Koh Lanta Yai—unforgettable

| June 25, 2009 | 14 Comments
lantayai1 Koh Lanta Yai—unforgettable

From the beach—Lanta Yai

Like all great travelers, I have seen more than I remember, and remember more than I have seen.

—Benjamin Disraeli

Thailand is a fascinating place. When we set out on our travels there (2004), we wanted to get somewhat off the tourist track. We did an amazing trek in Chiang Mai first before setting off to find a not-so-touristy island in the south. We found a magnificent place called Koh Lanta Yai, located in the Andaman Sea off the west coast of Thailand, between the Phi Phi islands and the mainland. It wasn’t remote, but was also not nearly as built up as Phi Phi. There’s a local flavour (the island is muslim) and a quiet charm here that is lacking in tourist hotspots like Ko Samui and nearby Ko Phi Phi.

This was our style—laid back, friendly, and you could ride a motorbike and not see another tourist for miles! Lanta is relatively less developed with most of the accommodation available being basic bamboo huts—but that is changing. There are few paved roads on the island—mostly to the north—and they deteriorate into mud towards the southern end. But again, this was six years ago!

lantayai2 Koh Lanta Yai—unforgettable

From the mountains—Lanta Yai

I remember one night we went out to a ‘bar’ there. The owner and ourselves were the only ones in there (this was during the Christmas season—high season!). While enjoying a nice chat (and drink) three young men from South Africa came into the bar with a confused look on their faces. They asked us where all the parties were and where they might go for a night out on the island.

Ban Saladan, the main town and port, is located at the northern tip of the island. Aside from some excellent seafood restaurants, there’s not too much in the way of evening entertainment. We had a good laugh with the South Africans when they learned that this was pretty much it; it looked like they wanted to catch the next ferry back to Phuket!

The main beaches are located on the west of the island, the largest being Klong Dao, Pra-Ae (Long Beach) and Klong Khong. There are other, much less accessible, beaches at the southern end. We ended up returning to Koh Lanta Yai about eight months later (during low season). A gigantic, new resort was under construction on the beach near where we had stayed (Pra-Ae) and longer expanses of dirt roads were set to be paved in the near future.

lantayai3 Koh Lanta Yai—unforgettable

Our accommodation

Up-and-coming tourist destinations are often hard to find. Those who already know about the next best place are determined to keep it a secret, so that it remains undiscovered. Of course, we don’t begrudge them for that. However, by the time you hear about this great place, it is overrun with hordes of hairy German guys in Speedos. Ironic, huh?

It kind of makes me sad to think of what Lanta may be like now. Is it completely overrun by backpackers, with their big frame bags and utili-pants that have straps and clips and zippers everywhere—the ones like me? Are those quiet, relaxing nights a thing of the past? How many new resorts have been built there in the last six years? I’m not sure if I want to know.

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Category: Kathryn's blog

About the Author ()

Kathryn is a teacher whose experience has taken her from the classrooms of South Korea to the hallways of Canada. Her travels have taught her that backpacking is more than the seeing of sights. Instead, as Miriam Beard has so eloquently stated, "it is a change that goes on, deep and permanent, in the ideas of living". Along with her husband, Daniel, she is looking forward to trading in kindergarten-sized knapsacks for a nice 50L backpack in July 2011.

Comments (14)

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  1. Violet Dear says:

    I am here (Ko Lanta) right now as I type this! It is rainy season so there is no one around – kind of nice! Even in high season I can tell that while it would be busy, there is no tourist ghetto like in Phi Phi or Phuket – it must still be quite laid back!

    • Daniel says:

      Violet Dear—thanks for the update. Kathryn and I can’t wait to return! We’ve done Lanta in the rainy season—August, actually. So we know what it’s like. We stayed on Khlong Nin Beach, which if I recall is a little choppy and not too clear this time of year. If you have a chance, let us know where you stayed!

  2. Tim says:

    Your trip sounded beautiful. Seeing a place without the hordes of tourist is a great experience.

  3. Nick says:

    Your photographs are beautiful.

    • Kathryn says:

      Thanks! We took lots of photos of this place because we loved it so much. I still look at the photos often and dream of going back…..

  4. We shied away from the south of Thailand just because of the stories of hordes of tourists. It nice to hear that there are still some islands not overwhelmed by midnight drinking fests on the beach. (Not that we have any objection to others wanting to partake in them – we’re just too old for that scene, now!) Some day we’ll have to go back and explore some of the quieter islands.

    • Kathryn says:

      Hi Ian and Wendy — Koh Lanta was unbelieveable. This was 6 years ago though and the last time we were there plans were being made for some huge resort hotels and the roads were about to be paved. Hopefully, despite this, it is still a quiet place to go. I would still recommend it, as I am sure it is nothing like Koh Phi Phi. I can’t wait to go back and blog about it!

  5. What a great post about my favorite place in the world! I’m happy to report that as of six years later, Koh Lanta still has its wild, rustic feel. There were hardly any backpackers, and my friend and I didn’t meet any other Americans on the island. There are more resorts with amenities, including some high end ones in the south, but it still feels somewhat untouched. Love it there.

  6. Kathryn says:

    Yay! So happy to hear it! Let’s hope it doesn’t change!

  7. Christopher says:

    Good article, thanks.

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