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Thailand 23/02/02 - 09/03/02

Khao Lak Bay Front - Days four and five - leaving for The Pimalai, Ko Lanta

We enjoy our last day on this stretch of coastline at the beach, all of 20 yards from our bungalow. We revisit Tukta's, the restaurant along the bay to the north, knowing this time to take books to read, as the service is unhurried to say the least. Today lunch takes us a total of three hours, as Mrs A chooses not only from the food menu, but also from the massage menu, and after digesting another delish fresh dinner washed down by fresh coconut and pineapple cocktails, she has another massage. I start to wonder whether this is a daily event as I am yet to have one, but she assures me that this is a different type of massage, and so I decide to take a stroll and discover Khao Lak centre.

The beach front stretches busily to the north along this coastline, and turning inland just past the stretch of beach huts that Tukta's is a part of, I discover that there is a pleasant local village, albeit one pandering to the needs of the passing tourist trade. It seems that you can get most everything you need here, and I find a CR2 battery for our instamatic camera before trudging back down the road towards our hotel, in the heat of the early afternoon sun.


It is decided that we will try a restaurant in Khao Lak for our last dinner, and while we go through the usual early evening, post beach preening holiday session the phone in our room rings, and we are told there is a call from the local Kuoni agents. This is timely as we were about to ask at reception as to whether any information had been given about our transfer. The nature of the vibe of our hotel has relaxed us to a state of not really being bothered to find out abolt how we were going to get to Ko Lanta, and we assumed that Kuoni would have it all sorted - and sure enough they did. However there was good news and bad news. The bad news was that our transfer to the Pimalai hotel on Ko Lanta left at 7 am, but the good news that because the hotel was fully booked we were being upgraded from 'seaview bungalow' to 'junior suite'. Wow - no complaints there! So we did a little packing before heading up to reception, sorry to be saying goodbye so soon.

The staff at the Khao Lak Bay Front have been so kind, and tonight is no exception. After asking to have a taxi called we are put into a Volvo (of all cars) and driven to our choice of destination for free by one of the girls. Great. We change some money (at a mobile bank in the back of a van), have a delicious dinner (at the overrated Old Siam restaurant - see The Rough Guide), and return to pay our bill and thank our new friends.

Pimalai Resort transferOur 6 am wake up call disturbs us from deep sleep, but we make it to the restaurant for breakfast shortly after first light, and are greeted by our chauffeur, who, it turns out has driven all the way from The Pimalai Hotel on Ko Lanta that morning. We are told that the transfer is a four hour trip of approximately 250 kilometers, and hunker down in the air conditioned Pimalai minivan as we press on south east.

We doze on and off, admire the stunning misty early morning views, stop for a break, and eventually cross into the Krabi province. At Krabi airport our guide, who speaks little English, gestures that we are taking another break, and as it turns out we are to wait for an hour and a half for the next Bangkok flight to land, to pick up some more Pimalai hotel guests. We succumb not wishing to let on that we'd rather get to the hotel, but the break passes quickly with Elton John interviewed live on the Larry King show being broadcast in arrivals.

We are joined by five - a young friendly American couple from Colorado, two French guys travelling together (you don't ask why), and a Swiss travel journalist who lives in Bangkok and is doing a write up on the Pimalai. It is another hour before we finally pull up back at the coast at a little ferry jetty which turns out to be the Pimalai's own, and at the end of the jetty waits a smart Pimalai branded speedboat, which, after being given complimentary drinks and the option to sit on the top, the deck, or in the air conditioned cabin, whisks us across from the mainland, past Ko Lant Noi, and along the west coast of Ko Lanta Yai to the private jetty of the Pimlai, some of the way down the 25 km island.

Our party disembarks to walk towards the beautifully landscaped hotel grounds, along a somewhat wobbly floating jetty, before being whisked up to the lobby in golf carts. Now this place really is something else. Open since November 2001 (that's four months) and owned by Europeans it is an attempt at one of those ultimate luxury getaways - and they've pretty much got it right. Initially you assume that even though the accommodation isn't that pricey you are going to get roped into doing nothing other than eating, drinking and arranging excursions through the hotel, as it is relatively well out of the way (with 10 km of very dusty dirt track before you hit a tarmac road to the north and the rest of civilisation). But as it turns out this is not to be the case.



We are given welcome drinks, orchid welcome garlands and refreshing towels all at once and the kurt receptionists take the usual info before you are bundled back into the golf carts and driven around and down to your room.

Junior Suite bed, Pimalai Resort, Ko Lantaswimming pool, Pimalai Resort, Ko LantaNow I expect our seaview room would have been pretty
special, but the junior suites are spectacular. You have your own gateway, your own front door, a very large en suite bathroom with an outdoor and indoor shower, a sunken bath in the window in the centre of your bathroom and his and hers handbasins at either side. (I won't mention the phone in the toilet!) The rest of the room is pretty special too. There's a digital safe, his and her bath robes, torch and hairdryer, polished mahogany flooring, a fridge/minibar, satellite TV and your own veranda with sea view through the jungle below. We've no complaints and run around excitedly taking photos and eating the complimentary fruit basket.

We case the rest of the joint, and it really is beautiful sited. The architect had some vision, but on closer inspection we think that the project manager may have overlooked a few key details, which we guess will inevitably be ironed out by the time the main road down the rest of the coast has been built, as it surely must be. And by then this part of the hotel will be joined by a newer section which looks like it will fill the southern half of the bay, and then they really will have a world leading establishment.

sunsets on Ko LantaThe place is modelled on the Datai, Langkawi. There's a wonderful airy bar below reception to watch the sunset from, and have a long gin sling; there's a (rather faked) jungle walk down to the next level where the top notch Pimalai restaurant is, which (if you are eating Thai) isn't that over priced; then there's the stunning 'infinity' pool, which allows you to perch on the edge of the view as you swim in the beautifully refreshing, if a little shallow water; the pool bar, which also serves lunch, and the beach bar and restaurant, which opened last night! Four months in, and our main comments would be: no shade other than the sun umbrellas near the pool; no direct walking access to all the rooms from the reception level; and not enough shade on the beach for the restaurant (although this was resolved during our stay). Plus, they should try to blend in to the island a bit more. By that I mean that you feel like you really could be anywhere - that there's no connection with the rest of the Ko Lanta - a shuttle to Ban Sala Dan in the north of the island costs almost a tenner a head, and although you can hire a car here the only other available transport (apart from kayak) is bicycle, which is fairly ridiculous considering the state of the dirt tracks, and the nature of most
of the hotel residents!

We beach and pool it. We watch wonderful sunsets, eat on the beach and in the restaurant (where breakfast is also served, and is your only chance of seeing who the other guests are - no one famous!), and we enjoy the unbridled luxury, but feel a little trapped by not being able to get around the island, and do the excursions that we had wanted to do. We decide to take the plunge though and cough up a bit of dosh to do a snorkelling trip to Ko Rok, and hire one of the hotel jeeps for later in the week.


Summary | Bangkok | Bangkok Day Two | Khao Lak Bay Front Resort | Khao Lak Day Two | Ko Similan Islands
Turtle Conservation Festival | Leaving Khao Lak for Pimalai Resort, Ko Lanta | Ko Rok Snorkelling
Pimalai Resort and Ko Lanta Driving Tour | Leaving Thailand
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