Khao Lak, diving the Similan & Surin Islands, and Phuket

Posted by on Apr 14, 2015 in Asia, Thailand, Travel | 0 comments

Khao Lak, diving the Similan & Surin Islands, and Phuket

After a long and cold winter in Beijing we headed to Thailand more than ready for the sunshine, beaches, diving and delicious Thai food!

Thailand had been on our list for a while, it’s one of those places that is always depicted with an alluring tropical exoticness, and we were happy to find that it delivered.

Our days were spent reading books on white sandy beaches, snorkelling and diving in turquoise water, and sipping on young coconuts and Singha.

 

Khao Lak

Located on the west coast of Thailand, Khao Lak can be easily accessed from Phuket or Krabi airport.  A popular tourist destination with many resorts, the main street is filled with massage shops, restaurants and dive shops.

We had headed to Khao Lak as it’s the gateway to the Similan and Surin Islands where we planned to dive.  Khao Lak has everything you could possibly need including ATMs, supermarkets and cafes with wifi.

We stayed at Phu Khao Lak Resort which offers good value rooms, we went with the most basic room which had a fan and manual flush toilet, but if you’re after something more luxurious they also offer newer bungalows with air con.  The place is cheaper because it’s not on the beach like other resorts, but it’s only a 5 minute walk to get there.

 

Phu Khao Lak Resort

Phu Khao Lak Resort

 

Nothing beats watching the sun go down over the ocean while sipping a cocktail at one of the many beachside bars such as Baan Khao Lak.  However food and drinks are more expensive if they are located on the beach, and even more so if attached to a resort, so we usually headed up to the main street for dinner.  Clef Bar offers a fun atmosphere with live music and a BBQ out the front.

Be sure to hire a scooter (this should cost no more than 250 THB per day), and head north to stunning white sand beaches much quieter than the main beach (Nang Thong Beach).

At beautiful Khuk Khak Beach, Lay Restaurant is a small place serving delicious Thai food with free sunbeds and umbrellas you can use on the beach.  Spend the morning reading a book and taking a dip when you get too warm and then head to Lay Restaurant for lunch.

Go even further north and discover Coconut Beach and White Sand Beach, both are strikingly beautiful with water warm as a bath.

 

Wayne on KK Beach

Wayne on Khuk Khak Beach

 

Enjoying Coconut Beach

Loving Coconut Beach!

 

Diving the Similan & Surin Islands

From Khao Lak we went on a three night liveaboard with Wicked Diving.  Their boat ‘The Mariner’ was comfortable and there were 20 divers on board (the trip was fully booked).

We had booked early and scored a double cabin (there are only 2 located on the middle deck) which was really spacious, all of the rooms also have air con.

The crew and instructors were all lovely, it’s a family run boat with the mum doing the cooking, dad’s the captain, and their son the engineer.  And wow, can that mama cook!  She served us some of the best Thai food I have ever eaten, I particularly loved her curries.

 

We stopped to enjoy a nearby beach one evening

Enjoying a nearby beach one evening during our dive trip

 

The diving itself was good, we saw a leopard shark and my favourite – a whale shark!  Seeing a whale shark, the largest fish in the sea, is something that had been on our bucket list for a while.

Swimming with this magnificent creature was an awe inspiring experience that I will never forget.  He swam past a few times, and on the third time came right up to me, and did a graceful turn beside Wayne.

 

The beautiful whale shark

The beautiful whale shark

 

Saying hello to Wayne

Saying hello to Wayne

 

We saw the whale shark at Richelieu Rock, probably the most famous dive spot in the area and rightly so, it’s a beautiful reef with tonnes to see.  Unfortunately everybody knows this and the site gets pretty crowded, we were one of about 8 dive boats when we were there.

The other dive spots were good, but nothing too spectacular.  After experiencing the sublime diving of Komodo National Park, where after every dive I felt exhilarated and we were often the only boat at a site, I think I have been spoiled!

 

Phuket

After our dive trip we headed to the island of Phuket to Kata Beach.  Patong Beach is the notorious hot bed of sleaziness, overflowing with Australian themed bars, ping pong shows and the famous lady boys.

Bangla Road becomes pedestrian only after 6pm and is something you should experience, even if it’s not your scene.

Further down the coast is Karon Beach, followed Kata Beach where we stayed which is still touristy but much quieter than the craziness of Patong.

We stayed at Fantasy Hill Bungalow which have basic but very comfortable and great value air conditioned rooms.  Our room was on the corner of the second floor and had sweeping views of the ocean.  We hired a scooter from here for 200 THB per day, and also got a good rate for our airport transfer at 900 THB.

We rode the scooter south and stumbled upon some smaller gorgeous beaches.  Nai Harn Beach is great for a swim, and further down Yanui Beach is very small and picturesque – a great spot to relax under the trees with a coconut.  Rawai beach is a long and busy strip with long tail boats and many beachfront restaurants with unbeatable views.

 

Yanui Beach

Yanui Beach

 

Rawai Beach

Rawai Beach

 

If you’re looking for a crossfit box you’ll find Unit 27 on Soi Tad-Ied, and a few doors down is Healthy’s Corner which does delicious smoothies using ingredients like almond milk and cacao, and fresh rice paper rolls.

Sabai Corner is a great restaurant to enjoy a sunset dinner with a view, and they serve authentic Thai cuisine (you will need a scooter or taxi to get there as it’s pretty out of the way).

We also did a one day speed boat tour with Simba Sea Trips, a company run by a friendly Australian woman Jenny.  The boat takes about 15 people out to see some of the famous spots like Phi Phi Island, Monkey Beach and Maya Bay (where they filmed The Beach).

There is definitely an exotic beauty about the sheer limestone cliffs and turquoise green water, however these types of tours are becoming increasingly popular so you will be sharing the beaches.

Jenny packs a wonderful lunch of several types of salads and roast chicken, as well as fresh fruit and soft drinks.  While snorkelling I even saw a sea turtle and black tip reef shark!

 

Boat tour with Simba Sea Tours

Boat tour with Simba Sea Trips, at Pileh Lagoon

 

Overall Thailand was beautiful and exactly what the doctor ordered, however next time I would like to explore some of the lesser known areas.

It wasn’t as cheap as our trips to Indonesia, but the Thai food was so good it nearly made up for it!

PS. If you want to interact with the elephants in Thailand have a read of this article from Lonely Planet first on where you can do so ethically.

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