Did you know more than a million Brits jetted off to Thailand in 2016? We’re not surprised, either. Holidays to the Land of Smiles line up some of the most tropical beaches on the planet, friendly locals (hence the nickname), and so many fun-filled activities to choose from. And while fun-loving Phuket has always been a long-standing favourite among holidaymakers, the nearby and more peaceful resort of Khao Lak is certainly having its moment in the spotlight. Keep reading to find out why if you liked Phuket, you’ll love Khao Lak…
Relax on dream-like swathes of sand
It’s no secret the Phi Phi Islands are one of the top attractions when visiting Phuket. In fact, you can tip toe across the same strip of white sand where the blockbusting film, The Beach, was set at Maya Bay – Leonardo DiCaprio isn’t part of the All-Inclusive deal though, sorry.
But if heavenly-looking beaches are your thing, you’ll feel right at home in Khao Lak. This peaceful resort is just over an hours’ speedboat ride from the world-famous Similan Islands – which are made up of 11 dream-like atolls. The protected islands have bagged UNESCO status, and the Kardashians famously visited them back in 2015, so you can expect luxury settings that definitely rival Maya Bay’s. When you arrive on the soft sands, you’ll get to explore interesting sights like Donald Duck Bay. This rock formation is shaped like the Disney character, so it’s the perfect opportunity for little ones and Disney fans alike. Next, you’ll hop back onto your speedboat and your guide will show you around the coral reef diving sites. You’ll be given an hour to explore the reefs for yourself – and don’t be surprised if Nemo-like fish and turtles swim beside you as you’re snorkelling the bright-blue waters.
Explore Khao Sok National Park
While Phuket and Khao Lak both major in beautiful beaches, there are plenty of reasons why you should head inland for the bright-green national parks. Phuket’s coastline is edged by a blanket of forest, so it’s the ideal place to go exploring. It’s no different in Khao Lak, either. In fact, the peaceful villages are backed by Khao Sok National Park, where white-water rafting, canoeing, and hiking are just a few of the activities you can sign up for while you’re there. This place is one of the world’s oldest rainforests, and is a gigantic 738-square-kilometres in size. And thanks to its low-level landscape, it really is nature’s playground. During the rainy season, you might spot boars, tapirs, gibbons, elephants – and even tigers if you’re lucky.
We think one of the most beautiful hidden gems in Khao Sok National Park is Cheow Lan Lake. The emerald-tinted waters swallow up 182-square-kilometres, and sidle up to Instagram-worthy limestone cliffs, vast jungles and spectacular caves. You’ll get to spend the day exploring by traditional Thai longtail boat. First, you’ll tick off the floating bungalows, where a traditional Thai lunch of stir-fried noodles, spicy soups and fresh grilled fish is on the menu. Then, you’ll hop back onto your boat before heading inland for the jungle. You’ll trek through a nature-filled forest for about a mile where you might spot monkeys swinging through the trees as you go. Plus, the thick trees will shade you from the hot sun, so it’s a great way to keep cool. Next, you’ll get to visit a cave that used to be a underwater coral reef. This place was only discovered around 15 years ago, so it’s really peaceful and unspoiled. Inside the cave, you’ll get to explore glistening stalactites and stalagmites.
Visit the old town of Takua Pa
Thailand is famous for its wealth of bustling markets, so it’s the ideal place to visit if you’re a shopaholic. Phuket’s Walking Street is one of the top-rated markets in the town of Patong. Here, the twisting streets are lined by pastel-coloured buildings, and the lively market hosts happy hour from 4.00pm until 10.00pm every day. You’ll come across plenty of stalls selling Chinese and Indian trinkets, and you can tuck into traditional barbecued squid if you’re feeling peckish along the way.
So if you’re first-rate haggler, you’ll love the old town of Takua Pa in Khao Lak. Every morning at 5.00am, the town is filled with loads of market stalls selling food – you’ll get to pick from spicy Thai salads, curries, Chinese-style cakes and barbecued seafood, so it’s a melting pot for foodies. Make sure you’re there early enough to catch a glimpse of local monks collecting offerings of food, it’s is a really spectacular sight. Then, when the sun comes up, you can take a snap (or ten) of the Instagram-worthy buildings that are covered in street art and murals.
Sip cocktails at chilled-out bars
Phuket is renowned for its buzzing nightlife scene. Places like Patong are full to the brim with restaurants, bars, and live music venues, making it the place to be in the evenings. Khao Lak, on the other hand, keeps things simple with a few laid-back pubs and cocktail bars. Don’t worry, though, there are plenty of places where you can stay out ‘til late. Take Bang La On, for example, where there are loads bustling bars and pubs to pick from. And in Ban Niang, there’s a Thai boxing stadium where you can watch nail-biting Muay Thai matches every Friday night. Or, if you’re after something more low-key, check out Ban Niang’s night market. It’s the largest one in Khao Lak, so you can expect lots of stalls selling food, clothes, jewellery and hand-made trinkets.