Asia Travel

Travel || Khao Lak Town

We based ourselves in Khao Lak for the duration of our time in Thailand. It was stunning, reasonably un-busy (even though we were there in the main tourist season), friendly and affordable. Plus it was only an hour north of Phuket airport, so it made traveling really easy. It’s the only area in Thailand with a massive lack of concrete, loads of beaches and un-fettered rainforest and Lamru National Park land on the other side. Because of the massive sweep of Khao Lak’s space and its interconnected beaches, it manages to retain a “small-town” feel which was really wonderful as a visitor. 

Besides frequenting the beach, I’d recommend going to the Ban Niang night market, exploring both the Khao Sok and the Lamru National Parks, eating at every possible place that you can, and visiting nearby temples. I really enjoyed looking around the market, but I also have a distinct lack of haggling skills. It’s 1 part anxiety and panicking when I have to talk to someone I don’t know and 2 parts having no idea what amount of money I should offer for something. (Anyone else panic when asked to haggle?) In terms of tourists, it’s very American and English lite. The vast majority of other tourists were from Scandi countries and Germany; and the local Thai people made me feel so lazy with languages: most were trilingual, some even more so. 

It would be wrong to talk about Khao Lak without addressing the elephant in the room; the 2004 Tsunami. Khao Lak was the area of Thailand that was most badly affected. Before the tsunami, it was a burgeoning tourist area just starting to rival some of its more famous Thai brothers (Ko Samui, etc). It was at the time the fast-growing tourist area in all of Thailand. And then in one day, it was completely demolished when the first 33 foot high wave washed in. I remember all the news stories that come out of that Boxing Day, but 13 years later it seemed so much more real to me. (If you’ve seen the film “The Impossible” it’s set in Khao Lak.) The official death toll in Khao Lak was around 4,000 people (including a member of the Thai Royal Family) though there are uncounted Burmese refugees that could potentially bring the toll up closer to 10,000.  

We visited Police Boat 813 which was 1 of 3 boats that had been out on the water guarding Princess Ubolratana Phannawadee’s son who was out jet skiing at the time. Boat 813 was swept 2 kilometres inland by the wave and no one has moved it from where it lays now. It serves as a memorial garden of sorts, and there’s a tsunami museum nearby that only the most stony of heart could fail to weep at. Almost half of the official tsunami deaths in Khao Lak were foreign tourists, and as we walked along our beautiful beach we would stumble across the occasional tree that serves as an impromptu memorial for dozens of children and families who lost their lives playing on the beach when the tsunami swept in. Though the town has completely bounced back, it would be hard to visit now without mentioning the tsunami. It was a spectre over our trip that reminded us of just how grateful we really should be.

Have you been to this side of Thailand before? 

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  • Mehreen A

    I was in Phuket a couple of weeks ago – I wish I’d gone to Khao Lak, it looks beautiful!

    • It’s such a stunning area – you never would have guessed that you were that close to Phuket! x

  • Absolutely beautiful, and amazing that it’s bounced back so vigorously, but I bet seeing those memorials was heart wrenching! So many lives lost, and so quickly! Alice xxx

    • There are still traces of it everywhere (ponds of stagnant water inland that weren’t there before, rebuilding works, memorials). But it’s so thoroughly bounced back and it’s such a gorgeous and under-visited part of Thailand that I hope it fulfils all its growth dreams! x

  • The history makes the town so sad and beautiful.

  • Ellie

    This post has made me want to go to Thailand so so much! Your photography is beautiful xxxx

  • beautiful temples!

  • sounds and looks like you had the best time! can’t wait to catch up with all the rest of your posts, too:-) xx

  • Oh these photos are stunning, I love the different colours and the temple looks just gorgeous! Thailand is definitely on my travel list. it just looks amazing. Love that final shot of that pink sunset too. – Tasha

    • Thank you so much Tasha! I’m so glad that you like it. Thailand was an amazing once in a lifetime trip that I can’t wait to finish blogging about! x

      • It just looks magical, I must go there someday! I’ll keep an eye out for more of your posts on it. 🙂

  • Hi Amanda, I have never been to Thailand before, but my parents are regular visitors there and are actually headed out there next week for two months. It was lovely looking at your photos, as the photos my parents take are not that good. I now get an idea of the beuatiful things they see whilst they are there.


    • Hi Debbie,

      Thank you so much for your kind words. I hope that you get an opportunity to travel to Thailand yourself one day. it’s truly a beautiful country! x

  • Wow, that police boat really gives an interesting perspective to the tsunami. And your trip looks amazing. I’ve been following along while it has snowed here in CO.

    • Thanks Lisa! It was snowing here in England today – but nowhere near what you got in CO, I’m sure! x

  • This is absolutely incredible! I always wanted to visit Thailand. Everything looks so colorful and I love their culture. xx
    Your blog is beautiful! Followed you on bloglovin!

    Antonia || Sweet Passions

  • I also have haggle anxiety. Let’s start a support group x

    • You mean there’s an alternative to just panicking and being like “Here! Take all my money!” ? Then I suppose I do need a support group 😉 x

      • I think my problem stems from it seeming like it assumes everyone is out to get you and you can’t trust anyone. I’d prefer people just tell me what they believe a fair price is for the thing and I’ll decide if I want to pay it. But that’s just too easy isn’t it….

  • I am having a full on catch up with your blog today Amanda, (slow day in the office) …
    Sorry for all the notifications you are probably getting from me 🙂
    Oh I find haggling very cringe if it does not go according to plan. So I tend to avoid it unless I am feeling rather bold which is often never 🙂

    • Haha, i hardly ever feel bold either so I know exactly what you mean! (And I never mind getting comment notifications!) Hope you had a great Valentine’s Day! x

  • I HATE haggling and indeed got very ripped off buying a gift for my mum in Egypt many years ago. I’ve only been to Thailand pre-tsunami but I’d love to go back. Although I still remember the fear I felt that Boxing Day like it was yesterday as my brother was out there travelling at the time and no one could get hold of him for days x

    • Oh my gosh Leanne, that sounds awful! I can only imagine how relieved you all must have been when you heard from him again! x