Having thoroughly enjoyed 3 days of unfeasibly picturesque views and peaceful poolside relaxation in Ngai, it was time to move on to our next island as we headed north on the Andaman coast.
Ko Lanta is a short, 30 minute hop from Ngai by speedboat. True to form, travel days are never quite as simple as they sound. Along with 10 other guests and a couple of babies, we waited in the blistering midday heat at our resort for a boat to pick us up and take us 10 mins along the beach to ‘check-in’ at the speedboat office – this place was basically a bar / minimart / beach shack with a travel desk. We pulled all the luggage off that boat and waited for someone to slap a destination sticker on our bags before loading it all onto another boat. Everyone got back on board this new boat, shuffling from side to side in a vain attempt to steady the uncomfortable swaying as people clambered up the side ladder.
Another 10 min journey to the pier before we all disembarked with all our luggage again and waited for the speedboat, ensuring we identified the right boat from the 3 others that came and went in a confusing mass of bags, tourists and transport. All loaded up for the final time we were on our way, speeding happily along as incredible views of limestone islands and mangroves passed us by. That’s until the boat grinds to a halt and the two Thai captains (no older than 18) hurriedly rush back and forth trying to identify the cause of the boat meltdown. After much shouting and meddling at the engines and under the boat floorboards we were back on our way with no explanation whatsoever.
Our new digs in Ko Lanta are located at the end of Long Beach which stretches 3km along the west coast. We are in a garden bungalow which is modern, spacious, clean and most importantly features aircon which is an absolute must in this heat. We are also located behind a 7-11 which is dangerously convenient for cheap beers, a host of maize based snacks and chocolate treats. Our host Kim is super friendly and helped us with laundry and recommendations for food and activities.
Ko Lanta has a couple of main roads that run the 22km length of the coast. We read that they are in pretty good condition, making the island a great place to explore by scooter. With the flat tyre tribulations of the Philippines fresh in our memory, we did our best to select the healthiest looking bike from a paltry selection before heading for breakfast.
The food out here is incredible but sometimes you fancy home comforts and Gary has been missing his full English with real pork sausages. He was thrilled to see that ‘Patty’s Secret Garden’ brekkie featured proper English bangers, thick bacon and baked beans.
Full and content, we returned to our bike to realise that we’d stupidly left it in the direct sun for an hour. Needless to say, the seat was a raging fireball ready to sear our bare flesh.
We hit the road and headed south, keeping the coast to our right. The trees and buildings gave way every now and again to reward us with gorgeous views out to sea and we stopped at the odd lookout point for photos.
With the sun beating down and the wind in our hair we had a great day of exploring at a leisurely pace. We really enjoy the freedom that having your own transport affords and we like to get away from the crowds and discover things that we may not see if we were in a tour group.
We pulled over whenever we saw anything interesting which included wonderfully exotic flowers, rubber tree plantations and the odd elephant.
Sadly these guys were chained up and kept in a very small enclosure. The sign said that they were retired working elephants but I’m not sure they were very happy. I’ve read a bit on elephant tourism and there are a few parks that specialise in looking after retired elephants in sanctuaries where you can feed and help bathe them in the river but there are also less ethical attractions specialising in elephant treks with cumbersome and uncomfortable saddles for two or three tourists at a time. I hope to have some sort of elephant encounter at some point on the trip but selecting the right outfit will be key.
We drove south to Mu Ko Lanta National Park. This marine park protects 16 small islands off the coast and includes the southern tip of Ko Lanta Island. The area is wonderfully scenic with two twin beaches and a gorgeously shabby lighthouse.
We explored the paths before heading to the beach for a well needed rest.
The sea was so refreshing and inviting that we couldn’t resist a dip. It’s only as we got in the sea that we spotted a team of monkeys eyeing up our bags and towels, edging ever closer to our stuff. A lovely Danish couple chased them away and we legged it out to stake our territory. For the rest of the afternoon we stayed on high alert as we watched gangs of cheeky monkeys scope out weak tourists and their precious goods. You genuinely can see the mischief and scheming in their eyes as they approach you, seemingly innocent and inquisitive.
We headed back to the bike around 4.30pm to discover that a slow leak on the back had left us with another flat tyre. We seem to have all the luck with scooters. Nursing it back up the coast we eventually found a garage and a friendly man who pumped it back up for 20p. It was cool to get a slice of local life and appreciate the differences of how we do things back home. Selling petrol on the road side is one for instance.
We returned home with just enough time to drop the bike back and find a beach restaurant for dinner as we watched the sun set.