A few years ago, before the infamous 2004 Tsunami that killed 5000 here and before the construction boom that followed it, Khao Lak was a quintessential sleepy beach town. Palms swayed, locals served up food and beer, and the almost empty beaches provided an idyllic backdrop. Unfortunately, Khao Lak’s original ambience seems to have all but disappeared now.
These days endless generic resorts, some illegally pouring concrete onto the beach, others building buttresses made of ugly sand-filled plastic bags, are destroying one of Thailand’s nicest spots. The town itself is little more than a facsimile of every other dull resort town in Thailand serving up bad Thai and Western food and endless tourist trinkets. Pretty much all local atmosphere is disappearing – some suggest that the tsunami provided an opportunity for ruthless property speculators to clear out the locals and replace them with resorts.
There are, however, a few plus points – you should still be able to find some space on one of Khao Lak’s long beaches – head to the far end of Khuk Kak beach or Bang Sak just to the north. Given its proximity to the Koh Similans, Khao Lak is now becoming something of a dive mecca and there are a few excellent dive operators based here. Note that many buses now travel on a new road which bypasses Khao Lak and goes straight to Phangnga town, and then on to Phuket. Check that your bus passes through Khao Lak if you want to get off here.
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