There’s more to Thailand than gentleman’s clubs and rooftop parties. Travel+Leisure India & South Asia checks into the recently-opened Avani + Khao Lak Resort to experience the quieter side of the country. By Adila Matra
I am a couple of miles away from the full moon parties of Thailand. Khao Lak, located in the Phang Nga Province of Southern Thailand, is quieter than its neighbouring coastal destinations, and straddles two worlds: a 30-km coastline made up of white sandy beaches, resorts, and towns; and a rich eco-system of rainforests, mountains, mangroves, and waterfalls.
At Avani + Khao Lak Resort, I experience the best of the former. A one-hour drive from Phuket International Airport, the latest property from Avani Hotels (launched in March 2022) stands on the stunning Phang Nga coastline. Despite its newness, the property is abuzz with guests when I arrive—crying toddlers, elderly travel groups in floral outfits, lovestruck couples, and Insta-savvy teenagers—most of them are domestic tourists. It is the Thai New Year weekend, someone remarks.
From the spacious lobby, I spot The Pantry where guests are grabbing coffee and cakes. Below the lobby is Elements, which would serve as my breakfast destination for the next few days. My Deluxe Pool Access Room faces one of the four swimming pools of the resort. It is a long walk from the lobby, so I opt for the club car ride. On the way, I stop to admire the Andaman Sea, Avani + Khao Lak has its very own stretch of white-sand beach; there are teal bean bags and hammocks from where you can sip a cocktail and gaze at the wonderful blue. Lunch is served at The Beach House, the ocean-view restaurant with glass walls on all sides for obvious reasons. I recommend the Wagyu beef sliders—the aged cheddar cheese and BBQ dijon mustard sauce are perfect condiments.
I spot the resort’s Thai boxing ring on the walk back. It is where you can burn all those calories under the guidance of the resident Muay Thai master. There is also a climbing wall in the AvaniFit gym, a private on-site skate park, and a tennis court. I give them a miss—a nap and a sundowner by the sea seem more tempting.
On my evening stroll around the 1,00,000-square-metre resort, I stumble upon the Beachfront Pool Villa. I walk along the winding pathway that leads from its deck, a canopy of leaves and branches gradually opens up to the sea. The sun has put on a brilliant show, painting the sky gold, orange, blue, and white. The sea, meanwhile, is a beautiful patchwork of grey and orange. There isn’t a better way to end the day.
Next morning, I leave for Tambon Lam Kean, an 18-minute car ride away from Avani + Khao Lak, where you can sail down Lam Ru River on bamboo rafts, under the archway of trees that are over 100 years old. The local who steers the raft occasionally points towards reticulated pythons on branches just metres above me. A couple of kingfishers look down from their nests, monitor lizards scamper around, and butterflies play catch-me-if-you-can. At the end of the trip, I take a dip in the cool waters of Lam Ru.
The resort is also close to other must-visit sites in Khao Lak. Takua Pa Old Town is the ideal street to stroll through and admire the Sino-Portuguese architecture. Kopi Kuapa, a rustic café in the town sells tea, coffee, and mooncakes. We also pass the Wall of the Governor’s Residence that was built by Praya Senanuchit, Governor of Takua Pa in 1843, to protect his residence from Chinese gangs.
There are two ways to end a trip to Khao Lak. One is to head to Memories Beach, the epicentre of the surfing scene in Khao Lak. It is also home to a beachside shack bar by the same name. I grab a drink and make my way through teenage surfers and backpackers to find an empty hammock on the beach. There is Bob Marley playing in the background and couples lazing on the sand. It is perfect.
Another is to unwind at AvaniSpa. Round your extraordinary holiday with a signature Avani massage while enjoying the rustle of the leaves outside. There is no way you would miss the wild side of Thailand.
Getting To Avani + Khao Lak Resort
Thai Airways flies from Delhi to Phuket with a stopover in Bangkok. From the airport, Avani + Khao Lak is one hour away.
Choose from 327 suites and rooms at Avani + Khao Lak. Doubles from INR 7,059
Avani+ Mai Khao Phuket Suites & Villas is an easy 15 minutes from the Phuket airport. Doubles from INR 7,743