Ko Lanta Yai
Ko Lanta is a 25 km long island which is less full of tourists than Ko Phi Phi. It has beautiful beaches and less development but that is changing as it becomes more popular.
We arrived in Ko Lanta by ferry from Ko Phi Phi in the town of Ban Sala Dan on the northern tip of the island and paid 180Bht to take a motorbike taxi to the hotel at Ao Phra-Ae (longbeach), Lanta Sunny House . We had a cabin again. The hotel has a pool and although it’s not actually on the beach it’s a very short walk to the beach. The hotel was run by a Muslim family and the women were fully covered. We had a problem with the room safe and the woman working there was obviously not comfortable entering our cabin with Harold there.
She said she would send her brother we waited for a while and then left because we wanted to watch the sunset. No beer for sale at the hotel but we walked down to the local market where beer was 50Bht. We walked down the 2km long beach looking for the reggae bar in the guide books but it was gone so we had dinner on the beach and watched the sunset.
Our hotel included a breakfast of fruit, eggs and toast with the typical frozen butter which you can’t spread without destroying the toast. We finished that and headed to the beach where we snorkeled but did not see much. We rented a scooter with no odometer for the day for 200Bht. Two bottles of gas for 40Bht each(Gas is sold in old whiskey bottles) and we were on our way.
We rode up the island ending up at the Tham Mai Kaew caves by mistake. We paid 300Bht for a tour. The caves are the largest on the Island and we walked through the jungle to the entrance. Our guide was one of the family who originally discovered the caves in the 1980’s and the outfit is all still family run. Our guide told us wonderful stories about discovering the caves with his brother and his visions of what the formations represented. At one point he left us in the dark and scrambled around the cave in total darkness. The site is now a national park and we had to pay a fee to them to get in but other than collecting our money the “national park status” did not appear to mean a lot.
The last part of the road into the caves was steep and dirt and there was a group of 3 “larger” tourists in a local motor taxi coming in. One had to get out and push before the taxi could make it up the hill. Ko Lanta was the island with the strongest Muslin presence we went to it was also the only place we saw women driving taxis. From the caves we rode our shooter to the viewpoint which had a great view and cute kittens we chickened out of taking our shooter down the steep hill into Old town.
Ko Lanta has several beautiful beaches. We rode to a small clifftop lookout with a deserted beach below it. We followed a set of stairs through a restaurant to the beach which had white sand, a few straw shelters and a broken TV set.
It rained later in the day. Tourists and scooters don’t mix well and rain does not help. He saw 4 scooters crash into each other and a 5th go right under a car. When we returned our scooter undamaged there was a guy returning his who said it had a couple of scrapes (the whole front end was smashed up).
We booked a snorkeling trip which was 800Bht the first time we asked. Then it went up to 1000Bht on our second try and rapidly back down to 800 Bht when we pointed out the difference. The receipt for the trip had a different tour company name than the flyer but we were of course told the usual “same, same”.
We were picked up at the hotel by the tour company the next morning in a share taxi which arrived 20 minutes early. It took us to Old Town which is where most snorkel trips leave from. We sat around on the dock for a while with our tourist stickers on. There was much discussion and then they changed our stickers and put us on a long boat labeled with the name of the first tour company. I think they sold us off to the highest bidder.
It was a 45 minute ride to the first stop of the trip and we were the oldest people on the long boat by at least 25 years. The snorkeling at the first stop was excellent. I saw a sea snake which was very colourful and highly poisonous. From there we went to Emerald cave were we swam 80m through a cave to a beach and lagoon. The cave was really dark and the guide asked me if I thought I could swim through it which was nice of him (never know with us old ladies!). There were bigger boats there as well and the tourists on the bigger boats were all wearing life jackets and passing though the cave holding each other’s jackets in a sort of conga line. Lesson learned always take the smaller long boat tour!
Some of the life jackets tourists were taking pictures of us swimming without them. There was a German in the group who was convinced he could live there for ever and just drink beer and smoke weed. Emerald cave was an old hideout for pirates but we did not find any treasures.
We stopped at a second small island to snorkel the fish were not as good but the coral was some of the best I have seen. Our lunch stop was on a beautiful white sand beach with blue seas. When we returned to shore we were pleasantly surprized to find our original driver waiting to take us back to the hotel. We had an excellent street Pad Thai on a paper plate in a plastic bag for 50Bht and ate it on the beach.
Our final morning on Ko Lanta I went for a run and we walked down the road to the animal shelter where you can take dogs for a walk there was a 1 ½ hour wait for a dog!