After a long and somewhat tiring flight via Dubai we arrived at Phuket International to the welcome of sultry night air and the promise of a tropical paradise. We arrived at the Robinson Club Khao Lak just before midnight to a warm welcome, easy check-in, and a late snack supper before tumbling into bed.
Awakening from my jetlagged slumber the next morning I opened the curtains to be greeted with the sight of towering palm trees, squirrels making mischief along the rooftops and the shimmering waters of a vast swimming pool. It was a perfect day for the beach, just the thing to wash away the weariness and jetlag. The perfect tropical paradise to start our Thailand Adventure.
Robinson Club Khao Lak is located approximately 86km from Phuket International Airport (about a 90-minute drive) on the west coast of Thailand along a section of the long, sandy Pak Weep beach within the Khao Lak National Park. The beautifully manicured tropical gardens and swimming pools give way to a palm fringed beach and the turquoise waters of the Andaman Sea where a gentle swell beckons.
From the soft white sand, I step into the deliciously warm ocean, chest deep in turquoise water with little fish swimming around me – absolute bliss. Escape the sun under a sun umbrella and sip an icy drink… delightful.
A short walk up the beach is an open-air spa offering well-prices massages – I opt for the neck, back and shoulder massage which ends up as an hour of very firm massage from the tips of my toes to the top of my head – all for about R400.
We continue our walk along the beach, pausing for an icy local beer at one of the beachside bars, they serve a great selection of cocktails too.
This is a great way of supporting local entrepreneurs and ensuring that your spend does not only stay within the coffers of an international brand hotel, especially seeing as Robinson Club offer a full board option that includes buffet style breakfast, lunch, and dinner as well as a selection of beverages (soft drinks, tea, coffee and beer on tap as well as a great table wine). The buffets were imaginative and beautifully displayed and included a wide variety of local and European choices as well as vegan and ‘special diet’ options.
The full board option is great for groups and those travelling on a restricted budget as you can at least know what costs you are in for up-front. Keep in mind that there are specialty restaurants and a selection of bars (with great cocktails) that are at an extra cost. And the spa looked fabulous – to be kept in mind for our next visit!
With all this fabulous food, be grateful for the vast grounds – including a walking/running track, sporting facilities, well-equipped gym and Robinson WellFit, a balanced wellness and fitness program that includes sauna and massages or yoga and indoor cycling. There’s even SUP boarding if you prefer water sports.
Our choice of exercise were lengthy beach walks and early morning birdwatching through the wooded areas and along the lake edge. If you are a keen birder, remember your binoculars!
With these expansive grounds you realise just how much upkeep is required. And with a large selection of rooms, suites, villas and bungalows to keep the housekeeping team busy.
Add the friendly, ever-smiling, team of waitrons and the vast team that would be required to keep us all well-fed, you can understand why Robinson Khao Lak is a huge employer in this coastal area – with most of their employees coming from the local communities. They also support local tour operators with the choice of tours and excursions that are offered to guests, which is commendable.
The grounds are spectacular with manicured gardens filled with tropical plants to lakes, forests and jungle – all interspersed with authentic Thai detail.
We had a local taxi pick us up for a visit to the Tsunami Memorial in the nearby small market own of Takua Pa, about 20km away. The memorial is an educational yet moving experience. Seeing the images in the region where it happened, photos of the beaches we had walked on, the remains of the Thai navy boat 813, a large steel vessel that was carried almost two kilometres inland by the force of the water, and he devastation and loss of life that it caused made it so much more of a reality.
One positive of this occurrence is that people now know what to do, and with all the evacuation routes marked and early warning systems in place, such a disaster is unlikely to have the same effect again. So, beachgoers and visitors to Thailand’s coastal regions and islands have little to fear.
A stroll across the street had us at the Bang Niang Market which opens at 15:00 and goes on until about 20:00. There was the usual Thai market produce – clothing, bags, sunglasses, toys, spices, medicinal balms etc. as well as both fresh produce and ready cooked meals, for both takeaway and sit-down. This was our first Thai market so from a health perspective we opted for fresh fruit and the yummiest of banana fritters (our ‘food-bravery’ increased the longer we stayed in Thailand, but for safety sake we always chose freshly prepared food).
In keeping with the local experience, we took a Songthaeo, essentially a pick-up truck with a wooden structure and bench seats on the back, to our hotel. An enjoyable, and recommended experience!
So, what did I love most about Robinson Club Khao Lak?
- The absolute relax that it offered, the beautiful beach and wonderfully warm ocean – be aware of the tides before you venture out for a long walk on the beach, you may get wet.
- The friendly people and fabulous cuisine – and meeting General Manager Erol Wieldt whilst multi-tasking as chef on the evening of the Gala Event creating yummy scallops with ratatouille.
- The absolute sense of Thai’ness, with delicious Thai cuisine, lotus lilies, old stone walls, statuettes, wooden carvings, and architectural details.
- And of course their visible eco-credentials… glass water bottles in room, water in a jug at mealtimes, and a sign saying ‘I am not a plastic straw’ at the bar.