We woke from our last night on the Aquila to see the sun illuminating the next stop on our journey: Ko Lanta. We enjoyed one last breakfast on board, packed our things, searched for our long-forgotten shoes, said goodbye to the crew, hopped into the dinghy and headed for shore.
I have to say, I love arriving at a new place by beach. Splashing into the shallow waters, taking care to keep the luggage dry, and heading into town with bare, sandy feet to get our bearings – it’s all just tremendously romantic. 🙂
Ko Lanta managed to deliver on the tropical, romantic paradise atmosphere beyond our beach landing.
It’s a small island, with a population of about 20,000. While it’s got a good number of resorts and beaches catering to Westerners, there’s more tot he island than just tourism and it has a really nice, lived-in feeling that is lacking at some other islands. The population is an interesting mix of Thai Muslims and Buddhists and sea gypsies, the chao leh (pronounced something like “chow lay”).
We’d booked our hotel ahead and I’d been lured away from the beach hotels on the east coast by the description of Ko Lanta’s old town (Ban Lanta) on the west coast. Lonely Planet describes Ban Lanta as “the island’s original port and commercial centre…, a safe harbour for Arabic and Chinese trading vessels…, (where) some of the gracious and well-kept wooden stilt houses and shop fronts … are over 100 years old.”
We had booked a few nights at a boutique hotel called Mango House. In the end, we were so charmed by Ban Lanta, the rest of the island, and the beauty, relaxed vibe and friendly hospitality at Mango House that stayed for nearly a week!
Teakwood dream: Mango House
Mango House is a small collection of old, original buildings right over the water that have been tastefully renovated. They are rustic enough to feel really authentic – the doors are massive jobbies of ancient teak that leave gaps when closed, so sleeping under the provided mosquito netting is advisable; the floor boards in the simple, semi-outdoor kitchen area are gapped as well and let in glimpses of the illuminated sea water as it laps around the building’s posts – while still providing a lot of comfort (like effective air conditioning an in-room book and DVD collection).
Our room was huge and shared a spacious, hammock-equipped balcony overlooking the water with the room next door. It was a wonderful place to just hang out and watch the ocean change as the day light turned it different colors and the tides moved in and out of the harbor.
There was a cute restaurant/bar on the road in front of the rooms that was run by the same staff as the hotel. Unfortunately I can’t remember the name of the woman who managed it – she was totally sweet and friendly and welcoming. The menu was small but everything on it that we had was delicious. It served really good coffee, and awesome breakfast so it became our place to start the day while we were on the island. Just like the rooms, it was a gorgeous dark wood building, and apparently it was even an opium den for sailors and locals back in the day! 🙂
The view from our balcony
Our super-sweet hostess (I wish I could remember her name! 😦 )
Her cat liked to come visit us. Here she is, trying to break into our room. 😀
View from inside the restaurant, flip flops outside the back entrance
Best fresh fruit muesli & yogurt
Buddha bar 🙂