I am doing a 7D Similian liveaboard from Khao Lak in December, and have 4 days to spend before flying to Chiang Mai (liveaboard finishes evening 16th, I fly out evening 20th). I assume I have had my diving fill although I can probably be convinced to do more, but I'm primarily looking for a place to chill-out without doing too much, hanging out with likeminded people. I'm traveling solo until I reach Chiang Mai, and fit firmly in the flashpacker category.
I get the impression Khao Lak isn't the most happening place on the backpacker trail?Any suggestion on how to spend 4 days there solo without getting bored, or any other suggestions on what I could do? I've been to Phuket a couple of years ago, and it's very far from my cup of tea, so that is probably not an option.
#1 allofthelights has been a member since 10/11/2012. Posts: 9
1 - Why not spend a few nights camping or in a bungalow at the Similan Islands? The coral has been in poor shape the past few years but it is still a nice location. 2 nights at National Park HQ island #4 followed by some time at the second camping area Donald Duck Bay (is this the nicest beach in Thailand?) island #8 would be a good combo. Any accommodation or trip booking shop in Khao Lak can organise this. Note the big Similans transfer companies like Medseye run minibuses back to Phuket for daytrippers so this would be a neat way of getting back to the airport.
2 - Ko Koh Khao is a short distance north of Khao Lak. Accommodation of all standards - the flash joints tend to offer some good deals thru booking sites at non peak-peak because the joint is off the radar tourism wise. If you get the urge for a dive, Koh Khao Dive is there. Inexpensive bungalow places include Pranee, Har Pla, Sunset and Wang Klong Kayaking. Google might find them. Doesn't get too much more laid back then these places ....
3 - --- except it does on the next island north, Ko Phra Thong. You need to get a bus to Kuraburi, walk the 200m to the main street from the bus station and directly across the road is Tom and Am's tour agency (they also have a desk at the bus station but it was not manned when I came in). They can organise inexpensive transport to the island and ring Mr Chuoi for one of his budget bungalows and to pick you up on the island. There are some other budget options including Nature Beach and Lion's Club Homestay. There is a real laid back dive operation Blue Guru which has a very informative website on the island and can arrange accommodation from budget to upmarket (Golden Budha). Thing about Blue Guru - it is the closest dive operation to the Surin Islands and world class Richelieu Rock (although if your Similans course is 7 days you may do at least the latter - there was always a bunch of overnight boats when I passed by on the way to the Surins).
4 - Tom and Am and any of the other trip agencies in Kuraburi can arrange a visit to the Surins, staying in tents or national park bungalows. I found the coral here knocked around by global warming too, and thought the general area not as appealing as the Similans. Worth a visit though.
5 - Khao Sok is maybe 2 plus hours up the road from Khao Lak. A stay in the bungalows near the National Park HQ (the tracks inside the park here are easy to follow and you could split them between two days or do both northern and western the same day) followed by a night on the floating budget bungalows up at the lake would be a nice way to spend time. Good connections from Khao Sok to Surathani for a flight, bus or train to Bangkok.
6 - is there a direct flight form Phuket to Chiang Mai? In that case catching a bus down to Phuket offers a huge range of options. Near the airport is a very relaxed budget/flashpacker place called Seafood Cottages and Restaurant on the 10+km long underdeveloped Mai Khao beach. Great place to spend time and you could use it as a base to check out other Phuket areas (host Malcolm hires motorcyles and bicycles). Or you could go out to near-Phuket islands like Ko Yao Yao Noi, Ko Yao Yai or Ko Raya/Racha. All have budget bungalows or better if needed.
Air Asia does offer a direct flight from Phuket to Chiang Mai, I just recently booked that flight myself. Cost was around $100 after all their extra little fees and with around 3 weeks notice.
From what I have seen Khao Sok looks like a neat place and is actually on my itinerary for my upcoming trip(leave Tuesday!). It is close by to Khao Lak and would give you a nice change of scenery I would think.
Thanks, that's very good and comprehensive advise!
AirAsia flies direct to Chiang Mai from Phuket; I paid 3200 THB for my ticket but that's including a 20kg checked bag. This was a standard fare, I'm sure you can grab deals if you plan ahead.
Indeed my liveaboard includes dives at both Surin and Richelieu Rock, so the daytrips aren't looking too attractive (they are somewhat expensive due to the distances and you only get 2 dives, and from Khao Lak you dive out of a tiny speedboat). However it does seem Blue Guru at Ko Phra Thong offer a 2D/1N trip with an overnight stay at Surin; 6 dives (4 at Richelieu) and much better value than the 1 day trip.
A lot of the suggestions suit ad-hoc planning and taking it as it comes while I'm there. How booked up would these places by in mid-December? I know this is high season and that booking accommodation would probably be the safe choice, however is this a must or should it be possible to grab something as long as I'm not too picky? Basically how long can I afford to consider my options? It will be possible for me to plan and book in Khao Lak both before and during my livaboard (it's a 3+4 trip, which returns to Khao Lak mid-cruise).
#4 allofthelights has been a member since 10/11/2012. Posts: 9
Khao Lak like a chillin places , Just sightseeing around there trekking to visit waterfall.
#6 RiniRabbit has been a member since 31/7/2012. Posts: 78
I reserved some backup accommodation at Khao Lak that is refundable if cancelled a couple of days in advance. I figure I make up my mind once I'm in Thailand and get a chance to talk to people and check how busy it is, but with a decent backup choice. Thanks for all help.
#7 allofthelights has been a member since 10/11/2012. Posts: 9
Hi. I realize I'm catching this post a 6 months later. Hoping to catch your ideas and experiences on the 7-D Liveaboard?
I'm trying to catch one of the last boats of the season in a few weeks. ( May )
If you have time, curious what your thoughts were on the dive sites, boat crew, dive shop...etc.
Thanks in advance.