Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Island Time. Koh Lanta.

Koh Lanta at sunset.
(Photo by Rushen.  Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons.)

We only have a few days in Thailand and while we could've have spent it all in Bangkok, I decided we needed to see another part of the country. At first, I had thought of going to Chiang Mai and doing a village trek.  I even spent quite a bit of time looking into a trekking tour and accommodation in Chiang Mai.  But, then the beach called with an invitation of white sand and crystal clear turquoise waters.  I answered.  A few pictures of the beautiful beaches that Thailand is world renown for and that was it.  To the beach are going.

Then, there was the question of which beach?   Thailand has extensive coastline - along both the Andaman Sea and the Gulf of Thailand.  Right off the bat, I eliminated Phuket - it's much too touristy for my liking.  I also eliminated Krabi because it has beaches but why just do a beach if you can do an island.

Map from kolantathailand.com.
I eventually got down to Koh Phi Phi and Koh Lanta which are in the Andaman Sea and Koh Samui which is in the Gulf of Thailand.  Koh Samui seemed a little too developed and Koh Phi Phi exactly the opposite.  I finally settled on Koh Lanta which seems to be a nice mix of developed and left alone.

Koh Lanta is comprised of several islands - the two largest of Koh Lanta Noi and Koh Lanta Yai.  It is Koh Lanta Yai  that is commonly just referred to as Koh Lanta.  The islands are  located about 70 kilometers south of Krabi.

Koh Lanta is known for its 9 attractive white sandy beaches running down the entire west coast and tropical forest in the interior.  One of the main reasons I was attracted to Koh Lanta is the fact that local laws have prevented jet-ski`s, beachfront parasols and nightclubs from turning it into place that is more popular with tourists, like Phuket.  This is a place for relaxation....of the tranquil type.

Getting to Koh Lanta from Bangkok is very easy.  Nok Air offers a package deal where they will fly you to Krabi, shuttle you to the ferry boat and then ferry you over to the island, all for one set price and it's a very reasonable price!

I found us a reasonably priced hotel that's in walking distance to the town, where the ferry will drop us off and where there are plenty of shops and restaurants.  The hotel is also less than a 10 minute walk to the beach!

Unlike lucky me who is retired, the other two are still working full time.  I think beach time will help to wash away some of the stress that has accumulated.  I know we will enjoy a dip in the warm waters of the Andaman Sea.

However, we have two full days on the island and I know that none of the three of us can spend it full time lying in the sun.  So, I decided to find a few things we can do off the beach.

Tham Khao Mai Kaew Caves.  Koh Lanta is home to Mu Koh Lanta National Park, a marine park established in 1990.  As a marine park, it is known for its beaches but would be coming to explore its caves.  The park is home to several caves but the largest and most impressive is Tham Khao Mai Kaew.  Like so many caves, Tham Khao Mai Kaew offers its visitors caves filled with bats, stalactites and stalagmites, and pools.  For getting around inside the caves you will need a guide, but one is cheap, around 200 baht per person.  I decided to get some reviews on the Tham Khao Mai Kaew caving experience.  Hmmm....does not sound easy.  In fact, reading some of the write ups gave me a flashback to my Tsingy de Bemaraha rock climbing adventure in Madagascar.  I'm not sure I'm ready or willing to relive that experience and I'm not sure the caving experience will sound attractive at all to the other two either!

Lanta Old Town.
(Photo from Thailand Holiday Homes)
Lanta Old Town is a small village on Ko Lanta's east side.  Lanta Old Town was originally a sea gypsy settlement and today it is still home to a community of sea gypsies or "Chao Leh" (people of the sea).  Formerly living a semi-nomadic lifestyle in the Andaman Sea, these seafarers of Indo-Malay origins were also the first settlers on the island some 500 years ago.  Over the decades, Lanta Old Town served as the port and commercial center for the island and provided a safe harbor for Arabic and Chinese trading vessels sailing between the larger ports of Phuket, Penang, and Singapore. Today, Old Town is the district capital; it has a post office, Buddhist temple, Chinese temple, and the island's hospital as well as a long pier.

I already see a seafood lunch at a restaurant overlooking the water.   Yes, a few hours wandering about Lanta Old Town is a possible to do!

Lanta Orchid Nursery.  Bro is an avid orchid collector and Ayşe loves flowers so a visit to the farm is a must!!  I love orchids too....probably my favorite flower but I'll be done with the place in an hour. Knowing Bro, it will take him that long just to make it down the first aisle.  Only kidding but he will want to spend a good amount of time here and I'm fine with that.  When we were in Singapore in 2012, he went to visit an orchid nursery with our cousin, Andrew who is also an orchid fanatic.  The two guys were thoroughly enjoying themselves while I enjoyed taking photos of the lovely flowers.

I got a bit of a kick reading the directions on how to get the nursery.  It's going to be an adventure, unto itself, trying to find this place :-)
"Lanta Orchid Nursery is located in the mountains above Lanta Long Beach opposite Elephant Trekking,  just 1 kilometer from the mainroad. It is open daily from 09:00 to 17:00. Entrance fee is 50 Baht per person."
Last but no least on our Koh Lanta itinerary is island hopping.  Maybe we can even make it to Koh Phi Phi.  We'll need to sign up for an excursion.  Not surprisingly, there are several island agencies that offer trips.  We'll definitely be checking them out!

We only have a couple of days on Koh Lanta and while I want it to be a relaxing time for all of us, I definitely don't want it to be sleep time....nap time okay, sleep time not.  They can sleep on the plane back to Bangkok :-)