low season in Koh Lanta

Posted from Ko Lanta, Krabi, Thailand.

About a two-hour ferry ride from Ao Nang lies Koh Lanta, a seemingly unspoiled island in Thailand’s Andaman Sea. Sure, there’s resorts and bungalows absolutely everywhere, and maybe it’s because it’s low season, but it seems like Koh Lanta didn’t sell their soul to tourism the way so many other places in Thailand have. In other words, it’s got a bit of heart and a bit of I-don’t-fucking-care going for it, the latter of which I really enjoyed.

Pulling into the pier at Koh Lanta. Notice the stilts.

Pulling into the pier at Koh Lanta. Notice the stilts.

The west coast of the island is home to heaps of beaches, all sporting that golden fluffy you initally expect in Thailand. At the southern end is a national park, with a hefty 200 Baht entrance fee (and another 20 baht for your scooter) with a few walking trails, visitor center and thick jungle to meander through. I opted out of going to the national park as I’ve been spending too much money on the islands, and I needed to give my wallet a break. Plus, I just rented a scooter for 250 Baht, why would I walk? Should I mention that locals only pay 40 Baht to get in?

On the north end of the island is the main pier with hordes of food shops, scuba shops, optical shops and clothing stalls. There’s restaurants made of reclaimed wood and other obscure building materials perched on stilts over the water, but I didn’t eat in any of these as I refuse to pay for location when I eat sub-par Thai food.

I stayed in the middleish area of the island around Long Beach.

 

Here comes the rain.

Here comes the rain.

My hostel, Non La Mer, just opened in January and has a hefty price tag of 450 Baht/night. There were cheaper places to stay on the island, especially since it’s low season, but I like the group dynamics of hostels and decided to buck up the fees, which got me breakfast, movies, free drinking water, a decent lounge area, AC dorm (between 8 and 8) and the occasional free snack (popcorn) whilst we were watching movies. Oh, yes. I did watch movies. With the low season comes rain. And it sure did proclaim its arrival.

My trusty steed. Mare?

My trusty steed. Mare?

Before the rain and intense lightning came I rented that scooter for a day and road the entire island. The east coast of the island doesn’t exactly have any beaches. When the tide goes out the shore is littered with rocks and mud. But there are numerous villages and even old Lanta Town on the east side. I’ve no idea why. Perhaps it’s due to the shelter from the hills in the middle of the island. Most of these villages are largely Muslim, a characteristic of the south. Some restaurants don’t even serve booze.

Old Lanta Town. There wasn't much to it, but it looked quite peaceful.

Old Lanta Town. There wasn’t much to it, but it looked quite peaceful.

The view of what was left when the tide goes out on the east coast.

The view of what was left when the tide goes out on the east coast.

There’s some lovely viewing areas along the road where you can glimpse out at the sea and the other islands. Basically, the same stuff you see from the beautiful beaches on the other side. But this was about riding a scooter and getting my hair (matted, sweat-covered and under a helmet) in the breeze.

There’s a large mangrove forest as well where one can hire boats or drivers to take them through the trees. I kind of wanted to do this, but the rains put a hamper in my plans. Plus, I didn’t want to shell out for the scooter for another day. The mangrove tours were closed when I rode by.

Anyone want to hire a boat to go through the mangrove forest? Oh, that's right, it's still dry season.

Anyone want to hire a boat to go through the mangrove forest? Oh, that’s right, it’s still dry season.

There’s also a waterfall, caves and elephant trekking available, in case you missed all these experiences elsewhere in Thailand. I also opted out of all of these as the rains hadn’t quite started yet, so the waterfall would certainly be a trickle, and the cave was probably a hole in the side of a rock – and the elephants, well, I really can never do that again.

Hello?

Hello?

Ohh ... I think I see a dude.

Ohh … I think I see a dude.

Nope. I got nothing.

Nope. I got nothing.

I swear, these are all different beaches.

I swear, these are all different beaches.

During this ride I stopped at very many of the beaches on the west coast which were e.m.p.t.y. Low season, or so it seems. Or is it that Koh Lanta isn’t such a tourist destination? For instance, this was the cheapest place I have found yet for beer in the shop. But beyond the beer, these pristine beaches were abandoned. I did see a sign on one of the beaches about jellyfish and stings and how there was an emergency bottle of vinegar in a post, but jellyfish are everywhere, so I couldn’t chalk it up to that. I really don’t understand why there was no one on the sand. But I’m not complaining. It was what I had imagined Thailand to be like – and finally it was.

I spent one glorious day on the sand (still unable to go into the water) before the rains sent me home. And it was when I went home that I decided today would be the day I got my stitches out. The doctor in Koh Samui said to do it the following day, but I saw no harm in going a day early. And I was right. For $17 I had my three stitches removed, my wound cleaned and dressed. And then told to keep it dry for a bit longer. I’m dying here. I need to go swimming.

The nightlife was winding down as well, but there were numerous Reggae bars doing their thing and surprisingly a number of customers flock to these places. I wonder why? I can only imagine the music, as I haven’t seen anyone openly smoking ganga anywhere in Thailand. (<– sarcasm)

 

Where I had lunch one day. Red curry. And a breath-taking view.

Where I had lunch one day. Red curry. And a breath-taking view.

My HTC HD2 smart phone chose to commit suicide shortly after this. The touch screen went, an apparent known issue due to the power button and location of a cord beneath it. I had no idea how tethered I was to it until I was eating a meal and couldn’t check my maps, play soduko, go online or check my contacts. Sigh. So the following day I walked 6km to the pier area, masochism in full swing, to where all the shops are, and bought a candybar Samsung Hero for 800 Baht. It does nothing but serve as an alarm clock, game device (it has one) and glorified calculator. At least it’s unlocked. Maybe I can sell it when I get to Bangkok at the end of May. Most expensive alarm clock I’ve ever owned.

On the last day the hostel had a problem with their water. Their 10,000L holding tank drained over night. The owner was explaining that she may have to put the guests up in another place if they didn’t find the problem. And being it Songkran, they couldn’t find someone who would come and investigate. I felt bad for them, and yet glad that I showered earlier that morning.

So the following day, having used my trusty new alarm clock to rouse me in time for breakfast, I caught a lift to the pier, rather than walking again, and hopped the Petpalin Ferry to Koh Mook, a tiny island further east where I would be spending Songkran with my friends from Bangkok.

 

 

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