Island Time

Today, we drove from Ao Nang to Koh Lanta. Although we had driven part of the route while exploring the area, we were headed quite a few miles further south. As we turned off the familiar highway towards our new adventure, we saw a group of scooters and motorcycles gathered in the left-hand land (which is the side you drive on here).

Slowing down and transitioning to the right lane to make room for them, we noticed a tuk-tuk at the front of the group with a body on the floor wrapped in a white sheet. An elderly woman was riding in the tuk-tuk with the body. I was unsure what the proper funeral procession protocol was for the area, so I followed the car’s lead in front of me and slowly passed the group on the right side of the street. Silently saying a quick prayer for this family and friends, we continued on our way.

Ferry Ride

We knew we would need to take a ferry (one that carries cars and people) from the mainland to the island, but details were slim regarding where and how to purchase tickets. Before we knew it, we were at the pier. An employee directed me to a lane and asked for my ticket. He didn’t speak any English but showed me a ticket. He pointed back up the street when I indicated I did not have one.

We turned around and started back the way we had come. None of the limited instructions that we had found online were correct. Searching the area, we finally found what looked like a construction trailer with signs in front of it that were totally in Thai. Hoping this was the right place, we pulled in; luckily, the man spoke English, sold us the correct ticket, and sent us on our way.

The ferry was getting ready to leave so the pier employee grabbed our ticket and waved us on.

The ride took less than 30 minutes, and we were on our way to find our hotel.

On the ferry to Koh Lanta, Thailand.
View from the ferry going to Koh Lanta, Thailand.
View of ferry coming from Koh Lanta, Thailand.

Long Beach Chalet

Following Mr. Google’s instructions, we made our way through town and located our hotel. A hotel security guard pointed out where to park, and a golf cart swung by to take us to the reception desk.

With the check-in process complete, we were told our room was not yet ready, so we headed to Lym’s restaurant and ordered lunch.

Lym's Restaurant in Koh Lanta, Thailand.
Bar area at Lym's Restaurant in Koh Lanta, Thailand.
Chairs on beach at Long Beach Chalet in Koh Lanta, Thailand.

Our Room

Around an hour and a half later, our room was finally ready. Jim hopped in a golf cart to get our bags from the car, and I headed to the room.

Long Beach Chalet was our big splurge of the trip; we spent three times our other hotels to have a bungalow on the beach. We love the ocean, and we wanted to hear the crash of the waves hitting the beach and see the ships passing by.

Exterior of a beach front  cottage at Long Beach Chalet in Koh Lanta, Thailand.
View looking outside from our room at the Long Beach Chalet in Koh Lanta, Thailand.
Room interior Long Beach Chalet Koh Lanta, Thailand.

The bedroom was lovely, with two walls, floor-to-ceiling windows, and thick drapes that could be pulled for privacy. A big round wicker sofa was on the deck, along with an extra large jetted tub. Curtains were strung across the front of the deck for shade and privacy.

The Bathroom

During the trip planning process, I scoured photos and reviews of all the hotels we considered. There was a list of must-haves I was trying to adhere to (air conditioning, a small refrigerator, a safe, etc.) While reviewing this hotel, although it was not spelled out anywhere, it appeared the bathroom did not have air conditioning. The room’s walls ran three-quarters of the way up to the ceiling, but then it looked like it was open air with some bamboo sticks for privacy.

Bathroom in our bungalow at the Long Beach Chalet in Koh Lanta, Thailand.
Sink area of the bathroom at the Long Beach Chalet.
Toilet area in our room at the Long Beach Chalet in Koh Lanta.

My suspicions were confirmed, but at the time of booking, I didn’t think it would bother me. I was wrong! The heat and humidity have been sweltering since the first day we landed in Singapore. The same is true in Koh Lanta; when we shower, step out, and dry off, we are swallowed up by the heat and humidity before we even step out of the bathroom into the air-conditioned bedroom. It’s a little intimidating to shower and hear the neighbors behind you conversing on their deck. You can also smell the smoke when they are smoking. It kind of makes me wonder what they can hear of our bathroom “activities”?

We are chalking up this open-air bathroom to our new list of cultural experiences!

Dinner Time

With our suitcases unpacked, we walked the beach to find a place for dinner. Many bars and restaurants are located right on the beach within walking distance of our hotel. We picked a festive-looking place, ordered frosty beverages and dinner, and enjoyed some time in the shade.

A few clouds started rolling in, then a few more. With the skies darkening, we decided to walk back to our hotel before the rain came. The sunset was beautiful, even with the foreboding clouds.

Beverage on the beach, Koh Lanta.
Clouds rolling in over the beach. Koh Lanta, Thailand.
Sunset with cloudy skies in Koh Lanta, Thailand.

Fire Show

The rains held off longer than expected, and the scheduled fire show on the beach was able to proceed.

Fire show in Koh Lanta, Thailand.
Fire show on the beach in Koh Lanta, Thailand.
Fires show on the beach in Koh Lanta, Thailand.

Spooky Nature

On our first morning in Koh Lanta, I snuck outside at 5:50 AM to sit on the comfy sofa on the deck and watch the morning arrive with a cup of coffee. Various sounds of nature played all around me. Then, the landscaping lights turned off, and those same soothing nature sounds became louder and closer. Those beautiful bird songs became screeching monkeys and other unknown animal noises. It was a bit unnerving because I could not see where they were. The sound of the waves crashing on the beach sounded lovely, however.

Easter Sunday

Today is Easter, but you would not know it here. Thailand is a mix of Muslims and Buddhists, although several guides we have used here told us that 80% of the population does not practice any organized religion. The island of Koh Lanta is mainly Muslim. We have seen Christian churches in other parts of Thailand but have yet to see one here.

We expected the religious side of the Easter holiday to be scarcely observed but thought there might be a bit of commercial Easter around. Not so. We ventured out to explore the other side of the island and found no trace of the Easter Bunny or any easter egg hunts. Yet another cultural lesson in our book of knowledge.

Lantana Old Town

In search of a local market, like those we have visited in other areas in Thailand, we headed to the other side of the island for the Sunday Old Town Lantana market. After putting the address in Google Maps, we hit the road. Once again, google did not disappoint taking us on many backroads to our destination.

Our preference for two-lane, paved roads is not considered when Google plans your route. At least all the roads he took us on were paved, perhaps a bit narrow in spots, through mountains with no guard rails. We got to see some interesting-looking cows crossing the road and a group of wayward monkeys running in front of us.

Entry arch to Old Town Lanta in Koh Lanta Thailand.
Main street in Old Town Lanta.
Cute pink tuk-tuk in Old Town Lanta on Koh Lanta in Thailand.

Lanta Old Town Market

We checked out the main street in Old Town and headed to the market. It was small along the side of a road. As we walked through the stalls, we again noticed all the flies and bugs on the meat laid out on the tables. We have seen this all over Thailand and Vietnam, even in the larger markets where chefs purchase supplies. Many posts we’ve read on social media have indicated tummy troubles with food in these countries; we think we know why! Being a vegetarian does have its perks.

Lanta Old Town Pier

On our way back to our hotel side of the island, we checked out the big, beautiful pier in Lanta Old Town. The pier appears relatively new and stretches well into the sea, so bigger boats don’t have to deal with the ever-changing tides. Lots of people were in the area waiting on the ferry or excursions. There was a shipwreck on the beach and the biggest crustation we’ve ever seen!

Ship wreck on the beach at the Old Town Lanta Pier in Koh Lanta, Thailand.
Statue on the pier in Old Town Koh Lanta.

Sunset and Dinner

Another stunning sunset greeted us this evening, after which we decided to walk to a pub nearby that appeared to be a short walk, according to Google Maps. However, there were a few things we didn’t consider: Once the sun went down, it got very dark, and there were no street lights; we had to walk on the side of a narrow road in the dirt, and the mosquitos were also hungry.

Jim and Rosie at sunset on the beach in Koh Lanta, Thailand.
Sunset on the beach in Koh Lanta, Thailand.
Sunset on the beach in Koh Lanta, Thailand.

Finally arriving at the Irish Embassy Pub, hot, sticky, and mosquito-bitten, we were excited to see a vegan burger made with Beyond Meat on the menu. We’ve only seen this available a couple of times in the past few months, and we were told at each place that they had run out. When the server arrived, we asked if it was still available, and she said yes. Our last attempt at a vegan burger ended up being a slab of unseasoned tofu on a bun. We tried not to get our hopes up. Our burgers arrived, and it was indeed the Beyond Meat we had been promised. It tasted so good.

Irish Embassy bar in Koh Lanta.
Irish Embassy bar interior in Koh Lanta, Thailand.
Vegetarian burger at the Irish Embassy bar in Koh Lanta, Thailand.

Conveniently, a tuk-tuk pulled up in front of the pub just as we were leaving. We hopped in, and he took us back to our hotel.

Sunny and Hot

It’s another sunny, hot day in Koh Lanta. With no plans for the day, Jim decided to spend some time on the beach and cooling off in the ocean. Initially, all was well; the sun was shining, and the water was hot, but the jellyfish arrived. Jim was stung on the ankle and wrist before he was able to make it out of the water and onto dry land. There had been reports of jellyfish in the area, but it appears the tide brings them in and takes them out, so you never know when they will show up.

We took to the internet to check out treatments and severe symptoms; luckily, Jim’s stings appear to be on the mild side.

With insect bites all over my legs and jellyfish marks on Jim, we are a bit of a red, puffy mess at the moment.

Jellyfish on the beach in Koh Lanta, Thailand.
Bug bite treatment.

Grocery Run

As dinner time approached, we decided to check out a Mexican restaurant about 5 miles away with good reviews. Upon arrival, there was only one other couple in the place. A gentleman seated us and brought over a fan, which I thought was to keep us cool. It also helps to keep the flies off your food.

Our order consisted of some nachos with salsa, veggie wrap, and a veggie quesadilla. We could only see one waiter and a cook. Suddenly, our waiter hops on a scooter and takes off. He returns several minutes later with some vegetables in a bag. More time passes. The cook comes out to ask for clarification on “salsa.” We describe salsa (tomatoes, onions, cilantro, etc.), and she nods and returns to the kitchen. Our waiter hops back on his scooter and goes for a ride, returning a few minutes later with more vegetables in a bag.

It was an interesting meal. The food presented to us looked nothing like any other Mexican food we had eaten before, but it was good. The cook came out of the kitchen as we finished and had a lively conversation, mainly in Thai. I’m pretty sure I heard her say that she learned to cook Mexican food on YouTube.

Fishing With a Local

Jim decided, if it was possible, he wanted to go fishing. He found a few places advertising fishing charters in a Koh Lanta Facebook group we joined and started texting with them to see if anyone had any availability. A date, price, and time were agreed upon.

Understanding that this was a private charter and would just be him and a captain, Jim thought this trip would be similar to others he had taken in other countries. The captain would take care of any licenses, water, equipment, and food needed, and the trip would last about 3 hours or so, depending on how many fish they caught.

That’s not how it worked out. Jim was picked up by a motorcycle at the designated location and time by “Boone,” who turned out to be the captain of the boat. Boone took Jim to a small cove about 15 minutes away. They stopped by Boone’s house, and his wife handed them lunch, and they walked down to the beach.

Fishing boats parked in cove in Koh Lanta, Thailand.
Big jellyfish in the water.
Lots of little jellyfish in the water off the shore of Koh Lanta, Thailand.

The Boat

Boone’s boat was a well-used long-tail boat set up with fishing gear and a cooler. The boat and several other local fishing boats were moored in a small cove. One of his neighbor’s boats was stuck in the sand as it was parked farther up the cove, and the tide had gone out, leaving the vessel beached. Boone, Jim, and several other fishermen tried to help move the boat to the water, but they were unsuccessful; it would have to wait for the tide to come in and refloat it.

Jim soon learned that Boone fished for a living and that Jim would be helping Boone fish today. Today would be like any other day of fishing for Boone; he was along as a first mate. Jim would be helping Boone fish, not being catered to as a guest.

The Trip

The fishing trip lasted 9.5 hours, and they caught several very large Mackerel. About 150 feet from shore you could see all kinds of jellyfish; the pictures don’t do justice to the size and amount of jellyfish in the water.

Jim holding fish he caught.
Boone holding big fish.
More fish from the trip.

Jim arrived back at the hotel sunburnt and exhausted.

Jim with a beverage on the beach after a long day fishing.

Following Giants

Knowing it would be another hot and humid day, we scheduled our elephant sanctuary tour with Following Giants for the early morning hours. We were picked up in a Songthaew, which is a covered pick-up used to transport people around Thailand. This was our first ride in a Songthaew. There is a bench seat on either side in the back, no seatbelts, and a little tarp for shade. The trip to the sanctuary was about 40 minutes and was a wild ride.

Songthaew on Koh Lanta, Thailand.
Jim in the back of a Songthaew in Koh Lanta, Thailand.
View from the back of the Songthaew.

We Made It

We arrived at the Following Giants sanctuary, checked in, watched a video of the history of the place, and then set off in search of the elephants.

Forest Hike

As we hiked into the forest, we found ourselves surrounded by monkeys. The two dogs with us went to work. Our guide told us the dog’s job was to scare the monkeys away so they didn’t bother or bite us. He then quietly mentioned that all the monkeys in the area were rabid.

Up hills, down hills, around a curve, and there they were—two of the most beautiful creatures on the planet.

Following Giants elephants.
Elephant in nature.

Guardians

All of the elephants at the sanctuary have been rescued from a life of slavery. Some were in a circus, some were from the logging industry, and some were from tourism (tourists riding elephants). The sanctuary’s owner buys the elephants and sets them free on his property. They are assigned a “guardian,” who is a human who stays with them most of the day, makes sure they are getting enough to eat (and supplementing that with palm and banana leaves), baths them in the evening with fresh water, and checks them over for any issues (thorns in their feet, etc.). It is also the guardian’s job to watch how they interact with the other elephants and note any behavioral changes. Our guide told us it takes about 2 years for the elephant to bond with and trust the guardian.

Beautiful elephant face.
Elephant friends.
Elephant walking in the woods.

Our guide kept us at a safe distance, and the guardian was there, but these big guys were wandering at will with no chains, ropes, or enclosures. There were times we were less than 20 feet from them; we just stood still and let them pass by.

Dashing Through the Forest

Apparently, our guide thought we were in much better shape than we were because as we continued our trek through the forest, he took us up steep hills on rocky paths, down steep river embankments, and across the stream where we had to hop from wet slipper pointy rock to wet slippery pointy rock. Two families with us had very small children. Jim kept an eye on them to make sure they knew where we were headed, as we had lost sight of our guide, and we were near the front of the group.

Our watch dog on the trail.
Forest and river where Following Giants is located.
Elephants with attitude.

Mean Girls

As we came upon our third group of elephants, I noticed our guide kept us a bit further back; even the guardian seemed to be farther away from the animals than the others had been. Our guide proceeded to tell us that these two girls had been bullying a newcomer, so they were trying to keep them in different areas of the forest. We had watched the other elephants eat leaves from trees, but these two were stomping down midsized trees to get to the leaves when there were plenty of leaves they could reach. The elephants had wandered onto a neighbor’s land, where they were causing the tree damage. Our guide said they would be paying restitution for the trees.

He also mentioned that their regular guardian had become ill and was in the hospital, so a backup guardian was with them. The elephants did not like or trust the backup guardian, and there had been a noticeable change in their behavior (not for the better). The sanctuary’s owner ended up facetiming the regular guardian while he was in the hospital so the elephants could see him and hear his voice. It seemed to calm them down, and they were making progress on the bullying; however, I was looking for a way out in case they had a temper tantrum.

The Goats

As we made our way back towards the starting point, we stopped at a covered platform built next to the path along the side of the mountain. We could use slingshots and shoot seed balls, which the elephants consider treats, to the valley below for the elephants to find as they wondered. While resting, sitting, and enjoying the beautiful surroundings, a giant elephant wandered up the path. He stopped for a snack right next to our platform.

Elephant by tree.

Our guide perked up a little bit and spoke to the guardian. They kept looking farther up the side of the hill. Apparently, this particular elephant does not like goats, and our guide had seen several of them on the hillside beside us. He was afraid they would spook the elephant, who would take off, not caring who or what was in this way. Did you know elephants can run 25 miles per hour?

Jim launching seed balls for the elephants.
Elephant looking for food.

We slipped past the elephant and headed back down the hill while both the guardian and our guide kept an eye on the goats.

After enjoying some fresh fruit and beverages, we hopped back into the songthaew for our journey back to the hotel.

Beach Walks

The next few days we spent quietly at the resort.

If we don’t have any early plans for our day we’ll walk the beach after breakfast. The trees provide shade, there are not many people out yet and there are always interesting things to see in the sand.

Crab in shell on the beach.
Jellyfish on the beach.
Sea coral washed up on the beach.
Beautiful starfish on the beach.
Coral from the sea washed up on the beach.

Time to Move On

We’re off for a few days of travel before we reach our next destination.
Bye – Bye beach life!