This page has 4 trip reports:
- Beachblogger's Nov/Dec 2014 stay at Karon and Bangtao
- Beachblogger's Feb 2014 trip to Nai Harn and Surin beginning abt 25% down page
- Julie's visit at Nai Yang in Dec 2013 starting 60% down page
- Beachblogger's stay at Mai Khao Dec 2010 70% down page
Beach Blogger's stays at Karon and Bangtao - visited in Nov-Dec 2014
I decided 3 nights at Karon after the flight from Australia would be more relaxing than my usual overnighter in Phuket Town before heading into the south Andaman.
PINEAPPLE GUEST HOUSE KARON
This place is often mentioned on Jamie's excellent Phuket Blog (see link list top right of page) so I thought I'd give it a go.
A slight problem was the lack of a credit card facility which makes paying for more expensive daytrips a cash-eater - no problems: there are plenty of card taking travel agents in the area.
I did my usual area beach crawl. The thing that really hit me this trip was the impact of the police/military crackdown on unauthorised beach activities - the rows of thousands of sun-lounges were missing from Karon, Kata and Patong. So too were a lot of back of beach and headland restaurants and bars. Most beach vendors were missing. I thought the general impact was positive - it is now easy to get a nice patch of shaded sand in an area which previously was monoplised by sun-lounges and their venal minders. There are still plenty of legal back of beach restaurants and bars. Unfortunately the rip-off jet ski hirers are still plying their trade. I'm surprised these dodgy, unscrupulous dudes are licensed.
Patong beach 2012 - click-expand to better see the sun lounges etc
After almost 3 weeks on and near Ko Lanta I returned to Phuket in early Dec. I'd never stayed at Bangtao so decided I'd spend some time there before my flight home.
This long (6km) beach on Phuket's central western coast is different to most beaches north and south of it - it is relatively undeveloped with hundreds of meters between resorts and other beachfront activities in its central and northern areas. It is not until you get north of the airport that you find comparative lengths of nice sand not jammed with development and people.
My resort can be seen near the south end of the beach - well and truly out of the Laguna region.
Surin beach is abt 2km south of Bangtao
You are probably coming to the conclusion from the above shots that Bangtao aint exactly an overcrowded beach. Actually the Thai police/military crackdown on unauthorised beach activities make it look even less so. Check the shots below of the busiest section of the beach - the southern area in front of the Best Western:
These panorama shots click-expand nicely.
ANDAMAN BANTAO BAY RESORT
I went searching for a place at Bangtao, preferably beachfront, which met my modest budget. This place's less expensive Standard Garden View rooms met that description, particularly in early Dec which was still shoulder season.
My room was big, clean, serviced daily, fully featured, had a quiet aircon (the general area was quiet at night too) - pretty good value IMHO.
As can be seen, the pool is pretty small. But okay to cool down in after an extensive beach walk or similar. Looks clean but with my swim goggles I noticed some micro impurities which suggests the pool filter may not get cleaned as often as it should. However the tiles etc seemed pretty pristine, which is more than I can say for 50% of Thailand resorts' pools.
Note too that beer prices anytime were reasonable.
Staff performance both in the restaurant and the resort as a whole was pretty good.
Beach Blogger's stays at Nai Harn and Surin - visited in February 2014
I wanted somewhere with a nice beach close to Phuket's Chalong pier betwen visits to Ko Racha and Coral Island. I'd always been impressed with the Nai Harn (Naiharn) area, so went searching Agoda for some well situated not too expensive digs.
Nairock's fairly big store is immediately right of camera - many of its prices were lower than the 7 Eleven's we used extensively in other areas - big Chang beers at 55b, which is terribly important to me.
I snorkelled around the pier and rocks - some okay fish but nothing to get excited about.
The beach has been packed every time I've visited - there are maybe 4 or 5 midrange or better hotels in the beach area plus a host of similar and cheaper places in the general Chalong/Rawai area - this is their main beach. It and the lagoon behind are also popular with Phuket Thais on weekends and holidays - the lane which runs behind the beach and around the lagoon has a bunch of cheap eats stalls etc.
Snorkelling off the beach is better than Phuket average with clear water plus some nice big boulders which tend to attract fish and a bit of fringing coral. These "panoramic" shots look best click-expanded.
I personally think this is one of the nicer areas of Phuket and a great alternative for people seeking somewhere less over the top than Patong and similar. Of course if like us you want a nice beach area close to Chalong pier, this is the logical choice.
If you are on foot (THE SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE is not a motorcycle fan) there are some easily reached alternative beaches to Nai Harn and if you have a moto other nearby gems like Yanui to the south-east are quickly reached. In the opposite directionalong the hilly road towards Kata there are several elephant camps for all you pachyderm tragics.
A couple of weeks later we wanted the closest nice beach to the pier at Bang Rong in Phuket's north-east after visiting Ko Yao Noi and Ko Yao Yai. It had to be one I'd not stayed at before - Surin won out.
Surin Sabai Condos is a very nice place. Our (least expensive) studio room was well equipped with the usual midrange inclusions plus basic cooking facilities. The room was a bit smaller than we expected but perfectly adequate for 2 people. It was comfy and quiet. The balcony had a nice outlook over the attractive public pool area (high rollers have their own condo pools). Wifi was good in the lobby. The small gym was pretty well equipped and didn't seem busy after mid-day. The Euro manager was a gem - he seemed to bend over backwards to give us a late 1800 check out (this is of course bookings-dependent).
I pinched the top shot off Agoda's booking site - it's a bit misleading; the place is bordered each side by similar joints.
Note that Surin seems to have dozens of similar places plus quite a few nice resort hotels. There is budget accommodation - I saw signs for rooms upstairs from shops etc along 4025, particularly a bit further from the beach. But a search online indicates that these tend to be walk-in.
I enjoyed my stay at Surin. The packed beach didn't worry me on account I'm a people watcher - those Russian girls sure are gorgeous and even the big beefy blokes in their bright yellow Speedo budgie smuglers with beer bellies bulging over the top are good value - and great incentive to hit the gym back at Sabai Condo. Some people criticise Russians as gruff and unfriendly - I'd say more like impersonal. The younger ones seemed very polite. And most are couples and families - a marked lack of groups of male yahoos which characterise many of the visitors from my country and good ol' Blighty seen at Patong etc.
Surin has a number of attractive nearby beaches if you are on foot (THE SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE isn't a motorcycle fan). I didn't mention the famous FANATASEA entertainment/dining complex is at nearby Kamala - no need to walk etc, they have their own pick-up vans.
Julie's Trip Report on Nai Yang, Phuket - visited December 2012
BeachBlogger's Trip Report on Mai Khao Beach - visited early Dec 2010
10+ km of golden sand backed by casuarinas immediately north of the airport.
Mai Khao is the longest, least developed and one of the nicest beaches on Phuket. There are only about half a dozen resorts along here and the Sirinath National Park bans even sunlounges within about 30m of the sand so that develpment is unobtrusive.
The above pic is looking south towards the airport - the beach past the runway becomes Nai Yang Beach and goes another 4km - that is the headland between Nai Yang and Nai Thon far background. There is a similar amount of Mai Khao Beach behind camera.
Mai Khao beach from the north-north-west. I modified this GOOGLE EARTH image to show the major features mentioned on this report. I measured 10km of beachfront from the airport runway to the turn of the coast near bottom of image, but some websites talk of 14, even 17. I suppose if you go from that minor headland SOUTH of the runway which separates Nai Yang, to the bridge to the mainland, you would be around 14km at least.
Near section of beach-hinterland looks developed but this is GE's overlapping images - if you go to the site and enlarge you'll see it is pretty rural.
I've seen the northern most (closest in image) part of Mai Khao referred to as Sai Khao.Details might be clearer if you click image to expand.
Most of the resorts are midrange to high-end, but there are a couple of budget places.I stayed at one of the budget places, SEASIDE COTTAGES AND RESTAURANT about half way along the beach. People are always asking for beach bungalows on Phuket. Apart from its near neighbour (down page) thes are the only the budget ones I know of.
That's my closest-to the-beach (30m) traditional thatched bamboo bungalow far left - 500 baht with outside bathroom in high season 2010. I think this is a bit dear but the fact is the Andaman is getting expensive and Phuket is not being left behind. Tents were set up for some late arriving guests who requested them.
My bungalow was clean, just big enough for 2 people and their gear, with a comfy bed and pillows. Outside bathrooms were 30m away behind the restaurant containing good cold water showers and western toilets. Very clean.
Rather good seaside restaurant presided over by relaxed host Malcolm and his Thai family.
Food and beer were 10-50% higher than typical budget bungalow restaurants. Quality and size of portions were very good and service excellent. User reviews on the web are very complimentary here and the place got a steady stream of customers from other resorts. I am usually price sensitive but despite cheaper food 150m away I ate all my meals here.
That's one of the 3 aircon bungalows to the right - 1800 baht when I visited. Shot may be worth clicking to expand.
These are the slightly bigger, more expensive (600baht) outside bathroom bungalows built behind the restaurant. A bigger bathroom block was at the end of the walkway behind camera.
Taking it easy at Seaside Cottages
Immediately south (airport side) of Seaside Cottages is a newly opened medium sized midrange plus place Piraya Resort which seemed to be running at about 2% occupancy in early Dec. Next to it was Mai Khao's other budget property MAIKHAO BEACH BUNGALOWS seen above.
Pictured are their least expensive fan bungalows with bathroom at 900baht Dec 2010 - they had similar with aircon for 1200 - and a few bigger aircon rooms with hot water for 1500. Their restaurant prices were maybe 20% lower than Seaside Cottages but didn't seem to attract the same number of diners.
On the southern side of Maikhao Beach Bungalows this huge development was going in. Malcolm told me it was the new HOLIDAY INN. He seemed underwhelmed that his quiet little location might become too busy - but the fact is there is a heap of beach around here - the next 1 km south is undeveloped. And National Parks will ensure no rows of beach lounges.
After at least a km of deserted sand backed by casuarina trees further south I came to this new place which seemed 85% finished - it is the beach wing of MAIKHAO DREAM. I had a wander around - those buildings seemed to be very nice private pool villas.
Actually the above is an extension to the existing village wing of MAIKHAO DREAM which is some 400m up a side road which runs from the beach right of the shot above to Ban Mai Khao.
You can see the existing wing in the shot below. This extends beachward down the side road about 150m - but it seems the whole 400m belongs to this outfit and the new development was taking this whole section - not just the beachfront zone.
Ban Mai Khao - that's the established part of MAIKHAO DREAM at left, side road to the beach takes off to the left front. Not much else here apart from a pretty good general store, a dozen or so houses and a school. Um, I think there was a dive shop - doesn't strike me as prime dive country. You can get to Seaside Cottages and neighbours by following that road for about a km and turning left. Nice rural countryside around here - mainly fruit trees, vegetables, some rubber, grazing - but not intensively farmed. There is an historic Wat somewhere close, but I'm not big on temples.
Back on the beach, there is no development on the NORTHERN side of Mai Khao Cottages for a km or so and then you come to the very swish ANANTARA - at 22k odd it ought to be swish.
I was unaware of this place until almost on top of it because once again there were no beach sun lounges. I could see a couple of small catamaran sailing skiffs on the sand a few hundred meters further on which I took to be outside another top end joint JW MARRIOT. There are another 3 or 4 kms to the north end of the beach and island with another 2 expensive places - SALA and RENAISSANCE.
THATCHATCHAI NATURE BOARDWALK
I borrowed Malcolm's bicycle and fanged about 7km north to the boardwalk which is part of Sirinath National Park.
This is about 1km past the big SECURITY CHECKPOINT which all vehicles entering and leaving Phuket on the main road must pass thru. Continue on the outward lanes past the beachside seafood restaurants and turn right at the sign about 400m on.
There is a visitors' centre with lots of info and a restaurant - the boardwalk with educational signs runs for about 600m thru the mangroves. While I was there a Farang girl was helping to complete website additions about the kayak routes which they plan to introduce soon.
Between the SECURITY CHECKPOINT and the BOARDWALK the main road comes very close to Mai Khao beach (sometimes this section is referred to as Sai Khao) and there is a line of at least half a dozen local seafood restaurants which are very popular with locals on weekends. The beach and island ends at the mainland side at the top of this shot - well actually the beach curves to the right around to the bridges which carry the main highways off Phuket island.
MOTOR BIKE EXCURSION
I also hired a moped from Seaside Cottages for 300b and cruised the coast south of the airport - a whole bunch of beaches including Nai Yang, Nai Thon, Surin, Laem Singh and Kamala. This is a pretty relaxed bit of coast, some nice beaches largely separated by steep hilly headlands. The coastal road isn't too hard to follow apart from a section north of Surin - maybe take a map which I didn't. Duh.
One of the highlights of my excursion was a session of pier-launch surfing at Surin Beach.
Unusually for high season Andaman there was a bit of swell running (a nice little storm the night before) so I walked out to the appropriate spot on the floating pontoon pier and dived onto passing waves. This proved trickier than I thought and only worked about 3 in 8 attempts. The idea is to WAIT LONGER than my surfers' experience suggested and then dive SHALLOW. Much easier just swimming onto the wave - 100% success rate. That separate pontoon a bit further out contained slippery dips and other kids' attractions - I had a ball.
At Leam Singh I did a typical tezza freeload on glamour-shoot.
Then the sweetie took her top off. I'd like to say I respected her privacy by taking no further pix, but the truth is I got distracted by a genuine 1972 Dewie Weber malibu the local life guard rode into the beach at that moment. You have to trust me on this.
FROM THE AIRPORT - Seaside Cottage has a local driver will pick you up for 400. This is about the same as the airport "limos" to Nai Thon, a similar distance the other side of the airport. I'm thinking an airport taxi might be about 250, but finding the joint might be a trick. Seaside Cottage's webiste has instructions in Thai script you can copy for your taxi. I used SC's driver to go to the airport around 2000 for a departing flight - careful local lady in late model aircon Toyota.
FROM PHUKET TOWN AND FROM THE MAINLAND - there are a few songthaews to Ban Mai Khao from Phuket town but the 40km has gotta take 90 minutes+ and probably there are not many services after early afternoon. The best bet is to jump on any bus leaving the island and hop off where route 3016 leaves the highway between distance markers 36km and 37km (look at the 100m SMALL markers on highway dividing strip). This intersection is on a major right angle bend with a big sign for Priyaya Resort on the highway - so difficult to miss even I didn't.
Hard to miss turn off - that's the run-off lane stretching away from camera - you have 4 lanes of divided highway to the right. I pinched this shot off Seaside Cottage's website. If coming from the mainland it's slighty less than 3km from the SECURITY CHECKPOINT.
I jumped off a bus from Phang Nga (I think it originated at Trang) and started trudging along the sealed 3016. After about 2km an old dude on a bike picked me up - we turned at the sign for SEASIDE COTTAGES at the right-angle intersection about 2.5km in and followed the road another 2km to it's very end. Near the end it zags around the new developments and turns into a dirt track the last 200m. I gave the old bloke 50baht for a Pepsi or 3 (mostly Muslims up here).
I now notice SC's website is showing the short-cut along the dirt track. Malcolm described this to me as the "track thru the jungle", but it looks okay on GOOGLE EARTH. Maybe Malcolm has put up a sign at the turn into this track - it saves about 2km. I didn't notice any sign when I came thru. Then again I'm not noted for my keen observational skills - apart from bikini babes.
Nice end of the day shot for end of the Trip Report.
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