Back in 2013, I visited Thailand for the first time. It was during this trip that I discovered Koh Lanta, a small island in the Andaman Sea.
Have you ever traveled to a place, and it just clicked with you? That was Koh Lanta for me. Sure, some may say it’s played out and not off-the-beaten-track enough. Some might say it lacks the crazy-fun nightlife of Koh Phi Phi. Koh Samui, or Koh Phangnan. But for me, it’s heaven.
We were only able to stay for a couple days on my first trip, and I kept enthusing to my sister how much I had loved it the first time I went. It helped that we’d found a kickass and super cheap place to stay the first time, and I was confident that I could replicate my luck. So rather than waste days on Koh Phi Phi, which was choked with tourists and a more expensive, we made straight for Koh Lanta from Railay Beach.
Koh Lanta had grown up a bit in the two years since I’d been there, but she was still the same at heart, and I was so happy to be back wandering Long Beach, hoping I could maybe find the cute little bungalow I had stayed in the last time I visited. New resorts and restaurants confused me a bit, but suddenly I saw a little convenience store on the sand, and it all clicked into place.
“This is it!,” I called over my shoulder as I strode up the sand toward the store. Just past the restaurant, there they were! The tiny cluster of bungalows, looking exactly as it had in 2013. I was beside myself as we went to the office and promptly booked ourselves in for three nights. We ended up extending this to five after my sister had the exact same reaction I did after a day on the shores.
Lanta L.D. Beach was exactly as it had been before – still manual flush toilets, still no hot water, still run by the same sweet Thai Muslim family, still perfect. We were 20 feet from the sand, and 20 feet from the center of a backpacker village that meant cheap eats and cheap motorbike rental. There was a new convenience store on the main dirt road that led to the village that carried American treats, and I had Goldfish crackers for the first time in over a year sitting on our bungalow porch in Koh Lanta. They also had the cheapest Changs around, and tables outside where you could drink up. At night, the Pad Thai and Pancake carts would show up, and for under $2 we could stuff ourselves until we couldn’t move any longer.
Our days were spent working on our tan and playing with the friendly dogs on the beach, and even my pale skin darkened a shade or two during our daytime lolling. And the sunsets EVERY day were just as spectacular as I remembered.
This time, I was able to get the week I wanted out of Koh Lanta, and I was still sad to leave when we packed up to cross the peninsula to Koh Samui. At least I now know that there’s a little slice of heaven in Andaman Sea, awaiting my return.