After an unnecessarily time consuming ferry ride, we arrived at Ko Lanta and our quaint bungalows just steps from Klong Dao beach. The beach was a long expanse of golden sand, lapped by gentle waves, and crisscrossed by baby stroller tracks (a clear sign we were in family territory, but, hey, we were with family after all!). The landscape contained more evergreens than the palm trees you might expect in the tropics, but it was a beautiful and quiet place to relax for a day or seven.
Our days mostly consisted of swims in the turquoise water, walks on the beach at sunset, choosing a place for dinner, and watching movies (or fire dancers) after dark. When the stress of this hectic routine got to us, we would retire to air conditioned comfort for Thai massages.
To liven things up a bit, we took a cooking class, where we learned to make some spicy curries and other Thai specialties. We got to eat our creations afterward, and although we hate to brag, it just might have been the most delicious food we had in all of Thailand. We were also lucky enough to catch some thai boxing, thanks to Mom’s hotel room overlooking a temporary ring. Sipping beers on the balcony watching as bunch of sadistic guys beat the %&^# out of each other for free really made us feel like VIPs.
We also went on a few day trips to visit surrounding islands. On our first outing, we headed south for a little sunning and snorkeling. At Ko Cheauk, a swim through a cave brought us to a sandy emerald-colored cove completely enclosed by sheer cliffs. Nearby Ko Muk and Ko Kraden, we snorkeled in tons of colorful fish. On the way back, our boat passed the eastern side of Ko Lanta, where we caught a glimpse of the island in its more wild state, thanks to the protection of the rare mangroves lining the shore.
Gil also took a trip by speedboat to Ko Phi-Phi, a set of islands to the north. Whereas Lanta has rolling hills and long sandy beaches, Phi Phi is volcanic nature and is characterized by steep cliffs and sheer rock outcroppings. This hasn’t limited development though, with the isthmus connecting the two islands inundated with hotels and bungalow operations. This spot was hit the hardest by the tsunami, and although the government pledged to limit rebuilding this time around, it doesn’t look like it’s had any effect. But, if you can ignore the crowds, it’s still a little slice of paradise.
The trip also stopped on a couple of smaller islands in the area with colorful snorkeling and pristine beaches. Bamboo Island is uninhabited, except for the backpackers pitching tents for the night, and is the type of place you wouldn’t mind being shipwrecked. Maya Bay on Phi Phi Le was also beautiful – so beautiful, in fact, that they filmed the movie version of “The Beach” there.