The Thai Diaries: Koh Lanta (4/6)

26th January

The next morning we head down to Charlie’s House for a wholesome brekkie of avocado toast with poached eggs to set ourselves up for the ferry ride across to Koh Lanta. We pass by the ribbon tree, a Buddhist shrine dedicated to the thousands of people who lost their lives here in the Boxing Day tsunami. There are now tsunami sirens, escape route signs and a meeting point, but you wonder how much use these would really be in the event of a repeat of those 35ft waves of Boxing Day 2004, which claimed the lives of around 280,000 people. The Thais are spiritual people, and there have been many claims of Phi Phi ghost sightings since that terrible day (the majority of Thais believe ghosts reside in most large trees and keep a spirit house outside the home, where daily offerings of food and drink are given to calm nearby paranormal entities).

avocado toast and poached eggs
avo toast ‘n’ poached: delicious
Phi Phi beach
picture perfect
Samantha Walsh in Phi Phi
loving Phi Phi
Buddhist altar with ribbons tied around the tree trunk
Buddhist altar with ribbons tied around the tree trunk

The guys working at our bungalows offer to run our luggage down to the pier on a big trolley (there are no cars or tuk-tuks on Phi Phi), and in view of the intensity of the sun and the mild bucket hangovers, we gratefully accept. It’s the usual scrum to get onto the boat, teetering over the water whilst carrying our luggage as we step gingerly from one boat across to ours. This time we opt for the dimly-lit icebox that is the level below deck and the gentle rocking of the boat means we struggle to stay awake, our eyelids heavy as we attempt to read our chick-lit novels (Luke included – he’s one of the chicks, after all).

A couple of hours later and the island of Koh Lanta slowly comes into focus. The pier is busy with locals offering to carry our bags, shouting the names of various hotels and carrying placards bearing the names of guests they’ve been sent to collect. We are approached by one woman offering us a ride to our next hotel about 45 minutes’ drive away, so we negotiate a price of 150 baht (about £3 each) and she leads us away from the throng. Expecting an air-con’d minibus, we’re somewhat taken aback when instead she leads us to…a battered old tuk-tuk. It’s basically a moped with a sidecar which has clearly seen better days. Rightio. We pour ourselves in and pile the luggage on top, and set off shakily along the road.

Samantha Walsh, Luke and mum in the tuk tuk on Koh Lanta
Our tuk tuk has seen better days…
tuk tuk Koh Lanta
tuk-tuk traffic jam

This thing sounds like a hairdryer and does a maximum speed of about 20 miles per hour, so we settle in for the ride, having resigned ourselves to the fact that we won’t be reaching our destination anytime soon. The wind whips in our hair and the journey is strangely exhilarating. Yes, it’s quite a buzz – not knowing if the next lorry to overtake us on a hairpin bend will be the one that wipes us out…

We arrive at our resort, Moonlight Exotic Bay, looking like we’ve been dragged through a hedge backwards. Walking unsteadily up the gravel drive to the grand reception of this impressive-looking hotel, we quickly rake our hands through our hair self-consciously and attempt to subtly extract our now-wedgied shorts from our backsides. The reception staff pretend not to notice our dishevelled state, and we’re led to our room. It’s a “Wow!” moment: this place is the BOMB! (Especially compared to the more basic accommodation we’ve just had on Phi Phi.) Woohoo! Nice one,

our hotel room at Moonlight Exotic Bay Resort
Our favourite hotel of the trip: Moonlight Exotic Bay Resort
one of the pools at Exotic Bay Resort
One of the pools, as seen from our balcony

I got a wicked deal on this particular hotel, paying a fraction of the regular price. The average hotel cost for this trip has been 25 quid each a night, and this place with the discount is the same price, which is an absolute result when we look around the resort. Our room is facing onto one of the pools and the mangrove-lined creek, over which is a bridge leading to a bigger pool, gym, restaurant, bungalows, yoga studio, private beach and uber-chic cocktail bar. This place oozes Scandi-style luxe with its minimalist interiors and laid-back luxe. Oooh yeah, we think, we’re gonna like it here juuuust fine…

beachfront pool Exotic Moonlight Bay Resort Koh Lanta
beachfront pool
Moonlight Exotic Bay Resort Koh Lanta
Moonlight Exotic Bay Resort, Koh Lanta

The room, a large and stylish space in shades of pale grey and charcoal with a huge king-size bed and giant beanbags, proves perhaps a little too comfortable and our quick siesta turns into a mammoth kip. The call of our growling stomachs is only slightly louder than the roar of our snores, but eventually we are roused from our sun-induced comatose state by the urge to eat and head sleepily down to the beachfront restaurant.

magical pathways lit with hundreds of twinkling lights
magical pathways lit with hundreds of twinkling lights
perfect for a midnight dip
De Mama gets to the root of the issue

The resort is stunning enough in the daytime, but by night it’s magical: twinkly lights illuminate the wooded complex, making it look like something out of a fairytale. It is so still, tropical and peaceful – one of the most calming resorts I’ve ever stayed at. We cross over the creek via the wooden bridge and follow the winding lit pathway past the gym (which is always empty), pool and hillside bungalows until we come to the open-air beachfront restaurant. We order recommended dishes from the specials board (the Thai beef salad is deliciously tinged with aromatic lemongrass), and chat to the extremely friendly waiting staff, who manage to create just the right vibe: a relaxed yet professional atmosphere. Now fully awake, we become aware of the beat of soulful house music playing in the distance and decide to follow our ears to the source of the tunes…

Divine banana daiquiris
Divine banana daiquiris

Hyperion is the on-site cocktail bar, perfect for those balmy evenings spent sipping margaritas and gazing wistfully out over the ocean as it laps gently back and forth over the rocks below. The decking is on stilts above the rocks and has cut-out sections covered with nets, so you can recline whilst drinking your cocktail and see through to the rocks below, which is kind of a cool idea. There are tons of quirky props and features all around the bar which add to the experience and which wouldn’t look out of place at a trendy London nightclub. It’s Friday night, and a guest DJ is selecting the perfect ear-candy: an uplifting blend of disco, vocal house and trance tracks that get Mum and I toe-tapping and bopping about on our net-seats…which isn’t easy, let me tell ya. At midnight, after a couple of drinks, including a banana daiquiri (me) and a mind-blowingly strong Irish coffee (De Mama), we shuffle back to our dreamily comfortable beds for some more shut-eye.

It feels like we’ve only been asleep for about five minutes (although it’s actually been five hours) when Mum’s phone starts going nuts and she leaps up, bleary-eyed and sweating Irish coffee from every pore to answer it. The extended family back home are out celebrating Dad’s birthday at a Chinese restaurant, and she’s greeted by about ten very raucous family members via Facetime. It’s seven hours behind in the UK, so it’s 10pm on Friday night for them, but 5am Saturday for us. She doesn’t seem fazed by the fact she’s being broadcast to the entire restaurant with her hair sticking up at right angles and wearing a nightie…but I’m mortified at the prospect and burrow under the covers and back to sleep…

27th January

Waking up slightly disorientated, it takes a moment or two to register where I am. Moving from island to island every few days will do that to you. It’s not exactly a hardship though, moving from one paradise island to another, and when it dawns on us that we’ve not got long left at this rather lovely resort we’re eager to get down to breakfast at the beachfront restaurant and then explore.

lush views from the balcony
lush views from the balcony

We lean out over the balcony and enjoy the feeling of the hot sun on our skin (it’s boiling already and it’s only 8am) as we drink our morning cuppa: English Breakfast, naturally. (Are you even British if you don’t take your own tea bags on your holibobs?).

De Mama enjoying her morning cuppa on the balcony

We are surrounded by lush greenery, geckos and huge colourful butterflies. It’s beautiful. Mum even spots a giant Jurassic-looking monitor lizard swimming in the creek below….and later a bright green snake as it slithers off into a nearby bush. We feast on a delicious buffet breakfast and select a couple of comfy sunbeds in a prime spot on the decking overlooking the private beach, settling down with our books for a blissful day of sunbathing. (Yep, that’s about the extent of our ‘exploring’). It is perfectly silent, save for the sound of the gentle music playing at the bar, complemented by the rhythmic motion of the waves.

collecting shells and coral
collecting shells and coral from the seashore
Samantha Walsh
Makeup…she’s gotta have her makeup…

Suddenly, the silence is broken by Mum’s shrieks, and I leap up from my lounger in alarm. No wonder these ‘prime spot’ sunbeds had not been snapped up by any other eagle-eyed sun-worshippers…they are positioned under some trees which it has only now become apparent are host to all kinds of weird and wonderful wildlife. I’ve already picked several tiny caterpillars off my body…and now a gliding dragon lizard has plopped down onto Mama Bird’s bed.

Paralysed by shock and fear, both Mum and the lizard stay stock still as they eye each other nervously, giving me plenty of time to capture the moment on my phone, sniggering away.

Draco lizard on subbed with Mum

Draco gliding lizard
Draco gliding lizard

The lizard eventually tires of his photoshoot and makes a dash for the tree, clinging to the trunk with his claws. I zoom in to get another shot of his neon-yellow neck…and something amazing happens. The yellow markings on his neck unfurl to become a membrane stretching right down to his chest. A later Google search reveals this membrane to be a ‘gular fold’ used to stabilise the lizard, and he also has wings, allowing effortless gliding. He’s called a Draco Maculatis, and even the hotel staff I show later tell me they’ve never seen one. (They are so impressed with my photos they use them on their Instagram page, which makes me hashtag chuffed). After that we are slightly wary of sitting under those trees though.

In the evening, Luke joins us from his hotel, Lanta Palace, and we all jump in a tuk-tuk to Long Beach for dinner.

in the tuk-tuk to Long Beach
in the tuk-tuk to Long Beach
Samantha Walsh holding a body-shaped cocktail glass
When your cocktail glass has a better figure than you…
Mum and Luke with 6 cocktails lined up
Our cocktail game is strong

We discover a decent Happy Hour and live music at The Funky Monkey, so order a shit-ton of cocktails (well Happy Hour’s ending in ten minutes so we figure we may as well make the most of it) and hook upto the wifi like the phone junkies we are. An hour or so later and we’re vaguely aware of everything starting to shut down for the evening, so shimmy off in search of dinner. It’s only 10pm, but The Red Snapper (a restaurant that comes highly rated online) is closing, and so is everywhere else by the looks of it. We finally find somewhere still willing to cook for us, and eat some spicy Thai food before hailing a tuk-tuk back to the comfort of our air-conditioned room; it’s still stiflingly hot and humid here, even at night.

Samantha Walsh drinking a cocktail
I do love a cocktail
a body shaped cocktail glass
bottoms up!
reception at Moonlight Exotic Bay Resort
reception at Moonlight Exotic Bay Resort

Koh Lanta is the quietest and most chilled out of all the islands we visited, and is not as conducive to nightlife as the other islands, mainly because the resorts, bars and restaurants tend to be situated along a main road around the coastline, rather than the meandering villagey feel of, say, Phi Phi. Going out requires transport and a degree of effort that is hard to muster when you’re feeling blissfully relaxed and the hotel itself is just so bloody gorgeous.

28th January

Hyperion Bar

Another day dawns, and we are hyper-aware that our time at this dreamy resort is limited. We breathe in the sea air, potter around collecting shells on the beach and swim in the warm sea. If you’ve never been to Thailand before, let me tell you that the Andaman Sea is probably the warmest ocean you’ll ever swim in; it’s like stepping into bathwater.

Luke joins us doing his best David Dickinson impression (ie suddenly looking as brown as one of the mahogany sideboards on the Real Deal) and we soak up the rays until the sun goes down, when we move just a few feet to Hyperion Bar for our nightly ritual of cocktails reclining on the nets. As the sun slides down into the ocean, I wish I could bottle this perfect moment. I’m aware that I’m always trying to memorise these amazing experiences, wanting to imprint every blissful minute on my internal hard drive, ready to recall on a rainy winter’s afternoon upon my return.

Having had a large lunch, we opt for brownies and ice cream in lieu of dinner and, feeling full and lazy, we all turn in early to sleep off the boozy cocktails. (We turn the aircon to the coldest setting to try and burn some of these calories off in the night…to no avail, of course).

Tomorrow, we set sail for Krabi…

A perfect Lanta sunset
A perfect Lanta sunset
the outdoor restaurant
the outdoor restaurant
lampshades made by local fisherman
lampshades made by local fisherman
chilling on the nets
chilling on the nets
Samantha Walsh on sunbed
shame I can’t apply a permanent filter to my wrinkly boat race
I’ll never tire of Thai sunsets
margaritas on the rocks
margaritas on the rocks

Published tomorrow:

The Thai Diaries: Krabi (5/6)

Sam x

Sam’s other blogs:

If You Booze, You Lose
Costa Rica Chica 

Life: A Bird’s Eye View

No Emotional Thais: Sam Goes Solo
Mummy Mission
World Wide Walsh: Around the World in 180 Days
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