A Few Days on Koh Lanta
Koh Lanta is one of several islands off the Andaman Coast of Southern Thailand. Like much of the rest of the coast of Thailand, it is known for its diving and long white beaches.
After a few days in Phuket, the very popular beach resort town located Southern Thailand, we decided we had had enough of the crowded beaches and nightlife. Although the white sandy beaches were beautiful, it was a little tiring navigating our way through three rows of sun umbrellas just to get to the water. It was definitely not my idea of a tropical beach holiday. With no plans made ahead of time, we began to look for another less touristy place to visit. Our original plan to visit Koh Phi Phi was thrown out the window after talking to one of the locals. She suggested that we visit Koh Lanta, a less known island that was located about three hours due east by ferry.
There are several options to get to Koh Lanta. The nearest city is Krabi and from there Lanta is accessible by minivan or taxi. There is a car ferry that connects Lanta to the coast south of Krabi. The closest train station and airport are also located near Krabi. Koh Lanta is also accessible by boat from Phi Phi; the option that we chose.
Looking for a slower pace, the next day we boarded the "ferry" and headed through open water on a two hour trip to Phi Phi Island, where we transferred to a smaller water taxi to take us on our final one hour leg to Lanta. Phi Phi Island rocketed to fame following the movie, "The Beach," and what used to be a tranquil place is now party central for the South Andaman, playing host to hordes of tourists and speed boats. Those seeking less party oriented vacations are now heading to the more remote islands off the coast of the country.
The ride to Phi Phi was through pretty choppy seas and we soon realized that we could not keep our bags on the floor in front of us after the first torrential river of water went tearing by our feet. The doorway to the sheltered sitting area in front of us was host to a waterfall every so many minutes as water washed onto higher areas, ran to the back and continued its course. It was entertaining watching people standing in the doorway, not realizing that they were about to have a free shower any minute. It was almost timed to the minute such that we could predict when the next waterfall would come crashing down on each new unsuspecting visitor.
Phi Phi is an incredibly beautiful island and pictures do not really do it justice. Before it was developed by the major resorts and became inundated with tourists, it must have been a wonderful place. We snapped photos as we approached, transferred to a much smaller water taxi, and headed out on our one hour trip to Lanta. Most got off at the large island but a few carried on to other islands, such as Koh Lanta, our final destination. There were no more than 20 or 30 people on this much calmer trip.
Koh Lanta is a much more laid back place with ten beaches located along its west coast. We stayed near Klong Klong beach, a more secluded area of the island. The beach was more of a rocky reef bordered by coconut palms. It wasn’t really a swimming beach but a great place to take evening strolls, view the sunsets and watch fishermen tying up their boats to the shore at the southern end of the beach. Apart from a few locals, we were usually the only people walking along the sand so it was basically our own little private paradise while we were there. This was much better than an endless stream of umbrellas covering the sandy shores of Phuket.
For 200 baht, we rented a scooter and pretty much circumnavigated the island in one day. Even on such a small island, no more than 30 km in length and 6 km wide, we managed to get lost but it is not a big enough place to not be able to eventually figure out where you went wrong. Along with the small number of gas stations in the more populated areas, gasoline was available for sale in pop bottles all along the road by entrepreneurial locals. This made it quite easy to gas up anywhere you found yourself during the day.
There are numerous small villages dotting the island but the two main centers are Saladan at the north end and Lanta Old Town halfway down the east side. Lanta Old Town is a traditional Thai fishing community that is growing into a mix of Thai and western cultures, with several good places to stay and eat. I would highly recommend renting a scooter in these types of areas. It allows you to get onto the back roads and have a closer look at the local lifestyle. We have rented scooters in Thailand, Bali and Malaysia. Each time it was a great experience cruising along the back roads and viewing the sights that are not always visible from chartered tours or taxis. By taking a few precautions and putting along, it is a pretty safe way to experience the local flavor.
During our scooter ride around the island, we did take a look at the Sea-Gypsy Village. It is hidden away at the bottom of a steep, narrow road through the trees that culminates in a small village on the shoreline. Known to the Thais as Chao-Le, sea gypsies have occupied the area for hundreds of years settling along the coast in stilt-built houses erected between the water level of high and low tide. Apparently they mix very little with the general population, speak their own language and have their very own supernatural and traditional beliefs and rituals. We saw very few people and almost felt like we were intruding so after a quick look around, we headed back up the hill to the main road.
Accommodation is still very easy to find throughout the island, even if you decide to show up at the last minute. There is a plethora of wonderful restaurants located around the island and the food was delicious everywhere we decided to stop and eat. I have decided it’s pretty hard to go wrong in Thailand when it comes to eating out. Of course, living in China for several years has removed any preconceived ideas we had about street food and/or smaller cafes in the middle of nowhere so we will pretty much eat anything in any location if the scents drifting from the cooking area entice us enough.
I would highly recommend a visit to Koh Lanta if you are looking for an escape from the usual crowded beach party scene but still want to enjoy the tropical heat and sunsets. The people are very friendly, the island is fun to explore and there is enough to see and do to keep busy for a few days.
- Koh Lanta, Thailand - seagypsies information
More information on the Sea Gypsies of Lanta.