Alternative Visa Runs from Phuket
Ranong & Myanmar - The Andaman Club
Trip Done: Nov 2006
The Andaman Club is a hotel and casino on a Burmese island not far from Kawthaung. Gambling is illegal in Thailand, mostly because many Thais enjoy gambling too much. Casinos are therefore a common feature at Thailand's borders.
The appeal of the Andaman Club for visa runners is it has its own boat pier with immigration office and will also take care of all the passport stamping at the Myanmar side. I had heard it was a nice hotel and therefore decided to spend a night there for my visa run.
I thought I would find a good deal for a room on the internet but oddly, it was difficult to find them (I kept finding Club Andaman in Phuket instead). The prices I could find, including on their own site, all seemed a little expensive starting at 4000 baht a night. I almost gave up on them but as a last resort I tried the old-fashioned way and phoned - what do you know; a room for 1,500 baht.
There is also an 850-baht boat and visa fee. This covers the return boat trip and the $10 visa fee for Myanmar. If you stay overnight the hotel give a 250-baht refund when you check out so the actual cost is 600 baht.
I took my wife and two little kids on this trip. We drove to Ranong - it takes around 4 hours at a sensible speed. If you don't have a car, you can take a bus to Ranong and take a tuk-tuk or motorbike from the bus station to the Andaman Club Pier.
I knew they had their own boat pier but I did not know where it was. I thought it would be somewhere near the piers for the normal visa run so that is where I headed. However, with a little asking around we quickly learned that the Andaman Club pier is the other side of town. A quick drive through town and out the other side and we found the pier.
There was no queue for immigration so I quickly stamped out. My wife is Thai so she went to another desk and got a border pass for 250 baht - no other fees for Thais. The kids were free.
A comfortable 20-minute boat ride and we arrive at the Andaman Club. At the pier, they collected my passport. They would get the Myanmar stamps and I would collect the passport again as I left. A bus took us up the hill to the hotel.
It is a nice hotel. Spacious lobby, three restaurants, bar, big swimming pool, gymnasium, duty free shop and of course casinos. Our room was comfortable enough with a balcony and sea view.
I wasn't really interested in the casinos. The downstairs casino is just slot machines. I had a quick walk around and a couple of pulls. The upstairs casino is where the serious gaming takes place. You need to show 10,000 baht cash just to enter. I didn't bother.
During our stay, we tried the swimming pool, gym, restaurants and bar. There is a children's playroom which would have been great if it had been staffed. We went down to the local beach which was a nice walk but the beach is nothing special.
The hotel can arrange snorkeling, diving or fishing trips or a shopping trip to Kawthaung. They also have their own golf course on the island. We didn't try any of these things.
We did check out the duty free shop which has a limited range and is not especially cheap. I stocked up on a few cheap bottles of plonk - 190 baht for a bottle of Beaujolais can't be bad.
In truth, the hotel was very quiet and there was a ghostly feel to the whole place. Maybe everybody was upstairs in the casino. We enjoyed our stay but a day was enough.
As we left, I collected my passport at the pier all nicely stamped by Myanmar. We took the boat back to Ranong and quickly stamped back into Thailand. Another 90-day stamp in the passport.
However, our trip wasn't over. We were going to stop on the way home and stay overnight at Khao Lak. We took our time driving back, stopping at a few of the beaches between Ranong and Takua Pa. I had often wondered what these beaches were like. There were some beautiful spots and they were all so undeveloped. I don't think we could have found any accommodation even if we tried.
We cruised into Khao Lak mid afternoon. I have visited Khao Lak a few times but never stayed over. This is the area of Thailand that was most devastated by the tsunami. It is now well on the way to recovery (November 2006) but there is still a little way to go. We drove down to one of the beach roads looking for a bungalow. Most of the bungalow resorts were still under reconstruction but a couple were up and running. We found a nice bungalow right next to the beach for 1000 baht. The owners and staff were very friendly and quickly made us feel welcome. They believed they would be able to charge at least 2000 baht a night by next high season.
There was time to settle in and then take the kids to play on the beach until sunset. In the evening, the resort set up a barbecue by the beach. It was a nice relaxed atmosphere as the guests and staff mingled together. The resort was only half-full with mostly Scandinavian guests who seem to make up the majority of Khao Lak's visitors. As with everywhere we go in Thailand, the Thais doted on our little children and they both lapped up the attention and milked it for all it was worth. A thoroughly enjoyable evening, hopefully Khao Lak will be back to its former glory soon.
Thai Muang Beach
The next day we set off back to Phuket but with a few sightseeing stops on the way. There are a few attractions between Khao Lak and Phuket. I have been to Lam Pi Waterfall before and the hot springs near Khok Kloi.
This time we went for lunch at Thai Muang Beach. I was impressed. This beach is a magnificent 13-kilometer straight stretch of golden sand. The area is lightly developed. Apart from Thai Muang Town, there are a few bungalows resorts and restaurants along the beach. There is also a links style golf course on the edge of town. The north end of the beach is a national park.
If you want to visit Andaman Club but do not wish to stay, there is a visa run company that goes there instead of Kawthaung. You will stay for lunch while your passports are stamped. Eve Visa - 076 289201 / 081 535 2637