We landed back in Australia last night after a fantastic 16 days away in Thailand. Flying Thai Airways to Bangkok on our first night, we laid over at a cheap and cheerful hotel near the airport for the few hours we had before catching our connecting flight to Phuket. We caught a public taxi to and from, no dramas. Flight to Phuket was uneventful and we picked up our free sim cards at the airport before being met by one of Boss’s drivers from Cheaper than Hotel Taxis and headed up to Khao Lak on a gorgeous sunny morning. The vehicle was clean, cool and comfortable and the driver, while speedy, was sensible! The kids had a snooze on the way and we arrived to a slightly overcast Khao Lak and Ayara Villas, our eyes on stalks as we tried to take in this new landscape on the way. Having holidayed at Kata Beach and Ko Yao Noi the previous year, this was completely new territory for us and we really enjoyed seeing a more authentic Thailand, especially the bustling centres of Kok Kloy (sp?) and Thai Mueang along the journey.
Our check in at Ayara was smooth, despite our early arrival at 10.30am and we were shown straight to our “Holiday House” – a spacious two bedroom, two bathroom villa with open sitting/kitchen area (which I am extremely excited to report had a few resident fire flies) within about 2m from the smaller of two pools at the resort (reviewed separately). We unpacked, headed up the road to Sunny Restaurant on the beach opposite the Sudala Resort for a yummy lunch then back to Ayara for swimming, sleeping and a walk up the beach to get our bearings. Dinner was at the resort that night, tasty and reasonably priced, and an early night.
The next day (rainy) we took a local taxi to Khao Lak town, but as it was still quite early, we decided on a quick trip to the turtle farm at the military base at Tab Lamu. The kids loved to see the turtles at varying stages of maturity. It was free entry to this, which was good, as there wasn’t much there to explain what the process was and the whole place was a little tired and run down. The beach was very very dirty with litter washed up by the tide, which was sad as it was a lovely spot otherwise.
Back to Khao Lak town for a bit of shopping and pampering, we enjoyed meeting the staff at PhuPing Massage and my husband and son got great haircuts for approx AU$5 each. We had pedicures and manicures and whiled away some time while the rain fell. Went to Jai Seafood for lunch and were treated to a fantastic experience as the procession of pierced and spirit-filled men and women filed through the restaurant, blessing the offerings on a table out the front and the staff within. For a great explanation of what this festival is about, have a look at Jamies Phuket Blog – amazing info and photos there.
One of our other highlights was a trip with Boss Taxi’s to Khao Sok, Chiew Lan (sp?) lake, with the very funny Sunya. Sunya’s great pride in his country, culture and environment made for an excellent day and we learned so much. The lake was stunning, completely amazing, and we enjoyed a delicious lunch at Putowan Raft Houses, followed by a swimming in the deep, clear water and a snooze in the raft houses, listening to the Gibbons whoop and call in the jungle around us. A visit to some great stalagmite/stalagtite formations in the “Coral Cave” via a jungle trek (wear good shoes for this – especially if it’s been raining as the clay soil of the jungle floor is extremely slippery) where we saw gibbons swinging high in the canopy of trees above us and a motorised raft trip across the lake was well worth the sometimes treacherous trip to get there and back!
We spent a morning visiting the Tsunami Museum and Police Boat and left feeling extremely saddened for the people of Khao Lak and those tourists who lost their lives and loved ones. It was really not long ago and to see how the people have bounced back is incredible. Be careful taking kids to the Police Boat as there are some particularly graphic photos of dead bodies on display at the kiosk on the right before the boat, which my kids, though a bit older at 9 & 11 (and living on a farm are quite used to the concept of life and death) were quite shaken by and both had trouble sleeping that night. We did an elephant trek at Asia Safari, nice and close and the elephants seem happy and well cared for, a trip to Splash Jungle Water Park at Mai Khao Beach for the kids, lots of eating (our favourites were Chef Jimme and the Chong Fah restaurant), massages (Orchide Massage at Bang Niang – next door to Chef Jimme – same owners – great massages and the best manicure I’ve had in Thailand with OPI nail polish), some great clothing made by Tony from Monty the Tailor and shopping at the markets was always fun (Mon, Wed and Sat).
The weather steadily improved over our time there and the sea was almost flat and the gorgeous turquoise blue you see in all the ads for Thailand by our last few days, so we enjoyed a swim (still close to shore as there were a few rips) and some great lunch’s (one that turned into dinner as well as we were so relaxed) at the beach restaurant at the far northern end of Bang Niang.
We loved Khao Lak and Bang Niang. The people were so friendly, the food was fantastic, the location superb, there are no beach hawkers and no time share touts, the tailors generally leave you alone if you are firm and friendly. We could see the area coming out of it’s low season cocoon over the time we were there, as more and more renovations came to an end and more businesses re-opened for the coming high season. Sure we had quite a few rainy days, but when it’s still so warm it doesn’t really stop you from doing much and you can’t beat the low season prices. We paid approx $AU70 a night for our two bed, two bath villa including a huge breakfast each day, an average meal was approx $AU30 which included at least four dishes, rice and numerous fruit shakes, cocktails and beers. We probably could have skipped lunch as we had such huge brekkies but couldn’t resist the opportunity to try more dishes. Let’s just say popping the jeans on to come home was a bit scary!!! My advice is to go the tailors at the BEGINNING of your holiday if you want more true to size clothing – also standing in front of a full length mirror after two weeks of over indulging and no makeup or blow drying is enough to give anyone a fright!
We travelled home to Sydney, first stop a late afternoon flight from Phuket to Bangkok and wished we had organised to stay a little longer there, we’d love to see the Royal Palace and visit the famous markets, but….next time! Having a full night’s sleep before our day time travel to Sydney the next day was much easier on us than travelling through the night as we did last year, so would try to do that again if possible.
If not for the great advice leaned from TA, especially Arandora, Mossy and Tanmar, this holiday would not have been anywhere near as fantastic as it was. Thank you so much!
As we let our lanterns go from the front of the Chong Fah restaurant on our last night in Khao Lak our wish was that we could return to this fantastic place and it’s people next year. Fingers crossed!!!