On 11th February 2018 we got the 11:30am ferry from Koh Phi Phi to Koh Lanta. You can only get an open ticket for the ferry and so this led to it being overbooked. We were lucky and got one of the last seats on the boat but those that weren’t so lucky had to stand outside in the sun for the hour journey!
The journey was very smooth and uneventful. People on the boat try and sell you their taxis to get you to your accommodation and they quoted us a price to get from the pier to Long Beach where our hostel was for 150 baht each. We decided to see what price we could get once we were on the island and ended up haggling ourselves a taxi for 150 baht total price meaning we got it half the price of the ferry – definitely worth trying your luck by haggling!
We stayed at Let It Bee Econo Hostel which was a five minute walk from the beach and near to some cheap restaurants. After getting sorted we headed straight to the beach and spent the rest of our day there. The beach is very relaxed and the water was really calm so it was a great day doing relatively little in the peace and quiet.
After getting showered we went back down to the beach to watch the sunset which showed us some lovely reds and pinks in the sky. We chose to have a chilled evening as I was still recovering from being ill the day before but still enjoyed our first day on Koh Lanta and the sunset was beautiful with the portion of sky we were sitting in front of turning a brilliant, bright pink. We had obviously just picked the right spot to sit though as on either side of us the sky had remained blue until the sun set.
The next day (Monday 12th February 2018) we hired a scooter for 200 baht (£4.50) for the day and set off driving around as much of the island as possible. The island has two main roads that are on either side of the island running from one end to the other. These are then connected by a few roads that go through the jungle and over the hills in the centre of the island making biking around very easy to navigate.
We started by heading up to the top of the island to the Pier where we had first got off the boat onto the island. We had a drive around but this was really just a hub of tourist shops, restaurants and guesthouses so not much to see. We had looked at accommodation here but I’m glad we chose to stay in Long Beach as that’s a bit more central and we could walk to the beach. From here we headed back down the road to Klong Dao Beach. We had been hoping to go surfing here but it mustn’t have been the right time of year as there wasn’t a single wave so instead we had a walk along the beach before getting back on our bike and continuing to explore. We looked into stand up paddle boarding (SUP) and got told we could get a cheaper price in the afternoon so did come back to the beach but we were tired from driving around all day so gave it a miss. The conditions would have been perfect for it though. I noticed that Klong Dao Beach had a lot more families with young children and then retirees whereas Long Beach by where we were staying had a lot more backpackers and young couples although still being very relaxed.
In the connecting roads between the two sides of the island was a viewpoint that looked over the sea to some of the neighbouring islands. The sea was a turquoise green and had jungle and farm land leading out to it making the view very pretty. A restaurant had been built where the viewpoint was so you had to go in there to see the view but we didn’t buy anything and just had a look and then carried on our way.
The drive was really nice through lush green trees with mountain backdrops and bright blue skies. Once crossing over the island we went to the Old Town which was made up of wooden building that were built on stilts going out into the sea. There was also a long jetty that was still used for small fishing boats. I imagine that one day this looked a lot more authentic but now, with tourism being the main source of income, the standard clothes shops selling elephant print trousers and printed tops occupied many more of the shops. To me, it looks very similar to the other areas of the island and so we didn’t stay here very long and just drove through and along the jetty.
Further on from the Old Town was a sea gypsy community. I had imagined this to be a boat community like a floating village but it was on the shore and a street of corrugated iron houses and huts. In Thai they’re known as Chao Leh and are thought to be the very first inhabitants of the Andaman coastal regions of Thailand, Myanmar and Malaysia. It’s alarming to see the number of tsunami warning signs right next to their houses being a reminder of the devastating tsunami that happened here and the surrounding areas in 2004. There really isn’t anything to see here and, since our exploration, I’ve read more into it and apparently unethical tour companies are trying to make money off the sea gypsy way of life by bringing tours and making the residents in this area perform traditional songs and dances. We drove to the end of a road and didn’t see anything so left, I don’t know why it’s advertised as a thing to see and, in hindsight, I’m glad there was nothing to see as they’re not something to gawk at and I would hate for tours to come around and have a good old stare at me when I was at home!
A lot of the day was spent driving around just having a look at the islands and going through tree lined roads. It was a nice day and a nice drive around although, looking back, it was probably a little too much driving and we could have maybe broken up the day a bit more with some relaxing on beaches or a proper stop for some lunch. We passed some more lovely lookout points along the way that showed us more of the turquoise waters that surrounds the island, I could look out at those views for hours.
A sad aspect of our day was that we also got to see a much less favourable tourist attraction on the island – Elephant Trekking. Elephant trekking has been a source of tourism in Thailand for a long time. Fortunately, inmore recent years the cruelty that is inflicted on the elephants to make them compliant in being rode by tourists has been publicised a lot more and it’s now heavily boycotted and discouraged by the majority of tourists. Ecotourism is now a lot more commonplace with the emphasis on not leaving a trace, protecting the precious environment we enjoy exploring and observing, not working, the animals in those habitats. As well as seeing a family riding one of the elephants – unfortunately there are still people who want to do this and either don’t know or don’t care about the treatment of the elephants – we also saw a mother elephant who was 19 years old and her baby who was a year and a half old chained up where you could pay to feed them but also where they both lived when one wasn’t being ridden. The area was tiny and certainly not remotely big enough for them both to stay in – our hostel room was bigger – neither was the chain long enough to give the mother elephant free movement. Whilst we were there the baby elephant took a small basket that had some food in from a young tourist (the young tourist had been taunting the elephants and not giving them the food which made us very angry) and a worker came into the enclosure. The baby elephant ran away instantly and the mother made a cry of anguish I hope I never have to hear again and I have no doubt that had we not been there at that time, harm would have been inflicted on them both. It was so sad to see and as we left to carry on exploring I felt helpless that there was nothing we could do to help those beautiful elephants. (Talk of a nighttime liberation did occur but we didn’t rate the feasibility of our plan)!
Koh Lanta has a large national park on the island but we decided not to go in as you had to pay entry and by the time we got there it was after 3pm so we didn’t think we’d be able to spend ages in here to make it worth the money. I also still wasn’t feeling 100% so we decided to go relax on a beach instead. There was a beautiful beach just next to the entrance of the national park which had hardly any people on and a herd of cows that lived on the grass area next to the beach. If we had been spending more days in Koh Lanta we would have come to this beach for the day as it was very peaceful and secluded.
When we got back to the hostel I had a nap whilst Niall chilled and then we went to meet our friends who had just arrived from Koh Phi Phi and who we wouldn’t be seeing again after that evening. We had tea together and then went to the beach. It’s been great to keep meeting up with them during our travels and it was sad to be saying goodbye to them when we don’t know when we will see them again. It’s one of the best bits about travelling to make new friends from all over the world and it’s always really lucky when you meet people you get on with so well and so easily like we all did. I’m sure it won’t be the last time we see them!
From left to right: Keven, Niall, Ryan, Maddy, me and Jamie
Koh Lanta was really nice and we enjoyed the relaxed vibe the place had. I think you could spend longer than we did there but we had a lot more places still to visit before we left Southern Thailand and so we just packed in what we could. We nearly didn’t go to Koh Lanta but I’m glad we did and would recommend it if you’re doing the south western Thai islands.
Next stop: Krabi
Sending love x