Published: December 8th 2006December 8th 2006 Khao Lak, Thailand - A hidden paradise
Thai Dancers in Khao Lak
Khao Lak offered a celebration of the renewal of their spirit to get back to business and their livelihoods.
Khao Lak. Where the hell
is that??? Well, its about 80km north of Phuket International Airport. Sounds more like a metropolis than a tropical jungle, huh? Phuket, the largest island in Thailand is in the southwest. It is frequented by many travelers and has the second highest economy among the provices next to Bangkok. So what makes this area so desirable??
With the exception of Patong Beach, I think Phuket has much to offer. I say that about Patong Beach because it is the haven for many sex tourists, drug dealers and just plain 'ol sleaze. I don't understand why people take their children there and subject them to such debauchery. I'm certainly no prude, but I know my personal limits on what I believe to be senselss spending of one's salary for what is to believed to be a great place to be. It's like Tijuana with a coastline.
What you won't find in Khao Lak
are a myriad of beach chairs lined up like tin soldiers, complete with beach hawkers trying to get you to buy trinkets made by 'enslaved' children from the northeast. (By now you can see
I'm pretty opinionated about that kind of tourism).
Khao Lak Beaches
Most photographed angle of Khao Lak. How cliche!
Not all things in Patong are to my disliking. I do like the fact that I can buy a pretty good mocha latte at Starbucks or a cheeseburger at McDonald's. Okay....you get the picture??? Why the hell would you go here??? Go to Karon Beach or Kamala Beach instead. Your children's psychy will thank you in the future. Or better yet, come to Khao Lak where we don't allow go-go bars, pole dancing, openly engaged drug deals, people vomiting on the sidewalk from too much drink, hawkers grabbing your arm to pull you into yet another "Armani" tailor shop, or the debasing of our children's moral judgement. And, NO, I don't go to church. Hardly. And YES, I want you to come to Khao Lak.
Khao means "mountain" and Lak, well...is the name of the mountain. No real translation to English. As you leave the airport (1.2 hour flight from Bangkok Int'l) you would drive north on the main highway 4. That would be left from the lateral road to the ariport. Or turn left, then another left, then right for a bit.....uh....get a map.
Khao Lak and this area
Khao Lak Downtown
New sidewalks, street lights and divided highway!
in particular suffered the worst loss of life in the tsunami. And it doesn't have the resources either in provincial or tourist money to bail them out of their wreckage. They, meaning the locals, have had to for the most part fend for themselves. Many of the large NGOs are gone now and have left behind their good deeds (complete with huge signs to let the world know how freakin' great they are) and now its up to the locals to complete the rebuilding, both physically and emotionally. And they have all done remarkable.
Remember Patong Beach?? Well, you'd never know it was hit by a wave. The tourist dollars that go into that part of Thailand is astounding. And they bounced back fast. Very fast.
I will never minimize the numbers of those dead and missing, but let it be known that about 250 people died in Phuket Island, versus over 5,000 dead and hundreds missing in the area from Khao Lak north 20km to Ban Nam Khem. But CNN, BBC, NBC and all the other jerks in media thought it would be great to focus on Phuket. Why? Because their hotels were still up and running and
Khao Lak Downtown
Tookta's t-shirt and souvenir shops
they had electricty and a nice shower. So...the world focused on Phuket [LIVE] and their wallets spilled open. Khao Lak and Ban Nam Khem (and all in between) never got that kind of recognition. As Phuket was grooming their new lawns at the 5-star resorts, Khao Lak and Ban Nam Khem were still pulling bodies from the debris. (As I write this, they will be burying 512 unclaimed bodies in Bang Muang this week so they don't have to keep them in cold storage forever). SO HOW IS KHAO LAK TODAY?
Doing great. Most of the 4 and 5-star resorts are open for business, as are the budget travel digs, bars, restaurants, diving shops, tour agencies, taxi drivers, massage parlors, souvenir shops. Many hotels and businesses are not simply repaired, but completely rebuilt. Like checking into a new resort! And the staff are eager to see you come and visit. They need the tourists...you are the means to their survival. Many fled to other parts of Thailand, but many stayed with a renewed hope that Khao Lak will grow like a wild orchid and become even better than it was before the tsunami.
I won't try to
Sunset Resort - Khao Lak
Everything you see here with the exception of the main building is NEW. All rebuilt. Like many others.
paint a glorious picture of how great Khao Lak is. But I will tell you we're alive and well. Too many photos of Khao Lak on the internet paint a bleak and horrific image of death and destruction. And even the Tourism Authority of Thailand in Phuket takes great strides in making sure you don't come here and keep your money in their coffers in Phuket. Ask any travel agent at the "International" airport about Khao Lak and they play dumb.
Take a look at the photos here. They were all taken in December 2006. I will post more with night scenes soon. Don't let the solitude fool you. This place comes alive after all have come back from the beaches, scuba diving trips to the Similan Islands, trekking, kayaking, jungle touring, or sleeping off a long night. Its quiet and peaceful, with plenty to do! And your kids won't need therapy when you get home.
Welcome to Khao Lak.
There are more photos below