Alternative Visa Runs from Phuket
Wang Kelian, Malaysia
Trip Done: Feb 2007
Wang Kelian is a very quiet border crossing in the depths of Satun. It is at the end of route 2184 between the Thai village Wang Prachan and the Malaysian village Kaki Bukit. I took the family and car for this trip. I think it would be quite an effort to get to this place by bus.
The plan was a three-day trip. We would stay one night in Satun and on the way back, I wanted to spend two nights in Koh Lanta.
Than Bok Korani National Park
We set-off mid morning. Our first port of call would be lunch at Bok Korani National Park in Krabi. I have always wanted to visit this place but somehow it has never quite fit into my schedule. So after an hour and forty minutes driving from Phuket we reached the small town of Au Luk which lies amongst some of the most spectacular limestone outcrops in the region. From here, it is a very short detour to the park.
Than Bok Korani National Park covers 104 sq km including caves, rivers, limestone outcrops, jungle, and a few islands in Krabi Bay. I have already seen the islands and a couple of the caves. What I was really interested in was the small 37-rai park near Au Luk. Lonely Planet claim it looks like something 'cooked up by Disney' so I had to check it out. A stream of emerald green water flows out of a cave in one of the limestone cliffs and forms pools and waterfalls through the forest.
There is a car park and a group of restaurants just outside the entrance. We had an excellent lunch of grilled fish, chicken, som-tam and sticky rice before entering the park. I was hoping my Thai driving license would get me Thai entry price but the gate attendant was having none of it. He said I was lucky they were still charging 200 baht instead of the new increased charge of 400 baht. A quick negotiation and we agreed that I would pay 200 baht but the rest of my family would get in free.
We wandered along the footpath under the canopy of trees until we reached the main pool. I wasn't disappointed. It is not quite Disney but it is a very beautiful spot. The water is a striking green and looks very inviting. Unfortunately there is no swimming allowed in the top pool so we had to wonder downstream passed numerous little waterfalls until we found a suitable spot for our two little kids to have a paddle.
Samran Beach, Trang
Early afternoon we pushed on towards Satun with no definite plan where we would stay. Around 4:30pm and about 40 km beyond Trang we decided it was time to look for a room so we headed to the nearest beach on the map - Samran Beach. It was a 20 km detour from the main road.
At the beach were a handful of rustic, Thai style restaurants and a single resort, the Hat Samran Country Home. We were given a big welcome which we soon found out was because we were their first ever customers. They had only been open five days. It was a small but charming little resort with simple but comfortable wooden rooms and only 400 baht a night.
The beach is not great. It is covered in shells and shale and the sand is a dirty, dark brown. Just the same, our kids loved it and played until sunset. We quickly became a novelty for the local kids who all came to say hello. There always seems to be one local kid who has a bit more ambition than the others. In this case, it was a charming young girl who must have been no more than fourteen years old. She wanted to practice her English and she was quite good. She rolled her eyes in envy when she heard we came from Phuket. She dreams of one day traveling that far.
In the evening, we had dinner in our little resort. We were of course the only customers. We had to order in advance so they had time to go to the market and buy the ingredients. Fried fish, squid, shellfish and tom yam goong - a seafood fest washed down with a couple of beers. And in the morning the entire bill for our stay, less than 1000 baht.
In the morning, we completed the drive to the Wang Kelian border checkpoint. The final 20 km meanders through some beautiful, remote Thai countryside, passed the entrance to Talay Ban National Park before reaching the very quiet border checkpoint.
There are a handful of stalls selling produce from across the border. I left my family in a restaurant while I did the passport routine. In 10 mins, I had stamped out of Thailand, walked the 50 meters to Malaysian immigration, stamped in and out of Malaysia and then walked back and stamped back into Thailand. The only other people were four backpackers entering Thailand for the first time.
After a bite to eat and a quick shop, we started the drive to Koh Lanta. It is another place I have always wanted to visit so this was my chance. It is a longish drive. Almost three hours to the Koh Lanta turning and then another 25 km to the first ferry pier.
You need to take two ferries to reach Koh Lanta. The first ferry goes from the mainland to Koh Lanta Noi. A quick drive across Koh Lanta Noi and then the second ferry takes you to Koh Lanta Yai. They are short ferry trips but there were a lot of vehicles waiting to go so it took us two hours to get from the mainland to Koh Lanta. The tickets we bought at the mainland pier covered both ferries. The cost was 113 baht which I think broke down as 50 baht each for two adults, 10 baht for a child, 3 baht for a toddler and nothing for the car.
We took a drive along Koh Lanta's western coast road looking for a nice beach bungalow. We eventually settled for Khlong Nin Beach. The road runs close to the beach with a thin strip of shops and bungalows.
We parked the car and walked down to the beach. The first couple of resorts were full so we found ourselves at the Atcha Beach Bar. They had four wooden bungalows, all empty. They were shacks really, very basic and 500 baht a night seemed excessive for what they were. There was no fan and the shower was just a dribble of water from an open pipe. Just the same, we were a little tired so we took one.
It is nice to be right on the beach and it is an excellent beach, comparable with Phuket's. This beach has a real hippie / beach bum / backpacker feel. There were lots of odd characters around. It was also noticeable that there were a quite a few western women with Thai boyfriends - much more than you see in Phuket.
Just the same, the shack was not really to our liking and an overnight intrusion by one of those giant, poisonous centipedes did not improve our opinion. So the next morning we set off in search of a new bungalow. We went to Khlong Khong Beach where the road is set back further from the beach. We drove down a few of the tracks to the beach bungalows until we found one to our liking. The Lanta Family Resort was a big step up in comfort compared to our beach shack at the Atcha Bar. The bungalow wasn't actually on the beach but it was only 50 meters away and at 600 baht a night it was great value.
The beach at Khlong Khong is not quite as good as Khlong Nin but still nice. It has a somewhat rocky seabed that is not ideal for bathing. However, when the tide was out the rock pools made a perfect and safe play area for our two little kids. The visitors at this beach seemed a little more mainstream than those at Khlong Nin.
We set up camp in a sala by the beach. During the day, we slowly worked our way through the resort's menu between taking dips in the placid turquoise sea. At last, we had found our perfect relaxation spot. The resort's friendly staff would occasionally join us for a chat while the owner made sure all our needs were satisfied. In the evening, the beers slid down easily and the owner took advantage of my weakened state to suggest we should stay an extra night. I didn't take much convincing.
So three nights in Koh Lanta and we really didn't see that much of it. I don't think there is that much to see beyond the beaches but the beaches are very nice. You can do the authentic beach bum experience in a way that Phuket no longer really provides.
The drive back to Phuket was uneventful. Five hours, including the two ferry trips.
All in all, a great trip. Lots of beautiful scenery, friendly people, good food, nice beaches and another 90-day stamp in the passport. Thailand really is such an inviting country for traveling around. And the entire cost of the trip, four nights away for a family of four at an absolute bargain 7000 baht.
Just to give an idea of the distances and traveling times for this trip, I have produced a little table showing distances and times from Phuket Town, ignoring the detours we took. I think I drive at a reasonable but sensible speed.
|Sarasin Bridge||44 km||35 mins|
|Phang Nga Town||88 km||1 hr 05|
|Thap Put||110 km||1 hr 20|
|Ao Luk||133 km||1 hr 40|
|Krabi||176 km||2 hr 10|
|Turn to Koh Lanta||222 km||2 hr 50|
|Trang||305 km||3 hr 50|
|Turn to Samran Beach||345 km||4 hr 20|
|Wang Kelian||470 km||5 hr 50|