We arrived in Koh Lanta in the rain, and six days later, we left Koh Lanta in the rain. Our ferry from Koh Mook rocked and rolled through the storm that never abated during the entire two hour journey north across the Andaman Sea.
We disembarked in a downpour, and were ushered with our things into the covered back of a truck, along with 8 other drenched travellers, to be taken away to our various resorts. The transport was included in the price of our ferry ticket, which was a nice, and welcome touch given how persistently the rain was heaving down at just that moment!
Time to chill
Our little resort, the Blue Andaman, was just about perfect in every way, and we decided to hunker down there to catch up with ourselves, slow down for a few days, and just ‘be’ while we waited out the rain. We had a roomy bungalow with a nice wide porch that sat in lovely tropical gardens – not too far away from the pool, but far enough to have some peace.
Koh Lanta is a large island with a series of long, expansive beaches running down it’s west coast. Each beach had its own personality, water and oddly, different types sand and surf as you travelled north or south.
We were at Kong Khong, pretty much right in the middle between the family beach and the party beach. Our resort was situated above a narrow strip of deep crushed shell for sand, with sun loungers and hammocks overlooking the water, a nice pool, chilled out beach bar, and cute little bungalow cabins lined up in rows among lush gardens.
It was the perfect place to wait out the rain, sipping beers on our little porch, and napping in the hammocks by the pool. Of course quiet relaxation in a hammock and listening to the waves crash below doesn’t sound much like a 6 year old’s brand of bliss, so he kept himself busy by playing in the rain – who cares if it rains while you swim – you’re wet already. We also tried a new spot for school – the tiki bar! It had all of the elements of a fantastic little boutique resort, but the hospitality is really what set this place apart for us. Genuine, warm smiles through the rain and sopping wet made us feel welcome and at home.
Pick a beach
The beaches on Koh Lanta ranged from Klong Dao in the North with its shallow white sandy beach popular with families and lined with resorts, to the golden sand of Long Beach and it’s active nightlife, the deep crushed shell of Klong Khong, and the glass and broken coral strewn muddy beach of Klong Nin, lined with it’s bamboo tiki bars. South of Klong Khong, the beaches descended sharply into the water, causing waves to curl and crash as they suddenly hit shallow water, making them entirely unsafe for small children.
The tiki bars made up the the day and nightlife of the island, offering everything from Thai food to cheap beer, bang lassi and a lot of emphasis on mushrooms for some reason we weren’t able to explain to our son. Some were more family friendly (although pushing it a bit to say that), and others were certainly of the holiday hedonism variety. Suffice it to say, there was a lot of reggae music, cushions on the floor, jellyfish lamps, and general psychedelic theming in the endless line of bamboo beach bars. Not surprisingly, the beach was so full of broken glass along here, you wouldn’t dare walk barefoot — or inebriated for that matter!
Gosia, of my heart
Back at our resort, Austin met a cute little Polish girl in the beach bar one night, and through a translator (her older brother) they set a date to meet at the pool the next day at 10 am. He was so excited, that he started running out to check if she was there yet from about 8:45!
Gosia was a sweet, somewhat shy, 8 year old girl who was at least a head taller than Austin. The two of them played hard all day long – in the pool, out of the pool, on supervised trips to the beach, and then back in the pool again. By the end of the day, they had each learned a few words of one another’s language, and they were great friends.
They never saw each other again after that day, and he hasn’t spoken of her since. He’s made a few “single serving” friends on this trip, which in a way is good. He’s always been reluctant to make new friends with kids – he’s much more comfortable at making instant friends with adults. He’s had to become more forward in introducing himself and initiating play with strange children, which is a necessary skill for an only child.
Island addiction – scooter exploration
Scooters. I’m addicted. If I thought I could manage one on the streets of London without killing myself or others, then I’d be buying one immediately upon our return. Unfortunately, I know I wouldn’t survive my first ride, and I have to settle for island scootering instead.
We had woken up again to cloudy skies and a little bit of rain. We had rented scooters the day before during a brief break in the rain, and had another two hours before they had to be turned in. Anxious to get every last minute of use out of them, I hurried Austin through breakfast to take him out to explore the island with a motorbike under our bums.
Having thoroughly explored the beaches of Koh Lanta, we went inland, hoping to find a road through the jungly green hills and a change of scenery from the resort we’d been hunkered down in for a week, waiting out the rain.
The road was nearly empty, and with my son safely squeezed between my knees, I gripped the handlebars, throttled back and we went flying into the depths of the island.
We sailed through villages – some no more than a collection of huts, others with cinder block homes covered in every shade of bougainvillea imaginable. We passed rubber tree plantations, small chicken and goat farms, monkeys playing in the trees.
Barely habitable shacks shared a road with the private entrances to large hilltop mansions, peeking out from the jungle. We went in search of a temple we never found, but we did see more of how this island lives, outside of the rows of resorts lining its beaches.
We rounded a turn and found a road leading farther up into the hills, and we took it…up a winding curving road through primary jungle, over the top of the steep hill and in to more fields. We went on for a bit more before, sadly, it was time to turn back.
I told Austin to hold on tight, and we roared back down the road, wind blasting past our ears, rain pelting us with little bullets, and the exhilaration of riding a motorbike through back roads in our hearts and on our faces.
We took no photos that morning, but it will be forever permanently etched into my memory as one of the best mornings I’ve spent with my son.
Freedom. That’s what I’m addicted to. And power. Control (but we already knew that). I love the possibilities that motorbikes give us on these islands. They allow us to get out and explore – beyond the parts that are created for people like us — tourists — and give us the the chance to see more of the culture and life of the islanders. As long as it’s safe, we will continue renting scooters, and we’ll continue flying off into parts less travelled to see more than just what we’re paying to see.
The rain wins
The rain persisted, day after day, and continued to stretch out as far as we could see into the forecast. It was early December, and was supposed to be the dry season. We weren’t sure why it was raining so much, but the Thais seemed to be happy about it! Turns out it was a tropical storm that stalled out over the islands and lasted the better part of two weeks.
There is only so much sitting around that can be tolerated in a week, and getting antsy, we started looking for somewhere else to go. Every other island in Thailand was also getting pelted in the same way, so we booked a flight to Chiang Mai in Northern Thailand, and left our lazy, island hopping life behind.
We weren’t quite ready to leave the islands, but the islands clearly weren’t happy with us. Hopefully we’ll make it back, either on this trip, or sometime in the future. But for now, we’re rested, tanned, salty and sandy, and chilled out.
Having had plenty of time to just ‘be’, it’s now time to ‘do’ again.
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