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Khao Lak - Thailand
A Guide To Khao Lak, Phang Nga Province, Thailand - Including Sarojin Resort
Known to locals as Baan (or Bang) La On, Khao Lak is a resort town in Phang Nga Province about an hour by road from Phuket to the south. The name, which means “mountain by the sea”, comes from the vast national park of Khao Lak-Lam Ru. Though the area was devastated by the Boxing Day tsunami of 2004, it has bounced back and is now an increasingly popular destination for visitors, particularly Europeans. Replanting and an order prohibiting the building of anything higher than a palm tree have guaranteed its unspoiled appearance.
Party people may well prefer Phuket, but the lack of overcrowding, peace and family-friendly nature of Khao Lak make it particularly attractive to anyone looking for stress-free relaxation or opportunities to dive and jungle-trek on foot or elephant in outstandingly beautiful surroundings.
There are shops, bars and great restaurants (many of which close in the off-season which starts in May) and plenty of ATMs. Hotels and resorts range from simple and cheap to the ultimate in luxury.
Tourists mainly use taxis or hotel shuttles to get into town. Hiring a motorbike, a common form of transport, is definitely not to be recommended unless you’re an experienced rider! The adventurous will want to try the songteow or songtow, (‘two rows’ in Thai) which is a vehicle with a truck base and two bench seats in the back. Flag one down and get in the back. Press the buzzer when you want to get off and pay on exit.
One poignant reminder of 2004 is Police Boat 813, left where it was deposited by the tsunami, as a memorial to the king’s grandson and the police guarding him while jet-skiing, as well as all the other victims. Without this, it would be easy to forget all the destruction after such successful regeneration.
Another must-see in the area, about 45 minutes away, is Takuapa Old Town, with its Sino-Portuguese architecture and quaint shops, best visited in the early morning. A typical local market and some good shops and riverside restaurants can also be found nearby in the new town.
Another place well worth a visit on any working day is the Saori Foundation Centre, Bang Muang This is a women's workshop where tsunami survivors, taught by a Japanese monk, weave their own designs and earn a living.
Really, the greatest attraction for most visitors to the area is offshore: Khao Lak is the most convenient starting point for the Similan Islands and Surin Islands, which provide the most variety and quantity of coral and tropical fish for ‘best in Asia’ diving and snorkeling. There are good local diving spots too, and sea-kayaking is also very popular.
The Khao Lak Lam Ru National park caters for a whole range of ecotourism activities, with special zones for jungle-trekking, rafting, bird- and butterfly-watching as well as swimming, camping and picnicking areas. Excursions can be arranged with agents in town or with visitors’ hotel.
Sarojin Resort, Khao Lak
If you can afford it, the multi-award winning Sarojin, 20 minutes by shuttle or taxi from Baan La On, is in a class of its own. Gorgeous place, wonderful food and spa, incredible service (silver service on a beach!) and out-of-this-world activities to choose from. Perfect for a honeymoon…
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