Ko Lanta, an island in Krabi Province, is hands down my favorite spot in Thailand that I’ve visited yet. It’s light on tourists, crowds, street markets, feral dogs, mosquitoes, bad smells, and air conditioning (unfortunately)…and heavy on quiet beaches, jungle, lizards, good and cheap food/accommodation, and sunshine. I believe I will stay on Koh Lanta until my visa expires 🙂
I’m staying at M Hostel, Koh Lanta, which is the best hostel I’ve ever stayed in! You take your shoes off before entering (I actually have an inside and outside pair of flipflops), and they keep all common areas, toilets, and rooms immaculately clean. There is a private garden with tables and lawn-chairs out back with outside showers and sinks surrounded by jungle and complimentary hot and cold water, light breakfast, coffee, and tea. The garden is home to at least five species of little (one not so little) lizard friends who help keep the mosquitoes in check.
The WiFi is good – although the power does go out intermittently. And the rooms have A/C that’s only on, however, from 19:00 – 10:00 – which seems to be the general trend all over Koh Lanta. But I think that most dorm rooms on Koh Lanta don’t have A/C at all. I’ve met some really cool people here: Ramona, 52, nurse from Miami, Florida; Antony, 20, digital nomad from Scotland; Cherry, 25, kindergarten teacher from Shanghai, China; Vilma, 20, student from Sweden; Mikaila, 19, student from California; and Michael, 23, MBA from Germany.
Yesterday we (minus Antony) left Koh Lanta for the day on The 4 Islands Boat Tour which was an absolutely fabulous adventure! The six of us and a guide left the mother ship in sea kayaks and circled the first island and its towering, eroded limestone cliffs undercut by the sea. The bluffs were laced with sea caves big and small. We were able to kayak right inside one by timing the waves correctly and ducking down to avoid gashing our heads on the jagged limestone overhangs. It opened up into a cavernous sea cave with a small interior sandy beach crawling up the far reaches of the cavern out of the tranquil, turquoise inner pool…
AHH GAWD!!! A red wasp the size of my pinky just flew in the window and is angrily dive bombing me!!! Ok nv, after a little jumping around in my underwear (it’s hot as hell and laundry day) in front of my room mate, got em with my flipflop. Not cool, hate bees. …Anyways, yes the sea kayaking was amazing. I’m ashamed to admit that this was my first time in a kayak, however, my excuse is that I was waiting for just the perfect moment with the right people and the ideal spot. I found it here.
Because I’m a photo-slut, I gambled that neither Michael nor I would flip the kayak and brought my trusty $80 Motorola phone. So sorry for the blur in some of the shots, it was quite difficult to keep the touch screen operational (salt water is conductive) and the lens clear of sea water, sunscreen, and sweat streaking whilst paddling! The further we kayaked around the island the more photos began accumulating on my phone’s hard drive and the less I worried about the phone itself but rather it’s precious digital contents. But alas, they both survived, and despite the sea-water/sweat filter (patent also pending), I’m satisfied with how the pictures turned out 🙂 Well worth the gamble. …still feeling giant ghost bees crawling on my legs…just sweat.
We had lunch aboard the mother ship and snorkeled the next two islands. I was surprised by how many different species of fish, coral, and echinoderm there were at these spots: brain corals, branched corals, loads of sea urchins (no touching!), angel fish, needle fish, parrot fish, anemone, clams, barracuda, eel, and many more I couldn’t correctly identify. The abundance of fish around me may have had something to do with one of the more playful Thai staff continually throwing bread directly at me and instigating a swarming mass feeding frenzy of palm-sized little biters to form. Luckily their bites were more ticklish than painful, and I can thank them for removing some of that awkward peeling sunburn. Above one of the reefs there was a colony of the largest bats I’ve ever seen (I’ve seen smaller full grown chickens!). They were just hanging on the side of the cliff face in the beating Sun, slowly flapping their wings to keep cool and occasionally screeching at one another.
The last island we visited was home to the Emerald Cave (Tham Morakot) which was truly spectacular, as long as you could block out the trains (literally) of yelling tourists. All the other tours would make their customers form one long chain by holding onto the life-jacket of the person ahead, and then the guides would pull the front of the chain through the cave. One or more chains entering on the left, and one or more exiting on the right of the tunnel. It reminded me of a cattle run. I was grateful that one of our older Thai guides waved us on ahead of the rest so we could just swim ourselves through the cave. The Emerald Cave takes a number of sharp bends and it’s not long before the emerald colored water beneath you fades into total black dark. Other than the occasional guide’s flashlight, the darkness is complete and the cave’s jagged ceiling and walls funnel down to a low, narrow tunnel a few hundred meters long. After the long watery darkness of the cave, it is truly breathtaking to see the emerald color gradually return to the water beneath you and then suddenly emerge from the darkness into the light of the inner sanctum.
The inner sanctum, whose sole entrance is the emerald cave, is a natural cathedral of eroded limestone bluffs reaching upwards to the sky on all sides and draped with jungle. The floor of the cathedral is shallow and calm turquoise water giving way to sub-aqueous, rippled sand, to beach, to scattered, fallen leaves to undergrowth and finally to jungle. I would have liked to stay months here, but was permitted mere minutes. Then back through the darkness and aboard our boat.
Unfortunately for him, Michael was extremely sea sick, puking every time we dropped anchor. The wind and waves picked up as we made our way back towards Koh Lanta causing us to often roll port-ward just a tad into the butterflies-in-stomach zone. I love being on the ocean and found my sea legs again surprisingly quickly, it’s my land legs that are taking a couple of days to fully return. The staff on the boat were great, despite a near-complete language gap. All things considered, the 1400 Baht ticket was worth every Baht and more.