If Koh Phi Phi is a gorgeous, late-night-partying supermodel, Koh Lanta is her cool, super-chill cousin, perhaps not as magazine-cover gorgeous but still quite pretty and charming to boot. Instead of dodging paparazzi and partying until 4am, she just wants to hang out, grab breakfast, and maybe check out some cool shops on the way to the beach. Koh Lanta, with its super-relaxed Thai-beach-town vibe, turned out to be the perfect spot to end our vacation.
Although Koh Lanta is an island, it looks more like the tip of a peninsula jutting out into the Andaman Sea southeast of Krabi. It’s accessible by minibus from the mainland—there’s an airport in Krabi—or ferry from the other islands, which was the route we took. Once on the island, we passed all of the shouting tuk tuk drivers and found one on our own (always cheaper). These tuk tuks were different than in Bangkok. Imagine a scooter attached to an L-shaped bench, covered by a canopy. Slow but fun.
Koh Lanta is much bigger than Phi Phi so there were many more sleeping options. Again Lonely Planet steered us right. Having read up on our options on the ferry, we headed straight for one of their top picks, Bee Bee Bungalows on Khlong Khong beach. Without a reservation we were winging it but we got lucky. They had one bungalow left and to us it looked like the best one of the lot. The roof was thatched palm fronds; the walls were woven from bamboo; there was little shower and toilet down below, a hammock on the balcony, and handy hooks and shelves everywhere. Totally great, especially at 600 baht/night (about $18)!
The vibe at Bee Bee was totally relaxed, totally comfortable. A central, main bungalow functioned as open-air library, check-in desk, and internet cafe. A group of platforms with low tables and cushions, some with roofs, some open, some elevated, functioned as a restaurant. Nearby stood the last bungalow before the beach, an open-air bar with further multi-level options for lounging and drinking. Sometimes, when they were busy, the service slowed substantially, but the food and drinks were always delicious. Besides food, drink, and lodging, they rented scooters, had free-to-use fins and masks, frisbees, and a tiny ping-pong table.
The only tricky thing about Bee Bee was that they kept a tab for us for the entire length of our stay. Convenient? Yes, but even though the tab was always on the counter to look through, I found it more difficult to keep track of what we were spending. I tried paying our tab after a couple of days in order to avoid this but the answer was always, “let’s take care of it later.”
Places to Eat and Shop
Aside from the beach, Koh Lanta is too big to be walkable but everyone rents scooters. We grabbed a little 125cc Honda Dream from Bee Bee (200 baht/24-hour day), a couple of helmets that looked like they’d gone missing from a polo field, and headed off. People drive on the left in Thailand. I don’t know if that had anything to do with us getting lost but we did. We had planned to head down the west side of the island, which was the side that we were on, but somehow ended up at the Sun Shine Hill Viewpoint restaurant on Koh Lanta’s east side. It was the last stop before the road dead ended so we sat down for tea and spring rolls while taking in the view of aptly nicknamed, “Homer Simpson Island.”
After that we got ourselves turned the right way around and headed back to the west side to go search for a little shop that we had read about in an area called Ba Kantiang Road. The ride was just long enough to warrant another food break so we stopped at Drunken Sailors for fruit smoothies and spicy Thai salad.
The shop we were looking for, A Little Handmade Shop on Lanta, turned out to be just as cute and stylish as it sounds. Everything there was made by one of the shop’s three partners. Their friends drew on the walls. Sometimes they make things from stuff they found on the beach. And they had just what we were looking for: nice gifts to bring home to friends.
Walking down the beach near where we stayed also offered plenty of opportunities for eating and drinking. Where Else? a restaurant on the beach north of Bee Bee was a fun discovery. The layout was varied, seating platforms on different levels, tables here and there. The whole restaurant and bar looked handmade. A living tree supported the roof of the bar. Freedom Bar, a little further down was another cool spot. Sand from the beach flowed in to form the floor. Tasty drinks as well…
We pretty much just relaxed the whole time after being on the go for the first couple of weeks. Then we hopped on a minibus and headed to Krabi for an overnight bus to Bangkok (we bought tickets from Bee Bee for the whole trip at 800 baht/person, about $24).
We arrived in Bangkok around 4am and took a taxi to Suk 11, where the overnight guards were sleeping. We sat in the quiet lobby, made tea, and played cards until the desk opened at 8am. A couple days later we were at the airport heading home.
Thanks for checking out our trip!