Leaving Ko Samui I grab a car ferry heading back to Don Sak on the mainland. While many of the travellers on the ferry are heading elsewhere, I turn south.
To the west lies Surat Thani, the transport hub for the region. Once there, many will continue west to Khao Sok or Krabi, or turn north to Chumphon or Bangkok. To the south though, lies roughly 50 km of beach backing onto the towns of Khanom and Sichon. It is to the former I’m bound.
Bye bye Samui. Photo: Stuart McDonald.
The beaches along this strip are closer to those around Chumphon than those of the islands I’ve left behind. The sand isn’t as white and the waters not as clear, but the area more than compensates with a low key, little–visited vibe.
I first heard of the area courtesy of a German traveller in a cafe on Samui. Stefan Loose Handbook in hand, he painstakingly translated paragraph after paragraph to me. “This is the place,” he told me, “you must go here—it is perfect for you.” Of course I ignored him, and, like near everybody else went to Krabi. Years later, I took his advice and visited. Walking down the beach, I immediately regretted not taking his advice the first time.
What is it with Germans always having the up on everyone else?
Haad Nadan—this will do nicely. Photo: David Luekens.
Haad Nadan is Khanom’s primary strip of sand. This was the first area to see tourism development, yet despite the number of places to stay, the beach is empty. Perhaps five kilometres long, the wide sand runs due south, backing onto palms and little more. About two hundred metres in off the beach a simple narrow road follows the contour of the coastline. Interspersed by palm plantations, cafes, guesthouses and minimarts pass by. Dogs slumber on the road’s shoulder.
A little over halfway down, on the beach side of the road, I pull into Ban Sonmanee Homestay. Within, bamboo and wooden, thatch roof bungalows rest in the shade. The wind rustles in the trees above, while a short walk away, the beach goes and goes as a ragged surf stumbles in. The huts are a throw back to what were standard issue on Ko Pha Ngan in the early nineties. I feel like I’ve walked into a time warp, but the place ticks all my boxes.
Classic shack at Ban Sommanee. Photo: David Luekens.
This isn’t to say there are not flasher spots to stay in the area—Khanom (and Sichon to the south) are not backpacker hubs. In fact you’re likely to be the only backpacker in town—save a German or two of course. Most of the clientele you’re more likely to meet are Thais—and a few resident foreigners in the know. Full Moon Parties swapped for a cheap seafood dinner with a quiet beer on the sand—the pace of life in Khanom is slow.
The beach is one of a few strung out along this coast, to the north lies Haad Kho Khao and its beachside seafood cafes. Further north, people arrange boat trips to spot the pink Irrawaddy dolphins that frolic off the coast. To the south lay more beaches, while an inland waterfall offers respite from the heat if the ocean isn’t your thing.
I’ll work this off tomorrow. Photo: David Luekens.
In the scheme of things though, these are excuses for distractions. Many do little more than swim, read and walk the beach—and that is a large part of the appeal.
Tomorrow I’ll get two wheels and explore.
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