Some people dream of having a beach all to themselves. Right now, we’re living that dream, and although I’m a confirmed introvert, I initially found it a little unsettling. We’re at Nai Phlao beach near the town of Khanom in southern Thailand. It mainly draws Thai tourists, though it must be in some European guidebook, because all of the novels on the used-book shelves we’ve seen in resorts and restaurants are in German or Scandinavian languages. The taxi driver who brought us here, who spoke some English, confirmed that few Americans come to this coast. That must be only because they don’t know about it. It’s a wonderfully relaxing place, and the beach and the water are beautiful.
We’re staying at Sea Breeze house, a two-story building with four guest rooms that look out over a wide stretch of sand to the Gulf of Thailand. Our view is of sparkling blue water as far as the eye can see, a wide horizon broken only by fishing boats far out from shore and the resort island of Koh Samui in the distance. For the first few days, we were the only people staying here. There’s no food served, but across the street is a tiny restaurant next to the taxi driver’s house where his family cooks decent meals. We eat there at least once a day, and we’re almost always the only ones. Just up the beach is a beautiful resort in a garden setting on a hillside (Khanom Hill Resort), with a large restaurant overlooking the water that serves very good food. That’s another of our haunts, but we’ve never had more than five other people sharing the restaurant with us.
This is Khanom at midweek in the low season. European tourists don’t start arriving in numbers until later in the year, and Thai visitors from the two large towns an hour away in either direction (Surat Thani and Nakhon) usually only come for long weekends. When we were planning our summer beach time in Thailand, we picked this area as a second stop because we feared that our first stop, Koh Phangan, would be too crowded and touristy. We couldn’t have been more wrong: Koh Phangan was quiet, and Nai Phlao beach is practically deserted.
But that’s turned out to be just fine. Not only do we know where to eat now (often a challenge in a new place), but we have a way to get around. We rented a motorscooter for a few days and have been getting more and more comfortable driving it. The quiet, well-paved, scenic roads around Khanom are a perfect place to practice. Everyone here has a motorbike, the cars and trucks are careful to look out for them, and (unlike in Bali) no one rattles your nerves by honking when they pass you. It feels like a huge accomplishment to have gotten at least a little proficient on a motorbike. In many places we travel, they’re one of the best ways to get around. And they come with a built-in breeze!
The other thing we’ve been loving here is spending time in the water. Nai Phlao is a better beach for swimming than our previous one, in Koh Phangan. It slopes away more sharply, so even at low tide, the water is deep enough to swim without your having to wade out very far. In less than a week, we’ll be living on the outskirts of a bustling city in Penang, Malaysia, beginning our summer housesit. But for now, all of this solitude feels just right.