Khao Lak stretches along 20 kilometres of beautiful sparkling Andaman Sea coastline and not surprisingly, travellers flock to this popular tourist mecca in southern Thailand.
With a profusion of restaurants to satisfy even the fussiest tastes and budgets, cheap bars, a mix of resorts, hotels, and smaller lower-budget bungalow operations, Khao Lak offers something for everyone.
Updating this May 2014 post and splitting to Part 1 travel tips and Part 2 an abundance of sights to explore, for your easy reading.
Where is Khao Lak?
Khao Lak is in Thailand’s Phang Nga province and only a couple of hours north-east of popular Phuket Town.
This small but touristy town is expensive.
Expect much more hassling for your Baht from Tailors, Taxi drivers, tattooists, massage parlours, and general restaurant haggling, than in Phuket Town.
Tailors and more tailors…Khao Lak is bursting with tailors lining the streets.
Sights around Khao Lak
Apart from a long coastline of beautiful beaches, there are many waterfalls, villages, and surrounding towns to explore. Part 2 of this post shows you some of these gorgeous sights.
This is a beautiful region in Thailand and once here, you realise quite quickly why it’s a popular destination with foreigners.
Contributing while travelling is an excellent way to absorb the country, culture, and not just pass through scratching the surface.
After looking for volunteer work independently and not through agencies, we decide to come to Khao Lak as heard there may be a possibility in this town. Part 2 of this post talks about volunteering in Khao Lak.
Although a great method of transport in other parts of SE Asia, forget Songthaews in Khao Lak!
Songthaews are not allowed to and will not stop for tourists as there is a Cartel in this town so that cabbies can rip tourists off.
In 2014, a Songthaew driver charges a local B50 to go to Takua Pa (20+kms) but as foreigners, we were charged B150 to drive only 3kms. Moving from one hotel to another, ladened with heavy backpacks and gear, to walk the long distance was too hard. Regardless of haggling with the cabby, reluctantly, we still paid a premium to the worst miserable cab driver in Asia!
Scooters in Thailand
Travelling around on a hired scooter/Moped/Step-through is easy, but drivers are erratic and roads are not always the best.
Typically, you ride on the shoulder of the road unless this is impossible then stick to the far left of the road. Initially, you might find riding in Khao Lak (or anywhere in SE Asia) nerve-wracking. Dodging oncoming traffic veering across your lane at the very last minute to park in front of you or car doors flinging open in your path. Kamikaze chickens and other animals running across the road, oncoming bicycles riding up the wrong side of the road, and vehicles travelling at lightning speeds. Or just the generally poor driving in SE Asia are some of the scenarios. Thailand isn’t the worse country in Asia for driving.
In Thailand, it’s not compulsory to have a bike/vehicle license so anyone can drive…and they do, regardless of age it seems. On the contrary, if you have a license and have an accident (even if it’s not your fault), you’re more heavily fined and liable because “you should know better as you hold a license”.
Check your travel insurance’s fine print as typically, you are not covered for a bike under 250CC. Just remember, to survive you need to drive like a local but with more care and don’t hesitate.
Where to sleep
As expected, Khao Lak offers a myriad of accommodation from 5-Star resorts at exorbitant prices, mid-range hotels to backpacker accommodation at varying prices.
While searching for volunteer work, we stay at the family-run Srichada for a few days with great and very friendly staff. The owner is really lovely and cooks us breakfast every morning, which is included in the room’s price. Hire a couple of bikes from the hotel for B200/day, which is 24-hour hire.
Fanari Khao Lak Resort
As we are paying all costs during volunteering, with some persuasion and the flash of the Non-for-profit organisation’s card, the agreed price is quite low (B500/night, DBL ensuite, toiletries, serviced daily) to the high-season rate. The manager is very understanding and accommodating. The staff are great but breakfast is not included.
Check out the bike hire place opposite the resort if you are in the area. Bargained hard to get the bike for B160/day for the 5 weeks – lucky this is the low season!
Where to eat
Khao Lak offers a plethora of cheap or expensive cafés and restaurants for western or authentic Thai food. During the 5-week stay, we tried many restaurants. The shortlist below is of the ones we frequented most and the best of the bunch…in my humble opinion and as food is one of my favourite past times!
On 28/10 Moo7, Nangthong Beach the Duo serves the best coffee in Khao Lak (B60 Cappuccinos) and the cheapest but most delicious fresh-baked cakes (around B60). Also, wonderful poached eggs on thick buttered toast (B70) is on offer and even a 2 for 1 Happy Hour for cakes between 17:00-19:00.
Nang Thong is one of the cheapest sit-down restaurants in Khao Lak and serves very good Thai (and Western) food. With an extensive menu and great service, this was a favourite.
On 10/1 Moo 7 in the Khuek Khak Subdistrict, the Go Pong is a small roadside table and chairs (under tarps) place. One look and you would probably bypass the Go Pong as it is quite rustic, but don’t let the appearance fool you as this is where locals also eat. Each dish is cooked fresh using the freshest ingredients. Great Thai food at super cheap prices (B45 for a bowl of delicious chicken leg soup, B50 for great Pad Thai, and meals go up to 150, large Change Beer for B60)rin. Drinks are icy cold.
On 67/61 Moo5, Tambon Khukack, Aphoe Takua Pa, for those wanting a change from Thai food, you must try Pinocchio’s. Warmed freshly made bread served with chopped fresh garlic, chillies, and oil (other types also available) is amazing. After months without bread, this is a Godsend! The pizzas are delicious with fresh ingredients and loads of Mozzarella cheese (scarce in Thailand), and many pizza varieties to savour. Various traditional Italian meals and desserts are on the menu. Coupled with friendly staff, good service, and a comfortable ambience, what more could someone ask for?
Chonthicha Lop Buri Korean Barbecue Branch 2
In Khuekkhak, Takua Pa District and a bit tricky to find as this restaurant is not on Highway 4, but in the back streets near a tiny street market – Google the name for directions.
This restaurant is an absolute must to indulge in and a hit with locals. For a cost of B108 per person (drinks are extra), sit and graze for hours on wonderfully self-service self-cooked fresh seafood, meat, chicken, and vegetables at your table. Scrumptious pre-made starters, meals, and as much homemade ice cream you can eat make this feast amazing and one not to be missed at any cost.
Markets – N3 Bang Niang
Eating at the markets in the Bang Niang about three nights of each week while in Khao Lak, this market is excellent for cheap really yummy local food. Scrumptious chicken Pad Thai or fried rice (B60), chicken satay sticks (B30), inexpensive clothing, vegetables, spices, trinkets, souvenirs, watches, flowers, drinking tents, and much more can be purchased.
The market is open on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Saturdays from 16:00-21:00 hrs. With time though, this market is becoming very touristy so more souvenir stalls are popping up and prices are also increasing.
Leaving Khao Lak for Ranong
After the volunteering stint, it’s time to keep moving and explore more of Thailand.
To catch the Blueline bus (B180 – 3.5-hours, WiFi) to Ranong, stand anywhere along Highway 4 and wave the bus down.
Arriving in Ranong, the bus stops at the cab rank and to get to the hotel is B150 for two of us, not cheap considering the distance is only around 2-kilometres.
Don’t forget to read Part 2 for tips on what to see around Khao Lak.