07.11.2013 - 11.11.2013
When you arrive on Koh Lanta, there should be a sign saying "Take one deep breath in, exhale slowly - welcome to Koh Lanta". You don't even watch sunsets sitting up, everything's geared to a more horizontal approach. Quite possibly the most chilled place I've ever been...
Cute little fella who joined us for dinner
Lanta is located close to the mainland and is still in the Krabi province, the island is 32km long, 20km wide. We decided to come here whilst we were in Ao Nang. That's the fantastic thing about travelling... the question "where shall we go next?".
We booked 3 nights in the northern end, a place called Klong Dao beach. Our hotel was fabulous, as the guidebook said "a 3 star hotel with 5 star service". They weren't wrong. It was located on the road but within a 5 minute walk to the beach. We should probably learn to rough it a bit more...!
Lanta Mermaid Boutique Hotel
Now to be fair, Koh Lanta's beaches and sea aren't its crowning glory. The best beach we saw was Long Beach, but even then the seas were a little murky. I'm not sure I can describe, but it's just the feel of the place. It's unbelievably relaxed and unhurried. I loved it.
Where the tiny crabs live
Technically it's now high season, but early into it - high season starts 1 November, we arrived on the 7th. As a result it was pretty quiet everywhere. Our hotel was full but that was down to its knockout reviews, otherwise restaurants and bars were generally one fifth full at best.
After some initial reticence, we rented a scooter from the hotel for a day and had brilliant fun exploring the island. We rode over Lanta's central hilly spine to Lanta Old Town, where 100+ year old houses jut out over the water on stilts. By chance, we happened upon probably the best spot on offer for lunch.
Table for two, sir?
Net fishing off the jetty
Lanta Old Town to the left
The freedom the bike gave us was fab. We stopped off at a little independent jewellerymaker's and bought a bracelet each... found cafes perched on hills overlooking the sea... caught the strong scent of an avenue of hibiscus flowers as we drove past... and made it down to almost the southern tip seeing numerous bays and small resorts clustered along the coast. A really wonderful day.
Yup, ours was the pink one
One evening in Klong Dao we had dinner at a place called Time For Lime. They offer cookery classes which we considered doing, but the prices were a bit steep for our budget. Instead we had their 6 course Thai taster menu which was superb - the nicest food we've had in Thailand so far. It also bucked the trend of empty restaurants and was full of happy eaters and cookery students.
The view across the bay from our table
They take their name seriously - everything is lime!
The boat service to our next stop, Koh Lipe, only runs alternate days until high season properly kicks in (in about a week's time), so we needed to stay an extra night on Lanta to pick up our boat trip the following day. We moved to Ban Saladan for our last night, the 'capital' of Lanta, although saying that is pretty funny seeing as it's just three quiet streets dotted with shops, restaurants and bars. Again, all the restaurants are built out on decks over the water making it very a quaint and great place to eat.
The next morning we caught the fast boat to Koh Lipe (3 hours ish), which by all accounts looks to be a paradise island. We sat next to a brilliant character, Mo, a 56 year old from East London (no, not the one off Eastenders). Mo retired from teaching early and is now living on Koh Lanta permanently.
Two years ago she took her gap year and as part of that, joined the 'Kiwi Experience' - a New Zealand backpacker fun bus she referred to as the 'Chlamydia Express'... ha ha ha. She was like a Mum to them all apparently. When she returned to the UK she got itchy feet so took herself off to South Africa to volunteer with animals, and is now doing the same on Lanta. Good on her.