Khao LakSouthern Thailand, about 100 km north of Phuket Town. When the disastrous tsunami of 2004 struck South Asia, the Khao Lak region was the hardest-hit area in Thailand with over 4,000 fatalities, more than 3,000 more who were never accounted for, and thousands who were injured. It has since made an impressive recovery and is once again a popular tourist destination. Unlike Phuket, the many resorts in the Khao Lak area cater mainly to families and those looking for peace, quiet, and nature.
Khao Lak is a ~20 km stretch of lovely beaches along the Andaman Sea coastline set against a backdrop of jungle-covered mountains. The region is dotted with numerous resorts and tourist facilities.
The name "Khao Lak" translates as "Lak Mountain". The mountain is the centerpiece of Khao Lak Lam Ru National Park.The headland formed as the mountain plunges into the sea near the southern end of the Khao Lak roughly marks the southern boundary of the Khao Lak region.
The attractions of Khao Lak are impressive and many, but they are not flashy. The expanses of lovely uncrowded parks, mountains, roads, and beaches, relatively unspoiled nature, easy access to great off-shore diving, accommodations ranging from luxury to basic, and an infrastructure that supports tourism, but not at the expense of local customs or the Thai way of life, appeal to an increasing number of visitors.
Compared with a place like Patong, Khao Lak can seem boring, especially during low season (Apr-Nov). If jet skis (forbidden in Khao Lak) or exotic nightlife and its associated attractions are the reason you've come to Thailand, Khao Lak is probably not the place for you. On the other hand, it’s an excellent vacation spot for people seeking to get off the treadmill, for family getaways, and for nature-lovers.
FilmsReleased in early-2013, The Impossible, a Spanish production (Spanish title: Lo Imposible), recounts the events of the 2004 Boxing Day tsunami. Filmed on location in Khao Lak at the Orchid Beach Resort, it is the story of a family caught up in the events of 26 Dec 2004 and its aftermath. Starring Naomi Watts and Ewan MacGregor, the film incorporates stunning special effects recreating the tragic events of that day and the weeks following. Many Khao Lak residents participated in the filming as consultants or as extras.
Orientation, addresses, and navigationThe entire Khao Lak region straddles Phetkasem Road (ถนนเพชรเกษม, also Petchkasem Rd or Thailand
Route 4 (ทางหลวงแผ่นดินหมายเลข4), one of the four major highways in Thailand. At 1,274 km, it is the longest highway in Thailand, stretching from Bangkok to the Malaysian border.
The centre of the Khao Lak area is 37 km north of the Sarasin Bridge, gateway to Ko Phuket, 76 km north of Phuket International Airport, and 106 km north of Phuket City.
Driving north from Phuket, at km803 you will see a sign for Ban Khao Lak, a small village of little interest. Then, after climbing over Lak Mountain on a curvy road, you will descend into Bang La On, de facto heart of the Khao Lak region.
Khao Lak is laid out like a long strip mall. Early settlement patterns resulted in three population
centres spaced out along the beaches. Since the 2004 tsunami, development in low-lying areas has
tended to gravitate away from the beach, nearer to the highway.
The region hosts many resorts, scattered chiefly among three main urban areas, all containing businesses identifying themselves as "Khao Lak". This can be confusing to visitors and it is useful to distinguish between the settlements.
From south to north the population centres are:
- Bang La On
- Bang Niang
- Khuk Khak
Bang La OnBang La On is the most tourist-oriented of the three main Khao Lak towns.
Stretching from km795 to km797, Bang La On is mistakenly called Khao Lak by most visitors. It has many shops, bars, restaurants and banks. Any given group of store fronts seems to consist of a souvenir shop, a tailor shop, a dive shop, a massage parlour, an eyewear shop, and a restaurant. Strolling along the short main town centre in the evening can be quite pleasant as there are pavements.
If you are travelling by bus and tell the conductor you are going to “Khao Lak”, Bang La On is where you will be let off the bus, near the Nang Thong Supermarket. This may be far from your intended destination, so try to be more specific if you are not staying near there.
Just south of the supermarket, Nang Thong Road leads to the town’s beach, Nang Thong.
Webcam: Just north of the Nang Thong Supermarket are the offices of Khao Lak Land Discovery, a local tour organiser. Their webcam is mounted on the roof of their building. It shows you a segment of Rte 4, roughly in the centre of Bang La On. Camera's angle of view is to the southeast.
Bang Niang is not much to look at, but is home to the intermittent outdoor market ("talat nat" ตลาดนัด) that takes place in the centre of the town just south of the 7-Eleven on M-W-Sa, from roughly 13:00 until dark. You will find the market area dusty on dry days and muddy on wet days, so dress down for a visit.
Bang Niang is, increasingly, a centre of Khao Lak's nightlife as it is home to a significant number of the area's most popular bars, discos, and cabarets.
Bang Niang Beach can be accessed by turning towards the sea at the 7-Eleven shop in town centre.
Khuk KhakHeading north again from Bang Niang, a couple of kilometres will bring you to Khuk Khak. It is even more Thai and less farang than Bang Niang and is the regional centre for things like hardware, paint, kitchen equipment, etc., i.e., all the infrastructural ingredients that keep the resorts running.
It has the daily “fresh market” ("talat sot" ตลาดสด) and the area’s only real, albeit tiny, bus station.
Khuk Khak Beach can be reached by turning at the signpost just south of km790 or, better, turning at the JW Marriott Hotel sign (km789.1) and following the signs to the hotel, then proceeding past it to the beach.
North of Khuk Khak are Pakarang Beach and Pakarang Cape (km787), Pakweep Beach (km784), and Bang Sak Beach (km780). The latter beach is just ~18 km south of Takua Pa.
Navigating Khao Lak can be confusing to visitors because many businesses use their mailing addresses in ads and a mailing address can be very misleading. Almost the entire Khao Lak region (except Ban Khao Lak itself) is located in the Khuk Khak Sub-district of the Takua Pa District of Phang Nga Province. Mailing addresses in the area include both the district and sub-district. Thus a typical address will read: “Moo 3/15, Khuk Khak, Takua Pa, Phang Nga”. This would lead visitors to think that the business is in Khuk Khak. In reality, the business could be located in Bang La On or Bang Niang or Khuk Khak or anywhere else in the Khuk Khak Sub-district. The mailing address is of absolutely no help in finding the business. Be careful when reading tourist brochures as many businesses do not go to the trouble of telling you their physical location.
The climate of the Khao Lak region is under the influence of two monsoon winds of a seasonal nature: a southwest monsoon and a northeast monsoon. The southwest monsoon starts in April when a stream of warm moist air from the Indian Ocean moves inland resulting in significant rain. It peaks in October, Khao Lak’s wettest month. Subsequent months, under the influence of prevailing northeast winds, are much drier.
In simple terms, Khao Lak effectively has two seasons:
- A rainy or southwest monsoon season (April to October). The southwest monsoon prevails over the region and abundant rain occurs. This is the year’s wettest period.
- A dry or northeast monsoon season (November to March). Dry air moves into the region from China. This is the driest period of the year, with March being the hottest month.
From a tourist’s perspective, the dry season is the ideal time to visit Khao Lak, although rainfall numbers can be misleading. Rainfall in Khao Lak tends to occur in late afternoon/early evening, and is often of short duration. Rainy day statistics count any rainfall during a 24-hour period as a rainy day. Further confusing the issue, rainfall in Khao Lak is often highly localized, i.e., brief showers occurring at one location in the area, while everywhere else remains dry.
The easiest way to get to Khao Lak is to fly into either Phuket (the closest alternative) or Krabi and go to Khao Lak from there. Both airports serve international as well as domestic destinations.
A taxi from Phuket airport to Khao Lak costs 1,100-1,600 baht. The later you arrive, the more expensive the ride. Woe betide you if you have a 03:00 arrival time. If you think this is too much and prefer to take a bus (only possible during daytime), you will have to get to the main road, Highway 4, about 5 km from the airport. (This may not be easy, as the airport taxi "mafia" discourages motorbike taxi trips to the main highway or short hops to cheaper means of travel). If you manage to get to the highway, take a bus headed towards Takua Pa, Ranong or Surat Thani; they all stop on request in Khao Lak or wherever along the road you indicate. It's about 80 km from Phuket airport to Khao Lak. Bus fares vary from 80-100 baht; some are air-conditioned, others not.
The nearest train station is at Surat Thani on the east coast, making this a less convenient option than just hopping on bus. But the romance of trains is irresistible to many, so if you want to take the train leaving Khao Lak, jump on a bus to Surat Thani for the 4 hr ride. The bus's first stop in Surat will be at the train station, some 13 km before reaching town centre.
Getting to Khao Lak from Bangkok is the reverse. Take a train to Surat Thani, then a bus to Khao Lak. Incidentally, if you are on a very tight budget, the train is by far the cheapest way to get to Khao Lak. A 3rd-class ticket from Bangkok to Surat is ~483 baht, a bus from Surat to Khao Lak, ~150 baht. Keep in mind that 3rd-class train travel is not comfortable. You will have a straight-backed, lightly padded bench-type seat, facing your neighbour, both of you competing for available foot room, while adjacent to another neighbour, jostling for elbow room. No air-conditioning, fans and open windows only. Don't worry about food as you will be besieged by food and drink hawkers at every station stop. Be prepared for a ~12-hour journey!
For more info, you can try to tease it out of the sometimes infuriating state railway website .
By busNo buses have Khao Lak as their starting or ending point, but the region is well-served by buses originating in Bangkok, Chumphon, Phuket, Ranong, Surat Thani, and Takua Pa. All travel through Khao Lak on Rt 4. Most will stop at your command; express buses will not. Do not be dismayed if you try to flag down a bus and it does not stop. It is an express bus. Just wait for a local. It will be smaller, not a double-decker, and less posh.
BKS buses stop at the BKS Bus Terminal in Khuk Khak only. BKS (บขส, say the Thai initials as Baw Kaw Saw) is the government bus company. Its small terminal is located near the fresh market in central Khuk Khak a couple of blocks behind the 7-Eleven shop there.
Buses depart Bangkok to Phuket via Khao Lak from the southern bus terminal Sai Tai Mai. The 10 hour trip runs overnight and costs less than 500 baht. Bus tickets provided by Bangkok travel agents may route your trip via Surat Thani where you have to change to a different bus.
Buses departing from Chumphon to Phuket take around 5 hours to arrive in Khao Lak and will stop opposite the Nang Thong Supermarket unless you tell the bus conductor otherwise. Cost from Chumphon is 270 baht.
"Local" buses, e.g., the ones travelling from Takua Pa to Phuket, pass through Khao Lak roughly every hour or so until about 18:00. You can flag them down anywhere along Rte 4 and they will stop for you. There is a small bus stop in central Bang La On, roughly opposite the Nang Thong Supermarket, in front of Kinnaree Bakery. This side of the road is for southbound (direction Phuket) buses. Across the street from this in front of Khao Lak Tourism and Tour is what passes for a bus stop for northbound (direction Takua Pa, Surat Thani, Bangkok) buses.
To travel to Khao Lak from the bus station in Phuket, take a bus towards Takua Pa, Ranong or Surat Thani. Tickets cost 90 baht and the journey takes around 2 hours. Departures at 06:30, 09:00, 11:40, 13:00, 15:40, 16:20, 17:00, 17:50. This service travels onward to Takua Pa with the full trip costing 90 baht.
From Takua Pa to Khao Lak, possibly departing on the hour, this service travels onward to Phuket with the trip from Takua Pa to Phuket costing 90 baht.
From Krabi Town there's a daily minibus to Khao Lak. All travel agents in Krabi sell tickets.
From Hua Hin: There is a VIP bus departing the Hua Hin bus station south of town centre at 22:30 arrives 07:30, 1,011 baht (Oct 2013).
Given that the Khao Lak region is about 20 km in length, knowing how to get around is important.
Local transport is not a strength of the Khao Lak region. For starters, it is a nightmare for pedestrians as it is sprawling, and the infrastructure for walkers is mostly non-existent. Second, Rte 4 is the area's major north-south highway. For the most part traffic roars through populated areas at excessive speed, making the roadway highly dangerous. Police make no attempt to control speed limits. Third, there is no clearly marked and regular shuttle bus that moves up and down the length of Khao Lak. This forces visitors to fend for themselves, hiring motorbikes (which many visitors have no experience driving), trekking between towns, or hiring taxis (which is probably why there is no regular shuttle bus service).
The main methods of travel within the Khao Lak region are:
Walking is practical and pleasant at the south end of Bang La On, but pretty unpleasant for any distance in Bang Niang and Khuk Khak, and downright dangerous between towns. Few sidewalks exist, and when they do they are broken and uneven. Where even crude sidewalks are absent, one is forced to walk at the side of the road, precisely where motorbikes prefer to drive. This can be hazardous, especially at night. If you do find yourself having to walk the highway at night, walk facing on-coming traffic and use a torch or your phone light to warn approaching motorbikes.
Most guesthouses and hotel rent bicycles, or can arrange for you to rent one or more. Bicycles are expensive compared with motorbikes. Daily short-term rentals run 100 baht per day. Bicycles are not a practical alternative at night as none are equipped with lights.
Motorbikes can be rented from almost any hotel, guest house or bar in the area, no qualifications required. Prices are dependent on the duration of the rental and the type of motorbike. You can expect to pay ~250 baht a day for a short term rental of a Honda Click (110-125cc, automatic scooter) and as little as 100 baht per day for a long-term rental of a month or more.
Chances are that the person renting you the bike will want to take possession of your passport for the duration of the rental. This may be non-negotiable, but try to forestall it by offering a photocopy of your passport in lieu of the actual document.
Motorbike rentals do not come with insurance of any kind. If the bike is damaged while in your custody, you will be on the hook for repairs. If you are in an accident that involves a Thai, it is almost certain that you will be named as the one at fault, regardless of the actual circumstances. In that case, you will be liable for damages and medical charges incurred by everyone involved.
When renting a bike it is sensible: a) take photos of the bike when taking possession. This can help in preventing later disputes over damage, and b) ensure that you get a good helmet (or two) when taking possession. Police in the area conduct frequent roadblocks. If you are not wearing a helmet, you will be fined 300-500 baht.
There is only one petrol station within the boundaries of Khao Lak proper. It is located just north of Khuk Khak centre at km790.5. Hours of operation are 07:00-20:00. Cost of fuel: ~35 baht per litre. If you find you are running short of fuel, or if it is after-hours, you can buy 1-litre bottles of fuel from roadside stands for 40 baht each. Just look for a collection of re-purposed whisky bottles containing yellowish fluid. It is advisable to purchase this fuel sparingly as it is impossible to gauge its purity or how long it has been sitting there turning to varnish.
Many locals use songthaews to get around. They are 4-wheeled pick-up trucks of varying colours featuring two rows of seats in the bed at the rear, covered by a sheet metal roof with plastic side curtains. Only rarely do they display the limits of their travels, e.g., Bang La On to Takua Pa and, if they do, it is in Thai only. During daylight hours, songthaews pass up and down Rt. 4 every fifteen minutes or so. Flag one down if it is going in same direction you are and state your destination. The driver will tell you if he does not go there. A short hop from, say, Bang La On to Bang Niang, will cost 20 baht per person. A trip from one end of Khao Lak to the other end will cost about 50 baht. When you want to get off, press the buzzer (if there is one), or bang on the roof. Pay on departing.
After dark, songthaews seem to disappear, although the occasional one is spotted.
One caution: the taxi industry, some would say “cartel”, in Khao Lak is quite organised and clever. They would prefer that you took taxis everywhere rather than use the more communal form of transport. In other words, they go to considerable lengths to force you to hire a vehicle outright rather than board a songthaew. Thus, you may find that songthaews are not inclined to stop to pick you up.
There are no Khao Lak-based metered taxis. If you do see one, it has most likely just come from the airport in Phuket. Instead, off-hours songthaews serve as taxis in Khao Lak. You will find collections of them near town centres waiting for fares. They are more expensive than songthaews: a 50 baht trip in a songthaew might cost you 300 baht in a taxi.
If you hire a songthaew taxi outright rather than waiting for one by the side of the road, agree on a price beforehand. Be sure you are quoted either the total price for all persons, or a price per person. To go to the market in Khuk Khak approximately 2 km from Bang Niang will cost 100-200 baht or more.
Many of the resort hotels will offer complimentary transportation at set times during the day. Check with the front desk. Also, some restaurants and other businesses will offer free pickup within a reasonable distance in exchange for your patronage.
To the south
Lampi WaterfallAbout 30 minutes south of Khao Lak just off Hwy 4. A very nice waterfall, best viewed in the early morning as the sun rises from behind the mountains and the rays shine through the mist. The falls are only a short walk from the car park, making access easy for all. There is a small shop on-site where you can buy drinks (including tea and coffee), ice cream and souvenirs. There are also toilets on-site. Swimming in the water below the falls is permitted and appears reasonably safe.
Bang La On
phone: +66 76 485 243Nice walks and a restaurant. Entrance on the headland between Nang Thong and Khao Lak beaches. Walkable from the resorts in Bang La On. Across the road from park headquarters there is a Buddhist shrine to the Khao Lak (Khao Lak mountain) god.
Ton Chong Fah WaterfallGreat for hot days. Enjoy a short swim. Very scenic and accessible to all.
To the north
Rainbow Waterfall. Approximately 10 minutes north of Bang Niang by motor-scooter, turn right at road sign, then right again at signpost. Waterfall is particularly vibrant during the rainy season, but swimming in the water-hole is available all year round. Can climb to the top of the waterfall by etching out a path to the right of the fall. Drinks and light food are available at the bottom of the waterfall.
Cheow Lan Lake and Rachaphrapha DamJust 2 hr north of Khao Lak off Hwy 401. Superb views over the lake to the limestone ridges. Boat trips are available to rafts (for overnight accommodation you will need to pre book at Khao Sok National Park HQ or book the trip via a tour agency).
Khao Sok National ParkNature activities including jungle trekking on foot or elephant, visiting waterfalls & river rafting/canoeing. Park HQ incorporates small natural history displays of local flora and fauna. A good day out. Accommodations near park HQ available for extended visits.
Saori Foundation Centreaddress: Bang MuangA women's workshop which develops its own textile designs after a Japanese monk showed tsunami survivors how to weave and earn a living. Visitors are welcome M-Sa.
Takua Pa Old TownTakua (ตะกั่ว) in Thai means lead, the metal. Which is odd, because the town was a centre for tinnot lead-- mining in the 1920s and 1930s. Little remains of that era except for some old photos in the Takua Pa Library.
In the old quarter of Takua Pa you will find Sino-Portuguese architecture and have the chance to wander around the quaint shops (best in the early morning). About 30 minutes drive north of Khao Lak. Takua Pa market and River Plaza are in the new town, near the bus station. There is a typical local market. The plaza has some good shops and a few riverside restaurants.
On a macabre note, Takua Pa was the centre for relief efforts following the tsunami. The collection/identification point for recovered bodies was located here, and there is reputed to be a cemetery holding the remains of unidentified foreign victims of the disaster.
A great, alternative way to get to Takua Pa is to turn right at km784 following the signs to the Sai Rung waterfall. The next 17 km will take you on one of Thailand's most lovely roads--no traffic, perfect tarmac, and no hills to speak of (perfect for bicycling). You will come to a T-junction. Turn left to old town Takua Pa, 1 km.
With the Similan Islands and Surin Islands, home to some of the best diving in Asia, just offshore, this is one of the main attractions in the area. There are also several local dive sites to choose from and many competent local companies to guide you.
Map of Similan Islands dive sites
phone: +66 76 485614 (mobile)address: 4/42 Moo 7, Bang La OnDiving & snorkelling in Khao Lak, visiting the Similan Islands, tin barge wrecks, and local sites. Small or large groups, safety focused and family-friendly.
phone: +66 84 3258106 (mobile)address: 4/81 Moo 7, Bang La OnHigh quality dive centre, providing liveaboards and daytrips to the Similans, Ko Phi Phi and all dive sites in the area.
phone: +66 76 485378address: 13/128 Moo 7, Bang La OnEstablished in 1996, Kon-Tiki is one of the longest running dive centres in Khao Lak offering daily dive trips, PADI dive education and liveaboards to the best dive sites in Thailand.
phone: +66 89 8728213address: 91/6 Moo 7, Bang La OnKhao Lak dive safaris since 1999. Liveaboards and scuba day trips to Similan Islands and Richelieu Rock. Similan Snorkel Safaris and PADI dive courses.
phone: +66 83 6340383address: 70/4 Moo 5, Bang NiangOwners and operators of MV Oktavia, one of the largest vessels cruising the Similan Islands for divers, snorkellers and sun-worshippers.
phone: +66 76 485420address: 5/51 Moo 7, Bang La On5 Star PADI IDC centre specialising in liveaboards and day trips to the Similan Islands, Ko Bon, Richelieu Rock, and local reefs and wrecks. Established in 1993, Khao Lak's original dive centre now offers 6 different boats and 10 different diving and snorkelling trips. All ages, tastes, styles and budgets catered for. Many languages spoken and small diving groups guaranteed.
phone: +66 76 485886address: 5/11 Moo 7, Bang La OnThai/Euro-run dive centre doing liveaboards, day trips, PADI and SSI courses out of Khao Lak. They've been operating for 20 or so years on the same dive sites so they know their stuff.
phone: +66 87 8873878address: 4/88 Moo 7, Soi Bang La OnReliable, independent information and booking services for scuba diving, snorkelling and sailing trips to the Similan Islands.
phone: +66 76 485868address: 4/17 Moo 7, Bang La OnOperating liveaboards on 3 and 5 day expeditions to the Similan and Surin Islands. Also offers guided overnight snorkelling tours of the Surin islands in maximum groups of 6 guests.
phone: +6676485470address: Nang Thong Road 13/19 moo 7Offering 3,4 and 5 day liveaboards to the Similan Islands, Koh Bon , Koh Tachai, Surin Islands and Richelieu Rock.
Mountain View Driving RangeBeautiful mountain valley setting and modern facility. Its remoteness means it does not see a lot of activity. You may have to struggle to find someone to take your money.
phone: +66 764 4328807In the 1990s the Royal Thai Navy constructed an 18-hole, par 72, 7,160 yd golf course on their naval base here, hard by the ocean. It is now open to the public. Has a small pro shop, snack bar, and restaurant.
SnorkellingKhao Lak is the most convenient point from which to go snorkelling in the Surin and Similan Islands, which offer some of Thailand's best coral and fish diversity and numbers. It takes usually 1-2 hours by speedboat to get to the islands. Several companies offer 1/2/3 day tours.
address: 5/52 Moo 7, Khuk KhakOffers a 3 day/3 night snorkelling liveaboard trip to Similan Islands & Ko Bon & Ko Tachai & Surin Islands. This mix is absolutely unique for snorkellers.
phone: +66 76 485998address: 40/9 Moo 6, Khuk KhakA popular and well-organised company offering snorkelling to the Similan Islands with a fleet of 4 boats. Thai-owned and managed with good reviews on travel forums. Bookable through the website or at tour shops locally.
phone: +66 76 485411address: 21/5 Moo 7, Bang La OnProfessionally operated and guided snorkelling tours (day trips and overnight) to Similan and Surin Islands with German, Swedish, and English guides.
phone: +66 76 485595address: 5/12 Moo 7, Khuk KhakSpecialised in snorkelling in the Tachai Islands.
phone: +66 76 443258address: 1/6 Khao Lak, Lam KaenA very well-organised snorkelling-only liveaboard for 3 days/2 nights, departing Tuesdays and Fridays. Swedish management who also run the Poseidon Bungalows. From 2018 the tour goes to Surin Islands instead.
phone: +66 71 921085address: 67/139 Moo 5, Bang Niang BeachBoard rentals and surfing lessons with a certified instructor. Surf Safari packages taking you to the best breaks in the area with lodging and airport pickup available from May to November.
phone: +66 76 485350address: 28/5 Moo 7, Khuk KhakSurf shop in Khao Lak. Board rental and good surf spot. 3 breaks on Cape Pakarang plus good beach breaks around Khao Lak.
Body Balance Gymphone: +66 76 486544address: 65/5 Moo 3, Khuk KhakThai-run gym featuring most of the equipment one expects. Includes a small cafe serving healthy drinks and coffee. No air-conditioning. No Wi-Fi. Just south of the gym there is a small reservoir with surrounding 1 km hard surface path that is great for walking/jogging.
phone: +66 76 486351address: Rte 4, north Khuk KhakFED, a Burmese/Thai NGO, came to Khao Lak to help the many thousands of displaced Burmese migrant workers in the aftermath of the 2004 tsunami. The organisation has been doing stellar work in the area ever since: educating children, supporting women's rights, providing medical and legal assistance. If you have at least a month to give, helping this group help others might prove to be the highlight of your stay in Thailand.
7-Eleven Shopsaddress: located throughout the regionThere are six 7-Elevens in the Khao Lak region. They are very useful as navigational aids as well as convenient places to purchase mobile phone SIM cards, additional airtime for your mobile phone, liquor and beer, and sundry items.
There are two 7-Elevens in Bang La On, one in Bang Niang (km793.3), two in Khuk Khak (km791.2), and one at the turn for Parkarang Cape (km787). Several things are worth noting: 1) 7-Elevens will sell alcohol only between the hours of 11:00 to 14:00 and from 17:00 to 24:00. This is irregularly enforced. On religious holidays there will be no alcohol sales at any time. Holidays can last for several days. Smaller corner shops will be happy to sell you alcohol anytime they are open. 2) The northern Khuk Khak 7-Eleven, located at the PTT gas station (km790.5), does not sell any alcohol. This is true for all convenience stores adjacent to gas stations in Thailand. 3) All 7-Elevens have ATMs adjacent to their entrance. Doubly convenient, as you will get 1,000 baht notes from the machine. Use them for purchases in the 7-Eleven, as smaller shops frequently have difficulty making change.
Bang Niang Marketaddress: Central Bang NiangOutdoor market held 3 days per week. One section of the market sells fresh fish, meat, vegetables, and fruit. Another section sells prepared foods like barbecued chicken and corn on the cob. The remainder of the market stalls sell clothing, luggage, DVDs, games, kitchen ware, souvenirs, sunglasses, etc. All at knock down prices if you haggle, as is expected. There are at least three bars on the market grounds where you can buy a beer and take in the passing scene.
Fresh Marketaddress: Central Khuk KhakThis is the market where all the smaller restaurateurs from the area procure their foodstuffs: fruits, vegetables, meats, fish, and so forth. Some small storefronts around the market specialise in foreign foods such as salami, butter, cheese, frozen foods, olive oil, as well as sell frozen beef steaks, lamb, lobsters, and other exotics. On M-W-Sa, when the Bang Niang Market takes place, this market appears to shut down about 13:00, when the vendors move to the other marketplace. The government bus station, BKS, is located here at the NW corner of the square.
address: 4/146 Moo 7, Khaolak Center
Bang La On
O'Rendez-vousphone: +66 83 5908002address: 5/42 Moo 7, Bang La OnThai and French cuisine with a big choice of international dishes, nice atmosphere and multilingual service. The place also serves as a bar with a local expatriate crowd, offering a variety of music including soul/jazz/lounge in the early hours. Cocktails, free Wi-Fi and shisha. Closed in low season.
phone: +66 85 6557626address: 67/145 Moo 5, Bang NiangThai seafood and western cuisine. Also cooking classes where you can accompany instructors to the market and select the food that you will cook personally.
phone: +66 86 2830933address: 13/22 Moo 6, Bang NiangThai food including dishes from north Thailand. Decorated with original items from Chiang Rai.
Ingfahphone: +66 76 42899address: Bang Niang BeachTraditional Thai food in an ultra-modern, chic, open-air setting.
phone: +66 89 9992380address: Sea side of Rte 4, central Bang NiangThai food, including dishes from Isaan. Menu in Thai/German/English. Cooking classes, good food. Wi-Fi.
Lucky Seafoodphone: +66 83 6399731address: 60/18 Moo 5, Bang NiangVery clean restaurant with an extensive Thai/Western menu. Run by a Thai lady along with her Swedish husband and her sisters. Excellent, ample portions. Prices typical for Thai restaurants serving a tourist clientèle. Full bar. No Wi-Fi. Open most of the year.
phone: +66 89 9232395address: 67/1 Moo 7, Bang NiangItalian restaurant open all year.
phone: +66 87 192-1085address: 67/193, Bang Niang Beach RdHome-made Mexican cuisine using the freshest ingredients available. Full bar, frozen cocktails, and ice-cold beer. Family friendly with good music and a free pool table.
Takieng Restaurantaddress: 26/43 Moo 5, Bang NiangDecorated with many items brought from the owners home town in northern Thailand. Open most of the year.
Mama's Greetingaddress: On the beachCute, clean, and pleasant spot with Thai and Western food and an accommodating staff.
Phen Restaurantaddress: Khuk Khak BeachThai and seafood beach restaurant with a wide range of tasty dishes. It has very nice sunset views and an informal and friendly atmosphere. Tour information from the owner, Mrs. Phen. Sunchairs, parasols, shower, traditional Thai massage, and taxi service available.
Pizza Pasta & Steakphone: +66 87 2693928address: Khuk KhakSmall restaurant run by Thai couple, one of whom is a former chef at Le Meridien. Pasta made on the premises. Portions are small by Western standards, but so are the prices: the most expensive thing on the menu is T-bone steak 180 baht. Pizzas, albeit tiny, (120 baht) and salads are terrific. No Wi-Fi. Caveat: there is a restaurant of the same name almost directly across the road.
Bang La On
phone: +66 84 8402689address: 26/61 Moo 7, Bang La OnHosts Joo and Andy run this commodious bar-restaurant-lodging house that feels more like being in your living room than in south Thailand. Free pool table, Wi-Fi. Motorbikes for rent for 200-250 baht per day depending on model. Five rooms with air-conditioning are available at 650 baht. Dorm bunks for 150 baht. The restaurant employs a great cook. Representative prices: burger/fries, 150 baht; pizza, 250 baht; pad Thai, 80 baht; khao pat, 90 baht; full English breakfast, 195 baht. Clientèle includes many knowledgeable expats, so this place is great for making connections, asking questions, learning of new places.
Violet BarSmall hostess bar with one pool table.
Degreeaddress: Rte 4, Bang NiangThai open-air nightclub featuring live music most nights, if not every night. All will be made to feel welcome. Very casual, come as you are kind of place. No cover charge. Serves beer, drinks, and bottles of whisky. No sign in English, just follow the sound of the music.
Gecko BarGreat late-night bar, run by a very gracious Thai couple, Black and Lin. Pool table, professional Foosball table, a rarity in Thailand, excellent Wi-Fi. Clientèle is a mix of expats and vacationers. Open year-round.
Jungle Bar and Restaurantphone: +66 81 9682443address: Jerung St, Bang NiangGreat restaurant for Western and Thai fare at reasonable prices. Serves high quality cocktails. Open year-round.
Mars Baraddress: Central Bang NiangIt's hard to miss the Mars Bar, with its bright orange exterior. And you would not want to miss it. The English proprietor, Mars, runs a great establishment with his Thai partner, Mem. Best coffee in the area and a broad menu that includes home made bread, British staples like bangers & mash, as well as Thai food. Beer & cocktails at very reasonable prices. Great, free Wi-Fi. A favourite feature is the Mars Bar "lending library", a wide collection of mostly thrillers in English, German, Nordic, and other languages. You won't find a more welcoming place in Khao Lak. Open year-round.
Mr. Chay Baraddress: Bang Niang MarketMondays, Wednesdays, & Saturdays, are market days in Bang Niang. Vendors sell everything from clothing to fresh shrimp. There are lots of prepared food stalls to choose from too. On the south side of the market, under a large tamarind tree, you will find this very pleasant and reasonable bar, run by Mr. Chay, who speaks serviceable English and German. A good place to stop to enjoy the passing scene. No Wi-Fi. Open year-round.
Moo Moo Cabaret Showphone: +66 76 486156address: Central Bang NiangKhao Lak's original (tasteful) cabaret show performed exclusively by lady boys. Cocktails, beer, and soft drinks served. Daily show in high season. No entrance charge. Show time 21:45. Closed low-season.
Rusty Pelican Mexican Cafephone: +66 87 1921085address: 67/139 Moo 5, Bang Niang BeachNachos, fajitas, frozen margaritas, and ice cold beer. Tacos, burritos and children's menu. Great music and pool table (competition every Friday night, 20:00). Open for lunch and dinner every day. Free Wi-Fi.
Song's Baraddress: Market Fair grounds, Bang NiangFunky, open air bar run by Wan. Good music, largely expat clientèle. Very popular, especially on market days (M-W-Sa). Serves bar snacks. Stays open as long as there are customers. No Wi-Fi.
Star BarSmall hostess bar on Rte 4.
Tha BarSmall, fun bar run by a Thai lady named Tha. Very accommodating and friendly. Entertaining bar hostesses. Snooker table. No Wi-Fi. Closed during low season (May-Oct).
Zantika Pubphone: +66 76 486411address: Rte 4, Bang NiangThe person who came up with the name of this place obviously doesn't know what a pub is, for this place is a disco for sure. State of the art music system and lighting make this place rock out. Popular with young Thais, but always with a solid contingent of farangs present. No entrance charge. Prices are reasonable. Best fun is to go with a group and buy a bottle instead of individual drinks.
A few generalisations
- Most of the really large, high-end resorts are to be found at the north end of the area. Examples include the Marriott, Sarojin, and Le Meridien. Having said that, excellent resort hotels--albeit on a smaller scale--can be found all along the coastline
- Generally, room prices are highest in Bang La On, cheaper in Bang Niang, and cheapest in Khuk Khak.
- Staying south of the headland is probably not a good bet for most visitors. The area is far from the many restaurants and bars to be found in Bang La On and north. While it is relatively inexpensive there, transport costs are likely to eat into any savings.
To the south
Khao Lak Emerald Beach Resort & SpaModern, Thai-designed resort on Khao Lak Beach.
phone: +66 76 443258address: 1/6 Khao Lak, Lam KaenLocated 5 or so kilometres south of Bang La On. Adjacent to a small, secluded beach. 2-person bungalow is 900 baht per night, a 4-person bungalow is 1,400 baht per night (for 2-persons, 1,200 baht and for 3-persons, 1,300 baht). Arranges snorkelling trips to the Similan Islands.
Bang La On
phone: +66 76 485889address: Bang La OnComfortable, unpretentious homey place. Air-conditioning, TV, pool, Wi-Fi, motorbike rental, restaurant on premises. Airport transfer to Phuket: 1,500 baht (1-6 persons).
Happy Lagoon Resortaddress: Nang Thong Rd, Bang La OnModern, duplex brick bungalows in a pleasant garden setting with no pool. On-premises bar and restaurant has prices similar to those on the main road. Hot water in the bathrooms. Car parking spaces opposite reception. Is about 200 m to the beach.
phone: +66 76 485815Convenient location in the thick of Bang La On. A modern and friendly place to stay.
address: 26/25 Moo 7, Bang La OnLuxury resort on lovely grounds. Rooms and bungalows finished throughout in rich, exotic wood. Nice pool. Staff great. Off-season rates can be bargained down considerably, don't be afraid to haggle. Two peculiarities of the place: room numbers in Thai numerals, not Arabic, which can lead to some initial confusion. Poor bathroom lighting means that shaving is essentially done in the dark. Wi-Fi available only in the area of the lobby/restaurant, not in rooms.
phone: +66 76 485762address: 26/84 Moo 7 Petchkasem Rd, Bang La On14 room bed & breakfast. Clean rooms, cosy common area. Free Wi-Fi, complimentary coffee/tea and cookies and great continental breakfast. Delicious European bread: dark and multi-grain. Great mix of Western and touch of Thai with local breakfast dishes and tropical fruit at a very reasonable price. 5 minute walk to Nang Thong Beach and Bang La On's central shopping and entertainment district. English spoken, staff very helpful.
address: 5/15 Moo 6, Bang La OnFree Wi-Fi. Restaurant and bicycle rentals on-site.
phone: +66 81 8575881address: Bang Niang Soi 3, Bang Niang BeachAffordable bungalow resort close to the beach. Different types of bungalows and rooms. Has a restaurant and rents out motorbikes, and there is an computer room, free Wi-Fi and an in-house travel agency.
phone: +66 76 486771address: 26/42 Moo 5, Petchkasem RdOpen year-round. Big, yellow guesthouse with about 20 air-conditioned rooms with refrigerator, cable TV, hot showers, decent Wi-Fi. Rooms in low-season range from 300-600 baht, more during high season (Oct-Apr). Clean, great location, easy access to all Khao Lak beaches. Manager's name is Lek, assistant is Gae.
phone: +66 76 428999address: 67/213 Moo 5, Bang Niang BeachOne of the Best New Hotels by Conde Nast Traveler’s Hot List 2012, located directly on the beautiful, palm-fringed Bang Niang beach. Free mini-bar.
phone: +66 76 486858address: 54/1 Moo 5, Bang Niang Soi 1
phone: +66 76 486680, +66 76 486681address: Bang Niang
La Flora Resort & Spa70 rooms and villas. The resort is located on Bang Niang Beach.
address: 26/16 Moo 5, Bang NiangSimple resort located in the middle of Bang Niang. 10 minute walk to the beach. Free Wi-Fi.
phone: +66 76 427777address: 59 Moo 5, Bang Niang
Riverside Guesthousephone: +66 81 9637243address: Central Bang NiangClean, reasonably priced guesthouse conveniently located across the highway from the thrice-weekly market (M-W-Sa). Run by the English-speaking Appun (Thai for "Apple")and her husband. Both are very accommodating and helpful. Motorbike rentals possible also. Rooms range from fan-only to air-conditioning. All rooms with bath en suite. Prices shown are starting prices, longer stays negotiable. Free Wi-Fi.
phone: +66 76 443500address: 6/27 Moo 5, Bang NiangAll rooms offer air-conditioning, fridge, balcony, safe. Swimming pool. Wi-Fi.
phone: +66 76 584888address: 41/12 Moo 3, Khuk KhakVoted "one of the world's top new hotels in 2010" by Condé Nast. Known for its beach, high-end facilities, and the longest swimming pool in Southeast Asia.
Khao Lak Mountain View Bungalowsphone: +66 81 8926614address: 38/45 Moo 4, Khuk KhakQuiet, off-the-beaten-track clean, modern bungalows in a park-like setting well off the main road in Khuk Khak. On the site of a golf driving range which is free for the use of bungalow residents. 10 bungalows in two different sizes: 47 m 2 and 62 m 2 . Each includes weekly cleaning & linen service, TV, air-conditioning. microwave, refrigerator. Daily, weekly, monthly rates. Larger units are 1,000 baht per day or 12,000 baht per month. Smaller are 800 baht/day, or 10,000 baht/month. Discounted if you stay longer. Internet connection is intermittent and mobile phone signal can be poor.
To the north
phone: +66 76 593510address: 30/1 Moo 7, Bang Muang, Takua PaModern Thai-style beach retreat. This is perhaps the northernmost "Khao Lak" hotel.
The tsunami on 26 Dec 2004 devastated Khao Lak. It was the hardest hit area in Thailand, with nearly 10,000 recorded deaths--some 2,000 of them tourists. Since that time the government has installed sophisticated warning systems which were lacking in 2004. In Apr 2012 the system was tested by an Indonesian earthquake and performed flawlessly. Sirens alerted the populace, who were able to move to higher ground with more than 2 hours notice of the impending landfall. Should you hear sirens blaring during your stay, immediately move inland to higher ground. In low-lying areas such as Bang Niang and south Bang La On, the tsunami reached Rte 4 and beyond to a depth of at least 5 m. As an additional precaution, go to the U.N.-sponsored Global Disaster Alert and Coordination System (GDACS) and sign up for an alert which will be sent via SMS to your mobile phone (Thai or other SIM card) or via email to your computer . Register at http://register.gdacs.org/Detail.aspx
Clinic Dr Amornrutphone: +66 83 6477053Super clean and efficient single doctor clinic for minor ailments and injuries. Includes small pharmacy.
- Thai SIM cards may be purchased at any 7-Eleven shop for 50 baht. They are given away free at the Phuket International Airport (if you arrive at a decent hour). One popular card with good coverage in Khao Lak and Thailand in general is 1-2-Call from AIS, Inc.
- Mobile phones in Thailand have 10 digits, including the leading zero. Land-line telephones have 11 digits, including the leading zero. When calling within Thailand, strip off the country code and add a zero before the number. "+66 76 485762" thus becomes "076 485762".
- Western language books and magazines are sold in the Nang Thong Supermarket and in the area's only bookstore, The Book Tree (Hours: 10:00-20:00).
- International newspapers are distributed in Khao Lak via the NewspaperDirect Network and can be ordered or bought in some local shops and hotels.
- There is a post office at the north end of Bang Niang (inland side of road). Hours: M-F 8:30-16:30, Sa 9:00-12:00. Closed Su. There is another in Lam Kaen, a village about 3 km south of the Khao Lak headland, ~km803.6. Hours are 08:30-16:30 M-F, closed Sa-Su.
- Internet cafe: Coffee & Internet, a shop located on the inland side of Rt 4 in Bang Niang, a few hundred metres north of the Bang Niang 7-Eleven. Open 09:00-21:00. Serves good coffee. Has 10+ desktops loaded with Skype, etc., and a printer available for use on a charge per page basis. 40 baht per hour.
- The government of Thailand actively censors Internet access. 2010 estimates place the number of blocked websites at 110,000 and growing. Roughly 77% are blocked for reasons of lèse majesté, content (content that defames, insults, threatens, or is unflattering to the king, including national security and some political issues), 22% for pornography, which is illegal in Thailand. Some web pages from BBC One, BBC Two, CNN, Yahoo! News, the Post-Intelligencer newspaper (Seattle, USA), and The Age newspaper (Melbourne, Australia) dealing with Thai political content are blocked, as is Wikileaks.
- Chumphon: A bus (direction: north) comes past the Nang Thong Supermarket in Bang La On at 09:40 and goes to the in-town bus terminal in Chumphon without stopping at the suburban terminal. It arrives there at 16:15. Cost is 260 baht.
- Krabi: It's a bit of a hassle getting to Krabi from Khao Lak. There is rumoured to be a daily minibus. Details are hard to come by. All transport companies in Khao Lak will be glad to drive you there for about 3,000 baht. Cheaper would be to take any bus north to Takua Pa (they all stop at the bus station there), about 50 baht, then transfer to a Krabi-bound bus. Alternatively, take a bus south in direction of Phuket, get off at Khok Kloy and take a bus to Krabi there; that's a bit shorter.
- Pattaya: There is a daily bus that leaves Phuket, travels through Bangkok in the wee hours of the morning, and deposits you in Pattaya in the morning. And vice-versa. This eliminates the hassle of making bus changes, even bus station changes, in Bangkok. There are several complications, however. From Khao Lak, to catch the bus you must either go to Phuket where it originates, or the Kok Kloi junction, about 1 hour south of Khao Lak, where the bus stops about 19:30 each evening. There are also some hassles buying a ticket as well, as you must pay for and pick up your ticket by 15:00 on the day of departure. Cost is 920 baht for a regular seat (36 of them) or 1,226 baht for VIP seating (6 available). See the Sawasdee All Thai Co. website for information.
- Phang Nga: Phang Nga Bay is well known for its limestone karst islands and formations, including one, James Bond Island, that was featured in the film The Man with the Golden Gun. Head for Phang Nga Town, an hour or so southeast of Bang La On. Tours of the bay and boat rentals can be arranged there.
- Phuket: Stand anywhere on the inland side of Rte 4 between the hours of 06:00 and 18:00 and a bus bound for Phuket will be along at least once an hour. Flag it down. Buy a ticket on the bus for ~120 baht. The bus will take you to Phuket City, travel time 2 hours. Change there for Patong and all other Ko Phuket destinations.
- Ranong: The second-rainiest place in Thailand (first is Khlong Yai on the gulf coast and Cambodian border), home of impressive hot springs, and departure point to Ko Chang off the coast.
- Similan Islands: An archipelago of nine islands, the Similans are a protected Thai national park hugely popular among divers owing to the spectacular underwater scenery. Park is open Dec-May, closed to visitors the rest of the year. Local dive companies can arrange visits.
- Surat Thani: Gateway to the gulf coast islands: Ko Samui, Ko Pha Ngan, Ko Tao. Buses bound north for Surat Thani pass through Khao Lak at least once an hour. Flag one down from the sea side of Rte 4. Cost will be about 125 baht and travel time 3-4 hours depending on the number of stops to pick up or deposit passengers.
- Surin Islands: Five stunningly beautiful islands 100 km north of the Similans, 60 km off the coast. Open to visitors from 16 Nov-15 May. Local dive companies can arrange visits.