This is the last instalment of my JBR of our Thailand trip. Part 1 is in the Bangkok forum, Part 2 in the Chiang Mai forum. This one's not as packed, or interesting from and activity point of view, as this was our complete "kick back and do nothing" part of the holiday. So this JBR is a bit more obserational than activity based – fair warning for anyone who doesn’t like that who wants to stop reading now.
After our time in Bangkok and Chiang Mai, we headed off for some beach bum time on Ko Lanta. Our Air Asia flight left BKK at 6:30am, so it was an early start for us. Efficient flight as usual, then were picked up at Krabi airport for the transfer to Lanta Castaway resort. The trip in the minivan was fine, and all three kids slept almost the entire time. At one point when son number two was awake, he and I commented about how the landscape in the south of Thailand looked just like scenes from the movie Tropic Thunder - "You are no longer movie actors. You are five men in a helicopter. With three other men!"
Once we'd hopped across the two car ferries, we started to get the resort/holiday feeling from seeing so many non-Thais around, walking, riding scooters etc. Three locations - three completely different "vibes". We arrived at Lanta Castaway around 10:30, and they had one of our adjoining rooms already available which was great, so we dropped our bags in and headed down to the beach for a look-see. Castaway is a really beautiful property. The grounds are wonderfully landscaped and maintained - very picturesque. The only downside to this resort is the river inlet that goes across right in front of the beach access. Not a big issue - easy to get across - but I guess it's probably the one thing that stops this property going up a few more notches in peoples minds. The staff here were really friendly and helpful. We just vegged out the rest of the day, going in for a swim, napping, soaking up the beach atmosphere. Lunch at the resort restaurant, which has Thai, Western and Tex-Mex on the menu - an ecclectic mix for sure.
Now I had read how Ko Lanta tended to be a favourite destination for people from the nordic and scandinavian areas - and in fact, this is true. It was crazy how many people from that neck of the woods were there while we stayed. Not just at Castaway, but right along Phra Ae (Long Beach). I must admit that my surveying was not particularly scientific, and I can't speak any of those languages, but there's a definite sound and lilt to those tongues that was undeniable. We also noted quite a few Germans too (that's a language that I do know a little of so can recognise with certainty). It wasn't a problem - no complaints from us at all - just a useless tidbit from our observations while staying there. The other thing of note - and I don't know if this is cultural from people from certain countries or not - was how every morning, even early, every single sun bed in the resort had a towel draped over "reserving" it. Have to admit this one's a pet peeve of mine, when you watch over the course of the day, and some of these sun beds would have someone lying on them for a total of 60 or 90 minutes. So no one else was able to use these for the other 8 hours of daylight because some selfish little “bleep” felt the right to lay claim to it. Ok, deep breath, I'm okay, I feel better now :-) Not a problem for us as we're not sun worshipers and aren't interested in snaffling any of the lounges - just thought it was poor form.
Ok - now I don't know about you, but I just don't get the whole "I'm a light skinned person, but I'm going to fry my skin to the point of looking like a piece of yesterdays deep fried bacon". Hey, each to his or her own, I just don't get it. One guy in particular who liked to walk along Long Beach in his speedos (and those should only be worn by people in competitive swimming! Smuggling budgies should be outlawed) was around 55, scandinavian blonde hair in that thinning swept back style, and skin that was the colour of some of our native Australians. I don't begrudge him the right, but hey, I'm allowed to have an opinion (and that opinion had me chuckling for quite a little while).
Our main "activity" was we spent two days on a snorkelling and camping trip with Freedom Adventures. Cait and Ned own and run this business, and I'd recommend them to anyone. Organising the trip with Cait was really easy, and she had some great suggestions for us. Ned is the one who actually takes you around on the trip. It was just the five of us on the boat with Ned, the Captain and the Cook (sounds a bit like a US cable sitcom). On the first day we visited Koh Ngai, Koh Ma, and Koh Mook, finishing at Ko Kradan in the afternoon and this is where we camped for the night. Lots of snorkelling, swimming, kayaking, lazing and eating. The cook was great, preparing lots of great meals that were not too spicy for the kids. I like my food more spicy, but I think it was good that we didn’t have to experience more tears from son number 2.
Just on the visit to Koh Mook - this place is AMAZING! Going through the cave in the darkness, and coming out of the opening into the idyllic surounds of the beach inside the island is incredible. Ned timed it perfectly so that we were the only ones there when we arrived, so we got to spend some time in our own little paradise. This is so beautiful, and an amazing feeling to be in the middle of the island with no land access to where we were (well, not unless we became rock climbing experts - or Batman). As far as island hopping destinations, this one is a must.
Ko Kradan is a really quiet and picturesque spot to camp, with plenty of snorkling right off the beach, and opportunities to kayak around and just generally relax. The camping was uneventful, even for sworn camping-haters such as ourselves (although I think my back is still recovering from sleeping on the ground). We spent the morning just soaking in the the lovely environment there with more snorking, kayaking and swimming. After the trip back up to Lanta, we spend some time kayaking around the mangrove area, feeding the monkeys, and trying desperately not to paddle too close to them so they wouldn't jump on the kayaks. I was thinking of letting them do it, but then tought better of it as I'm not sure how long it would take for me to get back into the good books if my wife got deposited in the drink from me letting an over zealous monkey "rock the boat". The paddle through the mangrove area is really relaxing - we meandered in and out of little side tributaries which was nice. So a big thumbs up to Cait and Ned – really great people and again I’d happily recommend Freedom Adventures to anyone spending time on Ko Lanta.
The weather all during our trip in all three destinations was fantastic (even if I did push the boundaries of skin based moisture production while in Bangkok – man that was sticky and humid – and not even the hot months!). On our last two days in Ko Lanta, there were rainstorms, which of course was caused by the fact that Thailand was weeping at our imminent departure. Not having visited a tropical location before, it’s a lot of fun to see just how much it can rain – and then stop – just like that. On one of the occasions when it rained, I was sitting on the veranda of our room at Castaway with our eldest. He had his head buried in his iPhone communicating with his world on Facebook (as usual). At this point, a young lady staying in the bungalow across from us decided that it would be fun to dance around in the rain. Nothing wrong with that. What piqued my sons’ interest was the fact she decided to do this with only her bikini bottoms and a thin white singlet top on. Let’s just say that a rain soaked white singlet top is not particularly opaque! I was chuckling a lot watching him out of the corner of my eye, him trying to watch the young lady without making it look like he was trying to watch her :-)
On the last night of our fantastic holiday to Thailand, what would you expect we do – but shop. We grabbed a Lanta version of a Tuk Tuk – all 5 of us on the sidecar style attachment, plus the guy driving. The poor scooter didn’t know what hit it. We headed up to the Saladan market for our last chance at Thai market buying and haggling. This market has all the usual suspects as far as products go, but there are also some interesting paintings and crafts here which we hadn’t seen elsewhere. It was worth it to have a final buying spree, and to enjoy some friendly banter with the vendors. Being on and island with a captive market, the prices are higher here, but you can still get some good stuff at great prices.
All in all a fantastic holiday as a family, which has given us some priceless memories. Such a lovely country, with lovely people.
Now to plan the next trip. I can’t wait!