Casa de la Flora - Khao Lak Thailand

“Many of my community were lost in the tsunami that year… we had not had a tsunami in our lifetime, and only knew a very big wave was coming quickly” explained our guide of the 2004 Thailand earthquake that claimed the lives of over 200,000 coastal inhabitants in 2004, an estimated 8,000 of which were in Thailand.  “We ran to high ground early that morning, and then came back to town late in the day after the waves. I looked up to see one of my closest friends up high, hugging a tree, he had been there all day long – he was crying, he was afraid to come down, and also had lost his father… it was a very sad day”.

I’m a firm believer in the fact that to fully appreciate beauty and goodness, one must also acknowledge and respect the bad, and the sometimes unavoidable tragedies of life.  Visiting Khao Lak for the first time, and sitting on an unspoiled, unnamed “hidden beach” with our Casa de la Flora guide, it’s hard to believe that a place with such appeal and beauty could have been so unexpectedly struck with a monster in the form of a 33 foot wave only 13 years prior.  It’s almost impossible to imagine what it would have been like to be sitting seaside with a coconut in hand, the only concern for that day being what variety of curry to make for dinner, only to be swept away by the Andaman Sea.  While a distant memory, or even worse – a forgotten event – for many visitors to the area today)  it was an unparalleled tragedy and has certainly changed this region of Thailand.

No Name Secret Beach Casa de la Flora

It is necessary to revisit these events as the experience and new luxury of Khao Lak are framed by the context of these stories: from the destruction emerges a tale about survival, community, and ultimately, allowing tragedy to rouse the process of rebuilding and starting anew – creating a place that is not better, not worse, but simply different.

After receiving our rental car keys under a red pool umbrella adorned with the classic Avis logo, with the humming of a distant local Thai band playing outdoors in the distance, we were on our way to Khao Lak.  Khao Lak sits about 1.5 hours, or around 55 miles north of Phuket International Airport and requires a focused drive as you weave through hundreds of mopeds, daredevil roadside dogs, and myriads of mom and pop pineapple stands. 

The fact that Khao Lak is relatively unheard of as opposed to the almost ubiquitous (and hedonistic) Phuket is exactly what gives it its charm.  The area itself is a little rough around the edges, lined with clothing stands and local Thai food bazaars, some abandoned bars and buildings (and others that just look abandoned but come alive at night); but it feels more real than its alternative.  In Khao Lak, you can truly experience Thailand as the locals know it.

Casa de la Flora takes you by surprise.  It’s modern, sleek appearance would be astounding even if stumbled upon in the middle of a posh part of Miami or NYC.  The highly sophisticated and thoughtful design contrasted to the laid back town and undeveloped pristine beaches makes its guests feel like they can enjoy a luxurious stay without sacrificing taking part in the local attractions and culture. 

Casa de la Flora design.jpg

We spent 3 days at Casa de la Flora, during which we tried to indulge in everything the resort had to offer both on and off campus.  After enjoying all the dragon fruit and fresh juice we could eat at breakfast the very first full day in paradise, we partook in a Thai cooking class with one of the hotel’s senior chefs.  “One or two spoons fish sauce? You remember?” chirped the senior hotel chef tasked with teaching us how to make our own Thai lunch for the day.  “You like spicy or Thai spicy?”

The hotel arranged for each of us to have our own cooking station, so we could own the preparation process of our own food from start to finish.   Two hours later, we had learned about all the local Thai spices, and had heaping portions of our own Tom Yum Goong and Pha-Naeng Neua to enjoy.  We also were armed with ample information as to what spices we would need to buy at the local market that evening, in order to recreate the dishes once we arrived back home (indeed, we did end up buying all of the spices, and look forward to making our own Thai feast in London).

Casa de la Flora Cooking School

The following day, we headed to the Secret Beach we discussed earlier.  Casa de la Flora seemed to have every single detail thought through on this trip.  We jumped onto a boat at Casa de la Flora’s sister hotel just down the street, and quickly were sized up for snorkel gear and given the agenda for the day: we were to first go snorkelling in the crystal blue waters off the coast of a beach just 15 minutes from the hotel, where we would be dropped off and given about 45 minutes to observe the plentiful tropical fish and corals.  Next, we would hop back in our boat and head to a pristine No-Name Beach, where we would be free to spend the next couple of hours exploring water holes, climbing rocks, eating lunch under a makeshift shelter, and swimming in the warm crystal blue waters.  We even learned about the local culture and fruits; including the way in which cashews grow and are harvested – and even got to try some cashew juice from the tree for ourselves!

Thai Secret Beach Lunch

The ride back from this day-long adventure in the sun was absolutely unforgettable as I consumed local fruit, refreshing drinks, and felt the Thai breeze whipping through my hair as we raced back to the hotel, where we were dropped off beach-side.

For our final day, we simply opted to just be, and not try to do too much. We relaxed, we indulged in all of the breakfast food options possible (you can eat until you drop, which we were big fans of), and opted to skip lunch in anticipation of the special dinner that was planned for our final evening.  While every dinner 

table at Casa de la Flora comes with a view, there is one exceptional option for guests looking for an extra unique and private experience: a private rooftop dinner for 2, complete with its own private chef and staff.  We were treated to an absolutely indulgent seafood platter complete with many of other courses and fine wines to pair.  

Casa de la Flora Rooftop Dining

Casa de la Flora offers an absolutely unforgettable Thailand experience where you can get a heaping of real local culture, appreciate uninterrupted tourist-free views and experiences, and eat to your heart’s delight.  We would recommend this place to adventurers of all ages and to all who have a great appreciation for a special kind of travel experience.

Relaxing Casa de la Flora

Paresa Resort - Finding Cliffside Luxury in Thailand

“Do you hear that!?” Was exclaimed wide eyed as our aged and previously abused rental car exerted itself up the winding roads that bring you to Paresa Resort Phuket.

Most resorts will happily provide a variety of transfer options to and from the local airport, however we thought the more interesting approach would be to rent/hire a car allowing for much more freedom and options to explore.  Also, driving in southern Thailand is a great experience… it’s a two lane road?  Why not make it three by using the shoulder area?  The white lane lines are apparently just a suggestion, and you have to be vigilant and prepared for the myriad scooters, sidecars laden with watermelon or other in-season fruit on its way to a local market, and of course the very occasional elephant which we saw around one of the winding corners as we drove from the busy Patong to the tranquil Kamala.

Paresa Kamala Resort is creatively positioned on the cliffs affording fantastic, only-interrupted by trees views of the Andaman sea from every room (13) and suite (36) at the property.  It’s unique layout also allows for a very memorable and distinct hotel visit - epecailly when looking at other resorts in the area. You arrive at the very top of the property and descend to the reception area where we were warmly welcomed, provided with much needed cool and scented towels, a fragrant chilled tea, and asked to pick a scent for the room (lemongrass or coconut) as you run through the check in process.   

Paresa View from Room

Paresa apparently means ‘heaven of all heavens’ and here because of the cliffside layout over many private acres you descend and ascend throughout the resort either on foot or with one of the many on-call buggies.  It is a unique set-up that creates a sense of isolation and privacy… and your legs will remind you of your efforts (it is a great way to work off a bit of the fantastic breakfasts and or dinners you will experience while on site – again with unrivalled views).

Paresa Restaurant View

And that noise that we heard when we were first driving to the resort? Thousands, if not millions of cicadas and other chirping critters in the surrounding jungle/forest… a cacophony that rises and falls throughout the evenings there and serves as an unforgettable backdrop to the scenery – and thankfully those critters were heard but not seen as we gazed out at the squid boats lit up in green and white in the distance and the heat lightning that illuminated the night skies.

Ambient noise from the cliffs at Paresa Resort in Thailand


At risk of repetitiveness, the resort’s infinity pool (if you get sick of your own room’s pool) is located just below the restaurant and just a cliff level above the spa  – all again with amazing views of the sea that will have you reaching for your phone or camera over and over again trying to capture that elusive perfect angle that captures the feel of Paresa (it is difficult to do).

Paresa Pool


The spa itself offers many of the traditional treatments one expects to find, but with organic oils and materials and all created locally.  I opted for the special ‘after sun’ massage (peppermint, eucalyptus and tea tree) after foolishly spending some non spf time outside of our suite – it did not banish the burn but definitely made it a bit more manageable! (thank you)

Paresa Spa Menu

Paresa also offers a host of activities (and yes - a fantastic beach as well)  – both their own and then some offered by a boutique third party provider where unique opportunities have been selected that keep you away from the tourist hoards and engaged with the local culture.  We chose to hop in our car in order to explore the Phuket Old Town on our own schedule.  The Old Town was a very pleasant surprise.  It has been both preserved and modestly gentrified – a great blend of the old Sino tin mining heritage and a nod to reforming and cleaning up its more ‘dusty’ areas which are now full of color and good smells (for the most part!).

Phuket Old Town Street


We’d highly recommend visiting this area of the world.  Phuket has a little bit of everything – depending on what you are in to and looking for.  We came looking for interesting adventures, new cultural knowledge and an understanding of the area and some tranquillity / downtime and found it all at or within striking distance of Paresa Kamala.