A Slice of Paradise
After a few days in Phuket, we traded in our luxurious pool suite resort for a simple two-person bungalow located on White Sand Beach in Khao Lak. On our mini road trip up North, we stopped at a gas station to purchase interesting Thai flavored Lays chips and a couple bags of our latest addiction, pineapple jam cookies. Even though Khao Lak was only a two-hour drive from Phuket, it felt as if we had escaped to a deserted island. Khao Lak was beachy and laid back, and because it was low season, almost entirely empty.
We didn’t plan on staying for longer than a day or two. Ao Thong Beach Bungalows were to be a quick stop before we headed off to another set of bungalows on Khao Lak Lake. However, once we arrived, we both knew we weren’t going to make it to the lake. Surrounded by palm trees and with access to a pristine white sand beach, we had found our little slice of paradise. All previous plans were canceled. We spent the remainder of our trip in these simple bungalows, doing as close to nothing as possible.
one of my faves of Sly 😍
Lunch at Ao Thong Beach Restaurant
Once we had settled into our bungalow, we walked to the beach front restaurant for lunch. Our choice to eat here was more out of convenience, as we are usually skeptical of “resort food” on account of it being overpriced and usually not very good.
The owner handed us a well-worn menu and not-so-subtly recommended the prawns. “The prawns are fresh. You eat prawns? How many?” So I guess that settled it, we were eating prawns for lunch. It always makes me nervous when restauranteurs try to push food on me, but we took a leap of faith. And thank goodness we did because the prawns were the freshest, most succulent, sweet-fleshed, perfectly cooked, slightly charred, prawns we have ever eaten. We totally regretted not eating more.
In addition to the world’s best prawns, we ordered a seafood salad, vegetarian pad thai, and a couple Chang beers. We happily gobbled down our meal, feet in the sand, taking breaks only to pet the doggies that kept stopping by to say hello. When I think back to our trip to Thailand, my mind instantly homes in on this particular beach-front meal. It was perfection.
White Sand Beach and Hermit Crabs!
After lunch, we returned to our bungalow and quickly changed into our swimsuits. Off in the distance, we could see a storm brewing, but we thought maybe it would pass over us. Maybe it would rain off in the distance.
We enjoyed maybe an hour of frolicking around on the beach before it began to sprinkle…and then rain…and then pour. We took cover under the restaurant structures and played with hermit crabs while waiting for the storm to pass. I may have been more than a little happy with playing with my crab friends, although I’m sure they weren’t too amused.
Once the rain subsided, the hotel staff rushed to the beach and quickly wiped off a few chairs for us to lounge on. When it rained 15 minutes later, they rushed back out and folded everything up again. This happened about a million times throughout the day, even though we told them not to bother. They smiled as if acknowledging our words. And then 15 minutes later, when the rain stopped, they rushed out to dry off two lounge chairs for us once again.
Massage on the Beach
We soon discovered that waiting for the rain to subside was the perfect excuse to get a massage. In my research, many people advised against “dirty sand massages,” but we figured that since we were there it was worth a shot. Our massages were excellent! We thought they were even better than our two hour couples massage at the fancier place in Phuket. Not to mention, cheaper. And with a better view.
Imagine lying on the beach, listening to the surf, being lulled to sleep by the rain pinging on the metal roof, and feeling the warm ocean breeze — all while enjoying an hour-long massage. We aren’t fancy people so maybe this was just more our style. At approximately $15 per person an hour, it became sort of habit-forming during our stay in Khao Lak. Whenever our plans were rained out, or whenever we found ourselves with downtime, Sly and I would look at each other and say, “Want to get a massage?”
I know. Tough life.
Sunset on Khao Lak’s White Sand Beach
It pretty much rained throughout our entire trip, but it didn’t put a damper on our fun. Even though it kind of sucks when it rains at the beach, the stormy weather also provided us with some amazing sunsets.
The rain was unpredictable. Sometimes, there wouldn’t be a single cloud in the sky, and then five minutes later it would start to pour. At other times, the sky would turn suspiciously dark, but not a single drop would fall. One thing was fairly consistent — the rain eventually stopped. And when it did, we ran to the beach and played with the doggies. We took long walks along the shore and sipped on watermelon smoothies from the bar. We chased hermit crabs and poked around for other sea creatures. We ate tropical fruit and watched the rain from our porch. But mostly, we hung out at the beach, like two beach bums, and watched the sunset.
If it looks like we were the only people on our own “private beach” it’s because that’s exactly how it was. During our stay, we were one of two groups of people staying at the bungalows. The rain seemed to deter the other guests, which meant we never shared “our” beach with anyone but our furry friends.
Breakfast on the Beach
Every morning we sat at “our” table and ate a simple breakfast of toast, jam, tropical fruit, and coffee. Usually, with a fuzzy friend keeping us company.
After breakfast, we usually changed into swimsuits and lazed about on the beach. If it looked as if a storm was brewing, we hung out on the porch of our bungalow and either read or watched the rain. Our lives at the bungalow were wonderfully simple. Our most difficult decisions involved what to eat, which puppy to pet, and whether or not we wanted to get a massage that day.
Often times, I try to plan too much when we travel to new places. There’s always so much pressure to see and do everything, to have the most instagrammable photos, that sometimes I feel as if it’s not a vacation at all. Sometimes it’s necessary to plan trips in minute detail in order to catch planes/ferries/buses/trains. I also don’t like wasting time in a place, trying to decide what to do or where to it, so I tend to a least have an outline in my head that we can fall back on.
I don’t think I’ll ever stop creating my detailed travel itineraries, but it’s nice to know that it’s okay to deviate from the plan. It’s okay to only take camera phone photos, or maybe none at all. It’s okay to see an “Instagram-worthy” spot and decide that it’s not for you. It’s okay to spend all morning, every morning, sipping on coffee, eating fruit, and petting dogs. It didn’t necessarily make for the best photos or give us any sort of bragging rights, but it certainly made us happy.
Coconut Mango Sticky Rice
One of my most favorite desserts is coconut mango sticky rice, which is weird because I don’t really like rice (when it’s served in savory dishes). Maybe it has something to do with one of my earliest food memories of eating homemade sticky rice balls. The Viet version is a bit different – sweetened mung bean and coconut flakes are subbed in for mango and coconut milk – but it has a similar flavor profile. Every time I see mango sticky rice on a menu, I have to order it.
Late one evening, Sly and I returned from a crazy night on the town (not really) and, lured by the glowing huts and gentle breeze, realized that we didn’t want the night to end. We picked an empty hut on our deserted beach and ordered a few snacks. Fried shrimp with Thai chili sauce for the hubs, and of course, coconut mango sticky rice for me.
Our Furry Friends
We were totally smitten with this family of pups who called the beach bungalows their home. We played endlessly with them on the beach and gave them more than their fair share of scratches behind the ears.
One evening, while making our way back to our bungalow, we were greeted on our porch by a speckled pup. Usually, our furry friends stuck to the restaurant and beach areas, so we were quite surprised to see this sweetie waiting for us at our door. I guess she just needed a bit of affection, which we were all too happy to give. I think the doggie may have had a little bit of a crush on Sly.
If only I could have fit that pup into my backpack…
Now, do you know why I’m so obsessed with Thai dogs? One of these days, when we aren’t moving around so much, I hope to have an entire fleet of doggies (and kitties, and goats, and one pig…and maybe a few miniature Longhorns…), and when that day comes, I’m coming back to Thailand and adopting as many animals as we can bring back with us.
We ventured into “town” a few times and also hiked to a nearby waterfall, but otherwise, we were perfectly content to do nothing. Our daily routine involved dogs, beach time, bungalows, hermit crabs, tropical fruit, rain, sunsets, massages, amazing food, and of course, someone to share it with.
Really couldn’t ask for anything more than that.
COST: $35-$60 low/peak season for two person bungalow. The best rates can be found by contacting the property directly. If you find a lower price online (taking into account any taxes and fees), contact the bungalows and negotiate. We only had one night booked when we arrived. When we decided to stay longer, the owner gave us a better rate than what was published (also because we paid in cash for the extra nights) and told us it was better to contact him next time because he would give us a better deal.
DESCRIPTION: Beach bungalows are located just steps from Khao Lak’s White Sand Beach. Ao Thong offers an on site restaurant, massage, and travel services. There are two and four person bungalows, all of which have air conditioning, private bathroom, Western toilets, plumbing, and hot water. Rooms are clean and simple with no TVs and minimal decor. The mostly private beach is groomed daily. We tried quite a few restaurants in Khao Lak, but this was our favorite. Relatively speaking, the food was priced slightly higher than some of the other places we visited in Thailand, but compared to Khao Lak restaurants, it was quite reasonable. On top of this, the staff was so warm and friendly and the bungalow doggies were chubby and well cared for.
VERDICT: Khao Lak is known for its luxury beach resorts (the massive JW Marriot is located nearby), but for a fraction of the cost, you can stay your own little cabin right on the beach. This kind of lodging may not be for everyone, but for us, it was perfect. We could easily have spent all our time in Thailand here.