Khao Lak, a one-hour drive north of Phuket, has one major resource to fall back on; an asset so in demand that it is worth its weight in gold – its beautiful natural and unspoiled beaches.
Mile after mile of glorious golden stress-free strand awaits the visitor with views out over the turquoise Andaman that no artist's brush could better.
Khoa Lak doesn't 'do' crowds; it's not a mega-shopping destination and the fleshpots of Patong, Patpong and Pattaya seem so far away that they could be on another planet.
But it's not only about beaches and peace: Khao Lak's proximity to world-class diving sites is a powerful lure for scuba enthusiasts and with a backdrop of almost virgin rainforest and several stunning national parks nature lovers are in the right place.
La On Village
La On Village comprises Khao Lak's southernmost part and is by far the busiest spot in the whole province. Both sides of the main thoroughfare are lined with opticians, souvenir shops, opticians, restaurants and cafés, minimarts and more opticians. Okay – so they do a good line in cheap Ray Bans, two-for-one glasses' deals and progressive lenses but there surely aren't that many myopic people in Khao Lak.
Things are sleepy during the day here. The only movement seems to be the white-coated opticians ghosting about in their shops. At 15:00 the souvenir stalls and shops start to set up and by 18:00 the restaurants are receiving their first customers. However, just to the north of this area there are a few places of note for shoppers seeking to get away from the sameness of tailor-after-tailor-after-optician.
La On Northern Part
First off, opposite Dragon Divers there is a doctor's practice with a pharmacy a handy few steps further down the road. On the Sea Dragon Dive Center's side there is a recently opened mall featuring higher-class boutiques than those found in the 'centre' of the village. For those with a literary bent there is an excellent bookstore here, offering a veritable cornucopia of international magazines, books and newspapers as well as valuable local information.
However, those looking for the usual fare of fake DVD's, CD's and VCD's along with computer games and fake brand-name goods as well as swimwear and beach accessories will not be disappointed. They're all here along the main strip but in lesser quantities than at Patong or Pattaya.
Khao Lak Restaurants & Nightlife
As for dining out, the options are virtually unlimited. All along the main road you will see restaurant after restaurant with more down the small roads leading off.
The road from La On down to Nang Thong Beach also has more eateries as well as on the beach itself. Night spots of note are the ever-dependable Happy Snapper, featuring live bands and Song's – both laid-back places in which to meet both locals and the many members of the diving industry community. There is also live music and a large dance space in the Kuk Kak, the chic nightclub in Le Meridien Khao Lak's grounds.
Khao Lak Tours & Activities
Day tours comprise visiting the many waterfalls in the area, trips to Similan or Surin islands, trekking in the national parks and there's even a mini golf on the road leading to the Chong Fha waterfall.
For fresh fruit and vegetable lovers, there is a fresh market on Wednesdays, Saturdays and Mondays to the north of La On village (Bang Niang Day Market), opposite the washed-up police patrol vessel.