White sand stretches off for miles into the distance. Gentle waves lap at your feet as you gaze up at the blue sky. The beach is mostly empty around you, with no sounds apart from the sea and the cries of a few birds. The tiny town behind you almost seems empty, devoid of drunken tourists, bars and the tacky commercialisation you’ve seen around some other beaches in Thailand. A smile of contentment crosses your face, as you realise you’ve find the perfect place to relax and recharge. This is Khanom, the sleepy Thai beach town two hours from Koh Samui that is also a world away.
Thailand is full of beautiful beaches, but many of them have been well and truly discovered. Lots of formerly idyllic spots have been marred by rampant commercialisation. As soon as you set foot in sleepy Khanom you’ll see it’s different. Here the beaches are largely empty, with very few foreign tourists around. There are no full moon parties, go-go bars and very little development to mar the views. This is the Gulf of Thailand as it used to be. So come here to get off the backpacker circuit and recharge your batteries.
THINGS TO DO
It’s easy to see the main reason for coming to Khanom: the long, golden sands of it’s beaches. Haad Nadan is the main beach, and stretches for 9 kilometres. The beach is largely unspoilt with little development to ruin the views. Most of the time you will see only a handful of people on the beach. I found the southern part of the beach (called Hua Thanon beach) to be the nicest, with plenty of palm trees for shade and one chilled-out bar nearby. The sea is good for swimming around here too most of the time.
Nai Plao Beach
Just south of Nadan is this beautiful little beach. It lies at the south end of the bay, with the jungle clad hills providing a dramatic backdrop. This beach was very quiet too, though I’ve heard it can get busier as there are a handful of resorts that are popular with Thais looking for a secluded getaway.
Ao Thong Yee Beach
If you keep heading south the narrow road climbs up over the headland, with jungle clad mountains on one side and the brilliant blue of the sea beyond the rocks on the other side. This is the quietest beach, as when I went there was only one resort which had just been finished. The beach has beautiful, soft powdery white sand, though the sea is rougher here.
Visit Samut Chun Waterfall
If you’ve had enough of salt water for one day, you can head here to enjoy a dip in the refreshing, cool waters of the waterfall pools. It’s far from the most spectacular waterfall in Thailand, but it’s a great place to visit on a hot day. The views of the coast from here are also superb.
You will have to either walk here or come by your own transport.
Pink Dolphin Spotting
I didn’t go dolphin spotting, but this is the best region in Thailand to see these extremely rare animals. You can hire a boat for up to six people from Laem Prathap Pier to take you out for a few hours.
Hire a Scooter and explore
The roads around Khanom are generally extremely quiet, with very little traffic. It’s the perfect place to rent a motorbike or scooter and go off exploring the coast.
I hadn’t heard about Khanom before I went there, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. I found it to be a great place to spend a few days, with some glorious beaches that were largely empty. It made a nice change from some of the other beaches in Thailand, which have been flooded with tourists for years. Here you can really kick back and relax. If you want to experience a quiet Thai beach, this is one of the best places on the gulf to stay.
Khanom doesn’t have the range of accommodation options of the more popular Thai beach destinations, especially at the budget end. There are no hostels or cheap beach huts, and not many guesthouses. It’s predominately aimed at Thai tourists, so you will find mostly hotels and small resorts.
This guesthouse is located in the centre of town about 1km from Nadan beach. It’s reasonably priced and the double rooms come with TVs and fridges.
Stella Resort Khanom
This guesthouse is one of the best places for backpackers to stay in Khanom. It’s located on a very quiet road a ten minute walk from the beach. The owners are very friendly and helpful. The rooms are quite large and spotless, and all of them face onto a courtyard garden. There is also a small kitchen here and laundry service.
Khanom Garden Suite
This place seems like one of the best budget options near the beach, as it’s just 500 metres from Nadan beach. All the rooms come with air-conditioning, balconies and refrigerators.
Getting There and away
Transport options are very limited in Khanom, with no public transport, taxis or even tuk-tuks! If you don’t want to walk everywhere you can rent a scooter or bicycle. On the plus side the lack of transport helps add to the serene atmosphere. Minivans are the only way to get to and from Khanom. Quite a few minivans leave each day to Surat Thani and Nakon Si Thamarat. The minivan to Surat Thani costs 100 baht and takes an hour. Minivans to Nakon cost 80 baht and take just over an hour.