KHAO LAK: Perfect Beaches with Banana Pancake

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The humid heat of Thailand stuns us again when stepping out of the plane in our jumpers. We get a cold drink to go. The taxi we’ve ordered in advance takes us from Phuket airport to Khao Lak for 1,000 baht.

Khao Lak exceeds all our expectations. We were slightly prejudiced against the place because it’s a popular package holiday destination.

Nang Thong Beach, Khao Lak. Photo: Tuomas Hyytinen

Nang Thong Beach, Khao Lak.

Mojo Restaurant, Khao Lak. Photo: Tuomas Hyytinen

Mojo Restaurant, Khao Lak.

The evening we arrive, we have green curry for dinner in a restaurant called Mojo. It seems most of the customers in the early evening are Finnish pensioners and families with kids.

It’s no surprise, since Khao Lak feels like a peaceful and safe holiday destination. It’s also a very beautiful place. The endless sandy beaches are among the finest in Thailand. We’re especially charmed by the jungle-like lushness of the area.

Khao Lak also attracts divers. Similan Island is said to be the best spot for diving in Thailand. We go to snorkel on Surin Islands which are also a popular destination for day trips. The islands are inhabited by a fisher people who are at home at sea. When the tsunami was approaching, they sensed the danger, went out at sea and were saved.

Surin islands. Photo: Tuomas Hyytinen

Surin Islands.

On the evening of our arrival, we have a dessert in one of the street kitchens, a banana pancake. When ordering it for the third night in a row, we have to say it’s dangerously good.

The most disturbing thing on Khao Lak is the traffic. In the middle of the village, there’s a wide main road with cars going way too fast. You have to be especially careful when crossing the road. A moped is the handiest way to get to know the many beaches of Khao Lak, but you should take great care in the crossroads.

Nang Thong Beach, Khao Lak. Photo: Tuomas Hyytinen

Nang Thong Beach, Khao Lak.

Pakarang Beach, Khao Lak. Photo. Tuomas Hyytinen

Pakarang Beach, Khao Lak.

You’re spoiled for choice on Khao Lak. There’s accommodation on eight beaches, at least. If you want to be close to lively nightlife, Nang Thong or Bang Niang is the best spot for you. Close to both beaches, there’s a big village with plenty of restaurants and shops.

We like to stay on Nang Thong Beach, close to the main village in Khao Lak, called Bang La On. The steaming rainforest in the background makes it the most beautiful beach on Khao Lak, in our opinion.

Choosing accommodation on Khao Lak has been more difficult for us than in many destinations in Thailand. There’s plenty to choose from, but many hotels are big and lack character.

On our first visit, we stayed in the large Sensimar Hotel. On our second trip, we decided to try something more special.

Khaolak Paradise Resort. Photo: Tuomas Hyytinen

Khaolak Paradise Resort.

In Thailand, many hotel names include the word Paradise. This time, we can say the hotel lives up to its name. The setting of Khaolak Paradise Hotel is the greatest on Khao Lak or even the whole of Thailand.

The reception of the roadside hotel is in the heart of the rainforest. The path to the beach and the bungalows goes through the rainforest.

The rainforest on the mountains of Khao Lak is at its finest in this spot of the beach. The green view from the blue pool is magically beautiful. The bungalows in the garden nearly disappear in the greenery. The sandy beach is flanked by a perfect row of palm trees. A true paradise.

Khaolak Paradise Resort, Khao Lak. Photo: Tuomas Hyytinen

Khaolak Paradise Resort.

Khaolak Paradise Resort. Photo: Tuomas Hyytinen

Khaolak Paradise Resort.

Khaolak Paradise Resort. Photo: Tuomas Hyytinen

Khaolak Paradise Resort.

Khaolak Paradise Resort. Photo: Tuomas Hyytinen

Khaolak Paradise Resort.

The paradise comes at a price. Khaolak Paradise must be the most expensive hotel on Nang Thong Beach. A night in a beach bungalow cost about 350 euros in November 2017.

We don’t usually pay as much for a night but we wanted to see if the paradise was worth the price tag. Setting-wise it was, but we thought the beach bungalow was overpriced.

Beach Bungalow, Khaolak Paradise Resort. Photo: Tuomas Hyytinen

Beach Bungalow, Khaolak Paradise Resort.

Beach Bungalow, Khaolak Paradise Resort. Photo: Tuomas Hyytinen

Beach Bungalow, Khaolak Paradise Resort.

The bungalow is luxuriously spacious but the style is slightly outdated and stuffy. It doesn’t feel cosy or comfortable to us. The surroundings are nicer in the garden bungalows that are fairly similar but a bit more affordable. The cheapest option is to book a deluxe room further away from the beach.

The whole style and atmosphere of the Khaolak Paradise Hotel is stagnant, somehow. It may be because of the hotel guests and doesn’t make the place any less beautiful.

We find a nice place for dinner right next to the hotel. Restaurant Andalea on the beach is worth visiting when the sun is setting. We recommend deep fried fish in pineapple sauce.

Deep Fried Fish, Andalea Bar, Khao Lak. Photo: Tuomas Hyytinen

Deep Fried Fish, Andalea Bar.

Andalea Bar, Nang Thong Beach, Khao Lak. Photo: Tuomas Hyytinen

Andalea Bar, Khao Lak.

In the morning, we pack our backpacks as early as seven and start trekking on the beach. Khao Lak boasts the longest beaches in Thailand.

With the sun still behind the mountains, it’s pleasant to walk on the beach. When the sun rises and the sand gets hotter, I set new goals after each other. “Let’s see what’s behind that peninsula and stay there…”

Pakarang Beach, Khao Lak. Photo: Tuomas Hyytinen

Pakarang Beach, Khao Lak.

Pakarang Beach is home to Memories Bar, in the memory of those who died in the tsunami. We have a cold soda there in the morning shade.

The shallow beaches of Khaolak were the location that was hit worst when the tsunami came. On Boxing Day in the year 2004, around 4,000 people died there, nearly 200 of them Finns. Even though there are hardly any physical signs of the tsunami left here, I think to myself under a palm tree, “That’s where it came from.”

In the village of Bang Niang, there’s a police boat that the tsunami took kilometres away from the beach. Around the boat, there’s a tsunami memorial park. There’s also a tsunami museum nearby.

The further north we walk on the beach on Khao Lak, the finer the sand gets. It’s at its finest on White Sand Beach.

White Sand Beach, Khao Lak. Photo: Tuomas Hyytinen

White Sand Beach, Khao Lak.

Pakweep Beach, Khao Lak. Photo: Tuomas Hyytinen

Pakweep Beach, Khao Lak.

In the afternoon, we’re nearly at the other end of the beach after walking nearly 20 kilometres. It’s not recommended to walk as far in your flip flops.

In the afternoon heat, we have a rest under a tree on Bangsak Beach that’s nearly empty. After the sunset, we have a real feast in Krua Thai Restaurant on the beach: grilled red snapper with tasty sauce. Then we take a taxi back to the hotel.

Translated into English by Katja Juutistenaho. Original Finnish text by Tuomas Hyytinen and Mila Hyytinen.

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