Perhaps it’s the steep little access road that runs almost through the super-luxe Nai Harn Resort’s car-park that deters many from journeying out along the promontory at the northern end of Nai Harn Beach, or maybe it’s the fact that this hilly little road is a dead-end terminating at the Baan Krating Resort, but whatever the reason, the glorious Ao Sane Cove and rocky surroundings remain largely off the casual visitors’ radar and so retain a charming sleepy, ramshackle ambience.
Early writers about Phuket from Steve Rosse in his regular Sunday ‘On the Rock’ column in The Nation in the 1990s through to Derek Davies writing in the UK’s Sunday Telegraph in his 2003 article titled ‘Never Mind the Marmite’ waxed lyrical about the early ramshackle authenticity of the unspoilt Phuket of yesteryear. According to these romantic snapshots of a bygone Phuket, there was a lazy, laid-back, sand-between-the-toes ambience about beach life in those seemingly far-off days before mass tourism took hold and strangled the authenticity out of this lovely island replacing it with mayhem, pollution and stress.
Before the current pandemic, mayhem, pollution and stress (which sound like a firm of particularly venomous lawyers!) had sadly become the “new normal” of Phuket life which mass tourism had unleashed and as a result, quiet, relatively undiscovered corners such as Ao Sane, which offered a temporary escape to a saner, more charming, vision of island life, had become increasingly rare jewels.
One of the few blessings of our current state of massively diminished tourism is a reinvigorated natural world and on Ao Sane Beach last week this was abundantly apparent. I had cycled there from Chalong by way of the steep Promthep and Windmill Hill climbs, but the beauty of cycling south down to Ao Sane is that you can also choose to take the benign, flatter routes via Soi Sai Yuan, or Wiset Rd, thereby eliminating the lung-bursting climbs.
I arrived on the beach by 5:30pm and found myself one of only five people on the three, rock-strewn, small beaches as a stunning sunset broke over the headland to the west of us.
As you’ll know if you regularly read this ‘Blazing Saddles’ column, I am a great believer in combing cycling with other forms of exercise, particularly for the upper body, in order create a more balanced overall workout (see Blazing Saddles – ‘Strokin’ in Phuket’, Mar 28 2021) and so I had decided to do some snorkelling while I was at Ao Sane this particular evening.
I threw a snorkel mask around my neck and waded out into the churning waves, then ducked down into the magical underwater realm to see how ‘Covid Days in Phuket’ were playing out amongst the marine denizens. The answer seemed to be, “exceedingly well, thank you very much” by the looks of things! A noticeably large number of fish were frolicking down there in an explosion of piscine exuberance. Coral was rejuvenating, blue starfish were embracing the rocky crevices and sea urchins waved their spiny greetings. It was glorious to witness and represented a transcendent escape into a diverting and harmonious parallel world.
I spent almost an hour swimming about the rocky outcrops, before clambering back onto the beach to sit and watch the sunset with a cold rewarding drink. Certainly, times are tough for many in Phuket during this pandemic, but we are blessed indeed to have at hand escapes to delightful throw-back corners of Phuket such as Ao Sane to take us back to a far saner time!
‘Bicycling’ Baz Daniel has been penning his Blazing Saddles column, chronicling his cycling adventures in Phuket and beyond, since 2013.