Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Day 128 - 130: Koh Lanta

The trip to Koh Lanta took us the entire day. For reasons unknown, we were shunted from the scheduled bus which would have taken us on the ferry to the island, to one an hour and a half later. On the plus side, this meant we could eat some pizza from a nearby Italian whilst fending off the local monkeys. Conversely, it meant that we didn’t get to the island until around 7pm. By this time, it was getting pretty dark.

We’d chosen to wing it instead of booking any of the expensive accommodation options online. We were met by a couple of tuk-tuk drivers who ferried us around trying to get us rooms in various guesthouses with no luck. It seemed that they weren’t trying everywhere, probably just the ones they knew they would get commission on. Gilly suggested we try Best House, a place she’d emailed a couple of days earlier and who was saving some rooms for us to look at. I’m not honestly sure why I didn’t ask the drivers to take us there first; it had completely slipped my mind. Needless to say they weren’t happy as this wasn’t one of “their” places, and tried to convince us to go elsewhere. I insisted, we arrived, and we all got rooms in what looked to be a pleasant, clean and welcoming guesthouse. The drivers then demanded double the agreed price for taking us around. There’s nothing like post-trip extortion of exhausted travellers to make you feel welcome. I packed them off with a “take it or leave it” increase, and they buggered off.

After dumping bags and having a cold shower (well, there was no alternative!), we went to Mr. Green’s restaurant for dinner and had a cheap meal before hitting the sack.

The next morning we signed in with the owner, Jow, who was lovely. It looks like she runs the place with her husband, and does so diligently. The place is spotless, and we couldn’t grumble at the rooms. We had a spot of breakfast and went down to the beach, which was only 50 metres behind the guesthouse. I’d picked Long Beach for the accommodation location, as it was apparently the nicest with soft golden sand and decent swimming, and it didn’t disappoint. There were quite a few people spread out over the beach but because it was so huge, it didn’t look crowded at all – far from it. It wasn’t your typical tourist beach with rows and rows of parasols and deckchairs, just a few bars set back from the sand. It was quite similar to Otres Beach in Sihanoukville, but even less touristy if that was possible. The sunsets were equally magnificent:


There wasn’t much to do in Koh Lanta, but that suited us. We were happy playing table tennis, cards (V and Fi came up with some interesting new games: Crap and Blontoon, and a reworking of Whist called HA!) , chucking a ball around in the sea, or sitting about reading.  On our third (and final full) day there we decided to go kayaking in the mangrove forest, on the other side of the island. After plenty of haggling, we managed to hire out some kayaks for a few hours without the need of a guided tour, private longtail, or any of the other gubbins the shop tried to foist on us. With rather dodgy lifejackets in place, we launched into the river. I’d not kayaked since Vang Vieng back in November, and had forgotten how knackering it could be. As it happens, when the river is shallow, kayaking is even worse because you can’t get any purchase with your paddle. To say the river here was shallow would be an understatement of immense proportions. If I’d stood up in some places, it would barely have covered my ankle. A picture to illustrate how deep the paddle went:


We saw monkeys on the bank as well as hundreds of crabs which had one small claw and one massive claw, and fish jumping out of the river. All this activity was done in the heat of the midday sun, so after an hour and a half’s exertion, we stopped for a well-earned break:



After plenty of paddling, we decided we didn’t want to risk getting lost at sea and/or beached somewhere, so we headed back to the “harbour” for lunch. I finally found some crab, and how:


He didn’t look particularly happy. Fortunately for him, we opted for some crab fried rice. As anyone who orders fried rice with meat in SE Asia will attest to, you get 95% rice, and 5% meat on most occasions. We barely had enough to cover the claw of one of his small friends, and it wasn’t a patch on Kep, so I think I’m going to stop looking for crab now until perhaps Australia.

In terms of food in Koh Lanta, there was one place which was recommended to me by a local dive instructor which was insanely good – Krua Kritsana. We tried it out one lunchtime, and had baked chicken and prawn fried rice. The chicken was magnificent, and the whole meal was so good, we dragged Colin, V, Oldy and Fi back there for the following two evenings. We tried their red curry, green curry, and Nam Tok, all of which were superb.


If you ever go to Koh Lanta, eat here.


We were only able to stay for 3 nights with the gang in Koh Lanta, as we were heading to Penang in Malaysia on the 18th. However, we thoroughly  enjoyed our time with everyone, and it was great to have more Miltonians out in force to join the travelling parties – thanks to Colin and V for a fantastic time, and to Oldy and Fi we’ll see you in Perth if not before!

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