Phuket - Khao Lak - Ao Nang round trip
My first thread here, so a bit of philosophy first.
I have posted most of this on another forum I have belonged to for a while, but given that it is more focused on a model of bike, it probably belongs here more than there.
After nearly five decades of getting around on two wheels in about 15 countries, motorcycling to me is more about the journey than the machine I ride. There are motorcycles (mostly small) in the pictures from this trip, including my own in one or two perchance. If you can live without motorcycle porn, please enjoy the ride.
This report is a composite of three trips, the last one being the complete round trip from Phuket to Khao Lak, on to Ao Nang, returning to Phuket. The on the map the basic journey is about 400 km, but with side trips to explore I covered a few more.
Mission Hospital-Phuket to Mission Hospital-Phuket - Google Maps
From a riding point of view for the most part the roads are nothing special, but the route goes through some spectacular country, so the ride is far from boring. From my point of view it was good to have a few days of relaxed riding away from the hectic Phuket traffic. I just rolled along at about 75 km/hr (45 mph) on the main roads, and less on the byways, enjoying the scenery. My 100cc bike averaged better than 110 mpg (US) for the trip.
The road from Phuket to Khok Kloi is mostly fairly straight flat, divided dual carriageway.
From Klok Kloi to Khao Lak it gets a bit more interesting, a regular road gently winding through rubber and oil palm plantations.
Exploring byways north of Khao Lak took me on to tracks that were accessible to a lightweight motorcycle, but would have stopped a heavyweight touring machine.
The Khao Lak - Thap Put leg of the route to Ao Nang is more fun from a riding point of view.
However it is not a place for spirited riding as in parts the road is tight and winding with many blind bends.
Back on the main road between Phang Nga and Krabi it is just undulating highway, albeit through spectacular surroundings.
The secondary road between Ao Leuk and Phang Nga cuts 20 km off the main highway route, but it is narrow but heavily used by commercial vehicles. Motorcyclists can expect to be forced off the road several times by on coming trucks or vans passing slower vehicles. As you can see there is not much of a shoulder to escape to.
That's the roads done..... if any one is interested I'll post photos of what I saw along the way over the next week or two as time allows
Thanks for sharing your trip. I think you would be surprised to learn how many of us would be interested in you and your small motorcycle. In the US we can't even buy the small bikes because they don't send them here. I have to go to the manufacture's European or Asian websites to learn about what the rest of the world can buy that we can't.
All of us love pictures from places we have never been.
En route from Phuket to Khao Lak
Chinese temple…. Decorated and busy during the Phuket Vegetarian Festival. The festival originated in Phuket a couple of hundred years ago, but is now also celebrated in other parts of Thailand. People of Chinese origin comprise about a 30 - 40% of the local population.
The road goes around the “Two Heroines Monument”, which is in the middle of a roundabout. Back in 1785 Phuket was being threatened by Burmese invaders. These two women organised the local women to dress up as men and carry mock weapons, so that it looked like Phuket was better defended that it really was. The Burmese fell for the ruse and sailed off without attacking.
Motorcycle mounted kitchen…. These can be found all over Thailand. This vendor is selling deep fried slices of banana and sweet potato, just north of the monument.
Tyres in the making…. Rubber trees are the main agricultural land use on Phuket Island. It takes about seven years before a planter can start tapping the latex, and the trees are good for 20 to 30 years production. They usually plant pineapples between the saplings to generate cash flow until the rubber trees start producing. Phuket has its own breed of pineapple which is prized for its taste.
Mosque…. There are quite a few small mosques along the way. Many of the coastal communities in the south of Thailand are Muslim. About 30% of the Phuket’s population is Muslim.
Phuket speed limits.
The Sarasin Bridge connecting Phuket to Phang Nga…… Phuket is only just an island. It is connected to the mainland by a pair of bridges about 400 metres long. They were recently completed to replace an older bridge, which was only partially demolished. Now it is a pedestrian way, with a raised section and a viewpoint in the middle.
Now a reasonable sized fishing boat or a small super-yacht can pass under it.
Jungle Cafe…. A good place to stop off for a break and coffee.
A family checking out the goldfish at Jungle Cafe.
Oil palm plantation…. In Phang Nga palm oil is an important agricultural product. Oil palms are grown on the lower land with rubber trees being planted on the upland. There are also orchards growing mangos, durian and other fruit tucked away here and there.
Andaman Dancer…. She’ll dance no more.
I stopped of at Tab Lamu, which is where boats headed to the Similan Islands depart from. The Similans have fantastic scuba diving, with rock formations on the western side, and coral gardens to the more sheltered east. I have been fortunate to have had three diving trips there, one on a small live aboard, and two staying on the islands.
The Andaman Dancer was a live-aboard dive boat that took divers to the Similans and other places. She went down in the early hours of one morning on the return from a trip, in an unexplained accident, as I recall with the loss of just one life.
Khao Lak Bay….. From the road coming over the hill to the south.
This serene looking place was hammered by the 26 December 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami. In the foreground sea floor rises steeply from the deep. There is a narrow sandy beach over a rocky base, backing on to a steeply sloping hill. The waves had nowhere to go but up, and rose 10 metres or more high. The swirling waters claimed more than 2,500 souls in that basin, about half of the total loss of life in Thailand. Two of our students were doing an internship at one of the resorts. Their bodies were never found.
In the distance the rise from deep water is more gradual and the land is quite flat. Unimpeded, the tsunami swept inland more than a kilometre. An acquaintance, who was swimming there at the time, just went with the flow. He escaped shaken, but unscathed.
A day around Khao Lak
The first trip to Khao Lak was in early August, in search of a bit of surf. It turned into a one day trip.
The May to October monsoon usually brings some reasonable waves to the Andaman coast. However for 2012, after a little bit of action in May, in Phuket there was not much to speak of. I had heard that if there is a little surf in Phuket, it will be much better in Khao Lak. Just before a long weekend the waves got up a little in a bit of a storm, so I decided to go for a look to see what Khao Lak had to offer.
Not much, it turned out. Just some gnarly little waves that some were enjoying the edge of, wisely. As with all the Andaman coast, caution is required during the monsoon. The small waves look nothing, but there is big danger from rips and undertow.
Still it is an interesting bit of coast, which would be a good place to swim and snorkel around during the November to April dry season, when the sea is quite benign.
There were a few people around taking advantage of the low room rates that hotels offer during their low season. These kids were enjoying exploring the beach.
Ghost crabs were the object of their fascination
The 26 Dec 2004 tsunami is all but forgotten, with fancy hotels offering flash seaside bungalows for guests. They should be quite safe. Geological studies suggest that it will be about 700 years until the next big one, and the rocky coast is quite stable at the south end of Khao Lak Bay.
Further north the coast becomes more sandy. Here, helped by vegetation, the beach is holding its own against the sea.
Some Phuket beaches become quite steep over the monsoon as currents take the sand away…. It is dumped off shore, to form a reef over which waves break to create surf. Come the dry season the sea returns the sand to create postcard perfect, near flat beaches with gently lapping waves.
A little further north people build walls to prevent “the problem of costal erosion” which could result in them losing their expensively acquired real estate.
The sea is relentless. Over time it can reduce concrete and rocks to sand.
About a kilometre inland lies a police patrol vessel. It was taken there by the 2004 tsunami, and is now being turned into a memorial.
No surf, no pubs or anything open (for a religious holiday as I recall), and not many people around….. It didn’t seem worth hanging around. I headed back home in the evening, for a round trip of just under 200 km, plus about 20 - 30 km of pottering around.
North of Khao Lak
My next trip to Khao Lak was in mid October. The monsoon had ended, a Iittle earlier than usual. My intention was to explore a bit north of Khao Lak, for a couple of days and then continue on to complete the Ao Nang then Phuket round trip.
I stayed in Srichada Hotel; just 500 baht ($US 16.00) a night, still at low season rates. This is the view from my fourth floor room.
In the morning I went down to the Khao Lak beach. The sea was calm with gentle waves breaking quite a few seconds apart.
After that I started to make my way to Takua Pa, about 30 km. to the north. It was once an important administrative and transport centre, but is now just a sleepy little town. I only got as far as White Sand Beach, exploring area between the main road and the sea. One of the joys of a small motorcycle is being able to get down tracks that cars and bigger motorcycles would find off limits.
The road to Memory Bar soon turned into a dirt track.
It went past a rubbish dump, next to tin shacks housing Burmese construction workers.
Then past a fancy resort in the making.
At the end of the road on the beach I found Memory Bar, a sort of a hippie camp mostly constructed from bamboo.
But it would be a week or so before it opened. They had rental surf boards which looked like they would be useful during the monsoon. It is located at a river mouth, and looked as it it could produce some decent waves, better than at Khao Lak Bay or anywhere in Phuket. With the poor surf this year they probably decided to shut down for a few weeks.
(Sorry, I didn’t straighten the photo before I uploaded it.)
A group of girls were enjoying a day off at the beach. They posed for me. Behind them is the mouth of the river, with a luxury resort on the other side.
I made my way back to the main road, then ducked down this byway through rubber plantations, to White Sand Beach.
And passed this wonderfully clear freshwater pond just a couple of hundred metres inland from the sea.
I reached White Sand Beach, which was a lovely spot. If the sea was after eroding the coast down near Khao Lak, here it was building it up.
This is what it looks like on Google Earth.
I found my way to the point and stopped for lunch. At 200 baht it was more than three times what similar fare would cost in a regular place. However the seafood fried rice had more than the usual token bit of squid and a couple of prawns. It tasted great, and the location was priceless.
I walked out to the point, and reckoned it too could be a good spot for surf.
The people in white are participants in the Vegetarian Festival. There are Chinese temples at Khao Lak and Takua Pa. They wear white for the duration (nine days), refrain from alcohol, drugs and sex, and eat only bland (unspiced) vegan food. It is nothing about healthy peace, love dove vegan diet. It is all about doing penance to appease the gods, in the hope that they will grant good health. On the final evening, once the gods have been sent on their way, it is all freshly slaughtered flesh and debauchery.
Vegetation has started to colonise the new land the sea has deposited
And people have left their contribution to the enviroment.
I started off to explore further, but I ran into heavy rain, which lasted a couple of hours. With only a lightweight rain jacket, I was soon soaked. As it was getting late, I made my way back to a hot shower at the Srichada.
Google map directions reckoned on about 12 minutes travel time for 13 km along the main highway, but I had spent the best part of an enjoyable day exploring the coastal byways.
The next morning I got a call from a young woman in Phuket, who I have helped out a bit (too much). It was some months since I had heard from her, but now the outfit she was working for was having problems, and she hadn't been paid. She didn't have enough money to make her rent.
I canceled the Ao Nang leg and went back to Phuket to help her out... again, to discover her bludging brother (and his mate) had turned up, which would not have helped her situation. She and her brother are both sorted with jobs again now, so hopefully it should be a while before I hear from her again. No news is good news.
The round trip..... at last
The next long weekend I took an extra day off….. determined to make the round trip, and did.
The inland part of the route went through hills. The landscape was spectacular, and the winding roads made for an enjoyable ride. It has a remote feel about it, passing through forest, plantations, the odd orchard, and some small villages.
A village school - Quite a few of my students started their education at schools like this one.
A small Buddhist temple - There were few mosques inland. The Muslim communities, probably migrating for the south, settled the coastal areas centuries ago. I guess that this area was settled more recently by Thai Buddists from other parts of the country.
Gasoline is available 24/7 from cash operated pumps, albeit at a near 100% mark up on main road prices.
Oil palm and rubber plantations are the main land use. Some local big shot had his hoarding up. With the number of elections they have Thailand should be one of the most democratic countries in the world!
The palm oil nuts are harvested and taken to a collection centre for transport to an oil crushing factory. The oil has a range of uses, from cooking oil to making soap. The crushed kernel is used for livestock feed.
Tyres to be; rubber sheets made from latex collected in the early hours of the morning, hanging out to dry.
If you’ve got it, flaunt it. Not all homes in the countryside are humble.
Getting back to the coast people make a living from shrimp farming and fishing.
The business end of a “long tail boat”. This one has a single cylinder Kubota diesel cooled by water collected from behind the propeller. Bigger boats, use car or truck engines which have a closed cooling system, with pipes running under the boat as a heat exchanger.
Klong Song Nam is a fastinating place. The name translates to “the watercourse with two waters”. As you can see it is tidal. At low tide it has very clear, fresh water flowing from a limestone cave. When the tide comes in it brings brackish water which flows over the top of the fresh water. The strange, unique vegetation is tolerant to the conditions.
The day I travelled was Eid al-Adha, an important Muslim festival. At Nappharat Thara Beach, just north of Ao Nang families from the local community were enjoying themselves in the evening after the religious activities.
I stayed at Cliff View Bungalows in Ao Nang at an off season rate of 500 baht for a comfortable fan (non air-con) room, which included breakfast.
:clap:clap Thank you for sharing, I am enjoying this!:lurk
I reckon on being in these parts for only a few more months before I go back to the country I was born in, New Zealand. There is some great motorcycling to be had there, and a different way of life.
I was up early, as usual, and enjoyed the buffet breakfast that Cliff View Bungalows turned on. It was a good spread, more than I expected at a such an unpretentious establishment.
I headed off to get a minor repair done on my motorcycle. I replaced an low quality aftermarket gear change pedal, with an OEM one a few days before, but the shop didn’t have the correct bolt, so hey sold me a fancy looking stainless steel one. It wasn’t man enough for the job, so I asked the mechanic at this workshop to replace it with the correct one. Sorted in less than five minutes, he said, “If you have any problems with that, just come back.”
I suggested that 170 km from Phuket might be a bit far, and asked “How much?”
About $US 0.70 cents….! I gave him fifty baht. It would have been at least that in Phuket, the most expensive place to live in Thailand.
Repairs done I toddled off to the beach see where the tide was at, and to consider my day. With the next day being a public holiday I had planned to stay another night. I wanted to return to Klong Song Nam when the tide was high, and explore a few other places around Krabi province. I find its beaches a bit boring, but it is an interesting place, richer in other natural attractions than Phuket.
Just after I took this photo I got a call from Pao, a Thai teenager in Phuket. I had organised him and his mate, Jay, to join the Phuket cricket team for a match against a team down from Bangkok. Jay was ill, and he was the one with the motorcycle they used to get to the ground. I spent the best part of the next hour ringing around arrange alternative transport, while Pao found another player. Sorted, I decided to head straight back to Phuket.
The boys speak Thai, and very little English. Most of Phuket’s cricketing community speak English and very little Thai. I’m bilingual, so have landed up being involved quite a bit as the game has been introduced to local youngsters.
On the way back to Cliff View Bungalows I took a couple of shots of the local version of a motorcycle taxi. They carry up to about 4 passengers.
Once on the road my only stop was for coffee at Andaman Viewpoint. Other than pineapples in the near the bottom of the hill, it is rubber planation for miles. The hills in the distance are Phuket Island.
Girl on a swing at Andaman Viewpoint.
When I got to the cricket match at the Alan Cooke Ground, rope in Paan was busy as wicket keeper for the Phuket team. A 15 year-old lad, he played an important role in a team mostly made up of adult ex-pats. Phuket won the game.
Paan and Pao padded up awaiting their turn to bat. Pao is a member of Thailand’s U19 squad.
Phuket’s Alan Cooke Ground (ACG) is probably the best cricket ground in Thailand. It saw it’s first match about a year ago, and has been fairly well used since then for the Phuket 35 over league, a monsoon season T/20 league, and hosting several visiting teams. Previously cricket was played on coconut fiber mat pitch in the middle of a dusty soccer field at a nearby school.
That evening I had dinner at Ao Chalong, about 10 km from home.
As a bit of an extra, the Vegetarian Festival ended a couple of days later, with a parade of the gods around town before sending them off at the coast. It is a noisy affair with nonstop crackers and other fireworks leaving the air thick with smoke. The photos below were all taken within a few minutes from the same spot.
That’s it folks. No apologies if you expect a heap of motorcycle porn in a trip report. To me motorcycles are a means of getting around rather than the reason to go places (though I do enjoy the ride), hence they appear incidentally rather than playing a star role in my journey.
Ciao for now.
Thats an interesting and beautiful part of the world. Thanks for sharing!
Good stuff. Thanks for taking us along.
Thank you for an informative and entertaining report!!! My wife is from Chiang Rai, we may end up living in Thailand one day and I will have to get a little bike of my own :thumb
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