The largest number of resorts, restaurants, convenience stores and travel companies are found both on Phet Kasem at the centre of town and along Nang Thong beach itself. Nang Thong is the true centre of the Khao Lak area.
The region hosts many resorts, scattered chiefly among three main urban areas, all containing businesses identifying themselves as “Khao Lak”. This can be confusing to visitors and it is useful to distinguish between the settlements. From south to north the population centres are: Bang La On, Bang Niang, and Khuk Khak.
Bang La On
It has many shops, bars, restaurants and banks.
Any given group of store fronts seems to consist of a souvenir shop, a tailor shop, a dive shop, a massage parlour, an eyewear shop, and a restaurant.
If you are travelling by bus and tell the conductor you are going to “Khao Lak”, Bang La On is where you will be let off the bus, near the Nang Thong Supermarket.
This may be far from your intended destination, so try to be more specific if you are not staying near there.
Bang Niang is home to the intermittent outdoor market that takes place in the center of the town just south of the 7-11 on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Saturdays, from roughly 13:00 until dark.
You will find the market area dusty on dry days and muddy on wet days, so dress accordingly.
Personally, I didn’t think that the market was that good. Yes, it is quite big… but the stalls all sell the same thing and the prices were “Khao Lak’ prices – there were few bargains to be had. The food stalls were, also, so-so on quality and price.
Bang Niang is also, increasingly, a centre of Khao Lak’s nightlife as it is home to a significant number of the area’s most popular night-time bars, discos, etc.
Heading north again from Bang Niang, a couple of kilometers will bring you to Khuk Khak. It is even more Thai and less farang than Bang Niang. It has the daily “fresh market” and the area’s only real, albeit tiny, bus station.
It is the diving that attracts many tourists from overseas to Khao Lak… and the main topic of conversation that you can hear in many a bar and restaurant.
Budget accommodation has already been pushed 1 to 2 kms away from the beach tothe Highway and inland side of that Highway.
Accommodation on the beach side of the Highway is at least THB1,500 / night.
My bus stopped in Bang La On (opposite the Nang Thong Supermarket) and from that stop it was an easy walk to Monkey Dive Hostel (where I was staying).
I booked Monkey Dive online and paid THB500 for a twin room with a fan and shared bathroom.
Monkey Dive is a typical Hostel with shared kitchen facilities and a common room where people gather.
I had booked for 2 nights… which was just enough time for me to sort out which liveaboard.
As far as accommodation is concerned, Khao Lak is not budget-friendly.
I had to extend my stay for 2 more nights.
I searched on-line and walked up and down the Bang La On high street.
In the end, I settled for moving across the road from Monkey Dive to the Banana Bungalow Resort. who did separate chalets with fan, en suite, hot water shower, fridge, and balcony for THB750. The resort also has its own little pool.
For longer term accommodation, I met an expat who had been working in Thailand for 15 years and in Khao Lak for the past few years. He has just rented a 3 bedroom house in the hills inland from the State Highway which he is renting for THB12000 / month in Low Season and THB15000 / month in High Season.
Songthaews: A short hop from, say, Bang La On to Bang Niang, will cost THB20 per person. A trip from one end of Khao Lak to the other end will cost about THB50 per person.
The standard rate for a scooter is THB250 and it is hard to negotiate that price down.
So, when I booked in to the Banana Resort, I did a deal… I will book in at THB750 / night if they will rent me a scooter for THB150 / day.
Faced with a ‘room and scooter’ sale, they agreed. Sometimes the best deals can be done by ‘bundling’ a number of things together like this as, if they are making enough profit on one part of the bundle, they feel more comfortable making very little profit on another (if it secures the deal).
Petrol is THB30 at a gas station and THB40 on street. There is a gas station in Bang Niang but not in Bang La On.
FOOD & DRINK:
Khao Lak is a bit like Cenang Beach – where the main road is littered with over-priced westernised eateries. The difference is that Cenang is a beach-front road (not a State Highway) and is a more pleasant place to be because of it.
However, where the Monkey Dive road meets the main road (near Khao Lak Explorere Diving Center – which is opposite McDonalds) you will find a down-to-earth Thai cafe that is reasonably priced with most menu items in the THB50-70 bracket.
The good thing about this place is that it is attached to a minimart – so you can buy you beer inside the minimart (Large Leo THB60) and drink it outside where you eat your meal.
This place is always booked out at about 7-8pm because it offers great value for money. A large Leo is THB80.
Down on the beach fronts you will find places like Peters Pub – that cater to the rich Scandinavian and German tourists that dominate the area. A large Leo is THB120
AROUND KHAO LAK:
I got on my scooter and toured the area. On Day One, I did a ‘big loop’ heading south down Highway 4, then inland on Route 4240, then north on route 4003 and 4090 to Kapong, then continuing on 4090 towards Takua Pa, before cutting west to the coast and back home.
I found the area unimpressive. I really do not have much more to say.
Khao Lak is not a GRANDPAcking location.
Khao Lak is for ‘normal’ tourists who have come to spend 2-3 weeks on a beach and know no better than to pay (or just don’t care that they are paying) NZ$100 / night for accommodation and NZ$5 for a beer… as both are cheaper than what they pay at home.
I would suggest staying in Bang La On if you are just passing through or here for a Liveaboard Scuba trip. Otherwise, it’s just a bit of concrete stuck on a Highway with over-priced budget accommodation and little to do.
I would suggest staying in Bang Niang for those looking to stay a while longer / for a holiday. Yes, it is also on the Highway – but, there is a nice network of roads between that and the beach which contain nice restaurants and bars. It, also, has the night market to break up the monotony… it just has more ‘soul’.
I met an expat who has been living in Thailand for 15 years. He now works in a Dive Shop in Khao Lak.
He currently pays THB6000 / month for an average 2 bedroom unit inland from the State Highway.
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