In our family, we have a special love for Khao Lak. We have been enjoying the long walkable beaches with all those incredible sunsets since the pre – tsunami times. It did take some time from the tsunami 2004 until we came back again though. Not so much out of fear of a new tsunami, more of a coincidence. But once we were back we just kept coming just like in the old days. From Chiang Mai it is very convenient to fly to Phuket. Less than two hours and then it is just 1.30 to 2 hours drive to Phang Nga province and the paradise of Khao Lak. We just prefer the more quiet laid back atmosphere compare to the more intense Phuket. (Well, talking pre-Covid Phuket).
But when you have passed over the 660 meters long Sarasin bridge that separates Phuket from Phang Ngha is feels like you are entering a slower and more relaxed world. Up to what you like of course, but for us the winner is the more tranquil and classy Khao Lak area. Khao Laks name comes from the top of a mountain, basically the Lak mountain. Basically, it was just a small village and a rubber farming community when some Thai people started up some bungalow business in 1986.
I personally always loved the lush and the green and the fact that Khao Laks resorts are embedded in this environment and the don’t kind of interfere with each other. The owners of the hotels in Khao Lak almost seem to have some kind of consensus (again pre – pandemic) as to not allowing big, low cost group tour agencies to push them around regarding the prices. Even though you see groups in hotels in Khao Lak, no company or nationality has ever been too dominant on a particular resort we have stayed in. Sun chairs are rarely directly on the open beach, you will find them in the shade in direct connection to the beach. They can be quite close to one another but you still don’t get that feeling while walking the long beaches
Khao Lak is also perfect if you don’t fancy boat transfers. The transfer from Phuket Airport is a scenic transfer apart from the first part that you might spend in heavy traffic on Phuket island. There is also a possibility to reach Khao Lak from Krabi. So you don’t have to feel restricted to Phuket Airport. Krabi airport is expanding at the moment. The transfer from Krabi will take you 2,5 to 3 hours counting in the traffic.
I will not claim that these are the best resorts in Khao Lak. But we have great experience in the family from the four resorts listed below.
Very new hotel. Bali meets Santorini kind of style. Stylish with Feng Suei installations, bamboo and straw roofs. Very good pool and an enjoyable stretch of beach. Just outside the hotel, there are a few restaurants and shops. A short car ride ride from the hotel you find the “Loud Burp” restaurant offering some of the best seafood in the area. The restaurant has seatings for dinner. Popular among the local crowd. The a bit strangely named Isarn Seafood restaurant is very close to Eden as well.
The food in Eden is decent, and the breakfast ok. Maybe it is richer during non pandemic times. However the breakfast room is quite small. What is impressive is the bakery at Eden, both the cakes and the presentation is something to write home about. One of the owners bakes herself, so it is a great homemade touch. Loved their Macadamia cake. Just 1h 15 minutes to Phuket Airport.
Another impressive and modern Khao Lak resort. Very close to Eden. Kalima has more than one pool area and lots of different activity areas, you can borrow a kayak and paddle into the mangroves and close to the elephant nature park. Actually, you can see the majestic animals coming down for their morning baths. Very kid friendly resort, almost an all inclusive touch. The beach is ok, but a little less impressive than the other hotels mentioned here. We enjoyed the restaurants very much, but the breakfast had a feel of quantity before quality. The hotel is also close to Phuket Airport.
Mega sized and classic installation in Phuket and Khao Lak, this hotel is very close to Khao Lak downtown. Easy just to walk there. The hotel has a lot of sunbeams, a nice pool. Great Thai decorations and some birdlife in the area. If there is anything to complain about it will be the size of it all. But again a luxury problem, older people can find the walk to and from the lobby quite tough. Some heavy stairs on the way. The hotel has a fantastic breakfast, in a fanciful breakfast room.
We have been to Manathai three times. When the kids were younger Manathai had many great offers for kids. We could sleep in one room all four of us. No need to book two rooms. They also had free ice cream for kids everyday in those days, and if adults ate in the hotel restaurants the kids could get free meals. They also have a very nice club for children. Manathai is 4 star hotel but with a 5 star hotel service. Great pool, great beach, and many choices for breakfast. The hotel is a bit far from downtown Khao Lak and a longer drive from Phuket Airport. We honestly didn’t leave the hotel much. There were two restaurants very close to the hotel on the beach. Hope they will reopen after Covid.
Haven’t stayed at JW Marriott but it is apparently top class according to friends that are regulars there. Many families choose Sands hotel because they have built a kind of waterpark within their hotel area. It is nowadays a play-land for kids. Personally, I have never been disappointed anywhere in Khao Lak. But that is maybe just because I love the area so much. But on the whole, hotels here are top – notch.
Excursions you can make from Khao Lak, Ko Khao Kao, Surin, Similan and Tachai islands. In April 2021 the charge to go to Similan Islands was about 1800 baht per person. Or why not go over to Takua Pa for a great food experience. Famous for Dim Sum and authentic Chinese food. This is a very friendly old mining town and once a harbor. Read more here about a wonderful Dim Sum brunch at Takua Pa.
Don’t miss the chance to visit the wonderful Khao Sok nationalpark with its stunning scenery at the Chaew Lan lake. Read more here: Khao Sok and Chaew Lan lake.
There are also excursions to learn Thai cooking and visiting Elephant Conservation camps. Again a bit unclear what the situation will look like post – covid.
Hotels in Khao Lak have been offering amazing promotions during the pandemic. Eden Hotel as low as 1200 baht per night for a standard room. Eden hotel have been selling vouchers on their website during the pandemic.
A friend of mine stayed at Marriot for 3500 baht per night, inclusive of breakfast. So as long as the pandemic is here, there are definitely discounts.
Sunsets are exceptional in Khao Lak. To quote Angela Abraham, “The sunset comes as a settled heart to the horizon, as if the sky itself could speak of love”. Angela Abraham@descriptionari
The loud, noisy, big Burp restaurant. Excellent local seafood place In Khao Lak that often fills up with the local crowd. See the link here.
For fair European, or rather more Scandinavian food Viking was always the place we would go. The restaurant always included Swedish style pizza salad to all main dishes. Last time we were in Khao Lak, the restaurant seemed to be closed though.(Will advise you to do a you an update via Google Maps).
E-Sarn Seafood next to Eden Resort was surprisingly good.
Be Friend restaurant just outside Manathai used to be the local favourite. Tables and chairs in the sand. Great sunsets. Hard to say if they are still there due to the pandemic. But just a 5-10 minutes walk to the right from Manathai.
Most of the time we have ended up eating in the hotels, or just a short walk on the beach you might find a great local restaurant.
Chiang Mai, the ancient capital of Lanna holds an enormous temple treasure. Here is a photo odyssey of some of the incredible temples in and outside the city. I earmarked only 20 out of 300+ temples to explore! But we all need to start somewhere. Also, temples are great witnesses of past times. Even though some buildings are not the same original buildings in full as when they were built, they still carry a story from that time in history. In Chiang Mais history prosperous times went together with temple building and renovations. It comes hand in hand.
You can often find parts of the old temple somewhere in the vicinity, a relic, a gong, a part of the old roof. Some of the temples host small museums. It is not necessary to be a Buddhist to find interest in temples. If you arrive in the early morning or early evening there might be monk sermons and chanting. There is often a certain Buddhist peacefulness and some sense of a mystery that one is not yet part of that adds to the atmosphere. A feeling of escapism.
Temples are architecturally interesting and reminders of ancient Lanna and Thai culture. Even though Buddha is officially not recognized as a God in Therevadha buddhism, temples are still built for eternity. While normal peoples houses were not. So temples are often the best remains of history that we have, with their meditation halls and temple towers built in brick or sandstone. Additionaly stupas or chedis are memorials of enlightenment and is considered to bring enlightenment to the present.
The temple towers named, stupas, chedis, prangs and many other names have the function to demonstrate the enlightenment and wisdom that comes with it to be a victory over ignorance. The escape from suffering made Buddhist followers overwhelmed by joy so they started to build stupas by the millions. Stupas are sermons in stone and often they also claim to hold relics of the Buddha. Then the towers help people turn their minds from the hedonistic pleasures and directs them towards their own higher potential. So to understand Chiang Mai, the old kingdom of Lanna and indeed Thailand and a majority of its Buddhist population.
Please do take your time to visit some of the magnificent temples we have in Chiang Mai. There is no lack of good coffeeshops with cool air-conditioning for those needed breaks when you feel a bit “templed out” once in a while. Also try to look for the small soi / side street temples, or the ones in the countryside that tourists don’t visit as much. Then you can often truly feel that calm and harmony that comes with the territory.
Location click here.
Location in Google maps here.
Location in Google maps here.
Location in Google maps click here.
Location in Google maps here.
Location in Google maps here.
Location in Google maps here.
Location in Google maps here.
Location in Google here
Location on Google maps here.
Location in Google Maps here.
Location on Google here.
Read more about the temple on this link. Sights in Chang Puak and Sri Poom Road.
Location on Google maps here.
Read more about the temple here.
Location in Google click here.
Read more in a separate article here, Wat Ban Den a Dreamlike Vision.
Location in Google maps here.
Location on Google maps here.
Location on Google Maps here.
Location in Google Maps here.
Frangipani is the flower that many of us foreigners instantly fall in love with in Thailand, or South East Asia. You most probably encountered the flowers in a spa bath in Thailand, if you have ever been to one. The Laotian even made it their own flower. It is the symbol of the national carrier Lao Aviation, and declared a national flower. In Laos it is called Dok Champa. Plumeria is the more scientific name and it derives from Charles Plumier, a French botanist (1646 – 1704). He was regarded as one of the most important botanical explorers of his time, Plumier served as a botanist to King Louis XIV of France. He did many journeys to the New World documenting plants and animal species. The name Frangipani comes from the name of a 16th century Italian nobleman who created a perfume with a similar scent used for gloves.
Often named Temple tree, this tree is appreciated all over the region, but it is originally from the West Indies. (Source Plants in the Tropics). In the region, the tree is believed to protect you from ghosts and demons.
After the introduction of the early rainy season this year our trees are now in full bloom.
The tree drops leave all year round, but mostly during the dry season. So the tree can be & like a coral looking creation with flowers in bloom but no leaves. If you cut off a branch you will have milk-white liquid pouring out of it, but the cuttings can be replanted and in no time in the tropics, it will grow to become a tree. You can grow a rainbow of Frangipanis since the choices of flower colours is so varied, and the perfume is divine.
Frangipani is not hard to grow but demands a lot of work due to the leaves. The long leather-like leaves drop all the time, so every day you have to work out to pick up large amounts of leaves.
Plumeria or Frangipani is truly an iconic symbol of South East Asia. And it does give you some nice shadow in your garden.
Mon Cham(Jaem) used to be a location where a lot of Royal Project vegetable produce was grown, and to some extent still is. After becoming more known to the public from a popular drama series this became a kind of hot spot in the mountains near the valley of Mae Rim. 2013 we went to what was one of the few glamping sites at the time, ran by the Royal Project with excellent food, nice views, a small field with flowers and a private toilet for your tent on the slope.
But as I mentioned the situation has exploded up there with new camping and glamping sights. Not very different from how a once – isolated paradise beach suddenly becomes mega popular. And it is hard to criticise the hilltribes from profiting and making a living from it. However, there has been a decision to clear the area of some of this camping grounds, not being legal and the land actually designated as grounds for growing vegetables.
If you decide to go here, it will be a warm hearted atmosphere with lots of Thai tourists checking in rather late. People are enjoying hot pots, and drinking until early morning when they often leave quite suddenly as well. If you are looking for that quiet, isolated camping site. You should probably search somewhere else.
Mon Cham is also OK for a day trip. Come and take selfies with fields of flowers, and enjoy good coffee.
Here are some of my photos from January 2013. It was indeed a rather cold night. But I still remember the panorama views and the fantastic scones and coffee in the morning.
Mon Cham is situated on a hill ridge in a place, the Mong Nong Hoi village in Mae Rim. To begin with, it was the Kiu Seau forest area. Then, villagers converted the area to opium production. For a long time it has been part of a Royal Project. The Royal Project transformed the area into vegetable production. Camping and glamping now blends with agriculture. Also on the top of the mountain Mon Cham has a famous viewpoint called “Mon Long”. This is a popular spot where people go to see the” sea of mist”.
The chips maker Lay’s shows a lot of creativity on the market when it comes to inventing new tastes of chips. It has been a kind of trend among tourists in Asian tourism to hunt for new exotic flavours from famous brands. I am first and foremost thinking of all the different Kit Kats(new flavour of the year every year) you can explore in Japan and different versions of Coca Cola(remember the white one that was supposed to look lite water but tasted like a bad version of Sprite).
So when in Thailand forget about salt and vinegar, sour cream and extra barbecue. Why not explore Lay’s local chips flavours. Bring home some inexpensive souvenirs.
Here are some examples of tastes that are VERY Thai indeed. Even some very Esan/Isarn that is North Eastern flavours.
Lay’s was founded in 1932 by Herman Lay in Tennesse, Nashville. Currently owned by PepsiCo.
You find these unique Thai flavours in 7/11 or Mini Big C. You find these chips online also.
May the list continue😁.
Only recently my old Honda City broke down just when I was about to park it at a barbers shop near a 7/11 not far from my home. At the exact spot where the car stopped there was a lottery vendor, and this lady had a customer. First, they looked a bit shocked by my awful parking, but when they saw that the car was overheated and me going to 7/11 to buy some water for the cooler they both started to write down the number of my license plate. I realized it was time for some Thai superstitions. I started the car again and I moved it to park a bit in the shadows. Not far away from the hairdresser’s shop. But the very moment I stepped in to cut my hair, the lady directly asked the same question.
–What’s the number of your license plate hihihi?
This is maybe the most classic way to look for a good lottery number nowadays. That is to check the license plate number. Furthermore, it seems that no tragedy is too morbid to get good luck from. It happens frequently after accidents that license plates are checked. I heard stories from quarantine hotels in Bangkok now during the covid pandemic that staffs have been buying lottery inspired by the room number where they have encountered cases of people with covid. Superstitions with some hope to make a profit.
This Shrine involves some of my favourite Thai superstitions. Some people in Bangkok will look up a shrine in Sukhumvit 77 to get the blessing of a spirit to win the lottery. The spirits name is Mae Nak. She died prematurely while giving birth and her husband was at the time not home. The husband Maak was fighting in a war.
Mae Nak dearly loved her husband so her spirit refused to move on to the afterlife. When the husband returned home he knew nothing about the death of his wife. The couple went on living as nothing had happened.
One day the husband realized that she was just a ghost and he hid from her in a temple. The local ghost doctor came to the rescue and cut a piece of Mae Nak’s forehead bone and captured her spirit in a bottle.
Later, a shrine committed to Mae Nak spirit was constructed. The folktale is over 100 years old but to this day people still go to the shrine for guidance and trying to get signs to win the lottery and some men go there to try to avoid military service. They get the right draw in that lottery. Since Mae Nak’s husband was called to battle it is said that she is not in favour of military service and can be of help if you want to avoid it.
Many years ago a snake fell on my chest from some temple ruin in Sukhothai historical park. It fell to the ground and I lightly stepped on it, but it didn’t bite. It just escaped. But my two Thai friends were so happy and said: – Khun Per. This means that you will meet your partner soon. Wasn’t sure if it was a good thing or not. But at the time I was more busy trying to calm down a bit after what for me was a completely new and unique happening. Also dreaming of a snake is said to be a message that you soon will meet a partner. And some people might think that seeing a small snake is equivalent to choosing number five in the lottery, and a large snake is a sure number six.
In Thailand, you might also be surprised to see when a neighbours house has been invaded by bees. They just leave the beehive and the bees swarming around. This is very much considered to be a totem of good luck. Listening to a gecko calling ” geeechoo” “geechoo” 7 times should also be a good reason for buying a lottery ticket. And if a small lizard enters your house, speak to it softly and kindly and you will have some great fortune coming your way.
The classic superstition is that you can not cut your hair on Wednesdays in Thailand. That it would be bad luck has probably something to do with the fact that royals had their haircut on Wednesdays in the past so it was both the fact that hairdressers were not available and that it was absolutely a no do to cut the hair as a common person on a Wednesday. No way that you could compare yourself to nobility.
Always consult the monk or fortune teller to get the perfect date for a wedding, starting a company, taking a new car out of the showroom, before installing the foundation pile for a new house, and arranging the house warming party.
For our family, we have done all of this. The monks decided the wedding date. They moved the date from just a few days from before the tsunami 2004 to a month earlier. Which for me was extremely lucky, otherwise I would have had most of my family on holiday in Phuket during the tsunami. Thank god for superstitions.
Monks recommended we have a silvered coloured car. Lucky us that we wanted the same. Well, 14 years later it is still working. We did get the blessing and sprinkling of the car. Thai people can be very pragmatic though. If they disagree with the colour suggested by the monks they might buy whatever colour of the car they prefer, but to be on the safe side they will have a sign on the car saying that this is not a white car, it is a black car or! That would please both sides, monks and car owners.
Something fairly common in Thailand is name changes if you consider yourself a victim of bad karma. So bad events are not always something good anyway. If you need a name change, you will look up a holy person that will find a more suitable name for you looking into events and birthdates and more in your personal history. Sometimes, it is enough to correct bad luck with repeated visits to temples. A Thai friend was a bit unlucky to kill a snake in her house by throwing the heavy spirit house on the snakes head. Two bad things in one call there, destroying a spirit house and killing a large animal. But it was all adjusted by enough temple visits. Superstitions at work
Anyhow, I always found the perspective that something unlucky can anticipate something good as a bit charming. In Europe, I remember often hearing people worrying that something bad would happen to them after they had some luck or a stroke of success. So when in Thailand, take your chances to buy lottery tickets when “shit happens”.
Phayao feels like this odd town in the middle of nowhere in Northern Thailand. A place that you have absolutely no reason to go to. But it is a pleasant lakeside town, with a lot of local activities going on near the lake. There is plenty of exercise equipment around in the nice park, some market life, outdoors massage and some people gone fishing. Walking in town you will get your share of old wooden Thai houses and as usual there is no lack of food in a Thai town.
We met with an older lady in a local fish restaurant that said that her family moved to Phayao during the Second World War, at the time when some bombs fell on Bangkok. The lake was partly supposed to be a food reserve in times of war. First this was a small wetland but since it was often flooded the local government turned it in to a small lake.
Kwan Phayao(Kwan is northern Thai for marsh but here it is definitely a lake) is the biggest freshwater reservoar in Northern Thailand and the fourth biggest in Thailand. The lake has a mountain range in its backdrop. The source of water in the lake is from 18 streams. In the middle of the lake there are historical remains of a submerged temple known as “Tilok Aram Temple” built during the reign of King Tilokaraj in the 15th century, the twelfth monarch of the Mengrai dynasty.
Wat Tilok Aram was located at a swamp by an intersection called Nhong Tao, a historic community in town. The temple was half drowned in 1941, when the Department of Fisheries built concrete gates to block the water from Nam Mae Ing and other rivers from Phee Pan Nam. The whole community sank to the bottom of Kwan Phayao. Some part of the temple can be seen above the surface making it look like a small island. During an exploration of the lake between 2006 and 2007 the brick Chedi caught the attention of a revered monk, and since then it has become a more convenient place of worship and a tourist attraction.
There is a boat service for around 20 baht to go out to the island. Phayao Lake is also an inviting place for cycling along the lake.
Phayao was founded in 1096 as a small city-state kingdom. In the 13th century it gained enough importance to be an equal partner with King Mangrai of Lanna and also the Sukhothai kingdom. It didn’t last however. Phayao was incorporated into the Lanna kingdom in 1338. Some of the royal treasures from the Phayao kingdom can be seen in a museum in Chiang Rai. The town was abandoned for a short while after a Burmese invasion. Since 1977 Phayao is its own province, previously belonging to Chiang Rai.
We stopped in Phayao when we drove from Chiang Rai towards Nan on a roadtrip during the green season in 2017. Phayao is about 140 kilometers from Chiang Rai and nice place to spend a night. We found a local homestay just by the lake that was really cute, and with a lovely view of the lake. I will not recommend this accommodation though since we didn’t get much sleep that night. For every truck that passed the building it felt like the truck was driving through the building, or that the whole thing would go down.
We had some local meals in no name restaurants. One famous eatery we did try out was the restaurant called So Good. It did not dissapoint. Phayao has been promoted as the Vienna of the East. Do not expect this. But for a short break it is a pleasant enough town of 20 000 inhabitants to explore.
This first morning of the Thai New Year I went downtown to see whether I could find some activities in the temples, some traditions and rituals of songkran in Chiang Mai. The weather continues to be great, but unfortunately the amount of Covid cases is high. So, I wasn’t quite looking for a water – fight.
When it comes to the water-splashing event, we have been at either closed, private parties or sometimes joining the war down at the moat in Chiang Mai. But since the water – splashing festival is banned this year I was confident that I could enjoy strolling downtown without any water attack.
My first experiences with Songkran was in 1999, jumping random pick up trucks assisting anyone I could in their battle. The first soak happened when I was walking from a pub in Hua Hin. Strolling around trying to find a tuk-tuk to Sailom hotel where I stayed. With my tour company, we usually stayed at this hotel a short taxi ride from the temple and clocktower in Hua Hin. The same night that we had our traditional farewell dinner by the sea, the unforgettable baked rocket lobster with cheese, I had continued to downtown to meet with some other tour guide friends. However, it was time to go home and I remember thinking about why they were already having water fights at some pubs. In my head, New Year and midnight were still hours away. I didn’t realise how wrong I was.
I walked through the steaming tropical night in my tailormade suit when suddenly two rather tall and mannish ladies armed with huge buckets of water stared me down and smiled with a broad grin. Then looking back at them, raising my finger as to make some point and said – No, No, not yet! New year starts tomorrow. One more lady about the same size then came running pointing to the watch she was wearing and exclaimed:
– Soooo sorry darling!! Today is already tomorrow.
And then simultaneously three buckets of water emptied over my head.
The next morning I was more ready. Walking through Central Hua Hin, in sloppy sports shorts, water gun in my hand and the typical colorful Hawaii-type shirt worn on songkran. I was looking for action. But before I found any waterfights, damage hit from above. A mega splash on my head, then I looked up rather infuriated. My anger turned into a smile when I saw this tiny, skinny, grey – haired, Chinese looking lady who by all means would be considered very old in Thailand. She stood on a small iron balcony on the second floor of a shophouse.
She was smiling back at me.
–Sorry, Never attack farang before she bursted out. You are the first on my list now..
I was glad then that I was her first farang target.
A lot of focus amongst tourists and expats are on the water fight. No songkran in Chiang Mai without a water battle! Well, to be honest, the same goes for many Thais. But what was originally a very innocent water sprinkling and putting some white colour or chalk on someone’s face, in modern days it has turned out to an all out war. In recent years better restricted to certain areas, like the moat in Chiang Mai. But there will be kids outside their homes pretty much everywhere trying to splash you. If you go to a night club like Ta Chang in Chiang Mai you will be in a water fight and a sprinkler system will soak you wet from afternoon to midnight! There are many ways to do Songkran in Chiang Mai.
With the huge amounts of alcohol combined with water splashing and driving, it is not difficult to understand the peak Thailand sees of traffic accidents during songkran.
Anyhow, Songkran 2021 is from April 13-15th. No water splashing at the usual places at least. Only digital splashing encouraged!!! So below is my contribution:
More Traditional Songkran
However, there is a much more traditional aspect to Songkran as well.
“The word “Songkran” comes from the Sanskrit word saṃkrānti, literally “astrological passage”, meaning transformation or change. It coincides with the rising of Aries on the astrological chart and with the New Year of many calendars of South and South East Asia, in keeping with the Buddhist calendar. The New Year takes place at virtually the same time as the new year celebrations of many countries in South Asia like China (Dai People of Yunnan Province), Laos, Myanmar, Cambodia, Nepal, Bangladesh, India, and Sri Lanka.” Source Wikipedia.
During Songkran it is important to visit temples and sprinkle holy fragrant water over Buddhas. I went downtown today to see if I could find some more traditional rituals going on. At the astonishing Wat Ket Karam temple. I found some people paying respect to Buddha and a lady sprinkling water on a holy Buddha image. Not only Buddha images get sprinkled, elderly will as an act of respect also be sprinkled with perfumed water “rod nam dam hua“.
Attention is put to merit making at temples and cleaning the house. Travelling home to visit relatives and spending more time with family.
On my walk, I also stopped at the old city gate of Thapae where there was a cultural event going on.
Tung, literally flags of great variation that you see during festivals in the North of Thailand. They could symbolise many things; like a greeting from a temple inviting you to join a festival, a greeting for Royals and for Songkran a tribute to people’s ancestors and after a Buddhist ceremony they will be stacked into sand and sand pagodas made within the temple area. Often they are decorated with animals.