Thailand Fling - Part 4... Laid Back in Lanta
Ko Lanta, Thailand November 2022
The transfer by speedboat to our next destination wasn’t quite the jet-setting “James Bond” style entrance I had imagined. Although offering a much faster journey than the 2 hour longtail boat alternative, I grew quite concerned at the number of passengers being crammed into the hull of the vessel which was to take us to Ko Lanta. Prone as I was to the occasional bout of sea sickness, I was more worried about the apparent lack of life jackets than that of sick bags at that moment.
Fortunately, the weather (and the gods!) were on our side and after a pretty uncomfortable 50 minutes, we made it to Saladan Pier.
The island of Ko Lanta lies just off the coast due south of Phuket and the Phi Phi islands, but is much less touristy and developed. Once the domain of families of sea gypsies (no soggy caravans – they lived in ramshackle houses built on stilts above the ocean), it is now renowned for its long, palm fringed beaches and low-key resorts. We had been warned that the island’s few roads weren’t the best as we bumped our way over pot holes and roadworks on the way to our resort. Some of the pot holes were so large that plants were growing out of them – maybe that’s how they got the name!
After much research, I’d booked us a nice little hotel in Klong Nin towards the south of the island and we were delighted to find it was (in our humble opinion) the best beach and the coolest resort! The 3km long stretch of golden sand is fringed by a string of small bars and restaurants offering sunbeds and an eclectic selection of chill out music (everything from Hawaiian jazz to Mexican Mariachi). Paradise!
We soon felt very much at home, wandering down to the beach every day and discovered a great little French bakery offering freshly made croissants and baguettes and the best pizzas we’d had in Thailand so far. The fresh seafood and Thai pancakes weren’t bad either! Just down the road was the obligatory Sports Bar (again run by a Brit), although most of the World Cup games were on way past our bedtime, and I even found a great little place to get my nails done!
The weather was showing signs of improving, although the heavy downpours were still a regular occurrence, so we decided to brave some excursions. There seems to be one tour agency for each tourist at the moment, so after some haggling, we booked a snorkelling trip to the nearby islands of Ko Rok and Ko Ha (we opted to give Ko Pu a miss). The water was crystal clear and the reef was teaming with colourful tropical fish. After finding Nemo, we stopped for lunch on the beach where we were joined by a huge monitor lizard, who luckily wasn’t too interested in my tofu stir fry…
Later that week we plucked up the courage to rent a scooter and slaloming around the potholes, managed to circumnavigate much of the island over the following days. Most of the beaches lie on the west coast of the island, but “our beach” as it became, was undoubtedly the best! The Old Town, on the east coast, was once an important harbour for Arab and Chinese traders and its main street consisted of an interesting collection of ancient wooden stilt houses which had been transformed into craft shops and restaurants. Further down this coast we even stumbled on a Mexican restaurant serving delicious burritos and tacos, so maybe the Mayans passed this way too!
It all felt very comfortable and we made Lanta our base for the next few weeks, negotiating a good extended rate at our hotel. Between lazy days on the beach or by the pool, we fitted in a kayaking trip through the vast mangrove forests in the north island (Ko Lanta Noi) to Talabeng Island. This 70m high rocky outcrop was rumoured to have once been a popular haunt for pirates, and we explored its freshwater sea caves containing massive stalactites and rock formations, but sadly no buried treasure…aaargh…
Our best day so far though has to be a cookery course, run by Junie at Time For Lime, who set up the Lanta Animal Welfare Centre over 20 years ago. All profits go towards the upkeep of the centre, so not only did we spend a wonderful day learning the basics of Thai Cookery, it was all for a good cause.
We started off by learning how to make three delicious cocktails (a bit like “teaching your grandmother to suck eggs” in my case!!) a tasty snack called Mieng Kham (Thailand in one bite), a selection of “flavours” wrapped in basil leaves followed by a papaya salad and spicy dressing. After a couple of cocktails, Ian refused to let me anywhere near the giant cleaver they used for chopping so I took out my frustrations on a red Thai curry paste with the biggest pestle and mortar I’d ever seen. We chilled out around the pool with our fellow chefs in between courses, while everything was magically cleared up and a new set of ingredients set out ready for our preparation. If only it was this easy at home… I was tempted to offer Noi, our hilarious, informative and very sweet instructor a job back in the UK as my sous chef!
Noi went through the main sauces and ingredients used in Thai cookery, explaining which ones were prepared “eat me” style and which ones were “don’t eat me” (just used for flavouring) – very useful as I usually end up chewing a stem of lemongrass before discreetly spitting it out into a serviette! We then went on to prepare the Thai staple Phad Thai, fish with rich red curry sauce and stir fry veggies. Our presentation didn’t quite match the exquisite display that Noi rustled up using banana leaves, carved carrots and fresh orchids, but it all tasted pretty good, especially when washed down with a few more cocktails! I’m not sure I’ll be re-creating all the recipes once I’m back home, but it was so much fun and it will certainly be one of the highlights of our trip.
Deciding that you can possibly have too much of a good thing, we travelled up to the top of the island for a night in the lively Sala Dan (for a bit of shopping and an Indian!) before taking the ferry to our next port of call.
Next stop: A look at Ko Mook
MORE PHOTOS… (Sorry – quite a lot this time!)