Peace And Quiet In Khanom

It may be hard to believe, but there is still a relatively untouched beach paradise to be found in Thailand.

A world away from the crowds of Phuket or Samui (though quite geographically close to the latter) is Khanom – home to fishing boats, pink dolphins and calm, virtually uninhabited beaches.

The vibe of this place runs counter to the overtly commoditised Thai holiday experience of sprawling resorts and full moon parties, which is exactly what we were looking for in a quick getaway from Shanghai.

In terms of things to do, your options are limited. This is exactly the kind of place to get away from it all, kick back, read some books and swim in the bath-warm waters of the Gulf of Thailand.

Among the activities on offer, a boat trip to see the area’s rare species of pink dolphin is a truly special experience.

The Indo-Pacific Humpback species of dolphin is born grey, but gradually turns pink as it advances in age.

In Khanom, fishing is still the main industry and fishermen have been feeding these dolphins their smallest catch off the side of boats for generations (mainly to prevent the dolphins trying to eat fish from the nets and becoming entangled).

Given their long history with friendly people who feed them, a pink dolphin sighting is quite likely, as the water-borne mammals sidle up to the sides of boats looking for an easy meal.

If you want to do more than get a glimpse though, you had better be quick with that camera, as flashes of pink fin above the water disappear as quickly as they surface.

These dolphins may be spectacular to look at, but they are not exactly Instagramfriendly.

If you’re feeling even more energetic, a mountain-biking trip through the ancient evergreen forests, or a chance to stretch your legs by hiking to some of the local area’s waterfalls and caves are also options.

A visit to the local market (held every Monday and Wednesday) offers a glimpse into small town life in Thailand.

Foreign tourists are still something of a curiosity in this part of the country, which is popular mainly as a domestic tourism destination, and foreign visitors can expect to attract (friendly) attention from local people as they make their way around town.

These are all options in and around Khanom, though doing nothing at all is a perfectly acceptable alternative, with many visitors happy to content themselves with the beaches, the quiet and the stoic company of palm trees.

Atte Savisalo and Kati Hakkinen were certainly enamoured with the locale when they first saw it on a backpacking trip six years ago. So much so, they bought a plot of land and have transformed it into a boutique hotel and wellness centre, perched as close to the waters of the idyllic Nadan Beach as local law allows.

Aava Resort & Spa has only 28 rooms, including standalone poolside villas with personal access to the central swimming pool from an outside deck. The whole resort is imbued with a fresh, Scandinavian-style minimalism in its design – which isn’t a huge surprise given Savisalo and Hakkinen’s Finnish background.

If you are looking for a holiday with a wellness, as well as beach focus, Aava offers a weekly program of classes, including tai chi, yoga, meditation and Thai kick-boxing, led by wellness coordinator and all around nice guy, Khun Chack, in a breezy outdoor studio with water views – or on the beach itself.

Chack makes it easy to get over any initial self-consciousness about your ability or fitness level with his manner, which quickly puts his students at ease, as he cleverly adjusts each class to cater to the needs of the people in it.

A popular addition to the wellness schedule has been the kids’ Thai boxing class, which helps youngsters burn
off any excess holiday energy in a fun environment.

Savisalo and Hakkinen – themselves parents to two young children who can often be seen living a rather sublime childhood around the resort – have set out to make Aava a family-friendly destination, and the staff seem to take extra special care in attending to their youngest guests.

The spa menu even has treatments designed especially for kids, which is not only thoughtful, but also rather adorable.

There are a large number of resorts in Thailand dedicated to weight loss and fasting, but the Aava attitude to wellness is a very low-key, balanced one. This is rather lucky, because if you were fasting or on a strict diet, you might have to miss out on the wonderful meals being churned out by the Aalto Restaurant.

Given the lack of international restaurant options in Khanom, the quality on offer at Aalto is particularly welcome for international travellers.

Specialising in Euro-Asian fusion with a light touch (there are healthy options for every meal if you are looking for something particularly waistline friendly), Aalto regularly hosts theme nights, including Thai night and a weekly beach barbecue (candlelit dinner accompanied by a generous helping of sand between your toes anyone?).

Between the daily yoga, fresh and tasty food and the twice-daily happy hours (during which cocktails are two-for-one), the biggest problem you’ll have at Aava is dragging yourself away at the end of your stay.

An ideal option for those who want to get away from it all – but also need to bring the kids along for the ride – Khanom and Aava are the perfect antidote to a life lived in the fast lane.


Hot Deal

Wellbeing Escapes, a leading wellness travel company, is currently offering an exclusive “Discover & Unwind” package at Aava Resort & Spa. The minimum five night package starts at £329 (RMB 3,327) per person and includes an invigorating, one-hour Thai Massage, body wrap or scrub, daytrips to discover the local area – including a pink dolphin spotting long boat adventure – unlimited access to wellness activities, daily breakfast and free transfers to and from Surat Thani or Nakhon Si Thammarat airports.