Sea, sand and Swedes

Trip Start Nov 13, 2012
Trip End Apr 17, 2013

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Flag of Thailand  , Krabi,
Wednesday, January 2, 2013

It was breezier than I should have liked for our sea trip on Wednesday but I tried not to think about that as we were driven by minibus with a handful of other tourists to the ferry port near Phuket Town.  An unexpected bonus was that the driver took the route through Patong which meant that we weren’t after all going to be leaving Phuket without seeing this infamous resort.   On a grey Wednesday morning  however it was difficult to get a feel of the craziness of its streets at night. 

There were dozens of minibuses disgorging passengers for the ferry and we joined the queue to board our boat which was going first to Koh Phi Phi.  The boat was packed.  We threw our bags onto the pile of luggage and went to look for somewhere to sit.  The top open deck was already full to overflowing and the main inside seating area was also full.  Down in the depths of the boat there were plenty of seats but there were no windows and we neither of us really fancied sitting there.  In the end we found a little floor space at the rear of the boat and squeezed our way in.

It was windy and there was quite a swell on the sea.  It took nearly two hours to reach Koh Phi Phi by which time we were very stiff and had sore behinds but with the help of a “Kwell” I had not felt sea sick.  We had to pay a fee to enter Phi Phi island which annoyed Keith but there was no way of avoiding this unless we stayed on the quay for a couple of hours until our next ferry left.  So we paid it and joined the tourists milling around the picturesque island.  We had been there on a day trip many years ago and were horrified by the increase in tourism since then.  We imagined though that most were on day trips or, like us, were just passing through and probably in the evening the island became a lot more tranquil.  Its towering limestone cliffs and white sandy beaches were still spectacular.  Having limited time before the departure of our boat for Koh Lanta we chose a beachfront restaurant for some lunch.  It clearly catered for the daily influx of tourists and we piled our bags onto the heap of other luggage already there.  The meal wasn’t good which was what we should have expected really.

The quayside was crowded with large excursion boats and ferries coming and going.  On our last visit we, like most visitors, arrived on a little longtail boat.  The boat for our hour long crossing to Koh Lanta was much larger than that but, smaller than the one on which we had arrived and thankfully less crowded.  We could have had a seat inside but preferring to be out in the open air we once more sat on the deck.

We were met at Saladan quay by a driver from the Southern Lanta Resort which was just a few miles away.  It was a huge complex of over 100 bungalows, most occupied by Swedes, many with young families.  Our bungalow was basic but comfortable, with hot water, airconditioning and a safe.  An unexpected bonus was that we could get BBC World on the TV.  There were a couple of swimming pools where blonde haired children were making a lot of noise and a long stretch of beach, lined with casuarina trees.

We took a short walk along the main road to find a 7 Eleven to stock the fridge and to my delight came upon a book shop, (once again the hotel library had turned up nothing in English) where I was able finally to get my hands on a guidebook to Thailand.  The internet is a very useful planning tool but I do like to have a guidebook too and so far in Thailand had not been able to find one.  We stopped at the Fat Monkey bar on the way back for a beer.  This was an attractive establishment which we felt we might well revisit.

However, when we went out at night we found a good selection of restaurants and bars actually on the beach.  We chose one at random and had a good Thai curry.  The tide was out and so there was acres of space on the beach for a stroll under the stars after eating.  Then we found a really lovely bar with deck chairs on the sand and little tables with lanterns.  The music was a mellow mix of jazz, blues and country rock.  We sank into one of the chairs and had a job keeping our eyes open.  This was a lot better than Phuket!

On Thursday morning it was raining.  The breakfast buffet was good but crowded, as families tarried over their breakfast in the hope that the weather might improve.  Never have we seen so many fair-haired people in one place.  It’s hard to believe that there can be anybody left in Scandinavia, so many of them seem to be here in Thailand. 

The rain had set in for the day.  During a brief respite we set out for a walk along the beach and got right down to the far end where the fishing boats were moored when the heavens opened once more.  We found shelter in a boat shed and waited for the rains to ease.  We then had a long lunch at a beach restaurant and spent the afternoon pottering around on the verandah.  I revisited the excellent book shop in the village where I was finally able to exchange my books.  There was a very well stocked English section and I was spoilt for choice.

By evening it had stopped raining and we ventured out to one of the restaurants on the beach.  The food wasn’t very good.  Or maybe we made bad choices - my crab dish was just a soggy mess and the fried pork with spicy lemon sauce that Keith ordered turned out to be a salad, which wasn’t to his liking at all.  We pointed out to the staff that this dish should be on the Thai salad page in the menu and not on the pork page but I don’t think they really understood what we meant.

The night finished on a high though as we relaxed once more at the beach bar we had visited the previous night.  The music was good again, there were plenty of lanterns drifting into the sky and more importantly an array of stars which we hoped meant the weather might be better tomorrow.

On Friday, to our delight, we had blue skies and sunshine again and the day was spent on the beach.  Once again the plastic sunbeds were at a premium.  We managed to secure two but found them uncomfortable as they had no mattresses and the majority of them were broken.  We watched as a waif like Swedish girl on a bed nearby leant on the arm of her sunbed and it broke in two!

We liked Khlong Dao beach nevertheless and were already thinking of extending our stay.  We had booked 4 nights at the Southern Lanta Resort.  We enquired about extra nights but found them fully booked and so we transferred on Sunday to a similar but smaller bungalow resort just 400 yards down the beach.

Lanta Summer House was naturally full of Swedes too.  The bungalows were fairly basic but the outdoorsy Swedes with their innate camping mentality were in their element here.  In the evenings, pools of light revealed cameos of the occupants of each bungalow sitting proprietorially on their porch staring out into the darkness, as if scanning the frozen tundra for caribou.  Some had even decorated their home from home with flashing fairy lights, Christmas trees, national flags and football banners.

It came as a pleasant surprise to find that the lady in the next bungalow to ours was from Cambridgeshire.  She had already been here for 6 days and had had her fill of Swedish families.  She warned us too about the surly attitude of the staff at the Lanta Summer House.  The sunbeds were an improvement however, fairly sturdy and with comfy mattresses and the beach was as lovely as ever.  It seemed that the powers that be on Koh Lanta were determined that it shouldn’t become another Phuket, and to this end had introduced certain restrictions.  1. No sun umbrellas on the beach   2. No girlie bars on the island  3. No motorised watersports  4. No vendors on the beach.  We understood and appreciated 2, 3 and 4 but were a bit mystified by 1.  The sun was fierce and, missing the shade of an umbrella, I on several occasions overstayed my visit to the beach and got rather burned.

We missed BBC World too.  The TV at Lanta Summer House had over 100 channels but nothing in English.  Then one evening as Keith was flicking through the channels we were startled by the sound of a very English gentleman talking about income supplements and job seekers allowance.  He was dressed in a pin striped suit and was addressing a hall full of headscarved ladies.  On closer scrutiny we found that we were watching Somali TV and this was a repeat showing of a presentation made to the Somali community in Ealing Town Hall back in November, explaining how they would be affected by the changes to the British benefit system!

We found the restaurants along the beach generally disappointing and so at night either walked for 15 minutes up to the main coast road where there were plenty more restaurants of a higher standard or walked for 30 minutes into the town of Saladan.  This was buzzing with tourists at night.  There were lots of shops here, a big supermarket, a local market and lots of places to eat.  Those on the waterfront were built out over the sea on stilts, specialised in seafood and attracted the crowds.  We had a couple of very good meals there at surprisingly reasonable prices before negotiating a fare with one of the motorcycle taxis for a ride back to the beach.

We enjoyed our 7 lazy days in the sunshine on Khlong Dao Beach.  The best time of day for us though was when we made our nightly pilgrimage to the Mook Anda Bar to slump into a deckchair, bury our feet in the warm sand and order a cold beer whilst listening to the sea lapping gently close by.  Later we would wend our way home along the beach by the light of the stars, taking care to avoid the trenches, man traps and various obstacles which the beautiful blonde children had spent all day constructing.

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