The town of Khuraburi receives little mention in guidebooks except as a place to overnight on the way to or from the Koh Surin National Marine Park, most easily reached by ferry from the pier at Ban Hin Lahd. In January 2006, we spent a night of relative luxury at the Kuraburi Greenview Resort after returning from the park and then heading South via Takua Pa. In January 2005, due to delays in re-opening the park (to clean up tsunami damage), we sped past Khuraburi and returned for two nights toward the end of our trip.
The Kuraburi Greenview Resort consists of several buildings arranged around a (pipe-fed?) pond (and a nearby swimming pool). The peaceful grounds feature walking paths lined with tropical flowers; the relaxing, contemplative atmosphere offers quite a contrast to the busy cities. The resort offers a mix of attractive hotel-style rooms and more rustic bungalow-style "cabins." The latter feel very private and exotic, and have a loft for additional occupants. In all rooms you will find a unique shower, where water pours down on you from a chute rather than a shower head. In 2005, this was my favorite hotel in Thailand. In 2006, when there was no hot water, it was less idyllic, but I still highly recommend it. The resort has a very slow web site with more photos and other details.
Located one floor below the reception area, the Greenview's dining room continues the elegant, rustic theme of the rest of the resort's buildings. While breakfasts here are very basic, dinners were unusually delicious. Whether this reflects the skill of the staff, the quality of the ingredients, or the contrast with National Park cuisine is uncertain; perhaps a combination of all of these.
The Greenview's breakfast buffet featured the usual bland rice porridge, eggs and "sausages" (hot dogs, really). The substitute of hot dogs for American style breakfast sausage might be a national blind spot, or perhaps the rest of the world has a different idea of what constitutes breakfast sausage.
The dining room usually was little used at dinner time. This was surprising because we saw several guides from the resort shepherding guests around Koh Surin. One particularly memorable dish was a mixed seafood coconut milk soup. Anyone who has ever eaten at a Thai restaurant probably has tried Tom Kha Gai or Tom Kha Kung, a coconut milk soup with chicken or shrimp, respectively. The Greenview's version was so smooth and creamy and well balanced in flavor that it put all others to shame. Pleasant appetizers included fried shrimp cakes with the usual hot-sweet-sour dipping sauce, fried chicken legs infused with the flavor of turmeric, and a plate of crunchy Thai eggplants, cucumber slices, vegetable omelette squares and other vegetables with a spicy shrimp-based dipping sauce. We enjoyed a variety of main courses here, including: crystal noodles (mung bean threads) with mixed seafood and cashews; a salad of ferns dressed with coconut milk (I think), shrimp and ground pork; shrimp with cashews in a gooey-sweet tamarind sauce (with whole dried chillies one could break open for optional heat); a wickedly "hot" salad of green mango shreds with cashews and crunchy dried shrimp; a strong green curry with chicken or shrimp, Thai eggplants and bitter pea eggplants; and rainforest ferns sauteed with garlic and Thai oyster sauce. Not all of the same night, of course. Desserts ranged from coconut ice cream to fried bananas with a honey dipping sauce.
Our group always had a large table at the bar end of the dining room, which was immediately adjacent to a MIDI karaoke machine on a small platform. Background music reminiscent of "muzak" played softly throughout dinner. We used this system for many hours each evening, and didn't hear any complaints from the diners at the other end of the room (perhaps they were keeping it to themselves?). Like many karaoke setups in Thailand, no printed list of English-language was available. Instead, you toggle the keyboard to English and search by title or artist until you find something familiar. The machine has a limited and eclectic selection, often played at strange tempos or in difficult pitches — that's our story and we're sticking to it. The staff can help somewhat, and might even get into the act: our waitress/hostess sang a song by the Cranberries (we don't know whether she understands the lyrics, which involve violence, tanks, bombs and guns, but it was sung with great enthusiasm).
If singing is not your thing, you can take a quiet walk by moonlight around the grounds and look for geckos in the hanging lanterns along the path. Or retire early and enjoy the comforts of a real bed.
Takua Pa lies near a fork in the road on the Andaman coast: one highway continues South through Khao Lak toward Phuket, while the other turns East toward the Khao Sok park and the towns and beaches of the Gulf coast. We stopped here for lunch in both 2005 and 2006. On our first visit, the town was buzzing with rescue and clean-up activity, as helicopters landed and took off from a compound across the street from us. Takua Pa was the coordination point for the heavily impacted Khao Lak area. A year later, the town appeared to be deserted.
We dined at one of the many small restaurants on the main street through town. Specializing in savory roti with curry or dessert roti with sweetened condensed milk, it is not a health food restaurant. In 2006, the roti had sold out, so we had to defer our splurge. Instead we enjoyed turmeric chicken and rice, a lunchbox staple in Southern Thailand.
Somewhere else in town, near a bus station, we visited a sizeable market offering the usual wide variety of fruits and vegetables, meat and seafood, and snacks of all kinds. Those of us who were too full to contemplate vast piles of food found a very friendly and accommodating office equipment shop around the corner that invited us to check email — and refused to accept any payment for the favor. Returning to the parking lot, I could not resist trying fresh sugar cane juice, pressed on-site in a stand adjacent to the market. Served in a plastic bag over ice, the cane juice was very refreshing, and not as sweet as you might expect.
On the road again! Our next destination was the Khao Sok park.