Moments of Happiness: Life on Koh Lanta

The island of Koh Lanta kicked off our Thai adventure. Or rather Koh Lanta Yai, which neighbours the smaller Koh Lanta Noi; not unsurprisingly yai means large and noi means small in Thai.

There have been strong hints on this lil' blog of mine and elsewhere that I'm a big fan of Koh Lanta and a week after leaving the island my opinion hasn't changed. It was the perfect introduction to Thailand - yep, that's right this was my first  time in Thailand. (Listen out for  the audible gasp by all the other travel bloggers reading this.)

It's strange when for ten years all I have heard about Thailand is good things. The people, the food, the weather, the islands, the landscape the price - it's all been good reports. From the ex-boyfriend who went to Thailand on his gap year aged 18 to NewMan who only a few weeks before we met in early 2010 had just returned from two weeks in Phuket, and a plethora of friends and strangers in between, all have urged me to go to Thailand to experience it for myself. So that's exactly why I didn't go.

Choose the road less travelled, they say. Well, I certainly did. Rather than packing up my bag and taking their good advice I stuck to my own stubborn guns and prioritised snowsports, girlie holidays on remote Greek islands, city breaks across Europe and road trips in USA as travel adventures over introducing myself to a country that has been recommended more highly than any other.

What a silly sausage I am.

So Koh Lanta, thank you for proving all those people right, for proving me wrong and for still leaving me happy and completely regret free about this.

Now for some photos I took during our two weeks on the island, I hope they tell the same love story. Koh Lanta isn't sleepy, untouched Thailand but there is still an authenticity to it that other Thai destinations have lost. Because Koh Lanta is a reasonably big island and resorts, hotels, bars and restaurants are scattered around fairly evenly I have some confidence that Koh Lanta will not succumb to over development or western demands for a good few years yet, with the possible exception of Ban Saladan, the island's main ferry terminal but even that is quiet enough that the trishaw night taxis usually head home before 11pm. Our routine on Koh Lanta was wonderfully foreign to us; we woke early, often in the first hour of sunlight,  and made the most of our mornings either working or exploring on our moped. We would then find somewhere cheap and cheerful for lunch, normally one of our favourite beach cafes, Sealife Restaurant on Relax Bay or Krua Nidnoy on Khlong Dao beach. If we then didn't take a dip in the sea we would head back to our accommodation to have a quick swim or to hide from the sun for a few hours. Then we would wait for the spectacular sunsets to play out. This was, of course, when we weren't diving. It's easy to see how happy and spoilt we felt in our little Koh Lanta bubble.However, two weeks afforded us many things one of which is that we now feel we can refer to things worth doing on the island. Here are our top five must dos on Koh Lanta:

  • Kantiang Bay - often described as the most picturesque and less populated beach on the island, the wide white sands and clear blue waters didn't disappoint. This is the location of Koh Lanta's only 5 star resort, which is located at one of the bay; if it's good enough for them, it's good enough for you.
  • Lanta Old Town - admittedly there really isn't much to see and do other than have a quick wander round and gaze out across the less seen side of the island, but it's still worth that much as it nicely offsets the hustle and bustle of Ban Saladan. If you do go make sure you visit the Jumbo Hammock shop, a social enterprise which sells the most colourful handmade hammocks and supports the once nomadic Mlabri Tribe.
  • Panorama Cafe - South of Lanta Old Town is Panorama, a secluded charming restaurant cafe run by Jack, who probably warrants a blog post all of his own. In fact, I am going to blog about Jack, Panorama and his magic tea separately. Watch this space...
  • Koh Lanta National Park - at the very south of the island is the national park and for 200 Baht (£4.00) each you can explore a mostly moped free jungle trek and the most beautiful beach overlooked by an old abandoned lighthouse. Watch out for the monkeys though; we saw one cheeky specimen and a Swedish mother come to blows on the beach over a couple of sandwiches.
  • Watch the sunset. With the most popular and populous side of Koh Lanta (where all the best beaches are) facing directly west you will struggle to find a bad seat to watch the sun set under the Andaman Sea. Be it on a beach with a lukewarm can of Chang, or at one of the many decent (though be wary of some tourist-trap bad restaurants along Khlong Khlong and Khlong Nin) beachside restaurants up and down the island, and no matter how cloudy it is, there will be something worth seeing. (P.S. The most lively bars on the beach can be found at the north end of Phra Ae (Long Beach).)

Frances M. Thompson

Londoner turned wanderer, Frankie is an author, freelance writer and blogger. Currently based in Amsterdam, Frankie was nomadic for two years before starting a family with her Australian partner. Frankie is the author of three short story collections, and is a freelance writer for travel and creative brands. In 2017, she launched WriteNOW Cards, affirmation cards for writers that help build a productive and positive writing practice. When not writing contemporary fiction, Frankie shops for vintage clothes, dances to 70s disco music and chases her two young sons around Amsterdam.
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