We’ve been living in Khanom for two years and three months. We’ve had hundreds of friends coming to visit us, and others have already made plans to come. We’ve had one couple of friends living here for a year, other two couples who spent over three months in the village. It is time, and then, we write down all there is to know about Khanom, Thailand’s Next Best Thing.
Khanom is a little town and a district of about 30,000 people. It sits right on the Gulf of Thailand coast, in Nakhon Si Thammarat province. Since the houses are spread all over the place among rice fields and palm plantations, the town feels more like a village. There is only the crossroad in the center (known to everyone as siyek – the Thai word for crossroad) which looks somehow urban.
The locals are mostly into agriculture and fishing. If you drive around you will see rubber trees plantation, coconut trees, rice paddies, oil palm trees. Part of Khanom district is Ban Peng, a little village where almost 100% of the population is into the fishing business – the village is set on the Khanom river banks, a place where you can admire the beautiful colorful fishing boats going up and down to and from the sea.
Beaches and attractions.
You can find at least ten beaches as you drive along the coast of Khanom. A lot of them are empty. On the most popular ones – as Nadan, for example – there are a few resorts and bars.
The main tourist attraction is the pink dolphin colony. It is not the only one, though.
There is a tiny sea turtle shelter, a few caves, two beautiful waterfalls, a 700 years-old temple, a jungle full of birds and monkeys plus many others within an hour drive either to Surat Thani or Nakhon Si Thammarat – fishermen villages, oyster farms, fireflies and monkey schools. I dare to state that the main reasons that make Khanom a very special place are the peacefulness, the natural beauty and the unspoiled thainess of the locals.
Despite the efforts to promote Khanom as a tourism destination, it remains popular mainly among Thai people. They mostly come from neighboring cities during the weekends – the only time when you get to see people on the beach. Otherwise, it is just you and a few locals walking their dogs or trying to catch some fish.
Accommodation in Khanom.
Don’t take it the wrong way, though, Khanom is not Papua New Guinea. All the necessary commodities are available throughout the area. A few bank (ATMs and exchange included), fresh markets where you can buy fruits, seafood, fish, vegetables, convenient stores and a hospital that is surprisingly well equipped. Let’s say that 90% of the needs can be covered locally. For all the rest, a trip to Surat Thani or Koh Samui will solve it.
Short term accommodation – there aren’t too many – although a lot of construction is going on – and they aren’t the cheapest. There are two fancy resorts, a few mid-range and others bungalow-style owned by locals. Here are some options:
Jambay Bungalows – one of the cheapest choices, very popular among the few backpackers who visit Khanom. Five wooden bungalows in between the beach and the road, relatively close to Jambay Bar. Wi-fi is available. Two of the bungalows offer AC (800THB/night); the other three have only a fan (400THB/night). No hot shower. Bookings can be made on the phone, Facebook or by sending me a message – I can go over there since it is across the street from my house.
Harmony House Bungalows – same area as Jambay, managed by the same people. It’s a big house with four rooms for rent, plus one bigger bungalow closer to the beach. Prices vary from 600 to 1000 baht per night. All the rooms have wi-fi, hot shower, and AC. Bookings to be done same as above.
Baan Sonmanee – bamboo bungalows at 400 baht per night (fan, cold shower) or concrete bungalows at 800 baht per night (AC, hot shower). Close to Jambay – maybe 200 meters distance.
Baanchailay Resort – 21 bungalows on Nadan Beach, owned and managed by the sweetest Thai lady you’ll ever meet. We call her Mama Thai; she speaks a little bit of English, and she will make anything in her power for you to have the best stay ever. The bungalows have wi-fi, hot shower, and AC plus a small fridge. Spotless clean. 1000 baht per night. Send me an email if you want to book, it’s one minute away from where I live.
Phuphat Resort – another family business, just next door to Baanchailay. The difference is that the owners here don’t speak a word of English. Their advantage is the double wooden bungalow right on the beach – as far as I know it is the only beachfront accommodation in all Khanom. Prices vary from 7-800 for the small bungalows in the back to 1500 baht for these two right on the beach. Bookings same as above. Or you can try on Agoda although it appears to be fully booked most of the time.
Leeloo Cabana – a bungalow resort owned by a French family (Nathalie and David). A few bamboo bungalows (one or two bedrooms) conveniently close to the beach, plus a restaurant, plus sunbeds (rara avis in this part of the world). Prices start at 650 baht per night. Check out their website.
Le Petit Saint Tropez – another French business opened in 2015 by Julien and Stephanie. The nice Mediterranean design and a beachfront open-air lounge add to the comfort of the rooms. Prices start from 1600 THB pe night. Contact and book via their Facebook page or Booking.com.
Khanom Hill Resort – family business but next level of comfort and pricing. The resort is set up on the hill, above a semi-private beach. Only two bungalows are on the beach side; all the rest are built on the other side of the street. The owner is a Thai lady, well educated with good command of English. There is also a restaurant as part of the resort, and the food is quite good. Rooms start at 2900 baht. Bookings can be made via their website or main booking engines.
Aava Resort – owned and managed by two Finns. It is the only resort offering European standards and design which make it very popular among Northern European tourists. The rooms are comfortable although not very spacious. Rates start at 3100 baht for deluxe rooms and can go as high as 11,200 baht for a family villa. Here si the Aava Resort website, you can find it on Booking and Agoda as well.
Long term accommodation – the long term expat community grows slowly but steadily. We are around 50 people from different parts of the world currently living in Khanom area. Inga and Don, the Canadian couple, holds the record – they’ve been here for nine years already.
When I first visited Khanom in 2010, there were very few houses for rent here. Meanwhile, the locals started building quite a few, and I dare say this is the only notable difference in Khanom from then to now. Still, the offer is barely keeping up with the demand, and that is why it is difficult to search for a house for rent without you being present here. Almost all the new houses get their renters within weeks, if not days since they are built. The Russians contract by the year and pay cash upfront, although they barely spend here three months.
If you have a bit of patience and luck, you can find a house for rent. Rates commonly vary from 8,000 to 20,000 a month. Closer to the beach means more expensive. But don’t worry, there aren’t many beach front properties to let and those who are so close to the sea have already been rented for years.
Anyway, living on the beach is not such a big deal. Not practical at all, especially during the Northern monsoon as the salty wind blows right into the house messing up all your electronic equipment. Plus the sand and the people walking under your nose. Best to have at least 50 meters in between your house and the sea. Leave the beach to those who only come for a few days. Bottom line, the best way to rent a house is to come down here, stay in a resort for a few days and drive around.
Food, drinks and fun in Khanom.
Khanom is not a party destination. There are no clubs, discos or gogo bars. Whoever wants noise better make it himself either using a guitar or a karaoke machine. Hard to imagine, but on this 9-kilometer beach there are only four bars. Anyway, here are the options for food and drinks.
Jambay – the place where expats meet, sing, drink, and dance. It is not the usual reggae bar – as they don’t sell weed, and they not only play Bob Marley (have to admit I had to insist on this a bit). Over the weekend, the English teachers from neighboring cities come to relax here. It is a very hippie, open place. Every Wednesday and Saturday there’s a live jam session on the stage. You can also eat Thai food and decent pizza (this only on Saturdays). From time to time, Joe, the owner of the place, organizes barbecues and invites everyone to join him.
Hello Kitty – a small typical Thai bar owned by a Thai lady and her Slovenian husband. Yup, I asked myself the same question – what is a Slovenian doing in Khanom? The bar is designed in line with the famous kitty. If your eyes don’t hurt from too much pink, you can enjoy beer or cocktails for the most decent prices in the city. UPDATE JAN 2016: business closed.
Khanom Espresso – best coffee in town. Owned by a Thai couple (he used to be a barista in Ireland). The coffee shop is in the city center, 50 meters away from siyek and 7Eleven. You have to try the cappuccino!
Ciao Bella – recently turned two years of existence. The owners are Umberto, an Italian guy and his lovely wife, OM. They used to have a pizza place on Koh Phi Phi but decided to leave because of the noise and local mafia. Umberto is a chef, and this makes a difference. You’ll notice right away once you try his pizza or home made pasta or the thyme crusted tuna. The prices are decent, the service is good, the people are friendly.
Ratatouille – the first French restaurant opened just a few months ago by Elodie and Remy. Remy is also a chef; he used to work at the Ritz in London. My favorites: beef tenderloin and the pork in red wine, a Provencal recipe Remy learned from his grandmother. The restaurant has a swimming pool so you can do some laps until Rey cooks your lunch or dinner. Also, they have a few nice rooms for rent. UPDATE, Nov 2015: business closed.
Khun Lee restaurant – a classic. Serves Thai food, mostly see food. They have one of the best Tom Yum soups I ever tried. The service is decent; waiters speak English. There is also a small tourism office – you can arrange different trips around with them.
Khanom Sea Food – although well promoted and already famous it does not impress me. The food is decent at most – that is if you can get te waiter to understand what is it you want to eat. Prices are too high for what they offer. The only reason I would recommend the place is the location – up on the hill, shadowed by palm trees, overlooking the Gulf of Thailand.
The Liver is Sweet – that’s not the real name, it’s how we call it. It is a small eatery next to Ciao Bella where you can have a lot of fun reading the English menu. The ladies make great food but don’t speak a word of English – so you would have to rely on the funny menu. Good luck with it!
Dusty Gecko – if you’re done with pizza, pasta, seafood and vegetables go to Miki and he will serve you a juicy burger or steak. Miki is a Finish master-chef who runs this restaurant together with his gorgeous Thai wife, Ying. The food is gratifying, the prices are worth every bit, the owners are fun and easy-going. People from as far as Surat Thani come to Khanom just to dine at Dusty Gecko.
How to get to Khanom
By plane – Khanom is relatively close to three airports – Surat Thani (URT), Nakhon Si Thammarat (NST) and Koh Samui (USM) – which gives you a lot of flexibility in arranging the flights.
Surat Thani – Air Asia, Nok Air, Thai Lion Air and Thai Airways fly Bangkok to Surat Thani. Once you land, you can get a taxi to Khanom (70 minutes, 1500 baht) or a bus to Surat Thani (1 hour, 100 baht) and from there a minivan to Khanom (1 hour, 100 baht). The last minivan to Khanom leaves at 6 pm. Flights Bangkok to Surat are normally cheap – 25-30 EUR one way. Air Asia connects Surat Thani to Kuala Lumpur three times a week; prices range 100-150 EUR round trip.
Nakhon Si Thammarat – Air Asia and Nok Air both have multiple daily flights from Bangkok (DMK) to NST at very low prices. From NST airport, you can get a taxi to Khanom (1h, 1200 baht – you find the taxi desk as you exit the airport). You could, same as for Surat Thani, to catch a bus to the city and than another minibus to Khanom (90-120 minutes altogether). The last minivan from Nakhon to Khanom leaves at 4 pm. Worth mentioning that Nok Air introduced the fly ‘n’ ride service to Khanom. You book as such on their website, once you land they transfer you to a bus and on to Khanom.
Koh Samui – flights to Koh Samui aren’t cheap, no matter if you fly in from Bangkok (Bangkok Airways), Kuala Lumpur (Bangkok Airways, Firefly) or Singapore (Silk Air). As the birds fly, there aren’t more than 25 kilometers between Samui and Khanom. As human cannot fly, though, to get from Samui airport to Khanom, you would have to take a taxi to the pier (500-800 baht), a ferry to Donsak (250 baht) and then another taxi to Khanom (600baht). Timewise all these mean around three hours. The ferry companies operating on Samui-Donsak route are SeaTran, Raja Ferry, and Lomprayah.
On mainland – there is a VIP bus connecting Khanom to Bangkok daily. It takes 740 kilometers and 12 hours between the two places. The bus leaves Bangkok at 7:45 and the company offering the ride are called 999. The ticket costs about 900 baht one-way. You can travel by train as well, Bangkok to Surat Thani and from there by taxi or minivan. The train ride takes 8 to 11 hours and costs 600 to 1300 baht.
Getting around Khanom
There is no public transportation in Khanom, and the taxis are way too expensive. Walking is an option only if you train for some marathon as the distances are big. To make a long story short – you need wheels. Best and cheapest option – rent a scooter. The roads are good, there is not much traffic.
The scooters can be rented starting 200 baht a day. There is no rent-a-car office in town either but there are a few people who rent cars to tourists. A Nissan Micra, for example, starts at 1200 baht per day. You can also find bicycles for rent (80-100 baht per day). I recommend this option to those well trained as if you start riding towards the Southern beaches you would have to go on 20-25 degrees slopes.
For airport transfers or day trips contact Toon Tours, run by the adorable Toon and his partner. They run various trips around Khanom and farther out to Surat Thani or Khao Sok National Park. Another well-known local agency is Khanom Fishing Tours, attached to Khun Lee’s Restaurant. The name says it all about their packages: dolphin trips, cruising and fishing.
Best time to visit
Khanom has good weather pretty much all year round. The only not so pleasant time is November to mid-December, during the NE monsoon. It is not particularly rainy but rather very windy; it can sometimes create waves as high as 3 meters. Also, the sky is covered in black clouds all day long. Beautiful and very romantic for some people.
The rainy season that affects most of Thailand is not very present in Khanom (June to October). It may sometimes rain for 15 minutes in the afternoon; the sky may be cloudy for half an hour here, but that’s it. The dry season (March-May) is very very dry and takes longer than in other areas.
In 2014, for example, we didn’t have a drop of rain from 7th of January until 14th of April. As a side note, though, Khanom has its microclimate that allows heavy rain to drop at one end of the beach while at the other to be sunny which no chance of a cloud.
For whom is Khanom suitable as a holiday destination
I recommend it to couples, no matter the age, with or without children, in search of peace and quiet, to those who practice kiteboarding. I wouldn’t recommend it to divers, party animals, shopping addicts and sexual tourists.
A final note: the places I’ve reviewed are the places I’ve visited. There are plenty of other businesses in Khanom (resorts, restaurants, bars, tour agencies) that I might have missed from my review for the logical reason of never having enjoyed their services. This article will be constantly updated.