Brendon takes a different look at Thailand and finds paradise away from the crowded beaches.
Khao Lak is still a sleepy little place, just the way Phuket was 20 years ago before droves of tourists discovered it. While it does have a tourism infrastructure, prices are reasonable and accommodation ranges from huts to fairly up-market bungalows.
The pretty sandy beach is studded with granite boulders and you can easily walk along the sand for many kilometres, almost as far as Hat Bank Sak in the north.
A 45 minute long-tail boat ride will take you to a coral reef offering beautiful snorkeling, and some resorts offer diving excursions to the reef, as well as to the Similan and Surin Islands. December to May is the peak season for the diving mecca. Khao Lak National Park is 125sq/km and is a wonderful collection of sea cliffs, 1000m hills, beaches, estuaries, forested valleys and mangroves. There is an incredible array of wildlife hornbills, drongos, tapirs, gibbons, monkeys and Asiatic black bears.
When the government banned logging in 1989 an accidental victim was the elephant. Many of them earned their keep by working in the forestry industry, but when they became jobless, their future looked bleak. Thanks to tourism many of them have found new jobs trekking. More than just a working animal, the elephant is worshipped, is a symbol of good luck, and some people even see that the country is the shape of an elephant’s head.
Mount Khao Lak is 528m high and the elephants don’t go that high, but far enough to give you great views across the Andaman Sea.
Ninety-five kilometers north-east of Phuket is Phang Nga Bay, an extension of the Andaman Sea and dotted with hundreds of islands. Many are just limestone outcrops protruding from the water and some have grottoes which can be entered by small boats when the tide is low.
Other islands are encircled by sandy coves and are home to swiftlets which build their nests on high cliffs those nests being highly prized in the Chinese delicacy, birds nest soup.
One island has been unofficially dubbed "James Bond Island" as it was a location in The Man With the Golden Gun and many people seem to remember it well enough to pay for the privilege of landing on it.
Similana Resort is on top of a headland and is a well designed and landscaped group of wooden Thai-style bungalows. There are 31 superior tree houses which are comfortable, air-conditioned and hidden amongst pandanus trees and coco palms. There is a swimming pool at the resort, but the local beach is so clean and inviting you will probably stick with nature rather than the man-made pool.
One hour from Phuket in southern Thailand.
Qantas flies seven times a week to Bangkok from Sydney. Return economy airfares start at $1473 ex-Sydney; $1475 ex-Melbourne; $1496 ex-Brisbane; $1500 ex-Adelaide; $1501 ex-Perth and $1801 -x Darwin, per person for travel from July 18 to September 18, 2002. Charges and taxes are included. Seasonal surcharges and conditions apply.
World Expeditions has 14 day packages from Bangkok including three days in Khao Lak starting at $2230 per person.
Please note prices are valid at time of transmission and to the best of our knowledge are inclusive of GST.
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Qantas: Ph: 13 13 13