As I continue to studiously avoid Thailand’s most popular tourist destinations (I still haven’t been to Samui, Phuket, or even the Grand Palace), I found myself drawn back to the south. I’d only been to this part of the country once before, spending a week or so on Phi Phi with a friend for New Year 2009.
This time, my destination was the rather more sedate Ko Lanta.
Flying from Bangkok down to Krabi allows a great view if you manage to snag a window seat on the right-hand-side of the plane. I got lucky.
Krabi airport has a massage shop in the arrivals area. This struck me as odd.
From the airport, a taxi all the way to the hotel cost ฿2,300, including the two ferry crossings.
The first ferry crossing took our taxi from the mainland to Ko Lanta Noi (เกาะลันตาน้อย), the smaller of the two islands. A short drive, and then a second ferry crossing to Ko Lanta Yai (เกาะลันตาใหญ่).
Our hotel was a short further drive down the west coast of the island, just past the end of Long Beach. Quiet? Utter silence. Apart from a cat, on which the volume appeared to be broken.
From the sleepy quiet of the hotel, we walked north along the main road until we came to a dirt path that led to a seafood restaurant right on the beach. As in, sand under the table. Great food. The waves softly lapped at the shore as we ate. We couldn’t see them, but we could hear them.
The second day was hotter than it really had any right to be. I felt the need to verify that the hotel’s American Breakfast was awful, as is traditional in this part of the world. It did not let me down – the eggs were fried on the bottom but still raw and runny on top (the white, not the yolk). The ham was grey. The sausage had escaped from an underwhelming hot dog. All was well with the world.
After breakfast, we headed north and found a perfect deserted beach. We swam in the sea, and I got horribly sunburnt, as is traditional.
Later, we took the hotel’s shuttle bus up to the main town of Saladan, and wandered around the local shops and a rather touristy market.
Apparently, somebody likes gin and tonic.
I, too, like gin and tonic. I now also like Ko Lanta.
We had lunch at a café on Klong Dao beach, then walked along the main stretch for a while. These houses caught my eye.
Then a tuk-tuk back to the hotel, to lounge by the pool and read a book or two. Taking a shower, in the outdoor, roofless bathroom, I noticed wild monkeys watching me from over the wall, with thoughtful expressions on their faces. I wonder what they were thinking. I did ask, but their responses were vague and poorly-formed.
Dinner was at Baan Pad Thai, a muslim restaurant down the road from the hotel, and was exquisite.
If day two had been slow, day three ground to a standstill. A slow stroll back to the beach, where men and birds were fishing.
Lunch was over at Meeting Point, a great little family-run restaurant and guest house. The spicy seafood salad (ยำทะเล) was both nuclear-hot and delicious.
More loafing followed, along with a massage, and then a final dinner – we cheated, and had pizza.
All that was left was for one last sleep, one last breakfast, and to check out and clamber aboard the minibus back to the airport.
And no, Krabi airport does not have a massage shop in the departures area. Genius.
In the queue to board the plane, a surly middle-aged French woman declared “I am not pushing in!”, as she pushed in front of me. She definitely was though.
Ko Lanta is an absolutely beautiful place to escape, unwind, relax, and basically just stop. Yes, there are tourists, but the island’s big enough that you can avoid them – the further south you go, the fewer people you will encounter.
It’s a bit of a trek from Bangkok, but well worth the effort. I will definitely be back.