Chilling out in Khao Lak

Imagine an eight-night resort stay in an exclusive child-free locale on Thailand’s north-west coast. We lived the dream in a recent Luxury Escape deal at The Haven in Khao Lak, about a one-hour 20-minute easy drive north of Phuket airport.

Khao Lak is a small coastal village that was flattened by the tsunami on Boxing Day 2004. About 4000 people were killed. The police patrol boat that was washed 1km inland is a constant reminder of that tragic event. It stands as a memorial to those who lost their lives. The town has since been rebuilt as have the many resorts dotted along the coast.

The Haven is just over two years old and boasts the largest salt water pool in Thailand. At eight nights for $999 for two people, this seemed an exceptional package. It includes a number of extras such as buffet breakfasts every day, eight 30-minute massages which you can combine with a variety of treatments, a one-way transfer, a cocktail and two dinners each.

We’ve upgraded to a poolside room for $1269, so we can open the balcony door and go for a dip anytime, or grab a good book and relax in the balcony lounge chairs next to our shared, private pool. The room is large, with complimentary water, a fruit basket and the usual bathroom items. And thank heavens the air-conditioning unit works well – we can look forward to a nice cool room, day and night. We also get free, fast and reliable wifi throughout the resort – even poolside. The bed is a king size and very comfortable. Pool towels are provided in the room and at the main pool area.

I reckon that one of the best things about this package is that no children under 12 are allowed. Am I becoming selfish as I get older? Yeah probably! We have two grown-up children and it was a delight to share a significant birthday with them last year at a resort in Bali – I’ll let you guess who paid for all of that! What a great way to bond. This was truly a wonderful thing to do as a family.

But let’s get back to the no-children rule at the resort. For years we have been holidaying in places with kids and have been overjoyed taking part in their activities and watching them grow up. But what bliss, nearing life’s last quartile, not to have kids running around screaming and splashing everyone when they dive bomb into the pool. I do sound like a grumpy old man don’t I? But I reckon that a lot of you reading this will be in my corner.

To lie down on a poolside lounge reading a book and sipping a cocktail without ankle biters everywhere is awesome.

We’ve really enjoyed the fact that this resort is just a short distance from the main Khao Lak village and is a little isolated. There is nothing to do except chill out.

Perhaps we’ll go to the gym before breakfast, do a free yoga session, Tai Chi or stretching session on the beach each morning. Then linger over the substantial Thai or Western-style buffet breakfast with a cappuccino or two. After that, head to the poolside lounges with a book and a swim in the warm sea and pool. Or we could wander along the pristine beach for an hour or more.

By the end of the week, we’ll do it all.

By the afternoon, we’re feeling a little peckish, so we try the BBQ skewers of chicken, prawns and fruit from the local Thai lady near the beach, who has a kitchen attached to her motorbike.

For a little over A$1 a skewer, this is the perfect way to tide us over until happy hour for nuts and half-price cocktails (average about A$4) at the swim up bar.

During happy hour, we also buy cola and tonic water (to mix with our duty-free liquor later on) from the bar at half price.

After happy hour, there’s time for our free massage. The ladies are very professional and skilled, and after the treatment we float out of the parlour.

Then we grab a pre-dinner drink and head to the beach for the nightly sunset – absolutely spectacular are the distant orange rain clouds (yes it did rain on and off, usually about mid afternoon). Don’t forget the insect repellant!

We wander about 500m along the beach road to check out the 10 or so restaurants there. But we’ve been told to take the torch from the room, as there is no street lighting between the resort and the restaurants.

The food is generally good at these places and is well-priced – as are the drinks. Prices are about half of what you would pay at the hotel. If you are feeling energetic in the 35°C heat, get a free bike from the hotel and ride into the village. It’s best to ride along the beach road past many other resorts and shops, but don’t forget your hat, water bottle and sunscreen.

Be prepared for fairly ordinary bikes, but they do work and will get you from A to B. Most have baskets on the handle bars for you to put your stuff in. They don’t supply helmets, but so long as you don’t try doing a ‘Cadel Evans’ sprint, it’s fairly safe on the flat roads.

Check out the patrol boat and view pictures of the devastation caused by the tsunami. I changed some money at a little booth in the village and got a very good rate. No commission and no rip-off tactics. Be prepared to lose up to 10 per cent if you use the hotel for your exchange. You’re not going to need much cash during your stay. You will only need cash for local restaurant dinners, gifts and so on from local shops.

There is a small shop (cash only) attached to the hotel that sells cold stubbies of beer (half the price of the resort), soft drinks and snacks. Purchases at the hotel are on a tab, which is paid by credit card when you leave. Of course there are government taxes and service charges totalling 17 per cent. Also you will incur international exchange charges on your card.

You can get to Phuket direct from Melbourne with Jetstar (nine hours) for a low price. However, there is a chance that something will go wrong with this cheaper option. Most of the other airlines do not provide direct flights, which means another couple of hours added to the travel time. So, to get to The Haven, you are looking at a door to door travel time of 16 hours, but the chill-out factor is well worth the effort. Would we do it again? Maybe not, because there are plenty of other cheap and discounted options available to choose from with less travel time within the Asian precinct. But we have absolutely no regrets in staying at The Haven. It was fabulous.

The bottom line is that if you want to blob in a child-free resort with a spectacular main pool, nicely appointed poolside rooms, beautiful beach and at a very reasonable cost, then this is the place for you.  

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