Falling ill in Khao Lak

100 days travelling and I fell ill just after my back got better. Typical.

28th December – 2nd January 2019 (Khao Lak, Thailand)

After an action packed few days in the jungle, we planned to slow things down a little in the seaside town of Khao Lak – our final destination in Thailand. Luckily, it was easy to book a minibus that would pick us up from our hotel in Khao Sok and drop us off at the incredibly convenient bus stop, just a stones throw away from our accommodation in Khao Lak. We had booked to stay in Nautical Home and were greeted by a very friendly and helpful lady, who showed us to our room and gave us a choice of 4 delicious looking breakfasts to choose from for the next morning. We were so happy to go back to having a fully enclosed bedroom and bathroom after our time in the jungle – it was great to be reunited with air conditioning again.

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Unfortunately, for a majority of our time in Khao Lak I wasn’t very well. The back pain that had developed in Khao Sok had luckily subsided but it had been replaced by a high temperature, leaving me feeling generally unwell. My wife was very concerned seeing as we had just come from staying in the jungle, where she was convinced I could have picked up malaria or dengue fever. This meant most of our time was spent holed up in our hotel room while I tried to recover, with my wife feeding me a steady stream of paracetamol and water to get my temperature down. At least I hadn’t fallen ill while we were away over Christmas, but it did dampen our plans for our last few days in Thailand.

The beach near our hotel in Khao Lak
The beach near our hotel in Khao Lak

In the end, we decided to cancel our accommodation we had booked in Phuket for our last two days in Thailand. We really liked where we were staying in Khao Lak and hadn’t been able to do much exploring around where we were due to me falling ill. We had also read reviews of the hotel in Phuket having bed bugs (several in a row) and it was proving quite difficult to find transport down there (that wasn’t expensive or involved flagging down a random local bus), so in the end it just made more sense to stay where we were. This was a good decision, as Phuket wouldn’t have really been our kind of place, and Khao Lak had a relaxed vibe and some decent food options right near our hotel. Our guesthouse also served an amazing breakfast for us every day which was included in the room price – staying there longer for that reason alone was worth it.

Due to not being able to venture out very far for a few days, we ended up mostly eating fairly close to our hotel. One of our favourite places was the Rusty Pelican which served amazing Mexican food, especially the nachos. The Californian chef had been living in Thailand for 14 years and he was a great source of local knowledge. We also ate a lot of hazelnut gelato from +39 which was a couple of minutes walk from our guest house. It wasn’t quite as good as the gelato we’d had in Ko Lanta, but still hit the spot.

Once I had started to feel a bit better, we did manage to get down to the beach which was about a 1km walk from our guest house. It was good to get out of the hotel and sit in the sun for a couple of hours, as well as dodging waves in the sea. We also managed to watch one sunset while we were there, which was nice as we knew we’d missed several spectacular ones on the days before.

Incredible sunset over Khao Lak
Incredible sunset over Khao Lak

Due to not sleeping that well while I was ill, our New Year’s Eve celebrations were pretty muted. We ended up going to a mojito bar just down the road from our hotel and enjoying a couple of drinks as the sun started to set. We then decided to treat ourselves to some more nachos from the Rusty Pelican (it wasn’t a cheap option for food – but it was so good) and were in bed by 9pm. My wife said I was basically passed out immediately and she followed not long after – married life, eh.

One thing we did manage to do was a day trip out to visit the famous Surin Islands. We did this right at the end of our stay, on New Year’s Day actually, and it was a really amazing trip. I was glad I’d managed to get well enough to do it (use that term loosely, as felt pretty rough just before we got on the boat). We had an early start where we were collected by the tour company (not first this time) and they dropped us off at their diving centre. They had a buffet breakfast prepared for us, although none of it was okay for me to eat and my wife wasn’t taken by the vibrant coloured muffins and chicken porridge – it was a good thing we ate at our guest house.

We then had an hour and a half ride on a speedboat to the islands, with around 30 other people. Without really thinking, my wife and I were first on the boat and made our way right to the front, just behind the captain. What a mistake that turned out to be. For the next hour and a half we were thrown about constantly in the huge waves that we were contending with (we didn’t know at this point that the tropical storm was heading our way, causing the huge waves) – it was almost unbearable at some points and we swore that we’d sit at the back for the return journey, even if it meant falling out with some of the other passengers for stealing their seats. The waves were around 2 meters high, although sometimes felt bigger.

A beautiful beach on one of the Surin Islands
A beautiful beach on one of the Surin Islands

Thankfully, the journey was all worth it. We pulled up to stunning blue waters complete with more coral than we had seen anywhere and an abundance of fish. We were then taken to a nearby island where we were served a buffet lunch before having some free time to relax on the beautiful white beaches – it was really stunning. After a couple of hours, we headed off to a nearby sea gypsy village. This was something that was included as part of our tour and we were a bit unsure what to expect.

We had visited hill tribes last time we were in Thailand and were a bit disheartened to see the villagers all lined up selling things to tourists – we had hoped to see a bit more in the way of authentic village life. The same situation greeted us at the sea gypsies, where all the villagers were selling the same jewellery along the main village road. We wandered up and down and while it was interesting to see the houses, it’s not something we would have chosen to visit by ourselves. After getting back on the boat, we headed to one last snorkelling spot with more gorgeous coral and fish.

Sea gypsy village on one of the Surin Islands
Sea gypsy village on one of the Surin Islands

We managed to grab a seat at the back of the boat on the way home and what a difference it made. We felt barely anything as we skimmed back over the sea towards the pier, I even managed to fall asleep for a bit. There were more snacks waiting for us back at the pier (we had been fed on about 5 different occasions during the day) so we gladly filled our bellies one last time before being transferred back to our hotel. It was a really well run trip and we had a great time – I honestly don’t know why SeaStar don’t have a great rating on TripAdvisor.

After leaving Thailand to visit our next country, Malaysia, we heard news of tropical storm Pabuk which was heading directly for the south of Thailand – we had been completely unaware of it and seemed like we got out just in the nick of time. Our guest house host said all the trips to the islands where we had gone snorkelling had been cancelled, so we were lucky we managed to go at all. Thankfully, the Thai authorities seemed well prepared for the storm and damage was able to be limited, but we will definitely be keeping a closer eye on the weather apps where we are traveling to in future.

Until next time.

P.S. I originally turned my nose up at the flavoured mojitos, but I was far too quick to judge – think I could get used to the strawberry one.

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