to hire a car/scooter but never did in the end, we were just so chilled and relaxed we were quite content to do nothing. I feel a bit guilty about that because we had plans of doing a cooking class and seeing a bit out of the town, but I think it did us the world of good to do absolutely nothing after being so ill for a few days. We had also tried to go to the Beluga School for Life but this never materialised. I had emailed their contacts 2-3 times before we left for Thailand but heard nothing back. That was a real shame as it would have been interesting so maybe next time….
The only thing we did do was a snorkel trip to Similan Islands with Khao Lak Land Discovery. It started off badly with being picked up an hour later than we were told we would be, then discovered we would only have 3 half hour snorkels, not really long enough at each location by the time you get the mask water tight etc. Still, it was good fun. We did go to one of the islands for 1.5 hours for lunch, which seemed a bit of a waste since we were told there was no snorkelling off the island, but we went for a walk to the other side of the island and saw a monitor lizard (I nearly touched it, it was so close and oblivious to our presence), a Nicobar pigeon and a flying fox. Now that was pretty cool as the guide had said to keep a look out for them and we thought there would be no chance of seeing them at all. Then the best part of all was in the last 2 minutes of our final snorkel we stumbled across an anemone with 5-6 clown fish darting in and out. Nemos galore, it was amazing and their colours so bright. It really made the trip end on a high. To top it all off, we saw about 20 dolphins swimming near the boat on the return journey. It was really something special.
We really didn’t do much more. Alan went to Monty’s and got 10 shirts made. Apparently he is opening a new shop about 100 metres down from his current one, and it may be that it will have a new name on it ( a dispute with his current partner looks like he may lose his name for the shop). So, just be warned, it may be that it will be called Singh brothers. Anyway, we were impressed with the service, he got 2 fittings for his shirts and everything seems ok. Alan also went and got contact lenses and glasses from KT Optics. I think there are 3 of these shops in Khao Lak, we went to the one closest to the hotel. The staff were great, very helpful and made sure we had all the options explained to us. The glasses and lenses came from Bangkok and again seem great. The glasses we got in Bangkok last year were badly made, in comparison these ones are perfect, a great relief.
One thing I did notice in Khao Lak was the distinct lack of folk from say UK/Oz. In the 7 days we were there, we encountered only 2 couples that were speaking English as their first language. This was really odd after being in Phuket. Can anyone explain this? It didn’t make a difference to us of course but just wondered. Is Khao Lak advertised as a holiday destination more in these countries? Anyway, we loved the place and I wouldn’t hesitate to go back again. The hotel was in a perfect location and I loved the tranquillity of it all. I can well understand why everyone falls in love with the place.
And then after that we had to return to Bangkok, which was all a bit too busy and fractic after such a relaxing week. We were lucky enough to get to the airport early to find out our Nok Air flight had been cancelled and re-scheduled to an hour earlier, which we just managed to get. No email from them warning of the change in flight time which was a bit odd, but worked out ok in the end, thankfully! We just went to Khao San Rd and Chatuchak market and shopped, all a bit hard work really but we managed to get a few things. One thing I noticed was that haggling in the weekend market was really hard, some never budged on prices at all, whereas when we went there 3 years ago it seemed much easier. Maybe they knew we were no good at it of course!
And that was that. Holiday over, post holiday blues have set in and I need to start thinking about next year to keep me motivated for the next 12 months. Sorry, it’s a bit of a long trip report with much emphasis on wildlife but that was our highlight of the holiday. If anyone has any questions, I’m more than happy to help after all the good advice we picked up from this forum!