Our next and final stop in Thailand was Koh Lanta, an island which was recommended by both Delina and our friends in Pai as a laid back destination. And as our trip was winding down, that’s exactly what we opted for after 8.5 months of fast travel. Luckily we still had a Christmas voucher from my dad for a hotel so we treated ourselves for the first few nights at a resort right on the beach and spent the first few days relaxing and exploring the south of the island on a scooter.
The island has a port right in the northern most point, which is where a lot of the backpackers stay, but it also has various little towns dotted along its west coast, and the old town on its east coast. As we’d planned at least 5 days here, we thought a night in the old town was in order so we scooted over there and spent a wonderful day walking around the tiny town. The town was built on the riches of Phuket’s tin boom last century. The beautiful mansions around town were occupied by the tin barons, and the streets are lined with cute wooden shophouses and quaint cafes on stilts over the water.
We wandered aimlessly, had milkshakes and a dinner of Thai spice steamed fish on a little private deck out on the water. A perfectly quaint little day!
We headed back to the west coast as beach lover Katie needed to spend her last few weeks at as many beaches as possible (even with her foot still healing) so spent the remaining four days at a couple of locations along the coast.
We spent one of our favourite days at the Koh Lanta Animal welfare centre. They offer tours of the animal rescue every hour and twice a day you can go and take some of their dogs for walks! So we headed over and got the tour – they really pulled at the heart strings by telling us all the stories of the dogs yet to be adopted. We played with some kittens katie fell in love with and then finally took Cola for a walk (one of the dogs desperately in need of a home).
The centre was set up by an expat who noticed the huge amounts of stray dogs on the island. Hundreds of dogs had been brought in by construction workers building up the island during the tourist boom (mainly used as guard dogs) but were abandoned as the workers left so the island had a huge dog problem. Julie noticed this and set about helping them – she’s successfully rid the island of rabies (no cases in the last 15 years) and has managed to sterilise 95% of the dogs. She runs a restaurant and cooking school nearby to fund the project. Hugely worth a visit if you’re ever there!
Again, as we’re winding down, there’s not huge amounts more to report on. However we were lucky enough to experience Songkran here. Thai New Year, on April 13th (also celebrated all throughout South East Asia), is also known as the water festival as the whole country basically turns into one big water fight!
We were warned about this from our friends in Pai, who said it’s fun for a day but can get quite tiring after the third day as you can’t leave the house without getting drenched. Ko lanta is largely Muslim, who don’t celebrate Songkran, so actually we were lucky that the festival on the island really only lasted one day – but what an amazing day that was.
We rented a scooter to drive around and get a sense of how it’s celebrated, and quickly found out that about every 50m clusters of people stand on the street and throw buckets of water on anyone who passes! Most motorists are good sports, and will slow down to have water thrown over them (it’s considered good luck for the new year to be covered in water and to cover others), and are equally good sports if families with babies or Muslim people drive by asking not to get wet (although late in the day when we were cold and asked to be spared, we were not).
After driving around for a while and getting thoroughly soaked, we stopped at a bar near our hostel and joined in the crowds throwing water and spraying water pistols at passersby. They had a great system – water delivery trucks would show up every now and again and refill the huge bins and buckets with water and/or ice (some buckets we had thrown over us had ice water inside – thankfully very refreshing in the heat!)
The atmosphere was so wonderful, with music blaring and laughter roaring all day. I wish us Westerners would celebrate New Years at a time of year it was acceptable to have an all day water fight!
We ended our stay in Koh Lanta with a day trip out to the Trang Islands – a cluster of beautiful, and for Thai standards rather untouched, islands close to the Malay border.
In typical Thai fashion though, the long tail boat was overfilled leaving people sitting on the floor and stairs. There weren’t enough snorkels to go around and the nature was (almost) ruined by the sheer amount of people and uncomfortable conditions we were in. We could only laugh it off and go with the flow, as we have become so used to this machine prioritising money making over enjoyment.
The highlight for me (poor Katie couldn’t swim too much thanks to her foot) was the emerald cave – a green cave that leads to a wonderful jungle clad lagoon. Shame about the hundreds of tourists there too, but hey ho.
The downside was really feeling that Thailand is ruining its beautiful nature with these types of tours – at one point our tour guide found a huge jellyfish with fish swimming around it, and picked it up out of the water, threw it in the air and let everyone ‘pet’ it and take pictures. I just sat there fully gobsmacked and sad for the future of this beautiful part of the world.
We ended our stay with some delicious street food and ordered all our favourite dishes washed down with some cold beers.
Next step – the island of Langkawi in Malaysia.
Bye for now x