Khanom and Sichon are coastal towns between Surat Thani and Nakhon Si Thammarat in South East Thailand. Khanom beaches are often mentioned on travel forums as a top-spot to find empty, naturalistic, beautiful beaches. Googling turns up words like ‘perfection’, and ‘paradise’.
I decided to check them out for myself.
This is a pretty long account of that motorcycle trip, giving lots of info and pictures from the 80ish km of coastline from near Don Sak in the North to Nakhon Si Thammarat in the South.
All images are clickable for bigger versions.
The main road between Surat Thani and Nakhon Si Thammarat (Nakhon) is the 401, a good quality, fast 2-3, lane highway about 10km inland. Unfortunately, due to inconvenient things like rivers, the little coast roads don’t always join up with each other, so if you are exploring, you will be often be hopping between the coast roads and the inland 401.
I started from Nakhon in the South, so I headed up the 401 as far as the junction with the 4014 and then went the 18km East into Khanom town to start things off.
Here’s a map of Khanom I photographed and marked-up for legibiliy. Ao is ‘bay’, Hat is ‘beach’ and Laem is ‘cape’ or ‘peninsula’.
I actually visited places in a strange order, based on how the weather was looking and where I was staying. For the purposes of this report I’ll start at the Northernmost beaches and keep heading South. So, from where the 4014 hits Khanom Town, lets take a left and go the 15km North to start at the top of the map at Laem Pratub (แหลมประทับ).
Laem Pratub has a small fishing village where you can hire a boat to visit the small islands to the Northeast or go-looking for pink dolphins.
The village itself is pretty ordinary and the big bay (Ao Thong Nean, อ่าวท้องเนียน) that you pass on the way to the village is all mud flats. But the small (?unnamed) sandy bay at the northern end of the cape is isolated and rather pretty.
Next stop South, (well, East, really) is Ao Thong Nod (อ่าวท้องโหนด) – a real peach of a bay if you like the secluded, naturalistic thing. This is the sort of thing that everyone raves about. The pictures speak for themselves, so I’ll let them.
(All pictures on this site are clickable for bigger versions. Pictures of beaches expand to very big pictures so viewers can get a good impression of what the places are actually like. You can click on the image here to open the bigger picture, then click (again) on that to zoom-in to the full sized version.
There are no eats or sleeps in Ao Thong Nod that I could find, just a few private houses set back 100m from the sand and some more on the other side of the track. Friendly locals, but note that no-one speaks English in any of these remote places.
Following that little beauty, I had high hopes for the next two bays South – Ao Kwang Pao (อ่าวแขวงเภา) and Ao Thong Ching (อ่าวท้องชิง). Unfortunately, someone had bulldozed a 3 meter chasm through the access road which had filled with water from the neighbouring paddy fields. Not being into stunt jumping, I had to put those beaches aside for another day. The Tourism Authority of Thailand booklet says that there is accommodation and beachside restaurants in Ao Kwang Pao and that Thong Ching has accommodation and is quiet and isolated because it is enclosed on three sides by mountains. I bet it’s a lot quieter now that it is enclosed on the fourth side by a moat.
The map shows an Ao Thong Kruad (อ่าวท้องครวด) as being the next point South, but no means of getting to it. Although I’m putting this near the beginning of the report, I actually visited the area quite late in my trip and I didn’t have much time left for exploring unmarked tracks, so I skipped this one.
Heading on South gets you to the Northern end of Khanom Town, notably where the big river starts/ends. There is a big fishing port where the road crosses the river and if the fancy takes you, you can watch the local market ladies haggle for the fish being poured off the big fishing boats. It’s a fairly big-scale fishing/port operation and not particularly romantic in a picture-postcard way.
The mouth of the river is 5km East of the town road. The map I had didn’t mention any beaches out there and there was no obvious signs of a road out there, so I didn’t spend too much time looking for one. Some books I have seen since mention a HAT Paak Nam Khanom (หาดปากนํ้าขนอม) at the mouth of the river. By the looks of Gurgle earth there is a small beach and a gas storage plant out there.
Khanom town itself is a standard Thai small town. Just lots of people going about their daily business. It has your fresh markets, local restaurants, ATMs and 7-11 stores. It’s well away from all the tourist beaches and I don’t think they see much tourist traffic in town, especially farang. Getting eats at half the price of the resorts is the main reason to spend time in town.
Over the river and on a few hundred meters takes you to a road off to the left taking you to the first of the well-known Khanom beaches – Hat Kho Khao (หาดคอเขา). Kho Khao is a beautiful, long, empty beach.
We’re into the tourist area now and, unlike the previous beaches, the back of this one has lots of small restaurants, tourist related business and some hotels and resorts. A downside to this area is the transport terminal at the North end of it, where trucks load gravel onto boats via a industrial conveyor. It looks like it doesn’t operate very often, so it’s only the view that’s affected.
On the way from the town road to the beach, there are a few travel agents that do tours out to local attractions (waterfalls, fishing spots, treks, , etc.) and rent-out fishing equipment and cars.
– – –
Just a note here on the main Khanom town beaches – Hat Kho Kao; Hat Na Dam and Hat Nai Plao. This is where almost all the accommodation is, where you are most likely to find a few English-speakers and vehicles to rent.
The beaches are almost empty, but that’s not because the place is a tranquil, undeveloped wonderland, it’s because it’s only visited by Thai people and Thai people generally don’t like to sit on the beach.
There are numerous resorts up and down these beaches. Almost all of them mid-range or high-end. In the restaurants and resorts you’ll find hundreds of middle-class Thais in their best evening clothes being served overpriced food by staff wearing name badges and listening to house bands playing the Thai equivalent of Lionel Richie covers (or if they see a farang face, actual Lionel Richie covers).
If you’re thinking that because the beaches in the central, touristed part of Khanom are empty, then the whole place will be, then you’ll be surprised at how developed it is. Any place that has monstrosities like these, ain’t paradise in my book.
If you’re the explorer type, get out of town quick or just find one of the few cheap places to stay and use it a base from which to strike out to the more northerly or southerly beaches.
If you’re the-stay-on-the-beach/pool type, then check out the resort websites to get a feel for the place. There’s a list of all the main accommodations at the bottom of the map, I’m sure they all have websites.
– – –
The next beach South from Hat Kho Kao is Hat Na Dam (หาดหน้าด่าม) and is the biggest one with the most (and, generally, the most expensive) accommodation. Here’s a snap of the beach about half way down, near the Golden Beach hotel.
I was invited to the hotel’s 10th ‘Ample Moon Party’. Yuk – Lionel Richie covers and overpriced food & drink out in the hotel garden. Not my thing at all. Here’s a picture of their pool, about 30m away from the sea.
Here’s another pic of Hat Na Dam, this time from the Southern End near Khanom Sunrise Resort, looking North.
The next beach South (Hat Nai Plao, หาดในเพลา) is the quietest of the big three. Unlike the previous two beaches, it is on a hillside and the resorts generally have sets of tasteful bungalows spread up and down the hillside, so there’s more rooms with seaviews. The accommodation is either directly on the beach side or more commonly, back across the road. There were signs up in the smaller places for 700B a room (September 2011).
Here’s the beach itself looking North and South. Pretty nice, huh?
Here’s a couple of mid-range sleeps in the South of Hat Nai Plao that aren’t on the tourist map listing. Nai Plao Resort looks like an old Thai stalwart. It is on the beach and had rooms starting at 500B for fan singles. There were some farang staying at Suchada Villa and there were signs up in English, so presumably this is a good option for English-speakers.
Nai Plao Bay Resort Suchada Villa
At the South end of Hat Nai Plao, I found what seems to be the closest thing to budget accommodation that exists in the Khanom main-beach area. Apart from tents, I don’t think you’ll find anything cheaper than Mother Backpacker Homestay which has a spotless 5 bed ac dorm for 300B a night. There’s a fridge, TV and heated shower. There’s also a private (lockable) double room, which shares the bathroom with the dorm. I think they also have regular double rooms in the roadside building for around 400B. Service is friendly and the price includes breakfast. It’s well signposted along the main road.
Heading on South, there are a couple of expensive hilltop resorts and then the isolated 3km road on to the furthest beach South, Ao Thong Yee (อ่าวท้องหยี). About halfway there, there’s another small, beautiful, isolated beach on the left.
It’s only marked at the road level by the big blue water tank of the family who have the house on the beach. The beach is a real naturalistic beauty, has lovely sunrises and some interesting clumps of big rocks. The family (and their two dogs) seem friendly, but don’t speak English. Watch out for the cow shit (this is natural, remember). There are no services here.
Continuing South for the last few kilometres of road takes you to another beautiful isolated beach, Ao Thong Yee. There is a family homestay there – “The End of the Road Homestay”. When I hear homestay, I think ‘box-room out the back by the dustbins and trying to block out the sound of little Kevin practicing the trombone’, but this is actually a 1200B boutique-hotel style double room with en-suite bathroom, set 30m up the hillside. On the beach, there is a big, natural-wood restaurant (presumably catering mainly to day-trippers). This is definitely worth a look if you want to get away from the main beaches and still be able to get food and drink without a 5 km hike. For budgeteers, they will also rent you a tent for the beach for 200B. At such a lovely spot, this has got to be a good option, too.
Well, that’s about it for the Khanom beaches. The next beach down the coast is probably only about 5km away, but the coast road doesn’t connect to it, so you have to go back the 12km North into Khanom town, the 18km West back to route 401, the 30 km South to Sichon town, and then the 15km North East to reach it.
(edit: a kind fellow wrote to me in 2016 saying that there is now a rough,steep track down the coast that can be used by 4×4 vehicles or suicidal motorcyclists)
Just before we leave Khanom, a few general notes about it:
The sea. It was a pretty murky (not dirty, just silt/sand). I didn’t try snorkelling, but I doubt there is much to see. One of the tourist maps does have a drawing of snorkellers at Hat Nai Plao and Au Thong Yee, so maybe it is worth a try in better weather.
The Beaches. The main beaches in the tourist area are wide with a gentle slope. They generally have coconut palms and/or casuarina trees providing shade at the back, with maybe some ‘ivy’ growing down onto the back of the beach. The beaches are pretty clean with usually a tideline of a few twigs, coconut husks and other natural flotsam. The sand is pretty fine, white (“golden”) but note that this means ordinary-white, not Maldives-white.
Getting there: There’s plenty of stuff on the internet about trains/buses from Bangkok/Surat Thani and motorbike taxis to your resort, but you’re really gonna need a motorbike or car around these parts.
Motorbike rentals: Generally it’s pretty difficult for farang to find motorbike rentals in South East Thailand, but it should be a little easier than normal in the tourist area of Khanom.
The shop here (on the left hand side of the road, about 200m South of the multicoloured Khanom Maroc Resort and near the South end of Hat Nai Plao) has a couple of bikes that they rent-out for 250B a day. Tel 081-6761609; 086-9479875.
Asking in garages in the town yielded 081-3003678 as a possible source (which might be a business called Pit Cheeng). I’m guessing that this would be the cheapest, but that they might not speak much English.
Apparently the bar ‘One More Beer’ rents motorbikes out.
Probably a lot of resorts can assist with bike rentals.
Here’s a list of sleeps in the Khanom tourist beach area, roughly listed by location from North to South. This is taken from a tourist map/poster, so it doesn’t include everything, probably just those places that paid to be listed. I’ve added a few South Hat Nai Plao places at the bottom of the list. Someone recommended Talkoo resort to me, but other than that, I have no insight into which are good or bad, I’m afraid.
Far North, Ao Kwang Pao:
Needa Rock Resort________08-1897-6748____________(Map G3)
Town Road, just South of the river
Sada Guest House________________________________(Map H6)
Hat Na Dam:
Alongkot resort___________0–7552-9119; 0-75322-664____I7
Siam Paradise Resort_______0-7552-71515; 08-4745-9823___I7
Jakarin Pool Villas_________08-3632-6669_____________I7
Talkoo Beach Resort________0-7552-8397; 0-75528-667___I8
Baan Civilize______________0-7552-8889; 08-1878-3950___I8
Golden Beach Hotel________0-7532-6688; 0-7532-6710____I8
Aava Resort & Spa_________0-7530-0310; 0-7530-0311____I9
Khanom Sunrise Resort_____0-75300-319______________I10
Hat Nai Plao:
Khanom Hill Resort________0-7530-0222; 08-1956-3101___I10
Nirvana Detox Healing ______0-7530-0255; 08-6906-3103__I10
Supar Royal Beach Hotel_____08-6881-1110_____________I10
Nai Plao Resort____________________________________I11
Mother Home Backpacker____08-9871-6599_____________I11
Green Lay Resort __________081-2703684; 075-528552____I11
Diamond Cliff Resort_______________________________I11
Racha Kiri Resort & Spa_____0-7552-7847; 08-6977-9111___I11
Thong Lee Homestay ______________________________I12
Thai script names: When I was annotating the map, Photoshop wouldn’t accept Thai script, so here’s a plaintext list of all the beach names in English and Thai in case you want to search for google images or something. Hat is beach, Ao is bay, Laem is cape / peninsula. Most of the bays have beaches.
Ao Taled Yai (อ่าวเตล็ดใหญ่)
Ao Taled Noi (อ่าวเตล็ดน้อย)
Laem Pub Phaa (แหลมพ้บผ้า)
Ao Lak Sor (อ่าวหลักซอ)
Laem Pratub (แหลมประทับ)
Ao Thong Nean (อ่าวท้องเนียน)
Ao Thong Nod (อ่าวท้องโหนด)
Ao Kwang Pao (อ่าวแขวงเภา)
Ao Thong Ching (อ่าวท้องชิง)
Ao Thong Kruad (อ่าวท้องครวด)
Paak Nam Khanom (ปากนํ้าขนอม)
Hat Kho Khao (หาดคอเขา)
Hat Na Dam (หาดหน้าด่าม)
Hat Nai Plao (หาดในเพลา)
Hat Thong Yee (หาดท้องหยี)
OK, back on the road – You’ve come down the 401 and taken the main turn-off into the centre of Sichon Town. Sichon is quite sprawling and without having a map of it, I found it quite hard to get my bearings and get to the various beaches to the North and the South. With the benefit of hindsight (and a map) it makes more sense, so here are a couple of maps with the routes North and South marked.
Route to Northern Beaches …Southern
Let’s start by going as far North as we can on the coast road and work back southwards.
Leaving the 401 at the main turn-off into Sichon town, just follow that road East towards the centre of town. You’ll go under the town golden archway and merge in with another big street. Keep going until you hit a T-junction (marked B on the map) which has a sign in English and Thai pointing right to City Hall; Police Station; Hospital; Had Sichon and Had Hin Ham (these are the southern beaches) and left to Suratthani. Go left for the Northern beaches. Then you’ll see another two signs in English pointing right to get to Tong Yang Bay and Tong Yang Waterfall. Follow the road round the tight bend to the right and go for a few hundred meters until you reach a cross-roads. Just before you reach it, there is another sign saying turn right to the Tong Yangs (straight ahead is signposted as the 4161 and to the left is the 4232). Do like the sign said and go right (onto the 4232 Eastbound) and keep going. [Of course, a sensible person (with a map) would have simply left the 401 a junction further North to get straight onto the 4232, rather than going into town, but you’re going to have to deal with junction B later on, so you might as well get familar with it]. Once you are on the 4232 eastbound, keep going for about 15km until you run out of road. You’ll go past various signs for beaches on the right and even be able to spot one from the road but we’ll look at those on the way back South.
When the tarmac road ahead of you runs out (and turns into an overgrown gravel track), make a right (there’s a sign for a boy scout camp) down a steep hill into what I think is a small National Park reserve – it’s certainly some kind of nature conservation project. It leads down to the waterfall Nam Tok Tong Yang (นํ้าตกท้องยาง). Here’s a signpost showing the various facilities inside the ‘park’.
It looks like there are a couple of spots there for sleeping. From what I understand, you have to book ahead in Nakhon (not sure where, but they’d know at one of the TAT offices there). It was quiet when I was there and some of the rangers were happy to offer a mattress in one of the big ‘longhouses’ for 100B. Budgeteers looking for cheap sleeps could try asking in here.
The waterfall itself was pretty tame in late September.
Alright, so now we’ve reached the end of the road, let’s turn around and head back South, the way we came….
The first noteworthy thing is a weird golf-hotel-thing on the right (the Marinan Golf Garden). It has got a driving range in a net and some Swiss-chalet style huts painted in shocking pink. Could be an option for sleeps if you are stuck.
There aren’t many options for sleeps around here and if you want to book something in North Sichon in advance, the main contender is the Khaoplyedum/ Khoplyedum Resort at the bottom of the hill and signposted Tong Yang Bay. The name of the resort is the name of the mountain just to the South (เขาพลายดำ).
You enter the resort into a big, open space that looks like a Thai style public park. There is a big, open dance-hall thing, a few shady sitting areas, huge toilet and changing-room blocks, neatly manicured bushes, colourful flowers and the biggest butterflies I’ve seen in a long time. There is also some kind of huge Jurassic Park style aviary.
The beach is pretty decent here and, of course, empty.
There’s a couple of restaurants (even a dedicated Issan restaurant, according to the sign), parking, and the various accommodation. Rooms are 700B for fan room, and 1300B and 1500B for AC (September 2011), apparently all year-round. There’s some English spoken there. Reservations 075-771111 Fax 075-771030 e: firstname.lastname@example.org There’s no website, but here are some snaps of the blurb at the Reception counter.
Below is some blurb from their pamphlet. It’s beyond my translation skills I’m afraid, but I think they are local activities that you can do, “dive into the waterfall” etc.
เขาพลายดำ ต้นนํ้าใส ให้ร่มเย็น
ท้องเย็นเป็น พัทยา ของนคร ๆ
ป่าดิบชื้น รื่นร่มเงา เขาคู่หาด
ธรรมชาติ น่าอนุรักษ์ ไว้พักผ่อน
เมืองสิชล คนก้าวหน้า สถาพร
ทรัพยากร หลากหลาย มากมีเอย
When I was passing through, there was a sorngtiaw in the car park returning to Nakhon, about 75km away, so maybe there’s some hope for those needing public transport.
Continuing South over the lower slopes of mountain Khao Plaay Dum, you get a nice view of the next set of beaches – Hat Bang Po(r) (หาดบางปอ), Hat Tung Sai (หาดทุ่งใส) and Hat Suam Son (หาดสวนสน).
Close to where the road returns to ground level on the South side of the mountain, there’s a down-home style Thai restaurant on the left that has a small, very basic hut right on the beach. Krauw Bang Por (ครัวบางปอ)(Bang Por Kitchen) was closed when I was there, but come back later to get in touch with your inner backpacker and stay in this sweet old thing, just 20m from the sea.
The restaurant has a shared toilet/shower in a plain concrete block which is presumably used by the hut dwellers, too. The owner’s family-home is on-site, so you could try asking in there. This is the last obvious accommodation until Sichon Town and is the only thing right on the beach anywhere, so give it a try. A few of the homes on the main road 300m back from the beach look like they might get a little enterprising when the season opens up, but I’m only guessing.
A couple of hundred meters further South is a blue sign on the left for Hat Bang Po. This leads down a track to a small family restaurant and the beach is even more gorgeous here. This is what all that bum-numbing motorcycling was for.
Further on South is more of the same beach. It’s all the same long, long stretch of sand, but you can call-in on it where it’s called Hat Tung Sai or Hat Suan Son.
There are some shops on the road about 1 km away from the beach, but no facilities on the beach itself .
Continuing South, after the ‘Pier for Natural Study’ (still under construction in Sept 2011, but is over an inland river, rather than out over the sea), the road veers away from the coast, and you just have to push on for the 10km back to Sichon Town.
To get to Sichon’s Southern beaches, you can’t just continue down the same road you have been on, you have to trace your path back into town, turning right at the crossroads and heading back to the T-junction with the sign for Police Station, Hospital etc (point B on the map).
This time, head East towards the town centre (Police Station, Hospital etc) and go the couple of km through town before following the signpost round to the right for Hat Hin Ngaam.
If you are coming fresh-in from the 401 and wanting to go to Sichon’s southern beaches, I suggest you also go down to the T-junction (B on the map) and turn right towards the Police Station, Hospital etc. There is a slight short-cut (the dotted line on the map), but it’s a bit light on signposting around points D and E).
All the tourist accommodation in Sichon-south is in the area of the spit, just South of the river mouth. It’s a pleasant area with a municipal gardens nearby and some shrines overlooking the mouth of the river. There’s not much accomodation around for those on a budget, but there are 4 decent mid-range resorts within walking distance of each other and the beach. See the map showing where each one is. The three main resorts (Prasarnsook; Sichon Cabana and Issara) are on Hat Sichon (หาดสิชล) which includes a 600m stretch of pretty decent sand.
Hat Sichon from the eastern end.
The first resort you get to is the big, fancy, expensive-looking Prasarnsook Villa resort (tel: 075 536 299, 075 355 560 1 email@example.com ). It has everything you could ever want – aircon, satellite TV, refrigerators, wifi, hot showers, etc. There are signposts and posters for it all along the route from town. See the website for details. http://www.prasarnsookresort.com
They gave me prices for 3 different sizes of rooms and also some low-season promo rates: 550B (500B promo); 1400B (1100B promo) and 2000B (1600B promo) (Sept 2011).
I notice that the brochure and website only mention the two bigger size rooms, (Superior and Deluxe). I’m not sure if the 500B is for the smaller A-frame huts or for one of the two creaky bamboo weave huts shamefully stuck out the back.
- The brochure says that they rent-out motorbikes and cars.
- They have a resort jet-ski.
- They say they have a private beach, but I think that this is just the raised area on the hotel grounds, slightly elevated off the main (public) beach.
You can enter the resort either from the road next to the sea or from the access-road a block further South. That access road is shared with next door’s Sichon Cabanas and is the thing that looks like a sunburnt chromosome on the Resorts Map.
Next door to the East (towards the spit) is Sichon Cabanas which has a narrow beachfront area with a surf-bar and a restaurant called Kruapoy. The accommodation is in a narrow strip perpendicular to the beach. The standard rooms are uninspiring but relatively cheap at 500B, and the English-speaking dude here (Palm – 089 1444447) seemed very willing to talk discounts. The bigger AC rooms away from the beach are 800B. There’s a bit of a windsurfer vibe going on – they rent out beginner boards for 300B an hour and more advanced kit at higher rates. There is a web site http://www.sichoncabana.com (which forwards to another site in the name of the restaurant). There are more prices and photos there.
. Standard Aircon
I didn’t ask about renting motorbikes here, but if anyone in Sichon would know where to get one (apart from at the resort next door), it will be Palm.
Next along the beach is a run of small-scale public restaurants for a couple of hundred metres until you get to the next resort, Issara..
Issara Resort probably appeals more to Thai tastes than it does to farangs.It has a big courtyard/carpark in the middle of the grounds and all the accommodation squeezed down one side, perpendicular to the beach. They have decent rooms with AC and TV, but there is a slightly clinical, whitewashed feel about them. The restaurant is modern and breezy, or bubblegum, depending on your tastes.
The resort is owned by the Anavilla Resort group which also has a place (Tanoke) in Khanom. The Issara (Sichon) Resort webpage is at http://issarabeach.anavilla.com/ or the group page is http://www.anavilla.com
The rates told to me were: Big AC room 1200B with food, 1000B without; smaller AC room 800 with food; 600 without. The fishing hamlet at the mouth of the river is walkable and you can get cheap eats there if you were opting out of the food. Of course, you can also eat at the restaurants in the nearby resorts.
Issara Resort: 075 536 536; mob 086 2666009
Big AC room Smaller AC room Restaurant
The only other option in the area is on the South side of the spit, on what seems to be Hat Hin Ngaam (หาดหินงาม), and is called “Baan Hin Ngaam Bed and Breakfast”. Probably the cheapest option in Sichon, they have bamboo cottages with bathrooms outside for 400B or ones with bathroom inside for 500B. There are also concrete AC huts for 800B. Set in neatly manicured gardens, with a nice restaurant and shady sitting-out area, all the 500Baht-ers have a seaview, but the downside is that there is no sandy beach on this side. That’s not too much of a problem as it’s only about a 200m walk across the neck of the spit to the sandy beach on the North side, but, of course, as a member of the general public you might not get all the umbrella privileges that the northerners do.
Pics are of the 500B bamboos.
It turns out that Baan Hin Ngaam B&B is also owned by the Anavilla Resort group and the people at the Issara Resort mentioned a price of 300B for a bamboo hut at Baan Hin Ngaam B&B rather than the 400B quoted at the actual place, so there’s some bargaining to be done here. Baan Hin Ngaam B&B 075 536 399 mob 086 2666009 (same mobile number as Issara).
I found some reviews of Sichon accommodation on this real-estate website, which also has some pretty-pictures of the area.
The spit sicks out a couple of hundred metres into the Gulf and has sand on the North side and rocks on the South. The bulbous bit at the end isn’t officiallly open to the public – it is a Government Fisheries Research & Development facility. There are some shrimp-farm tanks there and an ugly concrete jetty on the South side. The guys on the gate there are pretty friendly and will let you have a look around if you want, but there’s really not much to see.
Just as an aside, there are some inconsistencies in naming the beaches on the North and South sides of the spit, which could be confusing if researching it from afar. According to the Tourism Authority of Thailand; the manager of the Prasarnsook Villa resort; a famous travel book and the local real-estate website, the sandy beach on the North side is called Hat Sichon (หาดสิชล) and is also known by locals as Hua Hin Sichon. This latter point is supported by the fact that the Issara Resort (which is on it) has “Hua Hin Sichon” in their logo.
These same parties say that the rocky “beach” on the South side is called Hat Hin Ngaam (หาดหินงาม). This is supported by the fact that the resort Baan Hin Ngaam B&B (=“Hin Ngaam Houses”) is on the rocky Southern side that is Hat Hin Ngaam (=“Hin Ngaam Beach”). You’d expect Hin Ngaam Houses to be on Hin Ngaam Beach, wouldn’t you? Good. They are. No problem so far.
The confusing bit is that the brochures and websites for the Prasarnsook Villa resort and the Sichon Cabanas give their addresses as being on Hat Hin Ngaam, when they are actually on the (much nicer) Hat Sichon. Strange. It doesn’t really matter (they are only 200m apart), but just understand that Prasarnsook; Sichon Cabanas and Issara are on the sandy northern side and Baan Hin Ngaam is on the rocky southern side.
Hat Piti Resort is an ex-luxury resort that seems to have been on the receiving end of some seriously bad weather a couple of years ago and nobody has fixed it. About a third of the rooms are up and running; there are people tending the lawns in the central courtyard area and there is a nice looking restaurant back near the South entrance, but everything else is a total wreck. I wouldn’t go near this place for at least a couple of years. Actually, that’s not true – it’s worth a poke around the wreckage, just for the archaeological interest.
Hat Piti Resort– not so bad:
Hat Piti Resort– sooooo bad:
There’s a road direct to Piti Beach from Sichon town (‘F’ on the map, signposted in the real world) if you wanted to skip the spit.
South from Piti, you’ve got a run of about 15km of completely untouristed raw beach. Unfortunately for you, for most of the length of it, there are dozens of shrimp-farming operations set back 20-100 metres from the beach. About 70% of these are abandoned and/or derelict. It looks like they were hit by the same weather that did for Hat Piti Resort. Generally, there’s a bit of a run-down vibe along the narrow coast road, characterised by a mix of lovely, naturalistic palm groves and casuarinsa trees dotted with decrepit concrete shells of buildings.
See the pics for the general vibe around this run of coast.
Some maps refer to this section of beach as Sao Phao, the name of a nearby hamlet.
ABOUT SHRIMP FARMING
It seems that shrimps are raised in two stages. In the first stage, eggs (from cans, bought from Utah, USA!!) are hatched in small concrete pools of seawater. A couple of guys live on-site to keep the aeration bubblers running and to add food/fertilizer to the pools at regular intervals.
These little suckers are a couple of days old.
When the shrimps are big enough, they are transferred to big inshore seawater lakes. The lakes have a mechanical system of rotating paddles to aerate the water and give the little critters enough oxygen to breathe.
A few times a day, one of the staff lifts up a basket that is sitting on the bottom of the lake to check on his babies’ size and condition. Then he paddles a canoe around the lake throwing out scoops of food/fertilizer to develop the food-chain that they will feed off..
A famous travel book says that the process is environmentally unfriendly. I assume that’s because the fertilizer-rich sea water ends up getting dumped back in the sea at the end of a batch. Only a few of the farms have visible PVC pipes going down the beach into the sea, but I guess that others could have them buried under the sand or just use the mobile pumping equipment that it sitting around everywhere.
My chemical-industry Thai vocab isn’t all that great, but the ingredients list on this feed sack says it is >32% protein. I wonder how much shrimp food you have to swim in before you start growing a shell….
There’s more about the industry and it’s economic and environmental effects in this wikipedia article, if yer interested.
Meanwhile, back on the sand – the long, long beach southbound has nice, soft sand, and is pretty clean. This is a good place to bring your tent if you really want a long, empty beach and don’t mind sharing the access road with the shrimp-farming industry.
Here are some snaps of the sand taken at various points down the beach.
2km South of Hat Piti 5km South 7km South
The coast road has the occasional village with a local-style restaurant feeding the shrimp farmers. There is also the occasional small community of Muslim sea-fishing families. You needn’t starve down here if you can talk a bit of street-food Thai. There is even a barber shop and a school at one point. But there ain’t no tourism or guesthouses. No sir.
After about 10km, the hatcheries/fisheries fade-out and are replaced by duck farms for a while. Then you have to skirt round a government construction project which is building a safewater harbour for a very friendly Muslim fishing village. The coast road stops when it runs into the wide entrance to the harbour, but you can double-back for 400m and go inland around the harbour.
For the next couple of km, the scenery becomes more lush. It’s pretty beautiful down here and you can take in rustic scenes like this:
After this, the coast road loops back West to join the 401 next to the school at Wat Sa Mo Son San Nip Baat (โรงเรียนวัดสโมสรสันนิบาต), 54km North of Nakhon.
You head another km or two South on the 401 before you spot this sign for Beach Walk (homestay). This is a ‘resort’ of beautiful, boutique hotel style rooms on/near a gorgeous beach in the middle of nowhere. There is a stylish bar and restaurant on the beach, above which is a lone luxury room, with a balcony and a roof terrace that looks out over the palm trees and the Gulf of Thailand. It has aircon, TV and wifi.
Back on the other side of the road (away from the beach) are the reception/lounge area, a few bamboo huts suspended over a saltwater lake, a couple of concrete bungalows and a four-person house.
The resort is highly stylish and looks like it has been beamed there from somewhere in Italy or France. It really has to be seen to be believed. If you’ve got a few bucks and are looking for a remote spot with mod-cons, then this is the place for you! One slight drawback is that on the lake side of the road, there is a shrimp-farm lake next door, but it doesn’t seem especially disruptive. If you are in the beach room, you wouldn’t even know it was there.
The luxury beachside room is 2500B and the lakeside concretes 1500B. I’m not sure about the over-lake bamboos, probably about 1200B.
Beach Walk Homestay:
Address: 91/1 Moo 1 Klay, Tha Sala, Nakhon Sri Thammarat 80160
Day manager – Mr Sittichai Saehao (speaks reasonable English): Tel +47 95 13 31 52; Mob 087 1079080; E: firstname.lastname@example.org
Big Boss – Mr Pinis (Nic) Karapakdee; Mob 086 2779962; E: Pinis_2008@hotmail.com
They don’t have a website, but do have a facebook page. It’s in Thai, but I’m sure they would repond to any English posts or questions.
The turn-off from the main 401 road is pretty-clearly marked by the blue road sign pictured above (when heading South, anyway) and is about 50km North of Nakhon Si Thammarat. The town on the opposite (West) side of that crossroads is Ban Tha Hin (สี่เยกบ้านหิน).
It’s about 5km from the 401 to the coast and when you hit the coast road, its signposted to go right for 300m to Beach Walk Homestay.
Towns that are just North of Beach Walk Homestay: บ้าน เขาทราย (Ban Khai Saay); บ้านปากดวด (Ban Paak Duat); Town just South of it: บ้าน พังปริง (Ban Fang Pring).
I’m not entirely sure that I marked it in the right place on my trip routemap, so use this map in preference – its the tiny map off the back of their business card. Apparently, the town immediately East of the crossroads at the 401 is called Baan Tha Hin (and is probably signposted บ้านท่าหิน or บ.ท่าหิน) and the beach itself is called Hat Son Orn (หาดสนอ่อน). The Thai spelling of ‘Beach Walk Homestay’ (taken from the roadsign) is บีช วอล์ค โฮมสเตย์ . This is just a transliteration of the English pronounciation and doesn’t mean anything in Thai – local people will be confused by it unless they are familiar with the actual resort.
Honestly, I have no vested interest in this place. It’s just so remarkable, considering its location.
The road continues South from here, but goes inland a bit. It’s a nice breezy ride down a good road carved through thick coconut forests. There were a couple of frowny muslim villages on the way.
Getting short on time, I left the ‘coast’ road near Wat Bansan and rejoined the 401 for a sprint down to Tha Sala.
There’s a big river mouth bisecting Tha Sala and there are two access roads from the 401, one going on the North side of the river, and the other on the South. I took the North side. It’s about 5km from the 401 to the coast. It seems you pass right through and out of Tha Sala and into anther hamlet before you get to the coast. There are some pleasant-looking local restaurants on the riverbanks on the way down to the coast and even one that has a signpost advertising alcohol! The muslim coastal village-folk were all hanging out on the village sports field down near the beach. The beach itself seems to have been left to the goats to feed on. Goats and boats – nice photo op.
After returning to the the 401 and doing another few km South, you come across a spot definitely worth checking out – Hat Sai Kaew (หาดทรายแก้ว). It’s signposted on the 401 and is, as usual, a few km off the main road. There are plenty of interesting ways to get lost down the side roads here, but I eventually found this little resort with a big restaurant and a hanging-out area next to a really nice beach. They were asking 300B for the bamboo hut on the left of the picture, but I’m sure you could get it for less if you tried. I’m told that there are a few resorts in this area. Worth exploring if you are in Nakhon.
Back to the 401 and more trucking South. The last beach signposted before the road moves waaay inland is Hat Sa Bua (หาดสระบัว). There are a couple of local restaurants down near the beach, but not that near – there is about 200m of swampy mud-flats to sink in before you can get to the actual beach. Bring your hot air balloon or jetpack to get to the sea, or just give this one a miss.
That’s about it really – after this, the 401 well and truly departs from the coast and its on to journey’s-end in Nakhon.
Conclusions from the trip? Is it worth you coming here on holiday? – well I suppose that depends on who you are and how far you are coming from, really. There are many beautiful, raw beaches, most without any facilities at all, so the place is good for explorers and campers. Expect to have to speak Thai almost everywhere. There are one or two beautiful, luxurious accommodations in otherwise isolated spots, which has got to appeal to the Rest & Relaxation-ers. But yer average Westerners booking a long-haul two week vacation in the main Khanom beach area because its ‘isolated’ and ‘perfect’ are going to be surprised by the amount of development there and by just how different the Thai idea of a beach holiday is from a Western one.
If you’re prepared to dive-in, grab a motorbike and exercise your Thai language muscles, then you’ll have a good time.
Finally, a point of logistics on renting a motorcycle in Nakhon Si Thammarat – it ostensibly can’t be done. Both tourist offices (City Hall and the one on the Park next to the City Shrine) declared it impossible, and will just point you towards the two car rental places listed in the TAT brochure:
..but for a motorbike – no chance!
I was lucky to come across an English expat schoolteacher, who also runs a small bar in the evenings and rents out a couple of small bikes (125cc scooters/stepthroughs) for under 200B a day, plus discounts for weekly & monthly rentals.
Contact Sean at the Brittania Inn 081 273 0855, located at 102/52-53 Soi San Yao Vachon & Krob Krua (ซอยศาลเยาวชนและครอบครัว) (=”Soi 17″ off the big Phattanakarn-Kjukhwang Road (map). Look out for the big sign for Smile Mansion on the corner of these two roads (on the left if you heading South) or just ask a motorcycle taxi to take you to Smile Mansion. The Brittania Inn is on the left, another 200m past Smile Mansion. It’s not that obvious – look at the house numbers as you walk down the road.
I hope that this has been useful to you. Feel free to post comments or further info in the comments box at the bottom of the page.
Written October 2011 . Last updated August 2016