Khao Lak, a couple hours up the coast from Phuket on the Andaman Sea, was one of the areas hit hardest by the 2004 tsunami. At the time, it was one of Thailand’s fastest-growing resort areas, and all of it was wiped away by the big wave.
In the decade since, it has completely turned around. The resorts have quietly moved back in, all still beholden to the development mandate that no structure should be taller than a palm tree, and the tourists are starting to come back, making it one of Thailand’s best spots for a tropical getaway.
Khao Lak is anchored by a 25-km strip of white sand beach hosting several international brand resorts. The best of the bunch is Le Meridien Khao Lak just steps from the beach. It counts 13km of sand to itself, so you’re never elbow-to-elbow with strangers. There’s plenty of F&B, but we recommend booking an evening of private beach dining. If you’ve got kids in tow, foist them on the trained staff of the Penguin Kids Club while you do adult stuff.
One of the best reasons to base yourself at Le Meridien is their local knowledge. They can arrange excursions to the area’s many spectacular sites, and there are many.
Khao Sok National Park was ranked one of the top in the world by Lonely Planet in 2011. It’s like the set of a King Kong movie with jungle-covered mountains, limestone crags and rushing rivers—primeval stuff. Tigers, monkeys, elephants and flying foxes call it home. You can trek on foot, hire elephants, or even take canoes for a river adventure. There are also simple treehouse rooms you can sleep in if you want that night jungle experience.
Rachaprabha Lake, also part of Khao Sok, is equally amazing and hardly visited by foreigners as it’s only recently been opened up to tourism. It looks a lot like Vietnam’s famous Halong Bay, but with bluer waters and no jostling tour groups. It’s the essence of tranquility. Le Meridien can arrange an overnight stay in a simple cabin on a pier for about RMB20 a night. Electricity cuts out at night leaving you to embrace nature.
For a bit of culture, there’s the Suwan Khuha Temple. We get tired of Thai temples, honestly, but this one—housed inside a limestone cave—is Indiana Jones-awesome. Stalagmites and stalactites play second fiddle to a spectacular 15-meter reclining Buddha painted glowing gold. It’s only an hour drive from Le Meridien.
Oh and did we mention that the Similan Islands—one of the world’s top scuba diving spots—is less than 60km off the coast? That’s where seasoned divers go to get up close to leopard sharks and manta rays.
And would you believe during low season you can get five nights at this fabulous resort for less than RMB4,000 total? That’s because for a limited time they are giving 25 percent off if you book five nights in a row. It’s an awesome deal in a spectacular place.