Annie and I departed Bangkok early in the morning and made our way to Don Mueang Airport for our domestic flight to Phuket. Though we were both a little sad to say goodbye to the city, we were excited to finally dig our toes into the sand and look out across that gorgeous aquamarine water immortalized in so many incredible travel photos. Our traveling experience was aggravating in the special way that only travel in Asia can be (basically, toss any sense of manners or common sense out the window, and that’s air travel in Asia), but we finally landed in Phuket, headed straight to the ferry, and spent the next couple of hours chugging through the glorious Indian Ocean over to Koh Lanta.
We arrived in the port town of Sala Dan and began walking through the streets to determine where we should stay for the evening. We had intentionally not made any firm plans beyond our arrival in Koh Lanta as we wanted to have the freedom to move as we pleased among the islands. So, after a couple of blocks of wandering, we decided to enlist the help of one of the many local travel agents scattered around Thai towns like Starbucks are scattered around Los Angeles. We told the agent we were hoping to spend about 500 Baht per night (about $15 AU), leaving it to her to interpret if this meant per person, or total. She set us up at a place she called “Sandy Beach,” telling us it was a beach bungalow in Long Beach, the area we had chosen to stay while on the island.
And that, my friends, is how Annie and ended up in our own little bungalow not 100 yards from the sea, in one of the most incredible places I have ever visited in my life. For a whopping $7.50 per night (for my share). Though the accommodation could be considered primitive to those used to resorts (i.e., our toilet was a “manual flush,” which meant you had to actually drop bucketfuls of water into the toilet bowl in order for it to flush), I actually loved it. It was only what you needed, and nothing you didn’t. A mosquito net, a fan, a queen-sized mattress with sheets, and who needs a hot shower when the temperature never dips below 80F anyway? Plus, we were a few feet away from a restaurant, a bar, and the sand. We immediately deposited our bags, got into swimsuits, grabbed a Chang at the bar, and plopped ourselves into the white sand to watch the sunset and jump into the water.
After a quick shower and heavy dose of mosquito spray (highly recommended for Thailand), we decided to walk to dinner. Fortunately our pathway to all of the restaurants in Long Beach was the beach, as there is a restaurant staked into the sand every 50 yards or so. We chose one based on its price and breadth of menu and had another incredible meal of Thai food, with our toes digging into the sand and the crash of the waves as our restaurant music.
The next morning we decided it was time for another bucket list check – elephant riding. I know that there are many objectors to this practice and I understand that it can contribute to the mistreatment of these amazing beasts, but I couldn’t come all this way without interacting with the national animal, and so we were off to the south end of Koh Lanta to have an hour-long elephant trek. I was a mixture of nervous and excited as we watched them saddle up our glorious steed (okay that might be an over-dramatization, but I was excited!), and next thing I knew I was I perched next to Annie on the animal’s back, lumbering side-to-side and backward and forward unsteadily. Once we had adjusted to the elephant’s gait, it was a relatively uneventful hour, just enough time to see some monkeys in the wild and have a photo shoot in the forest before we headed back for fresh pineapple, water and a ride back to Long Beach so we could enjoy the rest of the day on the beach.
After a few hours of sun, swimming, and sand, we cleaned up and decided to splurge on a $9 massage on the sand at sunset. I was sat down by a petite, grandmotherly-looking Thai woman with a grip that would rival Thor’s and an incongruous chest tattoo. Being pressed like freshly-laundered shirt for an hour does wonders for the appetite, and all Annie and I were able to do was stagger through the sand to the nearest table at the restaurant in our hotel and order plate after plate of spicy carbohydrates.
Since sleep would have meant an end to our last night in Koh Lanta, we decide to wander the beach in search of a few drinks and stumbled upon a fun-looking but totally deserted bar called the Black Pearl or something similarly Pirate-esque. But the lack of people had us wandering back toward our hotel with beers in hand, and plopping onto the lounge chairs stationed in the sand to listen to the waves. I woke up about an hour later and stumbled back to our bungalow (not so good at avoiding sleep when it’s a perfect 75F and the ocean is lullabying you into it). We had already decided we like Koh Lanta too much to leave on the first ferry out, so we took our time over breakfast and had another long beach walk before we finally packed it in and got a taxi to the pier in Sala Dan, sad to say goodbye but looking forward to the party in Ko Phi Phi.