We just got back from our first trip to the Phuket area. Wish we were still there!
A big thank you to all the posters in this forum, especially Arandora, for all the invaluable information that was very helpful in planning our trip. I will write up reviews and details from our trip in the next few days.
We had rented a car from Phuket airport for our entire trip, so were able to do several day trips in and around Khao Lak on our own:
Tab Lamu turtle conservatory, and the temple across the highway from Tab Lamu,
Bangsak beach promenade,
Ban Khem Tsunami memorial and a trip to Takua Pa,
Bamboo rafting down the river close to Tab Lamu,
Sairung elephant trekking,
Ban Niang market on Mon, Wed, Sat, and Sunday,
We had a very nice time the entire trip. We loved the food, the sights and scenery, and the friendliness of the Thai people.
The only disappointment during the whole trip was probably Phuket airport. It needs a major upgrade, and that is putting it mildly.
We will certainly be back, even though we live halfway around the world in California. Well worth the long flight!