We arrived at Koh Lanta Island via flight from Bangkok and then Ferry Boat from Krabi Airport on 1/6/12.
Our original two night stay at Emerald Lanta Resort turned into seven adventure-packed days. For 1500 baht ($50), we had very basic bungalow accommodations (A-20) including breakfast. For the last five nights, we were able to upgrade to a much nicer bungalow (A-14) for 1300 baht ($43) without breakfast. Most vacationers were couples or families from Sweden, England, Holland and France. We were the only Americans besides one dude from Los Angeles who wrecked himself in a motorbike accident.
Between Bangkok and Koh Lanta, we began to pay attention to how the local Thai people perceived us “backpackers” from the West. We wondered if there was a difference amongst religions since Bangkok is mostly Buddhist and the south Muslim. In summary, Thai locals know we have more money than the low prices they charge. They wish they could charge more and harbor some resentment. They seem to be stuck in terms of government aide and overall economic development. Tips are not expected of local customers, but hoped for from western vacationers. The resorts charge roughly 3X the street for tourists and we suspect that locals receive special pricing.
Getting around Koh Lanta is quite an adventure in itself. Lanta Emerald Resort sits on Long Beach between Ban Saladan city and the National Park at the southern tip of the Archipelago. We spent our days either relaxing at the Freedom Bar & Restaurant, jogging, playing on the beach, doing snorkeling tours at Ko Rok & Ko Phi Phi Island, or riding to the National Park.
Koh Lanta National Park is about a one hour motor bike ride south from Long Beach. We rented a motorbike, figured out the gasoline situation and trotted down on 1/10/12. Christie did most of the driving as you can see in the video here. The park entrance fee is 200 baht ($7) per person and you have to park at the bottom of the hill. A few tourists snarked at the newly instated fees and left. We proceeded to the lighthouse with gorgeous views of the Andaman Sea and then a quick swim at the beach. The jungle hike above the beach was exhausting, although only 45 minutes. The sign states to allow two hours, I guess for uber-picture people. All along the terrace are packs of monkeys looking for leftovers. A few tried to pick the trash while Christie was changing in the bathroom. Another swung off the visitor center rooftop for a couple’s ice cream cone!
We had a bad feeling about the steep drive back up out of the park with so much weight on the bike. Sure enough, the bike stalled and fiercely headed in reverse with both of us plummeting to the pavement. We both sustained minor scrapes and bruises with Christie taking the prize purple raspberry stinger. Apparently, its super common for tourists to hit potholes and bumps with the poor road conditions there. We may have been the first couple to just fall off the bike trying to climb that hideous hill.
Our favorite non-sporting experience was eating outside of our lodge. All of the local Thai restaurants are run by families. They live and work all day at the same place with other families in the community. Tang Restaurant is situated directly across the street from Emerald. We learned a ton about the restauranteur’s life while eating her various fried rice and noodle dishes. She explained that her religion was uncommonly Buddhist since she was originally from the Northeast. The entire family would help out by either driving out to buy ingredients or adding decorations to the outdoor overhang. The husband is a designer at heart who finds interesting wood parts from boats, etc. at the sea. He then creatively adds them (paddles) to the restaurant walls. Christie spent some time with their two year old daughter opening up snap pea pods as an afternoon snack.
Directly across the street, we met a very nice Muslim family offering fresh fruits, ice cream and smoothies. They did not disappoint Christie with her watermelon treats. We even had 5.5 kg of laundry cleaned for 165 baht ($5).
Koh Lanta exceeded our expectations and offers a variety of activities if you are in the adventurous type of mood. If not, you can just as well soak in the sun and drink happy shakes all day!
See our Photo Album – Koh Lanta Island, Thailand