Where: Ao Nang, Khao Lak, Khao Sok, Ko Phagnan
When: January to February 2018
What: meeting friends, searching for the perfect Thai beach
We’re going to meet Maaartha! Dylan has been so excited about having a holiday with his friend, and she’s finally here! He’s really missing having friends to play with (he has Arto of course, but they sometimes want to kill each other!) As we’re meeting friends, we booked all our accommodation in advance, so there’s not the usual last minute search for a place to stay as soon as we arrive. Our first stop is Ao Nang, we found a place (Orange Tree House) that was a bit out to town, and a little over budget, but was totally worth it, we had a lovely bungalow (still only one bed though!), with a lovely outdoor bath (we didn’t use it, too many mosquitoes!)
We spent a lot of time in the gorgeous pool, and spent the rest of the time at the beach, our closest beach, Noppharat is a lot prettier than Ao Nang beach, though the water there is almost too warm. We took a long boat to Railay one day, the kids loved getting the boat, and Railay is beautiful, but it was so busy. We stayed here for the afternoon and the kids had a lovely time in the sea. Jess went for a long swim around the rocks and found a cave tunnel to swim into.
After a few days we travelled to Khao Lak by taxi, the hotel was fine, but nothing like as luxurious as the last place, though the same price. The owners were weirdly unfriendly towards us, the other guests were all retired European couples, so they were thrilled to have 3 preschoolers splashing around next to them in the pool! The more time we spent in Khao Lak, the more we realised it is definitely more suited to the retired, there were very few other families there. We tried not to spend too much time at the hotel, so we did some day trips. We hired mopeds and drove out to Ton Chong Fa waterfall, it was amazing, a bit of climbing gets you to the second level (out of 5), which we had all to ourselves, with a lovely waterfall, plunge pool and shallow water which was great for the kids to play around, they were all quite excited by the free fish spa pedicure they got!
Khao Lak beach was okay, but not amazing, so we took a day trip to another nearby beach, the songthaew driver suggested Coconut beach, so we went along with it, we arrived to see white sand, beautiful turquoise water, and not too many other people, it was the Thai beach we’d all been waiting for. We spent the whole day there, relaxing in the shade, eating at the lovely restaurant and swimming in the gorgeous sea.
Our next and final stop with our friends was Khao Sok National Park. We’d booked a lovely place (Khao Sok Morning Mist), we each had a cottage (with two beds!), and it was almost half the price of the place in Khao Lak. It was so peaceful, all you could hear was the sound of birds and insects, the river running next to us (and our kids shouting!). We saw snakes running across our paths. The boys were playing outside and we heard Arto scream, so ran out panicked, to see Dylan carrying Arto towards us, they had both stood still over a load of big ants and got them crawling up their legs, they’re both still pretty wary of ants since Arto got bitten by a fire ant in Goa. It was so nice to see Dylan looking after his little brother, since they spend every minute together they do fight, but they are also really good mates. We went on a canoe trip down the river (with a guide, they aren’t keen to let you do it alone), where we saw snakes sleeping in trees, and a big frog which our guide caught, when he put it on our canoe it played dead, it laid there on it’s back for a few minutes completely still, playing dead, with it’s arms crossed on it’s chest, until the guide gave it a little poke and it jumped back into the water, it was so weird! We decided not to take the kids into the National Park itself, when we discovered on a run in there one morning, it’s not really suitable for young children, all the waterfalls and places of interest are at least 4km walk up rocky, bumpy paths, and all of the tours that take you into the park are unbelievably expensive. But we were just happy hanging out around the hotel with friends, it was so peaceful and relaxing being surrounded by nature. It also had a lovely pool, where Dylan decided he would learn to swim, first he swam a few feet on his own, quickly followed by a whole width, we were so proud of him, and were really hoping he would learn to swim during this trip.
After 9 days together it was time for Martha to go home, we were all a bit sad as it had been so nice to hang out with friends. Martha and family were heading home, via Bangkok, and we couldn’t decide where to go next, we were due in Chiang Mai the following week (to meet more friends and family), so should we make our way slowly up the country, or should we go to a beautiful island?! So we chose the latter, mostly because Jess really wanted to try scuba diving and searching for whale sharks. We chose Ko Phangan, it took us almost a day to get there (we’re back to budget travel now!), by mini van, bus, and boat. The boat crossing was pretty rough, hot and unpleasant. We arrived at Ko Phangan and headed to Hat Yao, having done some last minute research on the boat. We arrived in the dark and had to find accommodation, we found a brilliant bargain, a lovely bungalow one minutes walk from the beach, with two beds! Hat Yao beach was great, beautiful and not too busy, though when the tide is in you do lose most of the sand. We went to a brilliant night food market on the island, Phantip, which had all of our favourite snack food. Unfortunately, and having checked weather conditions every day we were on Ko Phagnan, Jess wasn’t able to go out for a dive, as the sea was too rough, but it had been totally worth going to Ko Phangan, anyway, it’s a beautiful place.
So after a few days of chilling on the beach, we had another mammoth journey ahead of us, travelling to Chiang Mai. We’d have to get a boat to Donsak, a bus to Surat Thani train station, wait several hours for an overnight train to Bangkok, wait another 3 hours for an 11 hour daytime train to Chiang Mai, a total of 32 hours travelling for a trip that didn’t look that far on the map. We could instead have got a flight from Koch Samui, but it would have cost over four times as much, and where’s the adventure in that anyway?!
- If possible bring Thai Bath into the country, or your own currency to exchange, the cash machine charges loads to withdraw cash.