Thailand's South


by Joanne Endersbee, Australia (Feb 06)

Global Mark : 13.53 (down)

Ratings by criteria : 

Charm Scenery Parks Culture Minor. Market Relax Fiesta 


3 4 4 3 3 3 4 5 2 13.77

Ratings by backpackers :

Surveyed Liked  Comeback  Recommend  Range AVER.
20 100% 80% (16) 100% na na

Description :
A town 70kms north of Phuket that was an expensive tourist resort before the Tsunami. A relaxing beach resort town, and springboard to diving the nearby Similan and Surin Islands. Currently home to over a hundred Tsunami volunteers, who work hard during the day and party hard at night.
It was Thailand's worst hit area and is where the most foreigners were killed by the tsunami. The town itself has recovered well, is mostly rebuilt, although there are still many many signs of the devastation in town and in the surrounding areas. The tourism industry has not yet recovered fully, and needs more people to visit!! Take the chance now before it is restored to its former expensive resort town glory!

What to do ? Visit the numerous waterfalls and beaches, volunteer your services for at least two weeks at the Tusnami volunteer centre, drink all night with the tsunami volunteers and divers in the town bars, dive or snorkel the beautiful Similan Islands, visit the small Saturday market at Bang Nieng, buy crafts fromTsunami craft centres to support local people.

What you may not like ?  The still evident rubble and devastation from the Tsunami; the expensive accommodation. Small town of only one noisy main street/higway running north to south.

Where to stay ? 
In the main street: Khao Lak Grand City nice HW rooms for 500B, La Own Plaza rooms for 400B; behind the 7/11 small concrete rooms for 175B, along Khao Lak beach lots of expensive hotel rooms and bungalows; 2 kms south of town Khao Lak Nature resort bungalows 400B. More and cheaper accommodation in Bang Nieng village 2 kms north of town. Discounts often given for volunteers. Longer term rooms available for rent from about 4000B per month.

Hotels  << Get precise info, book online and save money !  >> Hostels

Where to eat ?
Weerapats Kitchen at the north end of town excellent value best thai food in town; Tropical café 2 kms south of town near Nature resort excellent value and good food; Coffee Arthit centre of town good western style food; The Bang Nieng Market 2 kms north of town behind a 7/11. The Dive in for Sushi and rice paper rolls. Many restaurants on the main street serving same same thai and western food. Happy hour cocktails at Ska Bar in the centre 6-7 pm 85 baht. Happy Snapper Bar for great funky décor, the best toilets in town and live music on weekends.

What to see/visit ? Visit the Tsunami Volunteer centre and see pictures of all of their projects, sign up for a minimum of two weeks to help out - there is still a lot of work to be done; Visit small sandy beach, gravel path turnoff 2km south of town, 300 m past nature resort - small beautiful and isolated beach, many other beaches also. Lots of waterfalls in the area best explored by motorbike (120B per day), take a day trip, or longer, to dive or snorkel the Beautiful Similan Islands - day trips from 2000B from dive shops in the main road. Visit the Khao Lak - Lamru National park, office 1.8kms south of town (next to tropical café) Day trip to Khao Sok National Park to see wildlife plus the stinking rafflesia flower.

Communication ?
No shortage of internet available along the main street for 1B per minute. Telephone calls from internet shops also.

Other practical addresses ? Tsunami volunteer centre on the southern edge of town for more information. Registration at the Centre is 1000 B which will help cover administration costs and your transport to work for the duration of your stay. You can register online, or simply arrive at the centre. Orientation every Monday morning at 8:30 am. You will be assigned to work on one of their several active projects. You could be making furniture at Thaikea, building houses in the scorching sun at Bang Nam Khem, building houses for sea Gypsy people at Tap Tawaan, painting and caulking traditional Thai fishing boats at Cape Pakharang, teaching English at many of the local schools, painting houses at Kho Khor Khao, or helping the environmental restoration team clean up local beaches and replant vegetation. There are still a lot of worthwhile projects happening and lots of work to be done. I spent a wonderful month there in January/February 2006 and it is one of the highlights of my travels to date. Bring a mosquito net, sunscreen, hat, closed shoes and clothes for working in. Anyone with any or no skills is required, all that is needed is the desire to pitch in and help. Work can be hard but very rewarding.

Transportation information ? Local transport - hail a songthaew and tell them where you want to go; hitchhiking is extremely common form of transport used by many volunteers - simply stand on the side of the road and move you hand (palm down) in small up and down motions and hopefully someone will stop for you. The local people are accustomed to givingt the volunteers lifts and will gladly do so. Best not to hitchhike too late at night as there is then a likelihood the driver will be quite drunk. Funniest hitched rides include on an ice cream cart, and a brick truck.

To Phuket: Price : ~30 to 100 Baht / Type : Local or a/c bus / Duration trip : <2 hours / Schedules : Buses frequent but not to a schedule, (one per hour) hail them in the main street near the supermarket, or if coming from Phuket go to the Phuket Bus station near the city. / Number : about 5 a/c buses per day, many other local buses / Frequency : at least hourly until 5 pm.

To Takuapa / Khao Sok National Park / Surat Thani: Price : ~30 to 150 Baht depending on destination and bargaining ability with the dodgy bus conductors. / Type : Local or a/c bus / Duration trip : Takuapa 40 minutes, Khao Sok ~1.5 hours, Surat Thani ~3 hours. / Schedules : Buses frequent but not to a schedule, (one per hour) hail them in the main street near the supermarket. / Number : about 5 a/c buses per day, many other local buses / Frequency : at least hourly until 5 pm.

To Bangkok, Ranong, visa runs other destinations also available ask the agents in the main street.

Additional comments on transportation ? If coming from Phuket airport it should be possible to negotiate a taxi for 800B, (45 minutes) this is useful if there are several people traveling together, or get the bus to Phuket town and head to the bus station. If coming from Bangkok get an overnight bus that is going to Phuket and ask them to drop you in the Khao Lak main street. Or get the overnight train to Surat Thani and then the bus to Khao Lak.

Itinerary advises ? Your trip to the next destination : Bus to Surat Thani and then boat to Koh Pha Ngan. The surat thani bus will drop you at a travel agent in Surat Thani to organize your ongoing trip to Samui or Pha Ngan - 380 B to Koh Pha Ngan.

Additional information ? If you are a volunteer and buying souvenirs or clothes, make sure you tell the market stall people in town and they will give you a reasonable price straight away. It helps if you are wearing your volunteer ID that you get from the TVC.


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