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  1. #1
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    Wallace's Avatar
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    Ko Lanta - the rough in the jewel

    I wanted to share a few of my experiences from my recent trip to Ko Lanta.

    I first went there in 2002/3 for New Year so thought a return trip would give me an idea of how the place has changed after the tsunami. Given what has happened to some other island destinations (like Ko Chang) I was expecting the entire shoreline to be one 4-star padlocked enclosure after another, but a bit of research reassured me that it hadn't got that bad yet.

    If anyone is thinking of taking a trip to these parts, then hopefully I can give a few hints.

    1. Travelling by train is easily the most relaxing way to reach most parts of Thailand, and the south is no exception. Although the trains haven't been cleaned or painted since the 1960s, they're still reasonably comfortable and far better than long coach journeys. For the east coast islands, Trang is a good place to head for.

    2. Outside the train station are a number of travel agents who can organise onward minibus trips to just about every island along off the coast. Fares vary but they're not overpriced, and there's no choice anyway - just like everywhere else, one company seems to monopolise the transport options.

    3. Ko Lanta has loads and loads of pretty beaches all along the eastern coast and is actually a great destination if you want a quiet holiday away from discos, bar-beers and general harrassment. Long Beach is probably the liveliest location with bars and music bars clustered around the Blue Sky resort towards the northern end of the beach. Accommodation in this area is actually a bit cheaper than most other places as there are still plenty of basic huts to choose from. There are one or two more upmarket places now, but for 400 to 1000 baht you can get a good-sized bungalow with a bathroom and decent bed.

    4. A general word of warning, though, prices for food and drink, in my opinion, are much more expensive than anywhere else I've been in Thailand. This could be true of most of the islands in this area, but I don't know. All restaurants seem to have compared notes so all Thai dishes are around 80 or 100 baht, the trick is seeking out somewhere that does bigger portions or flavours the food to your liking. Beach BBQ food can be good value and I got a whole fish done for 100 baht, which was very impressive. 2 nights later it was 300 at a restaurant 3 places away, so it pays to shop around and ask before they cook it.
    Drinks are another rip-off in my opinion. Prices at 7-11 are no different to anywhere else, so why bars insist on charging 100 baht for large Changs and 50 for small ones, is anyone's guess. 120 for other beers and up to 200 for spirits and mixers. Happy Hours do exist but that means they knock of 10 or 20 baht only. Not an island for drinkers unless you're flush.

    5. Motorbike and bicycle rental is abundant and cheap (200 a day for a motorbike). The road on the east stops about 10km from the southern national park where they now insist on 400 baht just to walk up to a lighthouse. Of course, no farang was paying this as we all know the real price is 200, they just haven't been listening to the TAT office. Or maybe they have and they just want some extra pocket money. Anyway, the road is shit to get there so don't bother. There's also a road over to the west and this is a nice ride, with a couple of restaurants situated at the brow of the hill over the island - a great place to stop for a rest and enjoy the views.

    6. Although this was peak season, you get the impression that most people are staying indoors throughout the day. It didn't feel busy at all and only in the evening at some of the more popular bars or music bars did you get the impression that it was peak holiday time. There are lots of families here, though, so if you don't like kids, Ko Lanta may not be the place for you.

    7. One major disappointment with the whole holiday was a brief encounter right at the start with Lanta New Beach resort at the bottom of Long Beach. They advertise on the net and their aircon bungalows are 960 or 1200 baht. I actually made a reservation here, confirmed the prices with them, and rang them from Trang to tell them I was on my way. They even sent a pick-up to take me to the resort. So why they then told me that they had given my room to someone else, I don't know. They also said that the only room was one at 1500. I pointed out that they don't have rooms for 1500. Anyway, the cow wouldn't budge so I told her in a very loud voice that she was dishonest and didn't deserve any customers if this was how they treated people who'd made honest reservations. As the swimming pool was close by I made sure lots of people heard this. Amazingly she found another bungalow that was free but instead of backing down, said this one too was going to be 1500 baht. By now you get the picture. Couldn't remember the Thai for 'fuck you' so used the English instead.
    So don't stay here - anyway, it was full of scandinavian toddlers screaming and pissing in the pool.

    Overall, it's a quiet and relaxing island, but expect to pay more than you would elsewhere for basic necessities. The sea is nothing special, though. Pretty mirky and silty, but that could be just the season. One thing I did love was the number of tsunami evacuation signs that must have been put up at vast expense all over the island. Nice pictures and red lines showing you the evacuation route. They just forgot to do it in any language other than Thai. Another great victory for TAT and their promotion of tourism. It doesn't help that the signs are mainly invisible from the road and located well away from population areas. I found one sign at the top of a hill off the road and under a tree. What? Just in case someone was passing? Tossers!

    p.s. no pictures yet as I still use 'analogue' technology. That's 'film' to those born after 1980, probably something you've never seen. Anyway, if my pics are any good I might put some up.
    Last edited by Wallace; 10-01-2007 at 12:08 PM.
    The truth is out there, but then I'm stuck in here.

  2. #2
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    ChiangMai noon's Avatar
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    excellent review Wallace.

    really need to buy a digicam though.

  3. #3
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    Butterfly's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Wallace
    So don't stay here - anyway, it was full of scandinavian toddlers screaming and pissing in the pool.
    Now that's funny

  4. #4
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    In 1991 I spent a month in Lanta, renting a bungalow in the Lanta villa resort, the prices then were 120 baht for the bungalow and good cheap food at the restaurant, Does this place still exist ?

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by ChiangMai noon
    really need to buy a digicam though.
    CMN - I do have one, I just didn't take it with me. Sometimes I like the feel of a solid object in my hands, and my SLR won't fall out of my pocket.

    Wallalai - there is a place called Lanta Villa resort, it's up near the main town. Is this the one you mean? I didn't go there but I think it's now more upmarket - around 2000 baht for an aircon bungalow at peak season.

    I wasn't really in Ko Lanta to do a review as I just needed to chill out, but thanks for your kind feedback.

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by Wallace
    Wallalai - there is a place called Lanta Villa resort, it's up near the main town. Is this the one you mean? I didn't go there but I think it's now more upmarket - around 2000 baht for an aircon bungalow at peak season.
    Yes should be the same where I went. A this time the road was only a muddy red track without proper transportation service and we went to the small main village where the pier is by foot on the beach. Thanks.

  7. #7
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    Lanta has always been quiet despite being quite close to Krabi and Phuket.

    Scandinavian charter companies are promoting Lanta quite heavily as a family destination these days. There is also a school on the island for Scandinavian long stayers, teaching in Norwegian and Swedish.

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by Wallace
    The sea is nothing special, though. Pretty mirky and silty, but that could be just the season.
    It was the same 15 years ago, maybe due to the situation of the island ?

  9. #9
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    Koh Lanta doesn't sound so great, as I was told, is it better to go to Krabi, with my lady friend in tow?? "Kids are great if there cooked right.." I am lookng for a beautiful beach, laid back atmosphere, fun in da sun...!!! Railway beach....??? Suggestions please...

  10. #10
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    Riley Beach is probably your best bet in that area, mostly climbers and backpackers. Ao Nang is more developed with more package tourists, including families... further down towards Trang province the islands are pretty quiet, more suitable for a honeymoon than "fun in the sun"... whatever that means?

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