Koh Lanta is the Thai island I had in mind
Wild, exotic, warm, alternating white beaches to the jungle and still very Thai, and this is something not so easy to find on the other islands!
Actually Koh Lanta is composed of 52 islands and the most important is Koh Lanta Yai, where I went back four times already.
Visiting Koh Lanta
The first time I went there, in 2009, nearly all the roads were sandy and getting off the scooter you’d have the shape of your clothes and sunglasses printed on the skin. Year after year the streets were paved and a bit of magic perhaps went lost, but you are no longer forced to apnea while crossing other vehicles 😉
Renting a scooter costs about THB 90/100 and all resorts undertake the management. As for the refueling, well there are distributors on the island, but you can get gas anywhere at any time by buying one or more bottles of petrol on the roadside … yep, they sell it in recycled mineral water bottles and you can get it in almost any shop or private houses having a window on the edge of the road!
Koh Lanta’s beaches
After various excursions and an analytical study of the beaches on the island, I have chosen “mine”, the wild Ao Klong Jark. About 300m long, fine white sand, fantastic sea, beautiful sunsets and three small restaurant-bars constructed with debris carried by the tide.
The one I prefer is the “Last Beach” due to its excellent traditional dishes, the good and colorful fruit cocktails, the 1€ hammocks in the shade and the essential thai massages.
Extra positive point for this beach is Bao’s tattoo hut-studio. He spends the winter on the beach with his family and move to Bangkok when the tide rises during the rainy season. I had him tattooing me twice and my brother had an incredible red and black traditional mask too. All overlooking the sea and not being disturbed by the noise of the machine as he only uses bamboo. If you love tattoos, I can only recommend it!
Ah, with this kind of tattoo you can swim in the sea after only two hours!
There are other wonderful beaches in Koh Lanta: Klong Khong, offering amazing sunsets, the white Klong Nin set in the middle of the tropical forest and Kantiang Bay, a true snorkeling paradise.
The beach in the national park is very nice too, but honestly I don’t think it’s worth paying the entrance fee.
The most famous beach however is Klong Dao, not far from the dock of Sala Dan. The bay is just beautiful, but the tourist establishments are so many and the music they all spread all day long is for me cacophony …
Alternatives to doing nothing on the hammock
Lanta Old Town is a small settlement on the east coast of the island, the heart of Chinese trade, but also home to a small gypsy community. During my first stay on in Koh Lanta with my brother I stopped here, renting a nice little teak house on stilts with a beautiful veranda, ideal to relax and dive at high tide in the morning.
Every Saturday night they set up a small Walking Street lit by the typical Chinese lanterns and the party atmosphere of the village is contagious. Local shops stay open late and actually shopping when the air is fresh is much more pleasant and easy. In particular, I recommend you visit the shops that produce traditional hammocks. I now have a small collection … 😉
From the long jetty of Lanta Old Town you can embark on the long tails that lead to the tiny islands of Ko Bubu and Ko Talenbeng.
Khao Mai Kaew Caves a set of caves on multiple levels with beautiful stalagmites and stalactites and some not so beautiful bat, but to be honest when I was there I was the only one not being enthusiastic about their presence. De gustibus … In one of these caves there is a swimming pool! The tour lasts about two hours and the guide is mandatory (280 THB), as are sneakers with good soles to avoid slipping like I did during the first visit, to great amusement of other tourists…
Orchid Farm a tiny colorful Eden not far from Long Beach. The entrance fee is 35 THB and if you like flowers you can’t miss it!
Ko Lanta Noi a wild islet north of Koh Lanta Yai, inhabited by fishermen mostly of Malaysian origin. I went there on a motorbike, with transshipment from the harbor of Sala Dan on a long tail in company of rice sacks. The island is not at all touristy, but well worth! A few small restaurants, deserted beaches and lots of rubber trees.
Elephant ride that I personally do not appreciate. As already explained in the post on Koh Samui, seeing them with chained paws makes me sick. I prefer to watch them in the morning or in the evening on the beach Ao Klong Jark where they carry them to bathe. Anyway, the ride costs about 600 THB.
How to get to there
The most practical solution is the package “Island Transfer” of Air Asia (about $ 70 depending on the period and the moment of your booking), which includes the flight from Bangkok to Krabi, the bus to the jetty and the ferry to Koh Lanta. You can book directly from their website. The only hic is that it’s not that quick cause of the ferry schedule, traffic etc.
If you want a quicker transfer, and you are willing to do some negotiation, you can instead take a minivan from Krabi Airport which then embark on a speedboat. Once in Sala Dan the minivan will take you where you want, and all without loosing time as the car-speedboat ply every 15 minutes taking only twenty minutes. Considerable detail: the view during the short crossing is beautiful, so it is worth abandoning the air-conditioned minivan (yes, the engines are always on!) to enjoy it, but the smell of dried fish mixed with diesel fuel on board can give nuisance … Count about 2500 THB for 2 hours if you opt for a private minivan and about 400 THB if you prefer a bus shared with other passengers, but in this case your luggage will travel on your legs because there is no rooms for backpacks / suitcases on board.
There are also the same two options from Phuket, but unless you want to spend some time there (and I won’t do it again as I really didn’t like it), its longer and more expensive.
From the harbor of Sala Dan there are also various private shipping companies that ply with Krabi and Phuket, via Ko Phi Phi (200-400 THB for an hour). Tickets can be purchased directly upon boarding or you can book them at your hotel (they all gave a service desk).
Where to sleep
As written before, during my first stay in Lanta Old Town I rented the Mango House at 300 € per week, breakfast at the bar nearby included. A beautiful and large traditional teak house on stilts, with two kitchenettes, three bathrooms, two very large bedrooms and an fabulous terrace with loungers and hammocks. Ideal to feel part of this village.
During the following stays I preferred to stay at the “Last Beach” on Ao Klong Jark. The bungalow on the sand is really very basic, but it is for me the ideal for a completely relaxing holiday by the sea. The daily rate is 1300THB, breakfast and hammock in the shade included. A dream at a more than reasonable price.
My dispassionate advice when visiting Koh Lanta? Do not set anything in advance! Take a first round on the island and choose the bay that best suits you!
I almost forgot! Don’t do like me, do not forget nor the tripod nor the remote control to take pictures at night. The moon in Koh Lanta stands on the sea torching the horizon with its deep red color and then clear as it ascends. A true show of the nature that has to be admired the first few nights, but photographed once 🙂