If you are a frequent visitor to the fascinating country of Thailand, you might well be familiar with the Khao Lak area. If not, it is the perfect place to get an initial taste of the Kingdom, well dubbed the “Land of Smiles”.
Khao Lak is an area of natural beauty with uncrowded pristine white sand beaches, quiet coastal resorts and family friendly entertainment. There are no high rises here as local government ordinances forbid the building of any structure above the height of a coconut palm tree.
Khao Lak means “Lak Mountain” and this is one of the small peaks in the hilly surrounds (maximum height 1050 meters), but the name refers to the area as well as the mountain and also a small town. There are many villages and resorts included within the region.
How to Get There
Khao Lak Town, on Thai Highway 4 is a convenient place to start your visit, but it is likely that you will spend your time further afield. The town is really an administrative/stopover hub where you might plan your itinerary, change your money or organize local transport. There are numerous more tranquil beauty spots further along the coast.
Khao Lak Town lies approximately 60 kilometers north of the famous and well visited island of Phuket and many visitors will arrive in the vicinity at Phuket International Airport. Phuket itself is worth a visit but if you want some peace and tranquility from this lively sleepless resort island, head north along Highway 4 (Phetkasem Road) on one of the air-conditioned buses to Khao Lak. If your budget allows you can take a taxi, although you should ask for an approximate price at the airport taxi stand before you travel.
If you can tolerate long distance bus rides you can get to Phuket directly and inexpensively from Bangkok on an air-con bus, or if time is short you can take one of many domestic flights which fly to and from the capital.
In recent years, tourism has become the mainstay of the local population of Khao Lak. Many locals work in shops, restaurants and hotels or are connected with the thriving diving industry. There are many high end resorts in the area but there are also good value choices for the budget conscious.
Agriculture (notably rice, rubber and palm oil) and fishing are also mainstays of the local population. Watching the fishing boats returning at sunset or ambling along the paths of well-tended paddy fields present great photo opportunities.
Tsunami of 2004
Any article on the area by necessity should mention the tsunami of December 2004. There were tragic and extensive consequences of this completely unforeseen disaster. Many of the coastal resorts were severely damaged or totally destroyed, resulting in tragic loss of life. The effectupon the lives of the local people in the Khao Lak area and upon the infrastructure were catastrophic. This, in an area which prior to 2004, was Thailand’s fastest growing development region.
Although it is still possible to see some evidence of the great wave damage, it is a credit to the spirit of achievement and entrepreneurship of the Thai people that significant repair and reconstruction to the damaged coastal resorts have taken place within the past decade. It is reassuring also that in the Khao Lak area, and all along the affected coast, there are signs and comprehensive evacuation plans in the unlikely event that a similar unexpected natural disaster should re-occur.
Many of the frequent visitors to Khao Lak are Europeans, often from Scandinavia, Germany and the United Kingdom, but Thailand is truly an International destination and the local people will make you very welcome from wherever your origin. Your reasons for choosing Khao Lak in particular will be expanded upon in the next blog.