A day on the water in a Sun Island Longtail

Trip Start Jun 01, 2010
Trip End Mar 11, 2011

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Saturday, January 15, 2011

Today we have a special day, we celebrate our half a year wedding anniversary while still on our honeymoon. We are about 225 days on our way since we left Bermuda in June 2010, and we are struggling with finding an end to our travels. There are so many more places to see, but work is pulling us. Headhunters are getting air of me looking for something in HK, so frequent emails ask me when I can start. And Linda also got some good opportunities in HK. Initially we planned to return to full time responsibilities after the Chinese new year, early February. We will see if that happens, it might just be that we hike on a bit further.

But no thoughts about this dilemma today, today we celebrate ourselves with a highly recommended tour in a longtail boat around the islands on the east side. We found the details of Sun Tours, a tour operator that provides these tours on the web. The reviews were raving so we decided to go for this tour. It is on the expensive side to get a private boat and roam romantically around the little islands and beaches, but some money just has to be spent.

As our tour includes a sunset view, we don't have to get to the pier too early. We start our tour around eleven in the morning, so we take a relaxed breakfast at the hotel restaurant, which has a rather boring selection of breakfast items. But as we have confined ourselves to eggs, meat and veggies for breakfasts, we make the most out of it. After breakfast we pack our backpack and head out to Lanta old town on the east side. The ride to the town is quick, and we arrived even a bit early. So we park our bike and walk around the town for a bit.

As we return to our bike we find our back tire is flat. We must have hit a wrong pebble along the way. Luckily, as we find our bike we also find Suzanna, the owner of Sun Tours. She is making her runs on her bike to supply the longtail with food and drinks for our trip. When she hears about our back tire situation she immediately takes the problem away. Her neighbor runs a bike shop and would have this fixed when we return later in the evening. She says this happens all the time and fixing the puncture would only set us back about thirty baht. So we left the bike with Suzanna and boarded our longtail. We had a captain and a man handling the engine on the back of the boat, so it was just the four of us going out on the open water. We were so glad that we did a private tour instead of a boat crowded with other tourists, we had the boat and the islands all to our selves. Our first stop was the mangrove forest up north. The water was calm and shallow, there were hardly any waves so the boat was very comfortable when it made its way through the waters.

Our captain told us that these waters change about three meters from high to low tide, and that at full moon the water retreats so far back that most of these waters become a big mud plain. At these times the villagers go out to harvest the mud for all kinds of sea food.

We reach the mangrove forest and quickly find a group of monkeys, or better they found us. As many boats come here to feed the monkeys they are not shy. The monkeys hear the sound of the engine and promptly parade up and down the shoreline waiting for bananas. We feed the monkeys for a bit and some even swim over and climb on the boat. When all bananas are done we head onwards to our next stop, Ko Talabeng. On the way we make a short stop on a little sand bank that has no name.

Ko Talabeng is a gorgeous and typical Thai island. Vertical rocks raise out of the ocean and are covered with lush green jungle. There island consists of two parts separated by a narrow cove. We land the boat on a small deserted beach where we have our lunch. This little beach will be mostly gone by high tide, so we have about two hours to enjoy it. The food served is a delicious home cooked Thai meal. Some barracuda, some red curry chicken and veggies. After our meal we try out the warm waters. Unfortunately the soil becomes all muddy after a couple of meters so not very nice to walk around. Whilst we are swimming a monkey comes down from the rocks and starts to feast on our leftovers. It turns out to be that this monkey is a little secret of the captain. He has been coming to this place frequently and started feeding this monkey since about two years ago. The monkey is an outcast from a bigger colony that lives on top of the hill, so he is on his own. Recently two or three other ones have joined him, but they hardly ever show. Although it is the same type of monkey as we found in the mangrove forest, this one is different. His fur is clean, he is shy and you can not come too close. The captain gives the monkey the leftovers and we keep our distance whilst the monkey enjoys a feast.

After a while we continue our way and say goodbye. We make a brief stop at the caves on the south island of Ko Talabeng. We did not go too far in the caves, but captain tells us that there is a path going into the mountain leading up to an underground lagoon. The hike there would take a couple of hours so not something we could do this time. The caves were used by the fishermen to hide from harm, so there are many stories and legends that partake in these surroundings.

Our next stop is Ko Bubu where we stop at the back of the island. Ko Bubu is slightly different than the surrounding islands. It is flatter and has coral reefs surrounding it, so it is a great place for some snorkeling. The visibility is not that great and the water is kind of green. Still we see a lot of coral, some Nemo fish and a good deal of spiky sea urchins. The current is strong so we first swim against the current for a while and then float back to the boat.

fter our little swim we stop at the other side of Ko Bubu. This is a small back packers resort island. We have a nice ice tea and try to figure out how to spend a couple of hours on this place. We are not people that will lie down on a beach to absorb the sun, not at all. We find a box with the remains of several games in there. I decide to piece together a game of chess and I tried to explain the rules of the game to Linda. Halfway in to the game the captain came to us and told us we had to leave. There was rain coming our way, so we had to seek shelter at another island, Ko Po. We boarded the longtail and headed out. The water was a bit more choppy as the winds picked up a bit.

Ko Po is a fisherman's island, there are no resorts or hotels on this island, only fishermen and their families. The captain showed us around the island. Life is simple here, the children run around and seem to be able to entertain themselves without play-stations or Nintendos. The women were making some nice sweet snacks, so we bought a little bag. People were going about their business of fixing boats, making netts or just chatting with each other under a canopy. We walked around the island where we saw a rubber plantation and some rice paddies. After our little excursion we waited on the pier for the sun to set over Ko Lanta. With the sun sinking behind the island, we made our way back. It was a great day out on the water.

Back at Ko Lanta our bike was waiting for us fixed and all. It turned out the costs were a bit higher that anticipated. The repair man had to replace the complete inner tube as it was beyond repair. He showed us the old tube, and he was right, it was. We were told that it is common practice for the bike rental places to equip their bikes with old tires, so that their customers will have to pay for their maintenance, unbelievable.

We stopped at a nice restaurant at the beginning of old Lanta town, where we enjoyed a nice meal in a very nice setting. The restaurant has little decks over the water, and you basically have your private deck to enjoy your dinner. We enjoyed our meal, reflecting back on our day on the water. What a beautiful day this has been.

The ride back to the hotel went without accidents and our new tire held just fine. Back at the resort we presented the manager with the broken tire from earlier in the day and the bill for the repairs. It was only a small amount, but the principle of renting out a badly maintained bike stung us. The manager was being very unfriendly and kept denying responsibility trying to cover the situation with all kinds of arguments that made no sense at all. Their form of apology, not even asking how we were doing or if we were hurt in some way. After a long and unnecessary discussion he finally owed up to the bill and made a unmeant apology, but the damage was already done. You would expect some Thai friendliness and hospitality, too bad. We went back to our 'villa' and watched some TV, putting the incident behind us.
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