The once quiet coastal town of Khao Lak will for many of us, never be forgotten as what was deemed to be another glorious day in paradise was without warning, struck by one of the world’s worst natural disasters in modern history.
Many of us know that on the morning of 26th December 2004 a devastating tsunami hit the shores here as well as many other coastal regions of southern Thailand. I had only just left the area less than two months prior to the catastrophe, but will forever remember the aftermath left behind that fateful day.
The town is best noted for its scenic strip of bronze coloured beaches, its close proximity to the Similan Islands and the nearby Lam Ru National Wildlife Park. It lies just 70 kilometres (42 miles) north of the Phuket international airport and halfway between the west coast towns of Takua Pa and Thai Muang. The area here extends across three separate beaches with two of them located north of Lam Ru National Park on a rocky headland and one a little further south.
The ever winding Nang Thong beach occupies the central stretch. It’s the most popular of the three. Apart from spending your leisure hours relaxing, swimming or playing any number of ball games on the beach, you can also take a day trip to Sai Rung known as the rainbow waterfall. It’s about 16 kilometres (10 miles) north from Nang Thong in Bang Sak and great as an alternative to the beach.
The Lost Zone and Old Town from Khao Lak
Above you’ll find an interesting tour off the beaten track you might enjoy. It’s known as The Lost Zone and Old Town and incorporates a canoeing in a pristine Banyan Tree Forest as well as a visit to the unique Takuapa Old Town and Buddhist and Taoist Temples.
Prepare yourself for a journey to the long-lost zone of “the Little Amazon“, a hidden forest near Takua Pa. You’ll be canoeing under the canopy of the giant Banyan Tree forest where all is peaceful and serene.
From there you’ll make your way to a Nipa Palm forest where you’ll hear the songs of local birds along the Klong Sung Nae River. You’ll also visit Takuapa Old Town to experience the traditional life and culture of this small and historical town which has remained nearly unchanged for more than a hundred years.
You’ll get to see period style buildings, small coffee shops, and the most famous part of Takuapa which are the old tin mines and factories that worked until their closure in the 1920’s. See more details about the tour above.
Khao Lak Coastline after the Tsunami
When the tsunami struck these shores, almost every seafront business, home and hotel were vaporised. Now the main road alongside the beach is once again packed with new shops, restaurants, dive agencies, and guest houses. Visitors are also coming back again to enjoy this lovely part of the Andaman coastline.
The aftermath of the tsunami is still evident if not only for the visible signs of destruction of land and buildings. More than that, the emotional and social scars left behind by residents who once lived and worked here, may take much longer to heal. So much so that many survivors have since left the area in search of new jobs in northern cities. Those who stayed here have many a story to tell.
Khao Lak Coastline – Bang Niang Beach
The most northerly beach in this region is Bang Niang. For the most part, it’s a beautiful long stretch of golden sand free of rocks and excellent for swimming. The best time to enjoy this beach is between November and April when the weather is at its coolest. Because of the flat topography here, Bang Niang was the worst hit by the tsunami, with many parts continually being rebuilt.
Derelict land and the remnants of abandoned buildings display huge holes guttered by the enormous and devastating waves, still visible in many parts. In some areas, there are Land for Sale signs on forlorn and deserted plots left behind by their owners who are afraid another wave may come along again anytime.
Two kilometres inland from the highway is a beached police boat a sad reminder as to what happened that painful day. It has now become an informal memorial to the extraordinary powers that tsunami waves can cause. The boat was propelled there while patrolling the waters in front of the beach resort. And just five kilometres east of Bang Niang are the Chong Fah Falls, which are easily accessible by road.
South beyond the headland is Khao Lak beach. It’s the least developed beach of the three and surprisingly also the least affected by the tsunami. Inland across Highway 4 in a northerly direction you will find a trail that leads towards the Tong Pling Falls. Quite a few waterfalls here form part of the Lam Ru National Wildlife Park.
If you liked Khao Lak you may like Khao Sok
Khao Sok National Park is a wildlife sanctuary and the largest and most dramatic tract of virgin rainforest in southern Thailand. While limestone cliffs dominate the park there are some great hiking trails in the area with several waterfalls, caves and valley view stations.