A truer Thai island
Ko Lanta is a gem of an island in the Andaman Sea. At 30 kms long and 6 kms wide, it’s one of the larger Thai islands. It’s not as famous as the nearby, more developed ones, and it’s not the island you’d pick to witness beachside glamour, either. It’s the one you’d visit to take a break from the other Thai islands.
After the noisy capital, we gave ourselves five days to explore the relaxed Ko Lanta.
Late on a holiday
Due to an unscheduled detour via Scam City, it took us a whole day to reach the island. We were in Thailand in late August, a period considered off-season for the Southwestern Thai islands. But the lack of crowd didn’t affect our plans. It was welcome, even. Tours were still running, and most shops were open – just for fewer hours. We chose to skip creating an itinerary and took each day as it came.
This is why
There’s one road that starts at the north of the island and stretches along its length for as long as it can. The farther south you go, the further you leave the reaches of tourism behind. On the first full day we had on the island, we rented a bicycle and explored. A day’s worth of cycling on undulating roads led us to several secluded beaches.
When you travel to a largely ignored island, you have to prepare yourself to accept a few let-downs. Like how, often, there’s no one else on the beach to compete with for towel space.
If Yan can, so can you
Lazy islands spawn lazy days. My friends returned to the beach while I headed over to Time for Lime to get any misconceptions on Thai cuisine poked out of me. An indoor cooking-class is a fine way to spend a muggy day.
It was fun, educational, and delicious. I’ve reviewed the class on a separate entry because it was that good.
Two caves, one paddle. Jump.
No island stands in isolation. If you’re not pressed for time, you can hire a boat to explore the surrounding islands at your own schedule. As this was my first island holiday, we customised two tours with the help of the owners of Apple Travels. The first was an island-hopping boat tour to Talabeng, and Bu Bu. Ko Talabeng is known for its small caves, an exploration of which involved vertical climbs on rope-attached tyres, several butt-slides over slick rocks, and one sweaty, faith-testing, leap in the dark. All the good stuff you never sign up for.
The second tour was a kayaking trip around Ko Lanta’s Eastern Mangroves. Due to an oversight on the guide’s part, I did the tour 1.5 times. We had to return to the starting point to collect our forgotten bananas. A USP of the tour is that you get to feed monkeys on your way back. You’re warned to be cautious as they often get aggressive. I think that’s mentioned just to create drama; you’re never close enough to allow the primates a chance to jump onto your kayak. The guide will always lead you to spots from where it’s safe to feed the monkeys. So don’t do what I did. Don’t throw the bananas at them from a distance and paddle away in a hurry.
On our last day on the island, the owners of the travel agency invited us to their friend’s wedding reception. We couldn’t attend the wedding that had taken place in the morning (we were kayaking) so they encouraged us to attend the reception in the evening. Besides, it’d been a fairly typical Thai island wedding, anyway; an ageing white expat chose a young Thai bride for his fourth marriage.
This is Thailand.
Ko Lanta has friendly locals and quiet beaches. If you want to experience a Thai island before it hits its peak with tourism, Ko Lanta is where you’d go.
My Thailand trip ended with a day each in the beautiful Ko Phi Phi, and the underwhelming Phuket.