Thailand: Koh Lanta

After a slightly turbulent but very memorable few weeks in Myanmar, it was time for me to return to Thailand to explore the south. I flew into Bangkok, and headed straight down to Krabi, jumping off point for the islands. Rather than staying in Krabi town I actually stayed in Ao Nang just round the coast which is a bit more backpackery. I didn’t think it worth its own blog post as I just used it for a bed and a beach for the day, but it really wasn’t my kind of place. It’s very busy and touristy, with a strip of resorts, bars and restaurants, and an incredibly crowded beach. I stayed at K-Bunk which was good for meeting other travelers (and isn’t quite as rowdy as its sister down the road, party palace Slumber Party – though you can still join their tours and bar crawls). If you’re up for a couple of days of partying you may enjoy it more than I did, but for a nicer destination before or after visiting the islands, Railay or Ton Sai sounded a better bet (but are more expensive).

A rare quiet spot on Ao Nang beach

I also managed to fall asleep on the beach and woke up with a horribly sunburnt face and big white panda eyes where my sunglasses had been… not my finest hour, but an excellent form of amusement for my friends at work back home.

Next morning, I donned a huge pair of back-up sunglasses and hat to allow me to leave the room without scaring too many children, and was picked up to head to the Krabi ferry port. I was off to the first stop on my Thai island tour; Koh Lanta. Make sure you shop around in Krabi/Ao Nang for ferry tickets; the biggest stalls closest to the beach were selling tickets for 500฿ but I walked further up the hill and paid 280฿ for the same boat company, through Dee Dee Tours. Ferries here are quite expensive so to keep costs backpacker friendly, it’s definitely worth venturing out of your hostel and seeing what the small travel agency stalls have to offer – most routes are only run by one or two companies, so the price difference is just mark-up.

I got talking to a friendly Dutch guy on the way to the port, who turned out to be staying in the same hostel as me on the island. The boat journey took about 3 hours, and whilst we were squashed in a bit like sardines, at least it wasn’t rocky! We docked in Lanta, were picked up by our hostel truck and arrived to a great little hostel set-up at Blanco: a covered common area with a bar and kitchen, then an outside area of hammocks and squashy chairs framed by the bungalow dorms. It was one of my favourite hostels on my trip so far; an easy sociable vibe, great staff, good food and a really good location by the beach. You can also rent scooters through them to explore the island. It was mid-afternoon when we arrived, and my poor face couldn’t take any more sun, so I settled into a hammock to FaceTime my friend and chill out for a couple of hours.

In the evening, my Dutch pal and I walked the 2 minutes down to the beach from the hostel to watch a lovely sunset, then grab some food at the Pangea beach bar down there where they were playing some good music and had a firepit roaring.

A striking sunset from Pra Ae beach

The next day, we had some breakfast and then rented some scooters to go and explore the island. Koh Lanta is maybe 20km or more long tip to tip, so warrants a set of wheels to get around. There are only 2 roads on the island though so it’s really pretty and nice to drive around. We scooted first to Ban Si Raya, Lanta’s old town. It took about half an hour, and was a windy but quiet and green drive across to the other side of the island. It’s a tiny little town, more or less just one road along the sea lined with some wonky old buildings and cute little shops. We wandered through and bought some postcards, before hopping back on our noble steeds and driving further south down towards the tip of the island.

Ban Si Raya

We stopped at a bay towards the bottom of the island called Bamboo Beach, which we’d been recommended by the hostel staff. It was beautiful; lovely sea, white sand fringed with palm trees, and very few people on it. We ate at the little restaurant there first before heading onto the beach and going for a nice long dip (my face still hidden from the sun).

We drove back to the hostel as the sun was beginning to drop low in the sky, which made it a really pretty ride. We spent the evening playing cards with a load of people from the hostel which was enjoyable, we’d been lucky with a really great group of people there.

The next day was my last full day on Lanta and was really good fun. The Dutch guy and I joined forces with 7 others from the hostel to form a little biker gang for the day. It took a little while to get going, and I think we must have looked a bit like a ski school caterpillar on wheels again, but we headed back down to Bamboo Beach for our first stop. We had a dip and chatted in the sea, and then had a handstand competition – which I performed annoyingly badly in! I’ve clearly lost my gymnastic touch. Acrobatics complete, we returned to our lunch spot from the previous day for some munch before reassembling on the scooters.

The gang taking a dip at Bamboo Beach

We headed further down to the southern tip of the island, which is the Koh Lanta National Park. You have to pay 200฿ entry, which I’d say is only worth it if you spend some time exploring the jungle as well as the beach and viewpoints. The road heads steeply down to a car park at the end, where we parked the bikes and walked over to the sea. There’s an old abandoned lighthouse which we climbed up to for an amazing panoramic view over the sea and the rocks in one direction and the jungle in the other. We wobbled back down and sat in the shade on the beach for a while – it was another very hot day so the wind whipping across the southern tip of the island was very welcome!

The old lighthouse in the Mu Koh Lanta National Park

From the beach we wandered back away from the shore to go and get our first glimpse of some monkeys. There were a group roaming around chomping fruit and play fighting. We took a few photos but tried to keep our distance, as they’ve been known to steal sunglasses and cameras, the rascals!

From the monkeys, we set off on the nature trail round the national park. It wasn’t a very long, challenging or awe-inspiring trek, but was nice to do to make the most out of our park tickets. It was mainly steep stone steps up and down, and one of the guys is joining the marines later this year so we were put through something of a fitness test trying to keep up with his pace! We stopped a few times for water and all laughed at how sweaty everyone else was, it was a very hot hike. It was also a little underwhelming in that the ‘viewpoint’ at the ‘top’ was shrouded in trees so we couldn’t see anything, and we also didn’t see any of the wildlife we were promised – aside from what I think might have been the tail end of a squirrel of some sort. Despite this, it was nice to go on a walk through the tranquil jungle – and we worked up an appetite for a big dinner.

A very sweaty trudge through the jungle!

When we got back to the bikes, we were getting ready to set off when one of the monkeys ran up to one of the guys’ scooters, opened the boot seat, stole his can of Pringles and proceeded to run up a tree where he opened and ate them. It caused quite a ruckus for other monkeys also interested in a salty snack, and it was very funny to watch. So cheeky!

We headed the 40 mins back to the hostel, which was another pretty ride with the sun going down. Feeling a bit more confident in the scooters we upped the speed a bit on the straights where the road was empty and enjoyed the breeze that came with it!

When we got back to the hostel we all dispersed for much-needed showers, and I also had a FaceTime with my friend who’s currently working at the Winter Olympics in South Korea – I’m much closer in time to here whilst she’s out there, but it was quite the contrast in weather! It’s getting to about -8 there and she was wrapped up with a thermos, whilst I was still sporting the after effects of my sunbathing incident…

Some of the team on our scooters

That evening the hostel put on a BBQ which almost everyone staying there joined – I think there were about 60 people squashed onto the benches. We had some delicious chicken and pineapple skewers (with what I found out, the hard way, were chillies and NOT peppers), Thai papaya salad, spring rolls, sticky chicken wings and pasta salad. BBQ demolished, the card games began again for the evening, and around midnight a few of us headed down to the beach for a late night paddle. With the breaking of the waves on the shore, or otherwise disturbing the water, we saw the bioluminescent plankton which was quite cool! They’re a bit like natural fairy lights in the water – the Cambodian islands are supposed to be a good place to see it but we didn’t actually come across it when we were on Koh Rong Sanloem, so it was cool seeing it on Koh Lanta.

I really enjoyed the chilled vibe and pretty landscape of Koh Lanta, I think I could have stayed a few more days if I didn’t need to be somewhere else soon to meet some visitors! From what I’ve heard of the other popular islands it’s a lot more laid back, so it was a good spot to recharge ahead of my next destination which is set to be boozy…

Until next time,

Number of strangers I’ve spoken to today: 9, including another British guy who I have mutual friends with from back home.
Interaction was: a reminder that I’m back in Thailand, land of the Brits abroad, so I may need to watch my back for anyone I don’t want to bump into…

One Woman and her Backpack x

Follow me on Instagram @ellielfield

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