All Travel Posts by Cat Parker
Email: cparker@hot.co.nz
Phone: 09 522 3414

Dear JW Marriott,

You did it again!

Thank you x

Now, I have never been one to flop and drop for more than two consecutive days however, after a long, hard year this is exactly what the Dr ordered.

I feel like Khao Lak is one of those destinations that revolves around your hotel.  It is a sleepy beach town and good hotel is important and that is why I’m starting on this subject … you gotta get it right.  This is my 3rd stay and I honestly think the JW just keeps getting better.  It is still as beautiful and serene as ever with its lush lily ponds (full of frogs 😊) and it remains completely fresh and maintained.  The staff here take great care in keeping everything spic and span and there is always someone repairing furniture, painting, gardening or cleaning the 3 km long swimming pool – you are reading that correctly.  It is indeed 3 kms.

The 3-km pool weaves its way around every hotel block so every room has a pool view at the very least.  I have stayed in both the lead in pool view and the pool access room types and I love them both.  Part of me likes the pool view room as you can lounge on your deck chairs (or daybed if you upgrade to a premium balcony) in private however, the other part of me likes the pool access room for the convenience of being able to plop straight into the pool from your balcony.  Not that I have kids but this would be super handy for families and it was handy for us so food and drink was never far from hand.  Don’t fear if you don’t have a pool access room though because there are two bars in this pool and the bar staff will often paddle a kayak around which you can order basic drinks (and fresh coconuts) from.  Below you’ll see the photo I took from our pool access balcony.

There are heaps of things to do here besides spending hours getting lost in the pool.

There are paddleboards down at the beach, a gym (with yoga and Thai boxing lessons), squash court, mountain bikes, kids club, pool table, foosball table, air hockey table and my favourite … table tennis table!

Now I’m not particularly a huge beach bunny but I have started to learn to surf and only 5 minutes down the road is Pakarang Beach.

So, several mornings during our week stay we would scoff buffet breakfast* and then make our way down to Pakarang Surf School for a 1-hour lesson with Pat (said Put) followed by morning tea at Memories Beach Bar and then 2-hours of practise.  Although, only a learner in my short experience I would say this is a fantastic place to learn unlike Piha where the waves beat you around like a sock in a washing machine – fun but exhausting or Tawharanui where every man and his dog from Auckland seems to be learning to surf so unproductive.

*Sorry about the asterisk.  It was that or a hashtag.  I just wanted to remember to tell you briefly about buffet breakfast at the JW.  It is held in a huge Waterfront restaurant that is the size of a sports court and you can get anything.  The food is fresh, the chefs are skilled and they even use the side building as an adult only venue if you want a quieter atmosphere.

While I’m talking about the Waterfront I also wanted to make mention of the buffet evenings they host.  We went to the Thai Buffet where you could make your own curry, noodles and stir fry with the help of their chefs (who are super friendly, helpful and passionate).  They also had traditional Thai performances throughout the evening but to be honest that was just a bonus.  I went for the food!

Now I could go on forever about food so just quickly I’ve listed the other food options at the JW and nearby.

  • Sakura @ JW – Japanese Cuisine
  • Olive @ JW – Mediterranean
  • Deli @ JW – Café style (and they have a Movenpick stand!)
  • Bars @ JW – Czar Lobby Bar, Beach Bar and 2 x Pool Bars
  • Antonio’s Italian Ristorante – The name says it all (located at the end of the JW driveway)
  • Twin Palm Restaurant – Thai and the best Cashew Chicken ever! Plus, for a small fee they will do your washing 😊

Although, Khao Lak is a sleepy beach town there is still a lot of stuff to do here.  On your way from Phuket Airport you will pass a turtle sanctuary which is worth a stop.  Skip the Phi Phi Island tour and go for either the Phang Nga Bay Sea Cave tour or head out to the Similan and Surin Islands (or both).

Recognised as one of the top dive destinations in the world these are worth a day trip.  Be sure to spend the money and use a reputable supplier as you will have a better boat, better snorkelling spots and they respect the rules and won’t operate when the park is closed from 15 May to 15 October.

Another great trip is Khao Sok National Park which grows the largest flower in the world – Giant Rafflesia.  You can easily get here yourself by hiring a car and driving or you could do a tour.  We drove ourselves and made our first stop Cheow Lan Lake – a huge lake formed by the construction of Ratchaprapa Dam.  There’s a small car park but we had no trouble finding a park nor did we struggle to find a longtail boat to take us out on the lake for a couple of hours.  I preferred this to taking a day tour as we were on our own schedule and the boat only cost around $90 NZD for 2 hours.  Worth it in my opinion.

I am an avid animal lover and after leaving the lake we witnessed a Great Coucal (Crow Pheasant) fly sideways onto the road and get wiped out by a 4-wheel drive.  It was sheer horror seeing a cloud of feathers come off this big bird as it got absolutely smashed by a 4-wheel beast and I thought there is a very slim chance it would be alive.  However, I also knew if we didn’t stop to check I’d be sad the whole day.  So, my darling hub turned the car around and parked up the road.  I hopped out and made the 100 metre dash down the round to check on our feathery friend and to all our surprise he was alive!  He was doing his best impression of a dead dog however, I scooped him up and ran him up to where we had parked the car and I popped him on a towel in the open boot of our car.  After about half an hour Cooks has gotten himself sitting up and was looking far more alert.  Now, I don’t know how that bird got on but he was looking pretty good when I set him down nearby.

That’s the photo of us together above.  I have since learned that these birds are not very good flyers … you don’t say!

Khao Lak as seen through the eyes of Cat Parker (09 522 3414, cparker@hot.co.nz)

Posts by Cat Parker - cparker@hot.co.nz - 09 522 3414