Ko Lanta or rather Lantaaaah, which is how all the locals say “Lanta” is a 300 sq. km island just off mainland Thailand, only a short ferry ride from Phi Phi. Thailand is known as the “land of a thousand smiles” and though people throughout my travels in Thailand had been very nice and friendly, none were as smiley, friendly and good-natured as those we met on Ko Lantaaaah. That island alone could be called the land of a thousand smiles! 🙂
Originally, Anna and I were only planning on using Ko Lantaaaah as a brief stopping point, a jump off to get to Ko Ngai (aka Hai) or Ko Mook (aka Muk). However, things always change when traveling. Mind you, both Anna and myself are very easy going travellers. Whenever we asked locals about getting to one place or another, if they said “no, you should go here instead, or do this instead” well, we just about always followed that.
It all started as we were waiting to board our ferry to Lantaaaah. We were down by the pier hanging out when we were approached by Win, one of the locals. He showed us a brochure for Lanta New Beach, a hotel just along Long Beach on Ko Lanta. At first we brushed it off, but then started to think that maybe it would be better to stay one night in Lantaaaah, just so we didn’t have to have such a long travel day in getting to the other islands.
So for 500 baht, we booked one night at Lanta New Beach at the Phi Phi pier. Funnily enough, we almost ended up missing the ferry because though we were right there, Win kept saying to wait for him and he’d let us know when to board, but then suddenly he was gone and we were running to the ferry. When we arrived at the ferry, all the locals were laughing at us and signaling us to calm down and just walk. They had been waiting for us apparently but they also didn’t seem in any rush to get going on time.
Once we boarded, the real salesmanship games began! Win, along with other gentlemen Toom and Mark (and at least 3 others) were circulating around the boat selling people accommodations and tours. Toom was standing nearby speaking to some guys sitting behind us about various tours. They kept asking questions about getting to Ko Tao and other destinations, and even though they kept arguing with him about the prices, everything Toom was saying about each destination (costs, etc) was directly on point. So I knew (as did Anna) that he wasn’t full of it or just trying to hike prices for no reason. I wanted to tell the boys behind us that they were idiots for not listening, but it wasn’t my business to do so.
Anyway, once Toom finished up with the boys, he moved onto Anna and I. We had already booked Lanta New Beach for the night, so he began asking us whether we wanted any tours. Out came a brochure on an elephant trekking adventure that his father owned. I should mention at this point that one of Anna’s objectives while visiting me in Thailand was to ride on an elephant. Personally, while I like the idea of it, how they treat the animals and whether the animals are really happy about taking people on rides was my primary concern. But talking with Toom put my mind to rest and Anna and I signed up for an elephant trekking tour, which also included a hike to a waterfall and bat cave.
We arrived at Ko Lanta, loaded into a truck and were dropped off at Lanta New Beach. We thought we had died and gone to heaven!!! After spending the past 4 nights in the ‘Kamikaze Cockbox’, we had now arrived to a beautiful hotel which basically offered anything and everything one might want! They had 2 pools (one of which was just outside our door) the structures were all solid, they were located directly on the beach, they offered a large variety of massages right on the beach, they had a restaurant and bar (which offered Happy Shakes!) and a tour office on site as well! We were so awe-struck, especially considering it was only 500 baht per night!
Needless to say, we ended up staying there 4 or 5 nights living it up with almost daily massages, dining like queens, swimming in the lovely pools, enjoying cocktails with the setting sun nightly and having our first taste of Lao Cow (Whiskey made in Thailand!!). Our days were filled with relaxing, the elephant trekking tour, wandering around town shopping, riding around the island on a motorbike we rented for only 200 baht a day to the Sea Gypsy village and Old Town, and a short visit to the Animal Sanctuary. Though Lantaaaah was a bit of a ghost town (being low-season and all), it was such a breath of fresh air compared to Phi Phi and definitely worth the visit!!