After another great dinner in Khaolak there is nothing better than a quiet cocktail in the Dragon Bar with some friends.
This bar is just a few meters from the ocean and all that can be heard is the gentle crashing of waves on the beach.
As places like Koh Samui and the main beaches of Phuket continue to be ruined by mass tourism it is necessary to go a bit further away from the touristy areas to find quiet, unspoiled beaches. Just an hour north from Phuket airport by taxi Khaolak is a beautiful, tranquil place but be quick because it is being developed rapidly.
In the Khaolak area there are several beaches. From south to north - Khaolak, Nangthong, Bangniang, Kukkak and Bangsak. The further north you go the quieter they become. Getting from one to the other (especially late at night) can be a problem as the buses are very infrequent. I was travelling on my own and got lifts on the back of motorbikes from obliging locals a lot of the time!
My experience of the area, and consequently the tips in my pages, covers only the Nang Thong and Bang Niang beach areas.
The Similan Islands are near to this part of the mainland too so this is a good base from which to visit them. These islands are world renowned for snorkelling and scuba diving.
My first visit to Khaolak was January 2002. I returned in December 2002 and again in February 2003. I was amazed at the amount of change that had occurred between each visit. Whole areas had been turned into construction sites as Khaolak was set to explode. I saw a number of backpackers that I didn't see on my first trip probably due to some favourable comments in the Lonely Planet Islands and Beaches guide.
I will give Khaolak about a year before it loses the charm that exists now. How sad. On the positive side, there are now a few more local taxis so it is easier to get around and there is an ATM.
The other thing that I should mention is that the local authorities seem to be taking a stand against issuing licenses for loud music bars etc. Therefore although Khaolak is likely to get a lot busier it should not turn into another Patong beach.
Khaolak is well known to German and Swedish visitors. I have not met many other Brits there.
There are a number of large, expensive, private resorts set in their own grounds with their own beaches. Room rates are accordingly high.
For independent travellers there are a number of small bungalow operations with prices from 300 - 600 baht. Typically these are nice places but do not have the luxury of air conditioning and hot water.
Accommodation in between these 2 categories is not so common. One nice place is the Bang Niang Beach Resort which has A/C, hot water and really nice rooms for around 1400 baht.
If you arrive and require accommodation it is advisable to consult one of the local travel agencies on the main road. They will know where there are free rooms and you will not necessarily save any money by going direct to a bungalow. Travel agents are based along the one and only main road that goes through Khaolak.
Just adjacent to the bus station near Sea Dragon dive centre on the beach side of the road is a guy that sits alone at a desk providing tourist information. He is very useful.
"The changing face of Khao Lak"
On my first visit in January 2002 I didn't see any sign of construction. When I went back 10 months later several areas resembled building sites. I was quite devastated but in Thailand the only consideration is money and not much thought is given to the environment.
This was a lovely, green field a few months ago. Very soon it will be a mass of concrete.
The natural beauty of Khao Lak is being wrecked but this doesn't matter to the people who are making a fast buck.