Rising Above The Waves
Khao lak is a bit like the band Crowded House. In just the same way as you knew more Crowded House songs than you thought you did, I am guessing you know more about Khao Lak than you imagined.
On the 26th December 2004 the tourist town of Khao Lak took Thailand’s brunt of the Boxing Day Tsunami, killing thousands, injuring many more and leaving a town utterly devastated and apparently without hope. You see Khao Lak depends on its tourism, although it has some rubber plantations and agriculture, the main source of income for the region is tourism, without it, there is no Khao Lak.
While the world watched through its fingers at the horrors unfolding across Indonesia, Thailand, Burma and Malaysia to name but a few, the Thai people were already doing what they do best; helping people and putting others before themselves. If you travel to the Tsunami Museum in Khao Lak, not only will you see the Police boat washed in shore 2km by the wave, and left to stand where it finished up, but you will also see witness testimony from foreign tourists, of whom many describe the Thai people as putting them first.
It has taken the region many years to recover to some semblance of normality, and even now some of the shops and restaurants along Highway Four appear to have an almost temporary appearance to them, as if the people lack faith that it will not happen again. The Tsunami Museum seems almost neglected, and there is speculation among commentators that this is because the local people do not wish to be reminded of that day, and furthermore do not wish to scare their livelihood away. Whether this is true or not is unclear, but what I have noticed in this town during our stay is that no-one talks about it, tourist, resident or business owner. It seems that Tsunami is the taboo word in Thailand.
So, how has Khao Lak come back from the brink? Simple, it is all down to the Thai people and their incredible strength of character and resolve. You will struggle to find a more friendly populous anywhere in the world. Hardworking, friendly and determined the people of Khao Lak built back up from literally nothing. Now they boast a town of restaurants, bars and swanky hotels, all of which has helped bring tourists back to Khao Lak in their thousands.
With cheap hotel accommodation and food and drink so low in price you will think the exchange rate is wrong. At the time of writing this one £ GBP will get you 43 THB, and when you consider it is possible to enjoy an evening meal for two with drinks for 600 THB (approximately £14), you can see why this country is a big draw for tourists. The value is incredible even considering the weak position of the British Pound at this time. Hotel prices also represent amazing value for money. TripAdvisor state there are 69 hotels in the Khao Lak region and the number one for value is listed at just £47 per night (Apsara Beachfront Resort & Villa), and with rave reviews it is definitely one for the future!
So what type of holiday maker is Khao Lak suitable for? Well in my opinion it has something for everyone. If you wish to just laze by a pool in your hotel, then you will have many to choose from. If you are the type of tourist who enjoys getting out and about then this is perfect. We found this region of Thailand to be safe and friendly, and with seemingly only one major road running through it from the airport some 70 plus km to the south, it seems fairly easy to navigate. If you are looking for activities then there are a few to choose from although most will require some travelling with the exception of the Tsunami Museum which is close by. With flights available across the UK heading direct to Phuket or with optional stopovers this is a great time to visit. If Thailand is on your bucket list, then I would urge you to look further than Bangkok, Ko Samui and Krabi and consider the region of Khao Lak.
The High Season is November to February and the Low Season is May to October, although it has a tropical monsoonal climate and is warm all year round.
The currency is the Thai Baht (THB). The value according to “X-Rates.com” is currently £1 = 43.14 THB (25th June 2017).
British passport holders do not need a visa to enter the country for stays of less than 30 days, however you can only enter by land border twice in one calendar year on a 30 day visa. If you are arriving by air then there is no limit. Note that a 30 day visa does not allow you to work.
The tap water is not safe to drink. Use bottled water for everything including brushing your teeth and rinsing your toothbrush! Bottled water is available from scores of supermarkets and is priced at around 15THB for two litres.
The penalties for drug use are severe, and in some instances even possession of a small amount of Cocaine can lead to the death sentence being imposed. It is also illegal to bring “E-Cigarettes” or “vaporizers” in to the country, and again you could be fined heavily for doing so.
Vaccinations – The typical recommendation is for Tetanus and Typhoid inoculations, although depending on where you plan to stay, and in what type of accommodation there are further recommendations for diseases such as Rabies, Cholera, Hepatitis A &B and some others. If in doubt you should visit your travel clinic six to eight weeks before departure.
Road safety – Thailand has the unenviable reputation for the world’s deadliest country for fatalities on motorcycles with a staggering 5,500 per year. Whilst it is possible to hire motorcycles cheaply, you should exercise extreme caution, especially when public transport is so cheap and so widely available.
The flight time from the UK is generally 12 hours and 40 minutes direct from London Heathrow, although many carriers stop over in a number of destinations.
Mosquitos, sunburn and upset stomachs are all factors when travelling to warmer climates. A good insect repellent is essential together with a high factor sunblock. Even when it is cloudy you will catch the sun. Avoid ice unless you know the source of the water used, and remember that some street stalls have limited or no access to fresh water.
The transfer time from Phuket International Airport (HKT) to Khao Lak is between one hour and one hour 20 minutes depending on time of day and traffic conditions.