Monks on the beach, Khao Lak
Khao Lak (เขาหลัก) is a resort town in Phang Nga province on the western Andaman Sea coastline of southern Thailand, about 100 km north of Phuket Town. When the disastrous tsunami of 2004 struck South Asia, Khao Lak was the hardest-hit area in Thailand with over 4,000 fatalities. It has since made an impressive recovery despite many hardships along the way, and is once again a popular tourist destination. Khao Lak mainly caters to families and those looking for R&R, generally the party people seem to prefer Phuket.
Khaolak is named after the national park (Khao Lak-Lam Ru). The park was declared a national park in August 1991. It occupies a vast area of 150² km and covers Amphoe Thai Muang, Amphoe Kapong, Amphoe Takua Pa and Amphoe Muang. Khao Lak is becoming increasingly popular, mainly with European visitors. It is easy to reach, quite and, as yet, not overdeveloped. It is something like Phuket's past 20 years. You can walk northward along the sand for many kilometres, almost as far as Bang Sak beach.
The main problem is that, in the off season starting in May, although the hotel prices are much cheaper, many of the shops and restaurants are shut down for the season (prices are still OK though). This is because of the predominately European tourism here.
Most larger hotels will run a shuttle bus service into Bang La On, often described as Khao Lak ‘centre’ although these may be at limited times and may be chargeable. There are plenty of taxis as an alternative. Bang La On is about 20 min by shuttle or taxi from, for example, The Sarojin.
Bang La On has the most shops, bars restaurants and banks. There are also many ATMs. Bang Niang is smaller, but still has a good selection. You will find the majority of visitors to Bang Niang are couples whereas at Bang La On it’s mainly families. Khuk Khak is still quite small with a handful of restaurants and a few shops. In the high season all of the restaurants will be open including a wide range of both independent and hotel based beachfront restaurants.
In Bang Niang there is a large range of accommodation from the 4.5 star Ramada to bungalow resorts like The Sanuk Bungalows. In Bang La On the accommodation is primarily 3-4 star, for example, the Baan Khao Lak on Nang Thong Beach and The Paradise on Sunset Beach, the next beach going south. Just south of Khao Lak Lam Ru National Park there is Khao Lak beach which has the popular Merlin Resort and the relatively new boutique Lukanawadee resort.
Bang La On - This is actually the town name for the place with all the shops and restaurants. It is only used by locals as the entire area is known to Westerners as "Khao Lak", and is signposted as such.
If travelling by bus you will need to know at which particular beach you have booked or want to stay at or you will be dropped off in Bang La On near the Nang Thong supermarket. The beach of this name is a few hundred metres along the side street from this supermarket.
Most of the action appears to be between Nang Thong Beach and Khao Lak Beach, the latter appears to be where the most expensive resorts are.
Heading north as you come into the really winding part of the road is Khao Lak Beach, and when it straightens out, Nang Thong Beach. Beyond this in order are Bang Niang Beach, Khuk Khak Beach, Ao Thong Beach, Pakweeb Beach, and Bangsak Beach. The latter is some 18 km from Takua Pa.
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. If you think this is too much and prefer to take a bus, you will have to get to the main road, Highway 4, about 5 km from the airport. Hop on a bus headed towards Takua Pa, Ranong or Surat Thani, they all stop in Khao Lak. It's about 80 km from Phuket airport to Khao Lak.
The nearest train station is at Surat Thani on the east coast, making this an inconvenient option.
Buses depart Bangkok to Khao Lak from the southern bus terminal Sai Tai. The 10 hr 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 hr 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.
Buses departing Khao Lak are available opposite the Nang Thong supermarket with buses to Bangkok departing around at 10AM, to Phuket at 11AM and 5PM, and to Surat Thani at 11:50AM.
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 hr and departs at 6:30AM, 9AM, 11:40AM, 1PM, 13PM, 3:40PM, 4:20PM, 5PM, 5:50PM. This service travels onward to Takua Pa with the full trip costing 90 baht.
From TakuaPa 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 there's a daily minibus to Khao Lak. All travel agents in Krabi sell tickets.
Songteow appears to be the main means of transport unless you rent a motorbike.
If you hire them directly, agree on a price beforehand. Be sure you are quoted either the total price for all persons, or a price per person. You will find that to go to a market some three Km from Bang Niang will cost 100-200 baht.
Travel companies will also arrange tours to local attractions like waterfalls etc.
- Chong Fah Waterfall - about 10 min east of Bang Niang - great for hot days, very scenic and accessible to all. 100 baht for foreigners (05/2011).
- Police Boat 813, was one of two police boats overseeing the vacation of Khun Phum Jensen, son of former Royal Princess Ubol Ratana (his father was an American, hence the last name) at the time of the 2004 tsunami. Khun Phum was jet-skiing when the wave struck, and he and the entire crew of one of the police boats (which was sunk) died. This is the other boat, which was swept inland and has been left exactly where the tsunami deposited it as a memorial and historical landmark.
- Takuapa & Old Town. At Takuapa Old Town you will find Sino-Portuguese architecture and have the chance to wander around the quaint shops (best in the early morning), about 45 min drive from Khao Lak. Takuapa Market and River Plaza are in the new town, slightly closer to Khao Lak (near the bus station). This is a typical local market and the Plaza has some good shops and a few riverside restaurants.
- Lampi Waterfall. About 30 min south of Khao Lak just off highway 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 creams, souvenirs etc. There are also toilets onsite. Swimming in the water below the falls is permitted and appears reasonably safe.
- Khao Sok National Park. A visit to Khao Sok National Park will allow activities including jungle trekking on foot or elephant, visiting waterfalls & river rafting/canoeing. Around 1 hr drive north east from Khao Lak. A good day out, although accommodation is available for extended visits.
- Khao Lak Lam Ru National Park. Nice walks and a restaurant (not open in the evening). Between Nang Thong and Khao Lak beaches. Walkeable from the resorts in Bang La On.
- Cheow Lan Lake and Rachaphrapha Dam. Just two hours north of Khao Lak off highway 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).
- Saori Foundation Centre, Bang Muang (Drive north from Khao Lak and Bang Niang to Ban Muang; go through the built up area and a few hundred metres further on you will see on the left an official-looking entrance... turn left into it and find the Saori workshop along on the left.). A women's workshop which develops its own textile designs after a Japanese monk showed tsunami survivors how to weave and earn a living. You are welcome at the workshop on any working day from Mon-Sat to see how the designs and products are made and to purchase the products. Designs are individual to each worker.
Diving - 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.
Divers at the Similan islands
- Khao Lak Diving, 4/17 Moo 7 Khao Lak, Khuk Kak, Takuapa, Phang Nga (Right Next door to Viking Steakhouse), ☎ +66 76 485 868 ([email protected]), . Diving in Khao Lak, visiting the Similan Islands, Richelieu Rock and local dive sites. Small groups, safety focused and family friendly
- Kon-Tiki Khao Lak Diving & Snorkeling Center, 13/128 Moo 7 Khao Lak, Khuk Kak, Takuapa, Phang Nga 82190, ☎ +66 76 485 378 ([email protected]), . Established in 1996, Kon-Tiki is one of the longest running dive centers in Khao Lak offering daily dive trips, PADI dive education and liveaboards to the best dive sites in Thailand
- Manta Point Dive Center, 91 Moo 6, Khao Lak, Khuk Kak, Takuapa, Phang Nga, ☎ +66 76 485 624 ([email protected]), . Khao Lak dive safaris since 1999: liveaboards to Similan Islands and Richelieu Rock with daily departures for any duration. Richelieu Rock day trips and PADI courses.
- Similan Dive Center-Geo Expedition, 22/37 Moo 4, Khuk Khak, Takuapa, Phang Nga (Opposite Bangkok bank in the center of Khao Lak), ☎ +66 76 485 792 ([email protected]). Open all year. Khao Lak ecological dive centre offers diving in a friendly atmosphere with an experienced crew. Day trips and daily departing liveaboards to the Similan Islands, Koh Bon, Koh Tachai and Richelieu Rock. Official Mares Dive Centre with a large range of diving and snorkeling equipment. Operated by Khao Lak residents with over 20 years of experience in environmental research and diving.
- Wicked Diving, Khao Lak, 4/17 Moo 7 Khuk Khak, Takuapa, Phang Nga (Located on main road, next to Viking Steakhouse), ☎ +66 76 485 868 ([email protected]), . Operating liveaboards on 3 and 5 day expeditions to the Similan and Surin Islands.
Khao Lak is the most convenient point from which to go snorkelling in the Surin Islands and Similan Islands, which offer some of Thailand's very best coral and fish diversity and numbers.
- Similan Tour, 1/6 Khao Lak, Lam Kaen, Thai Muang, Phangnga, ☎ +66 76 443258 ([email protected]), . A very well organised snorkeling-only liveaboard for 3d/2n, departing Tuesdays and Fridays. Swedish management who also run the Poseidon Bungalows. 7,400 baht.
- Khao Lak Land Discovery, 21/5 Moo 7 Khukkhak Takuapa 82190 Phang Nga, ☎ +66 76 485 411 ([email protected], fax: +66 76 485 412), . Professional operated and guided snorkling tours (daytrips and overnight) to Similan and Surin Islands with German, Swedish and English guides.
- Wicked Diving & Snorkeling Center, 4/17 Moo 7 Khuk Khak, Takuapa, Phang Nga (Located On Main Road - Right next to Viking Steakhouse), ☎ +66 76 485 868 ([email protected]), . Offering guided overnight tours of the Surin islands - in maximum group sizes of 6 guests.
- Pakarang Surf Shop, 28/5 Moo 7, Khuk Khak, Takuapa, Phang Nga (in Khao Lak, 1 hour north of Phuket), ☎ +66 76 485 350, . 9AM-5PM. Surf shop in Khao Lak, Thailand. Board rental and good surf spot. 3 breaks on Cape Pakarang plus good beach breaks around Khao Lak. 300 baht/hr. (8°43'38.04N,98°13'36.50E)
- The Yoga Studio, Petkasem Rd (Main Road) (Bang Niang, near Police Boat), ☎ +66 89 710 5770 ([email protected]), . Group and private yoga classes by a certified yoga instructor.
- Khao Niau is located in Bang Niang on the main road, opposite the Tsunami Police Boat, left from the local market. ([mailto: [email protected]]). Offering a wide range of Thai food, including delicious dishes from Issan. Menu in Thai/German/English. Cooking classes, cheap prices, delicious food. Open from 12 noon-10PM.
- Green Pepper, 67/145 Moo 5 Bang Niang, T.Kuk Kak A., Takuapa, Phang Nga Thailand. ((direction located near Bang Niang market and Andaman Diving shop.), ☎ +66 85 655 7626. '''4PM - until late'''. Thai seafood and western cuisine in a nice atmosphere. Opens from 4PM until the last customer leaves. Also cooking classes where you can follow to the market and select the food that you will cook personally.
- Sweet Peas, Walking distance from Tony Lodge. Thai and western cuisine
- Coconut Grove, On the beach in Bang Niang and features great food and very nice views for sunsets.
- Pizzeria Portofino, Bang Niang Beach near police boat and 711 shop.
- O'Connor's Irish Pub, Nang Thong Beach near the 711 shop and Dr Chusak. They offer Thai and international food, Guinness and Kilkenny on tap and over 20 different single malt whisky. Cany arrange a Thai cooking course. Try the Korean/Thai BBQ.
- Pinocchio Restaurant, 67/1 Moo 7 Petkasem rd. Bang Niang, Kuk Kak, Takuapa, Phang Nga Thailand., ☎ +66 89 923 2395, . Italian restaurant open all year.
- Takieng Restaurant, 26/43 Moo 5, Bang Niang (Next to the Poilce Boat).. Decorated with many items brought from the owners home town in northern Thailand. Open most of the year.
- Hill Tribe Restaurant, Bangniang, Phetchkasem Rd. 13/22 Moo 6, Khuk Kak, Takuapa, Phang-Nga (Next to RT Hotel, 500 m from the market direction Khao Lak centre), ☎ +66 86 283 0933, . Thai food including dishes from North Thailand. Decorated with original items from Chiang Rai.
- O'Rendez-vous, 5/42 Moo 7 La On (Khao Lak Centre) (Opposite Andaburi Resort, next to Sea Dragon), ☎ +66 835 90 8002. 4PM till late. Thai 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 wifi and shisha. Main dishes from US$3$-14.
- Moo Moo Cabaret Show & Bar, 27/76 Moo 5, Bang Niang (near the garden centre) ☎ +66 76 486 156. Daily show in high season, free entrance, show time 9:45PM. Khao Lak's original cabaret show, a great night out for all the family. Cocktails, beers and soft drinks served.
- the Garden, 67/144 Moo 5 Bang Niang Beach area Khao Lak (Nearby to Ramada - La Flora), . ☎ +66 81 089 0170. Open 3PM-11PM. Cocktails 99 baht. A tropical garden restaurant. Lobster on request, tiger prawns, mussels, oysters, BBQ meat or seafood. Thai breakfast 7-10AM. Fresh fruit juice, shake & smoothie, ice cream, tea & coffee iced or hot. Offers a free pick up at your hotel.
- Jovel Bar & Beergarden (Khao Niau Road), 67/148 Moo 5 Phetkasem Road (Opposite the Tsunami Police boat / left side of Khao Niau Restaurant in Bang Niang), ☎ +66 76 486 118, . 3PM-1AM. New modern styled bar has an interior with a waterfall and creek running though it, cosy corners, and overlooks the weekly market in Bang Niang. Regular concerts with local and famous Thai musicians are held in the beer garden. Jovel serves delicious food as well (Isan hot pot, Thai table BBQ, western food, seafood and has more than 10 different beers with two on tap. Free wifi, free international newspapers and TV are provided. (220.127.116.11 N,98.15.09.68 E)
- Banana Bungalows,  starting 400 baht (800 baht in high season). A/C, pool.
- Takola Buri Resort, , 46 Moo 2, Pakarang Cape,Takhuapa District, Phang Nga, price 2,500-20,000 baht. Opened in 2008.
- Royal Bangsak Beach Resort, , a new 4 star hotel, price 1,950-5,250 baht.
- Ramada Resort Khao Lak, 59 Moo 5, Tambol Kuk Kak, Amphur Takua Pa, ☎ +66 76 427 777 ([email protected]), .
- Khaolak Bhandari Resort, , 26/25 Moo 7, Khukkhak, Takuapa price: 2,000-6,000 baht
- Tony Lodge, 6/27 Moo 5, Khuk Khak, Tha Kua Pa, Phang Nga. ☎ +66 76 443 500, .
- Sarojin Resort,  60 Moo 2, Kukkak, Takuapa, Phang Nga, Room Rate: 6,000-25,000 baht
- Motive Cottage, 26/16 Moo 5, T. Khuk Khak, Ta Kua Pa, Phang Nga, . Simple resort located in the middle of Khaolak. 10 min walk to the beach.
- Le Meridien Khao Lak, 9/9 Moo 1, Tambol Kuk Kak, Amphur Takua Pa, ☎ +66 76 427 500, .
- The Briza Beach Resort, , new resort in Khao Lak, Phang Nga, price 1,400-2,300 baht.
- La Flora Resort & Spa, . 70 rooms and villas. The resort is located on the mainland in Khao Lak.
- Khaolak Emerald Beach Resort & Spa, . 4 star Thai designed resort on Khao Lak Beach. Price 1,850-12,000 baht.
- Poseidon Bungalows, 1/6 Khao Lak, Lam Kaen, ☎ +66 76 443 258, [email protected], . Located a few kilometers away from the town centre and has a small beach of its own. A two-person bungalow is 900 baht per night, a four-person bungalow is 1,400 baht per night (for 2 pax 1,200 baht and for 3 pax 1,300 baht). Arranges snorkeling trips to Similan Islands, see the Get out section.
- Jerung Guesthouse, the main road. A modern and friendly place to stay with prices around 1,000 baht per guesthouse/night
- Amsterdam Resort , ([email protected]), ☎ +66 818 575 881. Low budget bungalow resort close to the beach, different types of bungalows and rooms, prices range from 600-1,100 baht. The place has a restaurant and rents out motorbikes, and there is an internet room, free wifi, and an inhouse travel agency.
- Tiffy's Restaurant, next to Sea Dragon Dive Center. 180 baht for dorms
- Haadson Resort, 30/1 Moo 7, BangMuang, Takuapa, Phang Nga, ☎ +66 76 593-510, . Modern Thai-style beach retreat.
- Chongfah Beach Resort (Chongfah Resort), 54/1 Moo 5 Khukkhak Takuapa Phang Nga Khaolak, ☎ +66 76 486 588, . checkin: 2PM; checkout: 12 noon.
- Cousin Resort, Bang Niang, ☎ +66 76 486 680, +66 76 486 681, .
- JW Marriott Khao Lak Resot & Spa, 41/12 Moo 3, Khuk Khak, Takuapa, Phang Nga, ☎ +66 76 584 888 ([email protected]), . checkin: 3PM; checkout: 12noon. Voted "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. 4,500-26,000 baht.
- Happy Lagoon Resort, Soi Nang Thong, Nang Thong Beach (200 m from the beach, and 400 m from the main road). Duplex and modern (built 2007) brick bungalows in a pleasant garden setting with no pool. A bar is in the front and the restaurant has prices similar to those at the main road. Hot water in the bathrooms. Car parking spaces opposite reception. 700 baht for a fan room (no TV) in high season and 400 baht in low season. 1,000 baht for an A/C room with TV in high season, 700 baht in low season. Breakfast is not included.
Local television, satellite TV channels are available. English language books and magazines are sold in some bookstores. International newspapers are being printed in Khao Lak via the NewspaperDirect Network and can be ordered or bought in local shops and Hotels. A local bi-weekly English newspaper is available online as well as in print. 
Landline telephone, satellite phone and all mobile phone systems are available. Internet can be had in hotels, resorts and internet cafés. There are Post Offices in Khukkhak, Khao Lak and Lam Kaen.
There are several internet cafes - one good one is at the Khao Lak Pearl Travel Agency (also known as [email protected]), some 50 m along the Soi (street) towards Nang Thong Beach, at the same named supermarket on the left. The Manager ไข่ (pronounced "Kai" - the "ai" as in "eye") speaks good English, and she is very helpful with enquiries.
Khao Lak to Phuket International Airport by bus.
The cheapest way to get to the airport is by local bus. The bus passes by Khao Lak every half an hour or so and costs 100 baht to Phuket. When the busboy ask you where you want to go just tell him "airport" or Nai Yang beach, which is very close. You will then be dropped at an intersection along Highway 402. From there just take a motorbike taxi for the 10 min ride to the airport. The motorbike taxi should not cost more than 100 baht. Note that the bus only runs during the day, until around 6PM.
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