As one of my favourite places in Thailand thus far, I feel that although on paper there isn’t a great lot to do, the 5 days in Koh Lanta just didn’t feel like enough. It is a perfect example of an idyllic lifestyle, where most of the island remains undeveloped, it’s quiet enough to feel personal, and in true Thai style, the locals smile and welcome you with open arms… and food.
I’d spent most of the night before travelling south fretting about the plans made with transport. I’m happy to say that I could have slept soundly – getting to Koh Lanta from Krabi airport is super straightforward, taking around two easygoing hours. Two ferry crossings have to be made, but they’re cheapy cheap and fast. If you’re travelling with older people who can’t walk or get around easily like I was, hiring a car is the only way to do it. The days really are yours when you don’t have to worry about catching public transport either.
If you’re after a well-needed break, Lanta is just that. From the first evening there, it became clear that the island seems almost deserted compared to more well-known ones in the Andaman. Mam and I had occupied one of about four tables of people in a beach bar watching a local band that circuits most of the bars – and this was a recurring kind of thing. The bars that are most accessible are undeniably tourist-orientated, but unlike a lot of places in Thailand that feel a little like a town twinning with Benidorm, it still works.
As said there isn’t much to do there – but that’s kind of the point. All the “points of interest” cater for a relaxing trip, such as a traditional Thai massage on the beachfront and eating your way around the west coast of the island. It’s almost obligatory to talk about the best yoga class I’ve had since leaving the UK, right there in Lanta. Oasis Yoga is tucked away by Klong Dao beach and has recently celebrated its first birthday. The sessions are a little bit higher priced than other yoga retreats, but for such an enriching experience, it’s more than worth it. Time allowing, I would have gone again (and again and again).
Most of the day’s “action” (term used very loosely) rests in the Old Town of Lanta. Once the island’s main port for trade, many buildings seem to have been exempt from renewal as times progress, making the town feel soaked in history and wonder. Chinese lanterns hang from wires that run down the main road towards the town, where there are plentiful of little Thai-styled boutiques offering various degrees of cool clothes and trinkets. Wherever there’s no sign, the price is negotiable, and don’t think you’ll find the same things elsewhere because (to my dismay) some of the treats are elusive elsewhere!
Though I absolutely can’t stand coffee, I’m a bit of a café buff and the amount of coffee shops, juice stalls and small restaurants by the main road made Old Town an grand spot to hang out for an afternoon. The town’s museum is a highlight of the town, as it delves into the history of the settlers on the island, explaining the fusion of Thai-Muslim, Chinese and sea gypsy cultures, as well as explaining how these different communities have lived side by side harmoniously for centuries.
There are various options of cuisine on the island, but there’s a reason for the saying “When in Rome, do as the Romans do.” Sometimes, it’s nice to have a change in the usual Thai cuisine, but Southern dishes vary so much from Northern Thailand, there’s really no need to go seeking after a burger or a western comfort. The closest we ventured to non-Thai cuisine was Red Snapper, a renowned Danish-ran tapas with a twist restaurant hidden in the foliage. It’s a little pricier than the other restaurants but it was a pretty pleasant meal with decent sized plates to nibble a little from each!
A neat balance of atmosphere, drinks that hit le spot and tasty chow is available all down Klong Dao (as well as the odd karaoke bar, where I conquered all sorts of crowd confrontation fears and sang ‘Space Oddity’ with my Ma.) You know the idyllic postcards of beach huts and low lighting, with food served in pineapples? You can find all that on Klong Dao Beach.
Finding somewhere to rest your bones for a few nights is really easy to do here and almost all the accommodation runs along the main road on the west side of Lanta Noi. If I have the slimmest chance of returning and were coming with a friend, doing more of a backpacker shindig, there’s some really sweet beach hut bungalows and tree house accommodation down Klong Dao too… Maybe (definitely) next time.
I could have happily spent five days in Lanta or five weeks (well maybe not that long) and still found little fun things to do or see. A lot of Lanta’s spirit however is in just being. Staying here is like taking time to breathe, to acknowledge things that maybe you’d usually overlook, and remind you that life doesn’t always have to be so serious and busy.
Sidenote – Restaurants on Klong Dao Beach:
Patty’s Secret Garden
Feeling Bay/Where Else? Resort