16.02.2013 - 25.02.2013 33 °C
The ferry crossing from Krabi /Ao Nang area to Koh Lanta took around 2.5 to 3 hrs. Ko Lanta is an island around 35km in length and 6 km wide. It's really beautiful with fantastic beaches stretching alone the west cost and mangrove swamps on the east coast and thick tropical jungle in the interior.
Ko Lanta really appealed to us because of the great beaches, is less developed and not as main stream as some of the other islands on the Andaman coast line, and is also extremely well positioned to be used as a base to explore outlying islands.There is also a lovely drive along the coast o the national park which is somewhere between a drive along Chapmans Peak and Tsitsikamma with breathtaking views across the ocean while you drive through thick jungle areas dodging monkeys as you go. Every km or two you reach a little settlement with shops and restaurants and in between there are secluded beaches where you take a short walk through the bush to reach - not a resort in sight!
We stayed on Ko Lanta for 9 nights in total, and during this time managed to take 2 lovely day trips, one to Ko Rok and the other to Ko Phi Phi.
We hired a scooter for the duration of our stay, and spent 2 nights at place towards the middle of the island on the west coat, and the rest of the time we hired a room in a very look key beach house called the Pink House towards the bottom of the island on the west cost.
We had a very simple fan room towards 'the back' (about 5 steps from the beach) with a fan which was almost perfect despite the first few days having a really intense heat/humidity wave. Luckily we could sleep with the door open to get a bit of a breeze. The guest house was run by a very entrepeneurial family who seemed to have their hand in every pot (accommodation/restaurant/tourist information/scooter hire/petol etc) the whole family which seemed to be about 20 people all worked and had a specific role headed up by one daughter who was the only English speaker. Somehow they made it work and seemed to be running a thriving business!
If we weren't heading off on the day trips, most of our days involved jumping on the scooter and exploring the island, stopping off somewhere on more secluded beach, chilling out, swimming, reading, snorkelling etc.
We tried to use our time in Koh Lanta to kick back a bit, and try and plan the rest of our trip (this ended up being put on the back burner, mainly because it was just to hot that we ended up deciding to use Kuala Lumpur as a base for all our onward exploration, after Koh Lanta, but with so many options it can become a little overwhelming at times), do a few runs and a few yoga sessions with Mona (an older American lady who kicked in her finance career in LA for a simplified life on the island of Koh Lanta 10 years ago). Honestly can't believe the physical condition she is in for her age, absolutely incredible! I know I was a bit of yoga sceptic before this trip, but I am 100% convinced now! Mona made sure we could hardly walk after 90 mins in her studio! The location was absolutely brilliant with yoga held on a wooden deck over looking the sea facing out west for the sunset. Actually because we were always based on the west coast of the island were well position to see the most spectacular sunsets.
Other parts of the island that we explored and that were highlights included the Old Town (on the East Coast), the nature reserve and lighthouse (on the southern tip), the town and ferry area in the north, and off course just riding around seeing the countryside and views.
The day trip to Koh Rok was absolutely brilliant, a highlight for us. We were picked up by speedboat from the beach in front of our bungalow and headed southward for about an hr, until we arrived at the 2 islands of Koh Rok, both of which are a nature reserve. We noticed straight away that the visibility of water was just incredible and the beaches a brilliant fine powdery white sand. We managed to do some snorkelling and explored around a bit as well a relaxed and read. The tour company provided lunch which was a very tasty Green Thai Curry and loads of fruit. The islands are so beautiful and largely untouched by the onslaught of tourists.
The day trip Koh Phi Phi involved catching a transfer bus up to the small ferry terminal on the North of the island. We then had around a 2 hr ferry trip across to Koh Phi Phi. We were then transferred across to a long tail boat and headed out to some islands surrounding Koh Phi Phi.
One of the first things we noticed about Koh Phi Phi is that it's no guesses as to why it was so tragically effected by the Tsunami in 2004 (more than 2,000 people lost their lives on this island alone, to give you context there were just over 8,000 fatalities in the whole of Thailand). The main settlement area is on a low lying sand spit joining 2 mountainous islands. As a lead up to the sand spit on either side are massive unforgiving cliffs that would have acted as a funnel when the tsunami hit, only amplifying the effect. It's amazing how development has taken place since then, it's is very hard to believe that the settlement was basically flattened.
The long tail trip excursion entailed exploring Phi Phi Ley Island, which included a few very scenic coves and inlets as well as Maya Bay (the main location for the movie "The Beach"). The scenery is absolutely incredible, but if you minus the thousands of tourist who make a beeline for Maya Bay, it would be so much better. I suppose its just a case of a popular film promoting the commercial exploitation of an incredible setting. The other noticeable thing on this island was the existence of loads of weird looking bamboo ladders on the most inopportune cliffs, used by locals to collect birds nests, and sold to the Chinese as a delicacy, reaching as much as Baht 15,000 per kg (Rand 4,500; £ 325), incredible! We stopped off in Koh Phi Phi for a couple of hours, walking around, grabbing a beer and sorting out some onward flights. Koh Phi Phi is far more developed and touristybut we had a great time visiting the islands, but were glad to climb on ferry back to the chilled out island of Koh Lanta.
After a wonderful time in Koh Lanta we were ready to move on, and caught a transfer bus to Krabi (again incredible value on the transfers money wise, 3 hr transfer around £7, including 2 pontoon crossings). As we were catching a very early flight out of Krabi to KL, we booked ourselves into a budget hotel to rest our heads for a few hours.