We boarded the ferry at Koh Lipe and readied ourselves for the 5 hour journey north through islands in the Andaman Sea on the west coast of southern Thailand. For Maria, that meant finding a good three seats together to nap on, for me it meant reading. These Thai islands were beautiful, as we passed tons of tiny islands dotting the sea. For a good while we saw nothing, then were herded to another boat going north, then more ocean. I realized that this was my first time in the Indian Ocean… it looks like an ocean.
Finally we arrive at the Koh Lanta pier and WOW was it annoying walking down the pier getting berated by people wanting us to stay at their hostel or hotel or guesthouse. Michal and Aga from Poland in my last post had told us about the place they stayed at in Koh Lanta… the Lanta Arrow House, so we called the place up from the boat and had already told them we wanted a room. You can never be too sure the outcome of conversations you have over the phone, so we didn’t really know if they were holding a room for us… might as well show up. We were pleasantly surprised with the Arrow house. Apparently they did know that we were coming and gave us an air-con bungalow room for 600 baht (18 USD). That’s less than we paid in Koh Lipe, and this one had air-con, fully functioning bathroom, wifi, and it was about 100 feet from a perfectly sandy beach. The place also had something that was a first for us in Asia: a FRIDGE. That seems like a small thing but it’s a godsend to be able to stock up on water, beer, etc. and keep it cold!
Koh Lanta is a very chill island, and less touristed than some of its neighbors… because of this, it has a more secluded feel. We were also visiting almost at the start of the low season in the islands, so that helps with the seclusion. The island is about 30 km long from north to south, with perfect beaches up and down its western shore.
The day after we got to Koh Lanta, it was Maria’s bday, so naturally we did whatever she wanted. We rented a motorbike from our guesthouse for 200 baht/day (6 USD/day) and headed south down the island. After a wrong turn or two, we followed the main road down the western shore. We ended up stopping at two beaches that day with the main goal of kickin it back and relaxing. I’ll save the suspense, we succeeded. At our first beach stop, we shared the whole half mile beach with about 6 other humans. Secluded… check. For Maria’s birthday lunch, we ate at a shack on top of a cliff with a view overlooking one of the beaches.
We got back to our spot on Long Beach, and I got Maria an oil massage right on the beach for 350b for an hour. Awesome! While she was getting rubbed down, I went to the mini mart to get the second part of her present… a bottle of wine and a snickers. HIGH CLASS. We sat on the beach with a couple of big Chang beers and watched the sunset paint the sky red.
Overall, it was a great birthday (says Maria) which culminated with dinner on the beach and a birthday ice cream. A lot better than mine… where I had to make beds and clean bathrooms. Damn.
The next day we scooted over to the old town and went to another beach on our motorbike, and shopped for some stuff that we had been wanting. We bought a cheap mask and snorkel to use while we are on the islands. On our last day, Maria took a cooking class at Time for Lime (would recommend), and I was her lazy partner who helped her eat. I was really good at it, and I think I’ll give myself a pat on the back. All the food was the best Thai food I had had yet. I’ll let her tell you about the class… it started off with lemongrass margaritas! Sassy!
Maria: Time for Lime was an amazing cooking school with 2 missions – 1) teach tourists a thing or two about Thai food and 2) help the many mistreated animals on the island by sending their profits to the Lanta Animal Shelter. I went to a 5 hour class that started off with the basics/fundamentals of Thai cooking. Basically, every dish has to have four elements: spicy, sweet, sour, and salty. When you eat at a Thai restaurant, they always provide a basket with these four flavors: I’ve usually seen fish or soya sauce, chili’s, lime and sugar.
We also learned about certain ingredients and their “eat me” form and “don’t eat me” form. Huge chunks of lemongrass in a soup are the“don’t eat me” way but smaller slices on a salad are in the “eat me” form. Same with sweet basil leaves – don’t eat the whole leaf!
After learning the fundamentals, and 3 cocktails later, we headed down to the kitchen. We made 4 dishes total and ate them as a group with our lazy partners. All in all, success!
Koh Lanta was one of our favorite stops yet… so easy to get around by motorbike, awesome beaches, chill vibe, great value. Our next stop was Railay Beach, where we planned on staying 6 nights.
Railay Beach is part of the Krabi province and is actually a peninsula jutting off of the Thai mainland. It’s technically not an island, but it’s an island… you have to take a boat to get there. The area is home to 4 beaches, except some of the beaches aren’t beaches (woah): Railay West, Railay East (not really a beach, just mangrove trees), Tonsai beach, and Phra Nang beach. Railay is internationally known and famous for rock climbing and its limestone cliffs popping out of the sea. The whole area is paradise on earth for rock climbers.
We got off of our longtail boat taxi, washed ashore at Railay West, and started looking for a good place to post up for 6 nights. Turned out Railay was expensive and even the cheaper side of the peninsula was more than we wanted to pay. Oh well, we were able to haggle the price down a bit on a room with a pool and breakfast included. Worth it. We were planning on meeting up with a family friend of mine who lives in Railay and is somewhat of a legend here… but luck was not on our side this time, and by the time I texted with him that we were coming, he was in Ireland. Oh well.
During the days, went to the beach, read, ate, shopped, and went exploring to the caves along the beachfront of Phra Nang (prah-nahng) beach. One of the days, I met some fellow Americans and we climbed up to the viewpoint near Phra Nang beach on the end of the peninsula. It was an awesome climb/hike if it stopped there, but it didn’t. The four of us climbed down three sets of slippery rock faces to get back down to sea level where there was a hidden lagoon accessed only by the hike. Wasn’t too bad of a climb, but it was a bit scary with bare feet and slippery rocks. Maria and I went back a few days later, so I could show her the lagoon.
We also went kayaking amidst all of the little islands and beaches of Railay, a great way to see the landscape of this place.
No trip to Railay is complete without rock climbing. So I went with a guide and another climber, Pedro, for a half day and climbed some pretty difficult lines (for me). Our guide definitely challenged Pedro and I, and I struggled to reach each [climbing term for top of rope]. He led us through the HUGE cave at the end of Phra Nang beach which we climbed through it with headlamps, and emerged looking out on Railay West. We repelled down from the cave and we were on the other side of the huge cliff that dominates the Railay skyline. Neither of us could finish the last one he led us to… we were exhausted and our arms were shredded. All in good fun though.
Railay lived up to the hype, and Phra Nang beach ranks up there with the most beautiful beaches I have ever been to in my life. Not many places on Earth are this beautiful.
Steve is on leave near...