The PTC Koh Lanta Green Season Guide – Part Two

After a short delay, welcome to Part Two! Let’s check out some places to eat and sleep in Koh Lanta.

Unlike some Thai islands that have been overrun (some would say spoiled) by unchecked development, Lanta has a nice mix of locals, tropical forest, and solid tourist infrastructure. In the off-season you’ll find some great deals, too.

What (and Where) to Eat

I need to get something off my chest. Everyone who writes about Thai food seems to love it. For us Thai food is fine, but not something we love enough to eat every single day. We were in Thailand for six weeks and I swear the majority of the food there is fried or made from meat-like product like hotdog or fishcake. And good luck if you’re trying to cut back on meat, because there aren’t a ton of options outside of tofu pad thai. Sorry, I digress.

There are a few dining options on Koh Lanta in the green season. Not all restaurants are open that time of year, but we found a decent range of western and Thai options to get us through, combined with home-cooked meals when we had an apartment with a kitchen. Here were our best finds:

Thai Food Options

TaThaTa is a Thai place run by a super sweet lady who’s always smiling and happy to see you. Her red curry is the best we had in Thailand (tell her if you like it spicy!). Really, everything on her menu tastes fresh and the ambiance of the place is pretty nice too.

[ptcPhoto filename=”LantaTaThaTa.jpg” title=”TaThaTa” caption=”It doesn’t look like much from the outside, but make sure to try this one.” position=”center”]

You’ll find Phad Thai Rock & Roll near the southern beaches (across from the ever-popular Drunken Sailors). The man who runs this place is also in a rock band, hence the name. They only have three food items on the menu (pad thai, pad see ew and a curry), along with a wide selection of fresh fruit juices. We tried everything and you can’t go wrong here.

[ptcPhoto filename=”LantaPadThai.jpg” title=”Pad Thai” caption=”Rock & Roll pad thai with prawns, and a coconut to drink.” position=”center”]

Western Food Options

If you’ve been craving a decent burger, you’re in luck. Ling Uan (the Fat Monkey) serves up a respectable (if very pricey) bacon and bleu cheese burger that kept us coming back. They have a full menu of other dishes that looked really tasty, too.

[ptcPhoto filename=”LantaFatMonkey.jpg” title=”Fat Monkey” caption=”And unlike most every other restaurant in Thailand, they don’t play terrible Celine Dion covers.” position=”center”]

The Drunken Sailor is one that shows up in the guidebooks, and it’s your staple backpacker place. The coffee is really quite good there, as is their glass noodle salad (featured in this article’s cover photo). Their western-style breakfasts are yummy, although the portion sizes are a little small.

[ptcPhoto filename=”LantaSailor.jpg” title=”Hammocks” caption=”Swing in a hammock and read from their huge (but outdated) collection of Lonely Planet books.” position=”center”]

The German Bakery is located across from the Fat Monkey. They have a delicious frankfurter with grilled onions and mustard. Another solid western food option.

[ptcPhoto filename=”LantaHotdog.jpg” title=”Bakery” caption=”A big frankfurter from the German Bakery.” position=”center”]

Meals at Home

Fresh fruit abounds in Thailand, and green season happens to coincide with mangosteen season. Yum, yumyumyumyumyum. Our apartment at Freedom Estates had a blender, meaning we had fresh mango pineapple smoothies every morning and watermelon juice in the afternoons. These were a good supplement to our backpacker’s diet of tuna mac and hard boiled eggs.

[ptcPhoto filename=”MangosteenSeason.jpg” title=”Mangosteen” caption=”It’s so, so sad that we don’t get good mangosteens in the States.” position=”center”]

Lanta Mart is the only full grocery store on the island. They carry basic supplies, tons of junk food, and some western luxuries like peanut butter and olives (but no fresh fruits or veggies). If this place is closed there are also dozens of privately owned mini marts on the island that sell your basics like water, eggs, shampoo and beer.

There’s also an outdoor rotating market where you can buy fresh meat, fruits and vegetables. The market floats to different places along main road (most commonly up north in Saladan) on Saturdays, Sundays and Mondays. One vendor there makes a mean fried chicken in giant vats of bubbling oil…follow your nose to find her. If you buy fresh meat at the market, make sure you cook it that day. They don’t keep anything on ice and we had two batches of chicken go bad before we had a chance to cook them.

[ptcPhoto filename=”LantaFishcakes.jpg” title=”Fishcakes” caption=”The ‘Angry Birds’ are a ploy to make you forget you’re eating fishcakes…again.” position=”center”]
[ptcPhoto filename=”LantaCurry.jpg” title=”Curry” caption=”A huge bowl of Thai curry paste.” position=”center”]

[ptcPhoto filename=”LantaChilies.jpg” title=”Chilies” caption=”Chilies for sale at the market.” position=”center”]

The Beer Situation

Beers on Lanta cost the same as elsewhere in Thailand – 50-60 baht ($1.50) for big bottle at shops, and 100-130 baht ($3) at restaurants and bars. There’s of course an Irish bar on the island (the Irish Embassy), which always has a small crowd of travelers and expats. They also have food, if you’ve a hankering for bangers and mash.

Where to Sleep

We stayed at a few different places in Lanta, all in the $20-30 range.

First was Lanta Escape Cabins, a small resort in Phra Ae. At $33 for a small cabin with a kitchenette, this property was the most expensive of the three, and also the nicest. Since it was off-season we practically had the place to ourselves.

[ptcPhoto filename=”LantaEscape.jpg” title=”Pool” caption=”The pool at Escape Cabins.” position=”center”]

A second option is Freedom Estate apartments. A studio with a full kitchen costs around $23 in green season, and there’s a huge patio out front where you can enjoy a drink and watch the sun set. After a couple weeks there it felt like home.

Our final room on Lanta was at the Lanta Miami resort, which is larger than the other two and costs around $28 in the off-season. There aren’t as many food options right around this hotel (and there’s no kitchen), making it our third choice.

[ptcPhoto filename=”LantaMiami.jpg” title=”Miami” caption=”Our cabin at the Lanta Miami Resort.” position=”center”]

We’ve been to somewhere around 150 cities over the last 20 months, and Koh Lanta is one of the only places where, if we had the means, we’d buy a little seaside apartment and come back every year. It’s just that pleasant. I can’t speak for high season, but in the summertime Lanta is a charming place to get away.

The PTC Koh Lanta Green Season Guide – Part One

Welcome to the Thai islands, where you can while away many a day on your choice of 1,400 little charms. Koh Phi Phi is known for scenes from The Beach, Koh Phangan has the Full Moon Party, Koh Tao has diving, and Koh Lanta has…well, a little bit of everything. It’s a good place to go if you can’t decide where to go.

[ptcPhoto filename=”LantaBeachBoat.jpg” title=”Boat” caption=”Beautiful waters off Lanta.” position=”center”]

If you’re after Thailand’s infamous happy shakes and buckets, Lanta might not be your first choice. But if you’re looking for a nice place to get a feel for life on the Thai islands (or if you need to recover from the aforementioned buckets), you could do worse than to spend a week or two here. We spent a month under Lanta’s spell and were really sad to leave.

Getting There

Few boats reach Lanta in the green (off) season, so to get there you’ll have to go overland. We came in from Langkawi, Malaysia and had to take a ferry from Langkawi to Satun, Thailand (the point of entry for immigration), and then take a minibus from there to Lanta with a short stop in Trang for lunch. They even dropped us off at our hotel. We paid 111 ringgit each (1113 baht/$35 USD) for this trip, and it was well organized and air-conditioned the whole way. In the high season there’s a ferry that goes from Langkawi to Koh Lipe, and you could probably island-hop up to Lanta from there.

[ptcPhoto filename=”LantaShop.jpg” title=”Gotta get some oats” caption=”Travel agent and ‘oat shop’ (??) on Lanta” position=”center”]

Leaving Lanta, it costs 400 baht to reach Ao Nang (450 to Rai Leh Beach, 300 to the Krabi airport), and a trip to Koh Ngai was also 400 baht on long tail boats. Overall it’s really easy to get from place to place – just walk into any travel agency and they’ll arrange transport that includes pickup from your hotel. (It doesn’t hurt to politely ask for discounts, especially if you’re booking multiple trips. The worst they can say is no!)

The Basics

With 30,000 people and an area of 130 square miles, Lanta isn’t what we would consider a small island. The population there is diverse, with a mix of Buddhists, Thai-Chinese, Moken (sea gypsies), and Muslims. Due to the island’s close proximity to Malaysia, the majority of its residents follow Islam.

[ptcPhoto filename=”LantaMarket.jpg” title=”Muslimahs” caption=”Muslimahs selling their wares at Lanta’s day market.” position=”center”]

While you could check in to your hotel and stay in one area the whole time, you’d be missing out if you didn’t explore the rest of the island. To do this, it really is necessary to rent a scooter. We paid 120 baht ($4) a day for long-term (3 week) rental, although the going rate for a daily rental is around 200 baht. Again, ask for a discount and you might get better prices – our second rental cost 500 baht for 3 days.

[ptcPhoto filename=”LantaScooter.jpg” title=”Scoopy” caption=”I failed to get a photo of our matching pink helmets.” position=”center”]

Fuel costs 40 baht for 750ml, or 50 for a liter. “Filling stations” are everywhere – just look for the little stands with whisky bottles filled with gasoline. There’s one main road that spans the whole length of Lanta and goes across to the Old Town, so it would be hard to get lost. Even so, we joked that the island is navigable by the many 7/11s that dot the road.

[ptcPhoto filename=”LantaGasoline.jpg” title=”Fuel” caption=”Lanta gas station.” position=”center”]

Note: Don’t ride a scooter without a helmet! It’s amazing to me how many travelers take this risk in a place with no head trauma center.

In terms of internet, staying connected on Lanta shouldn’t be a problem – nearly every restaurant and hotel has Wi-Fi. It was mostly really fast, although that could be attributed to having relatively few people on the networks.

How it’s Different in Green Season

Generally the Thai islands are a little quieter between May and October, which is known as the green season (so-called because “rainy season” sounds too ominous). Many hotels and restaurants close down this time of year for restorations or to take their own little vacay away from the tourists. There are great deals to be had on the hotels that stay open – more on that later.

[ptcPhoto filename=”LantaLizard.jpg” title=”Lizard” caption=”A green fence lizard outside our apartment.” position=”center”]

As you might have guessed, Lanta sees some rain this time of year. The good news is that most days it only lasts for an hour or two, but the bad news is that it’s really unpredictable and you could endure downpour for your entire trip. Since we stayed for a whole month we didn’t mind holing up on rainy days. Except when the power went out…which it did, now that I think of it, just about every time it rained. Ah, well, bring a good book.

[ptcPhoto filename=”LantaStorm.jpg” title=”Stormy” caption=”A moody green season sky.” position=”center”]

Things to Do

Get in the Water

Lanta offers a good number of beaches whose quality varies in terms of sand and swimmability (which is a word now, btw). During green season the resorts aren’t so meticulous about cleaning up, so beaches like Phra Ae (Long Beach) and Klong Nin had a lot of trash on them. Nothing like going for a swim and instead finding broken beer bottles, old toothbrushes and about eight hundred estranged flip-flops.

[ptcPhoto filename=”LantaDirtyBeach.jpg” title=”Rubbish” caption=”We have a sneaking suspicion a lot of it washes in from the party islands.” position=”center”]

It’s not all bad though; try Kantiang Bay down on the south of the island. It’s sheltered, clean, and great for year-round swimming. If you take the road south from Old Town until it ends, there are also some swimming spots on the east side of the island.

[ptcPhoto filename=”LantaCrabs.jpg” title=”Crabby” caption=”That’s also where I found these happy scuttling crabs.” position=”center”]
[ptcPhoto filename=”LantaKantiang.jpg” title=”Kantiang” caption=”Kantiang Bay is just perfect – warm water, small waves, beach bars close by.” position=”center”]

Lanta’s also a good place to jump off on a 4-island snorkeling tour. These normally go to four of the Trang islands: Koh Muk, Maa, Chuek, Ngai, Rok, and Kradan. As a side note, we really wanted to go to Koh Rok and Kradan because they look amazing, but Rok is closed in low season, and Kradan is just really hard to reach from Lanta. Next time, I suppose.

Explore Old Town

You’ll find Old Town on the southeast side of the island. There are some nice shops there that sell locally made batik products and other crafts, as well as some restaurants. It’s worth the drive over to see the other side of the Lanta and the island’s original port and commercial center. Near Old Town you can also find the sea gypsy village and their stilt-built houses.

[ptcPhoto filename=”LantaOldTown.jpg” title=”Old Town” caption=”An afternoon in Old Town.” position=”center”]
[ptcPhoto filename=”LantaCat.jpg” title=”Chillax” caption=”It’s so hot. I’m just going to rreeealllaaaxxx (AKA gratuitous cat photo).” position=”center”]

Other Activities

Most of Lanta’s southern tip is swathed in a national park that offers some short treks. There are also some caves and a waterfall, although somehow we never found the time to visit them.

[ptcPhoto filename=”LantaLeaf.jpg” title=”Giant” caption=”A giant leaf in the tropical forest.” position=”center”]

If you’re interested in Muay Thai (Thai kickboxing), you can learn about it at the island’s gym and Muay Thai center. We got gym memberships for a few weeks and actually did some exercise while we were there!

[ptcPhoto filename=”LantaGym.jpg” title=”Gym” caption=”Lanta’s fitness center.” position=”center”]

Spend Time with Local Animals

Some of the island’s attractions include elephant treks, snake shows, and even a “Monkey School”. By all accounts, none of them seem to treat their animals very well. Please don’t support these companies with your patronage. A better way to get close to local animals is to visit Lanta Animal Welfare. It might not be as exotic, but unlike the monkeys, snakes and elephants, the cats and dogs there really do benefit from tourism on the island. During low season they need extra help with walking dogs in the afternoons. We volunteered at LAW most days we were on Lanta and loved it (full report coming soon!).
[ptcPhoto filename=”LantaCatStare.jpg” title=”Kitty” caption=”Just about pouncing time…” position=”center”]

Stay tuned. Part Two will have tips on where to eat and sleep!

Snapshot Sunday: Bangkok’s Temple of Dawn

[ptcPhoto filename=”BKKTemple21024.jpg” title=”Wat Arun” caption=”The Temple of Dawn in Bangkok, Thailand” position=”center”]

Bangkok’s Wat Arun, also called The Temple of Dawn, is a Buddhist temple and one of the city’s best-known landmarks. The temple’s towers are supported by rows of demons and monkeys that act as its guardians. Another distinctive feature is the fine china that studs the outer walls. These shards of porcelain were first used as ballast on ships that came to Bangkok from China in the nineteenth century, and found a new home on the temple’s facade.

Snapshot Sunday: Just Another Perfect Beach

[ptcPhoto filename=”TonsaiSS.jpg” title=”Ton Sai” caption=”Ton Sai Beach, Krabi – Thailand” position=”center”]

Ton Sai is a sweet little bay that draws rock climbers, backpackers, and hippies seeking out happy shakes. Most people just pass by on long tail boats, but it’s definitely worth the 20-minute trek from nearby Rai Leh to dig your toes in the sand and escape the commercialism for an afternoon.

Click here to view a larger, detailed image.

Snapshot Sunday: Searching for Thailand’s Best Beaches

[ptcPhoto filename=”NewNgai.jpg” title=”Koh Ngai” caption=”Looking out on karst formations in the Andaman Sea – Koh Ngai, Trang – Thailand” position=”center”]

Just south of Koh Lanta is Koh Ngai, a tiny island with clean beaches and stunning views of karst outcroppings that dot the Andaman Sea. The beach itself has pristine, powdery white sand and thousands of crabs scuttling about. Unfortunately, all the jellyfish washed up on shore have made us a little hesitant to venture into the water.

Click here to view a larger, detailed image.