Koh Lanta – A Travelogue

Koh Lanta – By Punam Mohandas

I’ve got the Swedish Katja to thank for making it to Koh Lanta. Katja and I linked up on a trip to Cambodia; she had just finished the Thai leg of her Asian trip and couldn’t stop raving about Koh Lanta. Until then, I’d never even heard of the ruddy place. She bugged me till I agreed to do a Google search at least on it, and assured me I wouldn’t regret a visit.

So. Said Google search duly undertaken, I found Koh Lanta isn’t too far away from Koh Krabi, which was one of the places on my radar anyway. Seeing as how it all seemed to fit together quite seamlessly, Koh Lanta went down on my must-do itinerary and well, that was that.

I’ve already written about Khun Chhu and getting my Buddhist tattoo the previous night in Krabi. It really does look jolly good in the morning light and I’m immensely proud of myself as I climb into the songtaew that’s come for my pier pick-up to Koh Lanta. There’s a lanky girl with a mop of curly hair sitting on one of the benches and a Swedish couple on the other. I do the introductions all around; the girl is Amel, a Dutch of Moroccan descent, vivacious and intensely curious about the tattoo, whereas the Swedes take one look at my clingfilmed arm and treat me as though I had a communicable disease and smelt, besides! To be fair, that’s the missus; the husband gives apologetic shrugs ever so often! Huh. Makes no never mind. I’m off to see yet another island and not about to let some sourpuss rain on my parade.

We are deposited at this ticket agent’s place at Krabi town where we are to wait for other travellers to arrive from their destinations. Since I don’t have a hotel booked yet, I get chatting to the agent. Frankly, none of the room pix in his album look too appealing however, he’s nice enough to offer me some sound advice as he says I should book for at least a night, which gives me time to look around at other options once I’m on the island. That makes some sense, so I duly fork over 1,200 baht for the grandly named Lanta Sea Front Resort.

Okay, showtime. All of us are herded to the pier in a mini van, which is when I meet a group of people who’ve linked up the previous night – an Italian girl, an older Spanish lady, a Hungarian with semi-dreadlocks (okay, you’re not gonna believe this but his name really IS Attila!) the Argentinian Paolo and a nutter! Nope, that’s not me being mean, he truly was off his rocker – the others said he tried committing hara-kiri by rushing down a cliff face after his camera. At any rate, he’d got bruises and bandages all over him but seemed pretty nonchalant nonetheless.

Docking at Koh Lanta’s Saladan pier, the Swedes are whisked off in some fancy air-conditioned limo and the nutter vanishes, leaving the rest of us together. We hire a songtaew as we’re all headed to Klong Nin beach (one of the most popular beaches on Koh Lanta on account of its soft sands and clean beach). Amel already has a hotel reservation and the other four have decided to take two bamboo huts and bunk up. Several narrow, winding roads along the brilliantly blue seaface later, we chug to a stop and I’m the first drop. I tell Amel I’ll catch up with her later and wave the lot of them off before picking my bag and turning my feet around.

Being down south, Koh Lanta is very Moslem and it’s quite usual to see the women with the head scarves, much as you would in Malaysia. This is a much more secluded island too and pretty much off the main tourist track, in spite of being cheek to jowl with Krabi and Phi Phi. There really isn’t much to do here if you’re the partying sort, as Koh Lanta downs its shutters come the sunset, barring the half-a-dozen restaurants and sole 7Eleven 😉 Not very many star hotels here either, but the upside is that you get some fantastic seafood at rock bottom prices.

Oh dear. I’m getting philosophical about getting ripped off by Thai advertising by now. When they say ‘sea front’ in the name, they mean of course that the hotel could be near the sea but not necessarily that it’s overlooking said sea or that one is gonna get sea-view rooms anytime soon, and such is the case with this optimistically-named joint. Well, at least the darn thing is across the road from the sea! I march in and am determined to be difficult, so I demand to see a choice of rooms. Presumably they don’t have many guests in-house and so the pleasant Moslem lady at Reception trips over her feet in her eagerness to please. I get a tea kettle, extra towels, extra soap, extra bottles of water and other freebies before I declare myself satisfied and, thinking I’d be foolish to waste any more time here, trudge off in search of other hotels and Amel, in that order.

As luck would have it, I pass this Dutch couple on bikes who had also been on the ferry. They stop when they see me and I learn that they’re searching for hotels too, having first hired the motorbikes, which says much for their list of priorities 🙂 Seeing as how I’m looking for a hotel AND as I speak Thai, we decide to combine the two to mutual advantage and I hop behind the girl. As she zooms off, I wonder aloud why they’ve hired two bikes when surely one would do for a couple? No sirree – turns out she’s fiercely independent and wants to be able to take off on her own if the dude won’t play ball. Aha 😉

About Punam Mohandas

Punam Mohandas is the Consulting Editor for Travel Tales. She is a senior journalist with 20-years of work experience across India, Dubai and Bangkok. She is an accomplished and accredited travel writer and is well recognised among the travel trade, tourism boards and hospitality circles across several countries.
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