Thailand Fling - 12...Nightmare Beach

Bang Niang, Khao Lak, Thailand, February 2023

Khao Lak Sunset

Our return to Thailand was somewhat muted by the reoccurrence of Ian’s food poisoning symptoms, and the memories of the catastrophic tsunami that affected this part of the Thai coastline that tragic Boxing Day in 2004.

Fortunately, our hotel was a peaceful haven on the upper east coast of Thailand in Khao Lak and proved a comfortable retreat for Ian’s slow recovery from “rock bottom”!  The resort of Ban Niang however, was populated mainly by elderly German and Russian visitors with most of the bars, shops and restaurants catering for their tastes.  The Thai Government had funded the redevelopment of many of the affected areas after the tsunami, and it seems that money was spent on drastically changing the area to a full-on tourist destination. 

Our main reason for visiting this part of the country was to take a trip to the off shore Similian and Surin Islands, which were a haven for divers and snorkellers, boasting crystal clear waters and rich marine wildlife.

Surin Islands here we come…

Obviously, this was off the cards until Ian felt better, so I passed an uneventful few days lazing by the pool and exploring the local beaches (which were packed full of holidaymakers on sun loungers). The local night market was a hub of activity, but disappointingly full of fake bags, clothing, cheap cocktails and street food.  

Tsunami memorial

One morning I visited the International Tsunami Museum, a two-storey building which housed exhibits explaining how these terrible natural disasters occur (and most importantly, what to do if one strikes), along with traumatic testimony and videos from those caught up in the events of that fateful day.  Over 5000 people lost their lives in Thailand alone, almost half of these were foreign tourists.  I do remember watching the tragedy unfolding on the news and it gave me nightmares for the next few evenings, especially when what I thought was a warning tower, turned out to be a water tower!  I couldn’t bring myself to go anywhere near the beach after that and worked out my route to the nearest high building…

Truly paradise!

We did brave a snorkelling trip to the Surin Islands when Ian finally began to recover.  Although they did live up to their reputation – the water clarity was amazing and we saw literally millions of fish (although I didn’t count!), several “crown of thorns” starfishes and Ian swears he saw a (small!) shark.  We were rather disappointed though to find that the tour was a huge, very commercial operation, with over 200 people crammed into a handful of boats for the 1½ hour ride across to the picturesque archipelago.

Crown of thorns starfish

Our first stop was a visit to the Moken village where several tribes of “sea gypsies” lived.  I always feel a little awkward in these situations.  Evidently, the villagers accepted the hordes of tourists who visited their home each day, and made a little money from selling jewellery and souvenirs. It still felt slightly voyeuristic, like visiting a “human zoo”, so we kept our distance.

The Moken Village

I continue to feel a little despondent at the effects of mass tourism and its consequences for our planet.  The amount of litter, plastic and debris on many of the beaches is particularly disheartening. Thailand in particular, is almost totally dependent on tourism, and having suffered quite badly during the Covid epidemic, is understandably keen to recoup and recover lost business. I concede that my hunger for travel over the years may have contributed, but I continually try to discover the more “authentic” and natural places with fewer visitors (where they exist) and prefer to go slightly out of season. 

To be fair, I’m sure there may have been quieter and less commercialised beaches along this stretch of coastline, but we were glad to head inland, to our next stop – The Khao Sok National Park.

Next Stop: Withering Heights 

More photos…

Surin island taxi rank
Gone fishing!
Sea gypsy village
Kathy...on the rocks
I've gone upmarket with my choice of crisps!
Our hotel...I wish!!

8 thoughts on “Thailand Fling 12 – Nightmare Beach”

  1. Omg ….you certainly evoked deep feelings visiting that area. It’s ashame that tourism leaves such an inpact in the environment. It can change….why don’t they start!. We were in Cornwall for a couple of weeks …just returned home. They are plastic free….some of Andreas friends were involved and its been a hard slog, especially as more people have a stacation holiday these days . Glad to hear Ian is better. John had Compylobacter really bad….6 years ago (eating chicken at Minneapolis airport). I told him not to!!!!! He has been a vegetarian (like me) since! Although he did eat a pasty in Cornwall and thoroughly enjoyed it (beef not chicken). Enjoy your journey still and take care of each other. Love your stories xxxxxxxx

  2. I feel your angst at the impact of travel…but of all the things foreign guests can do, is at least properly deal with their own garbage. I’m confident of your deep respect in this regard. Your sharing your travels helps us live vicariously…so in a way, you’re possibly minimizing our footprints helping us feel satisfied enough at what you shared!!

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