Spring Break In Khao Lak, Thailand

If you are lo oking for an easily accessible, yet utterly serene holiday spot this month, look no further than the peaceful beaches of Khao Lak, which are also a stones throw away from fantastic scuba diving spots and unbelievably breathtaking national parks.

Khao Lak is a quieter Thai village, built up around the tourism industry, yet not as overtly commercialised as some of the more famous resorts on the Andaman Sea. A one and a half hour car journey away from Phuket (which is in turn only a five hour direct flight away from Shanghai) but a world away in character. The village was destroyed by the Boxing Day Tsunami in 2004, however, it has rebuilt itself in the following years to include a small restaurant and bar strip and a range of hotels and resorts dotted around the secluded beaches. This is the type of destination where you won’t see hoards of tourists stepping on and off busses, or drunken foreigners drinking and partying into the small hours. This is the location to partake in some good, clean fun with all of the family.

We opted to stay at the newly-opened Manathai Khao Lak, a quintessentially Thai hotel with fantastic service, comfortable rooms and great views. It would have been very easy to stay within the confines of the boutique resort for the entirety of our trip, however, we tore ourselves away from the beachfront living to test out the famed diving spots around the Similan Islands and experience the beauty of up-andcoming Khao Sok. Both destinations were about an hour away by car, and we were able to book these trips as day excursions through the hotel’s travel service.

Khao Sok

Khao Sok, although probably relatively unknown to foreigners, is experiencing a bit of a revival amongst Thai travellers. Think of it as the Bangkok city dweller’s answer to Moganshan for Shanghai residents. You go there to experience nature, eat fresh, healthy dishes and enjoy the lack of mobile phone coverage. The national park covers 738.74 square kilometres and includes Rajjaprabha Dam as well as an expansive rain forest. We took a boat out on the waters of Rajjaprabha Dam, which was created in 1987 after resettling families from the area. The dam generates power as well as regulates flood control, irrigation and fishing. The landmasses emerging from the body of water appear to be islands, but they are actually the tips of sandstone, mudstone and limestone mountains which rise from about 300 to 600 metres above sea level. The water gets its unique aqua marine colour thanks to the residue from these limestone mountains, making it picture perfect every time. However, it is definitely worth missing monsoon season here as the mountain range is said to be the country's wettest region. After speeding past these peaks by boat, we stopped for a delicious seafood meal at one of the raft house hotels. These basic shacks are in the middle of the dam and, if you are willing to go back to the very basics, you can spend a night sleeping above the fishes. It is also possible to visit Khao Sok’s elephant farm on the way back to the hotel, where you can take an elephant jungle trek or help to bathe the magnificent mammals in the river, an amazing chance for young children to get up close and personal with these giant creatures.

Similan Islands

Our second tour of the trip was to the Similan Islands. We had heard great things about the destination, as it is listed as one of the top ten dive sites on earth, however, we were a bit sceptical about joining the masses on an organised speed boat tour. Our tour was with Wow Andaman, and although there were masses of people at the ferry terminal when we arrived first thing in the morning, tourists were later broken down into smaller chunks, and our boat was not crowded at all. We visited three of the nine granite islands and snorkelled at two different locations. There was also a fantastic Thai buffet spread put on for guests at one of the islands, which was pretty surprising seeing as there was no kitchen. You have got to be quick off the mark if you plan on visiting the Similan Islands this year as they are closed from 15 May to 1 November, due in part to bad weather and to preserve them for the future. In fact, the islands that tour groups are allowed to visit are often rotated to make sure that the natural habitat is not damaged. It is possible to stay on the islands themselves, however, bookings are arranged through the marine national park and they can be hard to obtain, so most people opt to visit on a day trip from Khao Lak.

Describing the pristine nature and splendour of the islands does not do them justice. The startlingly white sand and bright blue waters make you feel as if you are walking around in a National Geographic magazine cover. The islands are busy, but tour groups are constantly coming and going, so it is possible to get a quiet moment to yourself. Due to the strict rules of the national marine park, local wildlife is thriving and we were able to snorkel with two playful green back turtles, which were as long as our torsos, and who seemed to be daring us to a game of chicken - testing who would change their course of direction first before butting heads with the other. From the speedboat, we also spotted a pod of dolphins that circled boats in the area with lackadaisical interest.

Our trip to Khao Lak had all the makings of a flawless family holiday. The unadulterated, empty coastline is the perfect backdrop to boutique hotel living, and the activities in the local area mean that it will be impossible for any member of the family to become bored.

Manathai Khao Lak

Manathai Hotels & Resorts are a unique collection of boutique properties located in some of Thailand’s most beautiful and culturally rich destinations. Each property embodies its own style and charm, with inspiration drawn from local surroundings and Thailand’s diverse culture and flavours. International and local travellers alike are offered an experience steeped in traditional Thai values of serenity, hospitality and friendship.

Independent Thai hospitality group Manathai Hotels & Resorts' ability to tap a deeper, authentic Thai experience is embodied in Manathai Khao Lak - the latest addition to a stunning beachfront collection of inimitable boutique resorts. The newly opened hotel, located on a pristine coastline overlooking the crystal clear Andaman, with the luscious, green mountains and rainforest of Khao Lak National Park to its rear, is the ideal getaway for couples or families with a range of room options from the more basic deluxe balcony room, to suites and even villas with private pools. The hotel also has a dedicated Kids Club, to make the holiday special for each member of the family, with daily activities such as treasure hunts, beach yoga and cooking classes. These organised activities are not restricted to the children either, adults are welcome to grab a hotel kayak and paddle it out into the gentle break of the waves. And if this seems like it might lead you to overexert yourself on your holiday, then you will be just as content sitting by the large pool or in the beautifully manicured garden beside the beach, with a drink from the Pool Bar, basking in the tropical heat. Make sure you stay until the early evening for a technicoloured sunset reflected on the water.

Manathai Khao Lak is located a 90-minutes drive from Phuket International Airport, and is a window to nature at its finest: cave kayaking in Phang Nga Bay, diving at the world renown Similan Islands and trekking in Khao Sok National Park, featuring the world's oldest evergreen forest. It has 158 beautifully appointed and spacious rooms, starting at 48sqm in size.

The meaningful cultural connection continues at Manathai Khao Lak's 'Pad Thai' restaurant, a signature beachfront and poolside culinary concept that celebrates and gets creative with one of Thailand's most iconic and best-loved dishes.

'Pad Thai' has a variety of pad and stir-fried dishes in its 'Pad Gourmet' section, with each menu tailored by its tireless, German head chef to reflect the destination. Expect to enjoy fresh, high quality, locally sourced ingredients, local street food specialities and other classic favourites. The attention to detail in both restaurants is second to none on this part of the coastline.

Manathai Khao Lak's recreation, services and facilities includes a swimming pool, a fitness centre, a 24-hour reception and concierge service, 24-hour security, complimentary Wi-Fi, room service, luggage storage, in-room dining, an oncall doctor, private library, private airport transport services, motorbike and car rental, childcare services and an activities and tour service. It also boasts a unique meeting space for up to 30 guests, while it has a team of expert event planners who can stage the perfect sunset beach wedding.

Manathai Khao Lak introduces guests to a visually captivating and culturally vibrant destination, as well as a stylish and charming resort inspired by the surrounds and flavours. Moreover, the property is offering special opening rates starting from THB 4895++, which includes daily breakfast for two people in a Deluxe Balcony room until 30 April 2015.

For more information on the special opening rates, visit www.manathai.com