Travelling to Ko Lanta saw our first taste of Thailand’s tourist transfer system, and it was sweet! After doing everything independently to save money in South America (on local buses, walking, avoiding ‘package’ deals) – we discovered that in Thailand, it’s actually CHEAPER to buy a whole transfer, than say, rock up at a ferry port. So we luxuriated in receiving a little pink sticker then being taken care of for the day – from longtail boat, to mini van, to ferry, to mini van, to Ko Lanta.
We also met a pretty awesome American girl called Britney en route (teaching in Thailand for 6 months) and became firm friends, sharing a tuk-tuk to the same part of the beach, and staying down the road from each other (her budget was a LITTLE more than ours, as always!)
On our first night, we rejoiced in finding an INCREDIBLE local restaurant serving ALL the foods (tasty fried noodles, spicy noodle soups, fragrant curries, generous portions of fried meats and veggies, calamari) for crazy cheap, like 90p a dish. They also had spring rolls, and deep friend bananas / sweet potatoes in peanut and sesame for which I would happily trade my kidney. Also hosted by some VERY sweet, maternal Muslim ladies, and heaving with local business people – we felt like we’d returned to actual Thailand, after the tourist bubble of Raileh. This feeling was compounded by other things like a daily call to prayer, a nearby village, and a general hubbub of (non-tourist-related) island life.
On our first day, we eagerly rented a motorbike from our hostel in view of visiting said village, across the island from us. However, in true Sam and Chloe style, we managed to turn it into some kind of Chuckle Brothers-esque scene, where Sam tried the bike first (after receiving about 30 seconds’ worth of instruction, to be fair) – and he managed to jolt forward unintentionally, then come off the bike, then be dragged along by it, into a ditch.
The hostel dude was lovely about it, and got on the back to give Sam a quick lesson, but thoroughly shaken up (and bleeding!) we decided to give it a miss. The hostel lady politely suggested we take a tuk tuk, or cycle, and generously returned our money in full (despite the fact we knocked the side mirror quite badly!). We retired to the room, sufficiently shamed (there are literally 5-year-olds riding these bikes in Thailand!) and I dressed Sam’s wound using tea-tree oil, Savlon and plasters, then we hit the beach for a day of cloud-bathing and sea-dipping. The beach was pretty nice, but not stunning, and sadly was laced with bits of rubbish on the shore, which made me really sad.
That evening, we met up with Britney and her teaching pal, and we’d aimed to take her to our favourite local restaurant, but unfortunately it was shut at 8PM leaving us with only the tourist strip of restaurants left. Unwilling to pay 4 times the price for Carbonara or a burger (and unwilling to break our ‘no Western food’ policy) we skulked off to drink some (probably illegal) ‘Vodka’ and coke on the beach, next to the tourist place.
Nicely boozed, we sat on the beach philosophising (talking shit) and admiring the GIANT cats that seemed to occupy the area. We quizzed a local guy on why they were so huge, awkwardly, when I’d started to take a pee behind a tree! We were pretty drunk.
We later met up with the gals at a nearby ‘Moon Party’ – our first taste of trashy Thailand night life. I have to admit, although resistant at first, it was pretty fun. It was quite a low-key affair, with fire twirlers, a big outside bar area with lots of cool colourful lights, and people sitting around getting wasted. There were the kind of weird quirks you’d expect from Thailand – a dog and duck best friend team that ran around the place chasing after each other, and games of ‘stab tourist between the fingers of a splayed palm with a knife, then an axe, then a CHAINSAW, at ever-increasing pace’. We met an ageing hippy who showed me a scar on the side of his finger from when he did it and ‘moved his hand’ according to the barman.
We also met some AWESOME French ladies, who we had a great time chatting with, and Sam spent a LONG time trying to learn the French for ‘give me five!’ (tape-moi en cinq!) from the ever-patient Florianne. I also tried to practice my High School French only to find, quelle horreur! It’s actually been pushed almost out of my brain by my recently learned Spanish! So I kind of spoke Sp-ench, or Fra-nish, for most of the night.
The next day was spent VERY hungover, stuffing our faces, watching our Cable TV (always a luxury!) and doing more sunbathing. Next, onwards, via another luxurious transfer, across the peninsula to Ko Tao!