Saturday, 26 October 2013

Khao Lak as the Middle Option

For people planning on visiting Thailand for the first time it can be difficult to choose a holiday destination. In a way Khao Lak is the ideal middle option for those not wanting to spend too much money, who don’t want somewhere too busy or too quiet.

It is often the case that people are put off by the high prices and the scams in Phuket. They are also put off by the obvious seedy nature of Pattaya. They might shy away from the mass package tourism of Koh Samui and the reputation of Koh Phangan as party central. Places like Phuket, Pattaya, Koh Samui and Koh Phangan do represent extremes for tourism in Thailand.

Phuket is the most developed beach area in the Kingdom. Not only are room rates high but so are taxi fees and even restaurant menu prices. There seems no end to the avaricious atmosphere of Phuket. For many items Phuket is now more expensive than the UK. As a result of the large sums of money pouring into the island Thai and foreign mafias have vested interests, and one suspects have greased the right palms. For many Karon, Kata and Kamala Beaches might be stunning but are not worth it.

Chaweng and Lamai beaches in Koh Samui have long been famous tourist destinations. However, these east coast beaches have become so developed it can be hard to actually find the beach. It is an overwhelming mass of commercialism with restaurants, nightclubs and seedy massage joints all rubbing shoulders. Koh Samui has at least 20% room vacancy rates because they have plainly overbuilt. It can be hard to get a good night’s sleep if you choose the wrong hotel in Koh Samui. The prices in Samui are cheaper than Phuket but the package tourist crowds are possibly worse.

Koh Phangan despite recent improvements to its infrastructure and its growing reputation as an up market destination with a pristine natural environment cannot shake off its image as a party island. Indeed for a week or so around the full moon time, the southern beaches of Haad Rin and Baan Tai become overrun with all night revellers, most of whom are high not just on life. Beaches like Haad Salad on the west coast and the small idyllic and remote beaches on the east coast are a million miles away from the hedonism of the party scene in Haad Rin. The type of holiday you get in Koh Phangan really depends on when you go and where you go.

It is a long trek down to the islands in the Gulf of Thailand. Due to the Bangkok Airways monopoly on flights to Koh Samui there are no cheap and convenient flights to the southern islands. You can fly to the Suratthani or Nakhon but then you are still faced with 2 or more hour journey time getting to an island.

Khao Lak in contrast is much closer to Bangkok and well served by plane and bus companies. Khao Lak doesn’t have a party reputation and so the all-night youngsters don’t go there. What it does have is an abundance of good quality mid-range hotels, lots of unspoiled beaches and the best diving in the Kingdom. Khao Lak represents the middle option in terms of cost; it also is the mid-point between being a party place and a deserted place.

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