Koh Lanta

17 04 2013

After Chiang Mai, we hopped on a plane and headed to Phuket, Thailand’s best-known international resort town, for a quick overnight. Then, we boarded a boat for our final destination: Koh Lanta, a small island located three hours from the pier.

The boat we took to get to the island was filled with a strange combination of people. There were the usual suspects of course: bikini-clad tourists, foul smelling backpackers with dreads, twenty-somethings searching for themselves. However, there were others too, including young European parents with their small children, nearly a dozen Thai monks dressed in orange robes, local Muslim men and women trying to convince you to take a certain taxi or stay in a particular hotel. It was an unusual combination of travelers indeed, and a decent representation of what we would find on the island.

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We got to Lanta in the late afternoon, the sky overcast and threatening to rain. The island was surrounding by beautiful, rocky cliffs jutting out of the ocean, but Lanta itself was covered in dense, green vegetation. On the way to our bungalow, I was struck by the juxtaposition of the female tuk tuk drivers wearing hijabs who were transporting shirtless surfer types to bars with signs advertising shroom shakes or inviting you to “smoke here.”

Our bungalow was nice enough, the main draw being that it was located directly on the beach. As we found out, the adjacent restaurant featured overpriced, bland versions of Thai dishes that were typical of the island. There were a couple of cafes nearby that served up delicious muesli and homemade yogurt, but this was clearly not the place to get authentic tom yam or green curry.

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We spent three nights on the island, sunbathing and swimming whenever the weather would allow. In a given day it might have rained on two or three occasions, but there were always patches of sunshine that were perfect for relaxing. The beach had beautiful golden sand, with coral and rocks that were exposed during low tide.

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The only day that we strayed far from our bungalow was the second, when we decided to explore the island on bike. We made our way up and down the hilly terrain, stopping to admire the different beaches and viewpoints along the way. We eventually found ourselves in “Old Town,” which had a strip of restaurants aimed at tourists, decorated with Chinese lanterns. As we rode back, we got drenched in a downpour, but by the time we arrived at our bungalow the sun was shining again, inviting us out for another swim.

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We left Lanta happy to have made the trek to Thailand’s southern beaches. While in the south, we also stopped briefly in the town of Krabi, where we refueled on street food at an expansive marketplace before going on a great half-day kayaking tour through mangroves, karsts, and abandoned caves. Our vacation was almost over, but we were still looking forward to returning to Bangkok for Thailand’s biggest holiday: Water Festival.

Katie

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