A vacation in Thailand,with it’s white sand beaches, palm trees, warm clear water and plenty of culture to go along with it, is a pretty enticing thought. That is what I thought of when we first started considering Thailand. As we started researching, asking our friends who had been, and even strangers, where we should go. Our criteria were:
- An awesome beach.
- A local market and some local culture.
- A place we would feel comfortable with our kids.
That was it. But most of our answers we heard that it was going to be really hard to find a calm, beautiful beach and any good authentic culture in the same place. Like so many tropical destinations, Thailand has become a tourist hot-spot. Luxury hotels, big brands and crazy parting have become more common place in many of the wonderful beach cities of Thailand. We really wanted something much calmer. This is when we discovered Khanom. We loved our time there. It was the ideal spot for our family, and I would argue for any family who is vacationing in Thailand. Here are my top 10 reasons why you should plan to visit Khanom on your Thailand vacation.
1. Incredible Beaches
Having a fantastic beach was priority #1 for us. Khanom has fantastic soft white sand beaches. They are long and wide and in the low-season, completely empty. The ocean is very warm, about 85 degrees Fahrenheit (30 degrees Celsius), and very clear. There are almost no waves or currents, and there are literally millions of perfect seashells. Coconut palm trees line the beach along on the shore along with a few small beach bars and hotels. Mostly it is just untouched paradise.
2. Low season, May-October, the weather is the best
This doesn’t happen often, but because of international holidays and schedules the high-season for this area is when they get the worst weather. They are located on the Gulf of Thailand and have a micro-climate that produces more mild, less rainy weather during the May-October months. When we were there it was hot, but locals told me that it was much cooler than the previous few months.
Our weather, from mid May to mid June was usually sunny all day with a serious thunderstorm and rain in the afternoon. The storm would last from a few moments to a few hours, but we had sun almost every day. It was very hot and humid. Coming from California, I was not at all used to this. It was usually about 85-100 degrees Fahrenheit (30-37 Celsius) but with the humidity it felt much warmer.
3. You can see the rare Pink Dolphins
Who doesn’t like seeing dolphins? They are playful, intelligent and seem to really like people. The dolphins in the waters near Khanom are actually a very rare type of ocean dolphin. There are only about 2000 Pink Ocean Dolphins in the world! We were lucky enough to see one, and our daughter Emery actually got to feed one right from the boat.
During this tour you also will get to see a pancake rock. There are only two places on earth to see this type of rock formations; Khanom, Thailand and Punakaiki, New Zealand. They actually do look like a stack of pancakes!
You can also visit the island of Laung Pu Thuat. This famous Buddhist monk, who among many other things, was said to be shipwrecked on an island off the coast of Khanom and where he stepped in the seawater it turned to fresh water. The island has a shrine to him and there is a freshwater spring that you can drink from right on the beach of the island.
Also on this tour when we were in the long tail boat there were TONS of jumping fish. They were just about 2″ long and thousands of them would jump alongside the boat. Many of them jumped right into our boat! Our kids had a great laugh catching them for the dolphins to eat later.
You can get a fully guided tour from one of the tourist shops or you can hire a long tail boat out for a few hours for 1000 baht and save some money. If you want to hire the boat then you have to go to the pier just north of Khanom. There is a Marine installation there and a tiny fishing village. From there you can get your long tail boat.
4. Activities For Everyone
There is also some other cool things to do and see besides the dolphins. There are caves to explore, waterfalls to trek up to and a very all-natural fish spa! There are very nice spas (even places that bill themselves as European spas where you can pay close to European prices) and great but cheap massages on the beach or private rooms. You can also go horseback riding on the beach or in the jungle or take an ATV tour.
There is even a fantastic place to get a great cup of coffee, Khanom Espresso. Not just any coffee, but great lattes, Americanos and all those yummy iced coffee drinks. If you have traveled much in Thailand you know that a good cup of coffee can be tough to come by. This place has the quality of coffee we are accustomed to getting at boutique, artisan coffee houses in California, and they have free WiFi, which meant we could go there and work! They even do latte art. There is really something here for everyone.
5. Local Community
Khanom is a small place. This is not Ko Samui or Bangkok where you are just another tourist. The people here are so friendly and helpful, and you are not just another tourist. There are plenty of tourist offices that can provide tours and outings, but there are also some local people who can get you that really good deal. Sopha who works in a little beach shop across from Aava spa is one of these people. Go to her shop and ask her just about anything and she can hook you up. When you stay here people start to know you and it feels like a home away from home.
Since this place isn’t really on the tourist map yet they haven’t started charging tourist prices. There is a wide range of accommodation available. There are quite a few hotels and some hostels. I think on of the best values is the large new apartment complex that has a fantastic location, a pool and fully furnished units including big kitchens and ocean view patios. 2 full bedroom units rent for 1500 baht/night and less if you are staying longer. You can inquire about these beach apartments on many places around town, but the easiest is CCs beach bar. They are just next to the apartment building. Sopha also as a very quiet and lush 2 unit house for rent.
You can rent a motorbike for just $6/day and put $2 in gas to get you around all day. You need a motorbike because there is no public transportation. Taxi’s are available by phone, but they are not cheap. There is no traffic and the roads are wide and in good condition so motorbikes are you best bet.
Khanom is definitely off the tourist path, but it is surprisingly close to a lot of what people think about when they think about a Thailand “bucket list.” It is just about 100 km to Surat Thani which has an international airport and just 1/2 hour from Don Sak where the ferries leave from to head out to Ko Samui. There is a mini-bus shuttle that runs every hour from these locations and costs just 100 baht per person. You can also get a private taxi for about 1700 baht for the whole car from the airport.
Khanom makes a great base for visiting many of the sites around the mainland. In nearby Surat Thaini you can visit the Monkey College and see how these amazing animals are trained to collect coconuts. There is a major train station there as well as larger shopping malls. Another great overnight excursion just a few hours away is Khao Sok National Park.
If you are looking for some authentic Thai food and authentic Thai ingredients the local markets are your place. There are several markets across town. There is an everyday market that picks up in the afternoon and there are local vendors who have fried chicken, curries, quail eggs, pancakes and all kinds of food I don’t know. There is a large Wednesday market that is in the morning that you shouldn’t miss. Clothes, take-away food, fresh fruit and vegetables, and crafts.
9. Calm Full Moon Party
The Full Moon Parties are huge in this part of Thailand. The islands in the Gulf of Thailand host huge and wild parties each month. If you are intrigued with this party, but don’t want something quite so crazy Khanom is a great compromise. Their Ample Moon Party is on the beach in the moonlight and includes music, food, drinks and lighting lanterns.
10. Bragging Rights
Everyone loves to say that they have been to that cool unknown spot. Khanom is that spot. It has so much going for it and nobody knows about it. Check it out and be that person who went off the beaten path and found that undiscovered treasure.
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