Posts By Country




May 4th, 2011 | Asia

Languishing in Lanta…

Heading for Koh Lanta, hoping to find a place to relax in for a while...

Writing this in retrospect is difficult, but when I look at the hundreds of photos I took while we were there, fond memories of my five day visit come readily to mind…

It was strange not having Big Red looming up in my mirrors as I took the road south, and I couldn’t break the habit of looking back to see where Trevor was…

I had become quite used to having a “wing-man” with me… I consoled the Big Fella by telling him that his mate of the past few weeks would be rejoining us soon enough…!!

I have already covered my arrival in Koh Lanta, using two ferries, one to cross from the mainland to Lanta Noi, and another to cross from Lanta Noi to the larger and more populated Lanta Yai… See post before this one…

My rear-mounted camera drew much attention from passengers on the ferry...

There was hardly any waiting between ferries, and at least four ferries worked each crossing… No sooner would one leave the concrete jetty, when another would arrive, offload the dozen or so cars on it, and load up for another crossing…

Lanta Noi was made up of mangrove swamps for the most part, with a low ridge of hills running down it’s eastern side… They were covered in thick natural vegetation and a few small villages nestled at the base of these hills…

The ten minute ride from the one jetty to the other wound around the hills and then the road leveled out and ran alongside the wide beach of Langsod before ending abruptly at the jetty which was the jump-off point to Lanta Yai…

During both crossings, many people got out of their cars and gathered around the bike, pointing to all the attachments, commenting about all the flags and asking bucket-fulls of questions about my journey…

Riding onto the second ferry... Baan Sala Dan is in the background...

This small motor launch pushes our ferry into place after our captain made a small error of judgement...

On the second crossing, the captain brought the ferry in to the dock at an angle that was not going to allow the cars off safely…

He had swung wide to avoid another ferry which was crossing over in the opposite direction, and ended up slightly out of position… He called for assistance and a small “tug” came alongside and pushed us up against the concrete ramp…

I was first off, and quickly left the other cars in my wake as I motored on to Ban Saladan, the only town of any consequence on the island, and the town that most tourists arrived at via the passenger ferries coming from the islands of Phuket and Phi-Phi, as well as from the port of Krabi…

"Run Forrest...!! Run...!!"

I wanted to avoid the busier areas of the island and turned south on the main road that ran along the coast… An unbroken series of shops, restaurants, dive centres and hotels lined the road until they thinned out and I began riding through smaller villages…

I passed through Klong Dao, Phra Ae and Klong Khong and then came to the road that runs across the island to Old Town in the east.. I knew that most of the beach resorts were situated on the western side of the island, so continued south to Klong Nin, and began looking for a suitable spot to base myself…

"What's up, Pussycat...??"

I settled on the White Rock resort, which had a series of bungalows in a beautifully kept garden that ran down between the bungalows, to a large swimming pool…

The Swedish couple who owned and managed the resort were super-friendly and made my stay there a comfortable one… They explained where the markets were, where I could have lunch (they only offered breakfast and dinner, as we were in the low tourist season…) and what to see and do on the island…

No sooner had I settled in to my room, got my kit unpacked and my laptop set up to test the signal, when I was visited by a multi-coloured cat that took a shine to me and stayed with me the remainder of that first day…

A shower of rain kept me indoors that afternoon, and when it had passed over, I went to meet the barman who was setting up for the evening’s festivities… The bar at the White Rock resort had two large flat-screen TV’s mounted on brackets under the thatch roof, and advertised for all the important football matches being played in the English League…

The bar at the White Rock is a popular haunt for football lovers...

He invited me around for that evening’s matches, which featured both Manchester United and Liverpool in a separate games, promising that the place would be “rocking”…

And he was not kidding…!! While I sipped on a number of Mr. Walker’s Black Label’s on the rocks, I watched the resurgence of a Liverpool team under the guidance of the legend that is King Kenny Dalglish… It was great to be celebrating Liverpool wins again…!! The thirty or so English fans that surrounded me thought so too…!!

Near the southern tip of the island, the road becomes a dirt track...

The following day I went out for a ride, eager to get to the lighthouse on the southern tip of the island… After a few kilometres, the tarred road became a narrow concrete strip, and then disappeared altogether…

As long as we're not "concerned" after eating them...!!

I passed a small group of people trying to get a scooter that one of them had fallen off, back onto it’s wheels… I was on a particularly steep section of the track, littered with small rocks, and could not stop to assist them… But I would meet up with them again later…

Determined to get to the lighthouse, I bumped along a road that in some places had been carved through bedrock… Standing up on the pegs, I guided the Big Fella gingerly down the ever deteriorating track, down some very steep inclines and through puddles of water that had me guessing at what lay under the muddy waters…

I was inching my way down one of these slopes, concentrating fiercely to keep the heavy bike from sliding out from under me, when a large shadow appeared from my left…!!

A huge elephant came ambling out onto the road, not more than five metres in front of me…!! His mahout was blocked from view, leading him by his left ear, and had not seen me sliding big-eyed down the hill towards them…!! I saw the elephants right eye widen in surprise (not nearly as wide as mine were…!!) and then as I grabbed handfuls of brake and clutch, the beast swung away from me, presenting us with it’s broad backside…!!

Which in hindsight was a good thing… Rather that than the pointy front end, as this particular elephant sported a fine set of tusks…!!

I had the ABS braking off, and my back tyre locked on the muddy surface, taking me right up under the elephants tail, and coming within inches of clipping it’s ankles… It scooted forward suddenly, sensing that I was practically in a position to give it an internal examination, and that’s when the mahout became aware that I was there…!!

This is the pachyderm I almost parked under...!! It was being washed when I rode back along the track a few minutes later...

He muttered a quick apology while tugging desperately on the elephants ear to slow it down from the fast walk that it had broken into…!!

Needless to say, his apology did not bring back the ten years I had just lost…!! The Big Fella had also farted in fright, but that might have been from me stalling the engine…!!

“You do realise of course,” he had said afterward, “that if that bloody elephant had “let go” at that very moment, I would have ended up with far more than just “egg on my face”…!!”

The fact that I was not wearing a helmet, and might have ended up with my head in a very dark place seemed to escape him…!!

I sat there for a few minutes, considering how close we had come to disaster, while I watched the elephant and it’s handler disappear from view around a bend in the road… I pressed the starter and eased forward again, reminding myself of the old saying regarding elephants: “Where there is one, there is very likely to be more…!!”

I came to a crossroads and barreled straight on, passing a few more elephant grazing in paddocks; rode through a few very deep puddles left over from the rain the afternoon before; and then the road got even worse from there on… Mud, loose rocks, water that covered the track completely in places…!! My nerves were shot from the close call with the elephant, and I decided that struggling with the Big Fella any further was likely to lead to more, and less fortunate-ending incidents…!! I found a place to turn around and went back the way we had come, passing the same elephant being bathed by his mahout…

I could have sworn the bloody thing winked and grinned at me as I went by…!!

“Bastard…!!” I shouted as I passed…

Situated on the Klong Nin beach... Great food that I sampled at least once a day...

Near the top of the rough section, where it linked up with the concrete road, I came across the scooter group again, and stopped to see if they were OK…

They turned out to be South Africans…!! We sat chatting for a while, and I discovered that the mother and daughter came from Centurion, which was just around the corner from my own apartment…!! Small world indeed…!!

Back at the lodge, I met a French girl who was staying a few bungalows down from mine. Pomme, (she must have been the apple of her father’s eye…!!) spent a few months of each year in South East Asia, and had spent the previous few years on Koh Lanta… She was a semi-permanent part of the White Rock establishment, having based herself here, along with her cats…

She had rescued three kittens two years ago, and they stayed at the lodge while she was in Paris, where she had an apartment… On her return each year, they attached themselves to her and hardly let her out of their sight…

We went down the road a short distance to the Round House, a backpackers joint, where we had lunch sitting looking out over the ocean…

Maybe when I was younger...!!

The owner and his girlfriend were out among the waves, paddle-boarding, and Pomme cheered loudly every time they caught a wave… And even louder when they fell off…!!

After that first meeting, we got together to chat almost every day, discussing the books we were reading, drinking a weird tasting herbal tea that she made herself, and catching up on the gossip that usually swirls around small places such as the one she spent so much time in…

We have kept in touch since she left to go back to France, and she has put me in touch with a friend who lives in Alaska… I will be sure to carry her best regards to him when I finally get there…!!

Thanks for the company, Pomme… Much appreciated…!!

The only photo I have of Pomme, taken at the Round House while we went looking for one of her cats...

Phil's little red pony takes on fuel in Ban Saladan...

I had kept in touch with Trev and Chenty by phone while they were in Phi-Phi, and they were not having the best of times there, complaining about the crowded conditions on the beaches and the noise that went with drunken groups of the young and impressionable…!!

They were looking forward to getting back to Big Red waiting in Ao Nang, and riding down to Lanta to join me…

Phil took a ferry boat directly to Koh Lanta from Phi-Phi, and I rode the 15 km back to Ban Saladan to collect him from the little harbour there… I timed my arrival perfectly, because just as I pulled up, I saw his red cap above the crowd of other tourists coming off the ferry…

My first words to him were,

“Dude, we have to hire you a scooter…!! There is some great riding to be done here…!!”

Minutes later, we found a rental place, handed his passport over and we were away, with Phil riding behind me while I led him to a nearby service station to fill his scooter up… It took only two litres to fill his tank, and it lasted him for the rest of his stay on the island, getting almost 50 km to the litre…!!

A common sign and phrase here in Thailand...

Meanwhile back at the lodge, word had spread that I was kind to cats...

It had taken Phil barely half an hour to make the crossing from Phi-Phi, while it would take Trevor and Chenty a few hours at least to get to Lanta…

We motored back to the White Rock, got Phil settled in to the room next to mine, confirmed that the third room I had booked would be occupied in a few hours, and then took Phil over to the Round House for lunch…

He ordered a meal laced with those devilishly hot little chillies and shortly afterward was sucking on a cold beer to ease the discomfort he was feeling…

Sweat had popped out on his forehead and his face had turned bright red, but he gamely worked his way through the meal, with barely two dozen grimaces of pain…!! Brave man, our Phil…!!

With the arrival of Trevor and Chenty later that afternoon, our little traveling group was complete again, and we immediately made plans for a ride around the island the following morning…

But first, we had to stock up on the “essentials”… We rode down the road to the nearby 7-Eleven, and bought beers, bags of potato crisps and other snacks… We convened on Trevor’s patio, and caught up on our news of the past few days, discussing the few dives that Phil and Trev had made on Phi-Phi…

Koh Lanta HQ... Trev's patio at the White Rock Lodge... Only because his place came with a hostess...!!

Riding on Lanta in perfect weather...

We took the road that cut across the island early the next morning, then turned south and ran through Old Town, the ancient port town once known as Ban Si Raya, where hundreds of years ago, the original sea-gypsies founded settlements, and traded between Thailand and China, mixing cultures that still exist in harmony today…

Phil puts down the hammer to keep up with us...!!

The eastern coast is flat and many villages dot the coastline here, small settlements of only a few hundred people, farming the land with vegetables and fruit…

We passed through an extensive rubber tree plantation on our way to the southern end of the island, at Koh Lak, where we turned around and headed back the way we had come…

On the way, a very large monitor lizard ran out into the road in front of me… It was about three foot long, but before I could haul my camera out, it had crossed the road and disappeared into the undergrowth…

The road was lined with thick bush on either side, and through gaps in the trees we were surprised to see some pretty large ships  lying at anchor in the bay… There is apparently a deep water port on the mainland across the bay, that feeds the town of Trang further inland…

Also a novel name for a cemetery I thought...!!

We rode north to where the car ferries arrive on the island, then on in Ban Saladan… We booked tickets to go out on a boat the next day, to do some snorkeling off two small islands to the south of Lanta, Koh Rok and Emerald Cove, where we were told we could swim through a cave over 80 metres long and emerge in a stunning lagoon hidden inside the island, with tall vertical cliffs all around you…!!

Sounded marvelous, and in high spirits, we went off to find something for lunch…

We spent the afternoon on the beach, where reasonably large waves meant a spate of body-boarding and shorts filled with sand…!! We swam in front of the Round House, close enough to hail the waiter whenever the beer ran out…!!

Sunset on Lanta was usually a time to sit back and reflect on another day well spent...!!

In fast deteriorating conditions, Chenty and Phil make their way onto the boat...

Waiting patiently for the boat to take us snorkeling...

It rained heavily that night, and the next morning we made our way down to the beach in blustery conditions to await the boat from Ban Saladin… We had arranged for a pick up right on our beach, so we did not have to ride back to town… All very convenient…!!

It drizzled while we waited and a half hour after the appointed time, two large speed boats appeared on the horizon, zooming towards us… I was surprised at the size of these boats, each powered by three 200 horsepower motors, which gave them plenty of “grunt”…!!

A bedraggled looking Chenty and Phil get safely on board...

The first boat was already full of divers, so passed us by on it’s way to the dive site… The second expertly maneuvered into the shallow water, through the swells that if anything had increased in size since the boats had first come into view…

Trevor and I were only in slightly better condition, sea-spray blowing over us...

It backed up to the beach, and then we waded out to clamber aboard the pitching vessel, getting completely soaked as waves washed over us at chest height…

The boat crashed it’s way through to the backwater, then turned south and began picking up speed as we tore into the swells coming off our starboard bow… Spray covered us all in minutes, and while Trevor, Phil and I were horsing around and making comments such as “Save our Souls”, and “We’re going down…!! Every man for himself…!!” the other passengers weren’t seeing the funny side of things at all, and began scrambling for life jackets…!!

The dive aborted, the boat makes out to sea again to return to Ban Saladan...

Just then the leading boat radioed to say that conditions further south were getting steadily worse and called off the trip…!! Loud protestations from Trev, Phil and I fell on deaf ears…!!

“Sissies…!!” I shouted over the howl of the wind, looking pointedly at a couple across from me who were desperately trying to cover each other with a large beach towel…

The guy sitting next to them seemed to be chewing on his breakfast for a second time, and I kept a close eye on him, making sure that should he indulge in a bout of projectile vomiting, I would not end up wearing bacon and eggs…!!

We made the most of a bad thing by going for a swim...

The boat made a wide arc out in the bay, and then headed back to shore to drop us off, much to the relief of the other passengers I think…!!

With surf crashing onto the beach, it backed up as close as the skipper thought was safe, and then we were told to jump into the waves and make our way to shore… One of the crew got into the water and was immediately lifted clean off his feet and into the air by the pitching boat…!!

“This could get interesting Trev…!!” I said… “Ok…. Woman and children first…!! That means you and Phil, Chenty…!! Off you go…!!”

With a look that might have shriveled me up had I not been soaking wet, Chenty followed Phil off the boat… He had not bothered to use the steps, but threw himself into the waves, much to the surprise of the crew…!! He waded ashore, threw his dry-bag down, then gallantly waded back to the boat to help Chenty…

Trev, giraffe that he is, just stepped off the boat and walked ashore, and just for the record I might add, without offering to carry me on his shoulders…!!

With the agility that spoke volumes of where I believe man once originated from, I leaped off the ladder into what I believed was ankle deep water, and promptly disappeared below the surface…!! The guy who was standing in the sea helping us off the ladder had climbed up onto the bottom rung, and I thought he was still standing on the sandy bottom…!!

An incoming wave bowled me over and propelled me towards the shore a lot faster than I had intended, getting me there in a far less dignified manner than I would have hoped…!! Despite our disappointment, we had nevertheless had an action-packed few minutes and came away laughing and joking, pitying the poor buggers who still had half an hour’s journey back to the harbour in what were less than perfect conditions…

Father and son on Big Red... One of my favourite photos of Trevor and Phil... Having returned Phil's scooter we motored around for a while...

In Vientiane, at a Belgium restaurant, I had found Tintin... In Ban Saladan, I found his good friend Captain Haddock...!!

We enjoyed a healthy lunch at this little place on the main road...

By lunch time, the strong wind had blown the gray clouds away and the sun shone down brightly…

I checked the weather forecast for Lanta on www.yr.no and saw that rain was forecast for the next few days as well…!! Not good…!!

We decided not to hang about and try for a dive the next day, but rather pack up and head for the east coast where the weather was going to be better…

I tried to get into a game of Street Bingo, but the ladies were having none of it... Cows scattered as soon as I sat down...!!

But first we took Phil’s scooter back to the rental agency, where we also collected our refunds for the aborted boat trip, and then strolled around looking for an ATM and a place to eat…

Phil arranged for a bus to take him across to Sonkhla the following morning, where we planned to meet up again… Transport around Thailand was remarkably easy to arrange, and Phil had become a pro at it, arranging tickets and change-overs with minimum fuss…

We walked down to the little harbour and had a drink while we relaxed and chatted about our plans for the next few days… We still had Malaysia to conquer before Phil flew out of Singapore in about ten days time, and we had to get our planning just right…

I enjoyed these “strat-sessions”, making plans, poring over maps and working through distances and what we wanted to see on the way down the peninsula… It was exciting tracing a finger across a country, mouthing the names of the towns and cities we would pass through, listening to Chenty reading from her guide book, selecting the names of hotels which sounded as if they suited our needs…

She had quickly become known as the “Minister for Information”, and could always be relied upon to find us a great place to stay…!!

Kids sit jigging for fish on the transom of a boat in Ban Saladan Harbour...

Don't you think you should complete the renovations first...??

Low tide leaves this small ferry high and almost dry... Ban Sala dan Harbour, Koh Lanta.

These restaurants are built out over the water, on stilts that hardly seem capable of holding the crowds of people that flock there at night...!!

We rode home late that afternoon, the sky darkening again with clouds that promised rain later…

We settled onto the patio again, nibbling at snacks and sucking on a few cold beers while we watched the sun go down in a blaze of glory in the western sky…

It’s rays split somewhere above Phi-Phi, painting the sky in pinks, purples and blues…

I sat awestruck for awhile, drinking in the beauty, then Trevor leapt up, grabbed his camera, and following behind him, we rushed down to the beach to try and capture the moment…

Blazing sunset on Klong Nin beach... A perfect goodbye from Koh Lanta on the night before we left...

It was an amazing send-off…!! Eye-watering, and achingly beautiful…

I would never forget those last few days, and made up my mind to return to Koh Lanta one day if I could…

©GBWT 2011

5 comments to Languishing in Lanta…

  • Charmz

    Thanks for sharing your amazing time in Koh Lanta, your photo’s are awesome and so is your story…..especially the elephant part, he he

  • Mark Behr

    As your stories unfold, we are made more aware of the friendships you formed and why things were not kept up-to-date. You were truly blessed by a great group of people. Glad you had the opportunity to enjoy them.

  • You are so right, Mark….so right…!! Thanks for recognising the reasons for, and understanding, my “tardiness”…!! Ha…!!

  • Charl

    Ronnie you are hilarious. Sitting here in a restaurant laughing my head off with all the waitresses looking at me rather suspiciously. Yes, I am still out here reading your blog religiously. xxx

  • Charl…!! So good to hear from you…!! Sent greetings via an email to Louis the other day… Hope he passed them on…!! I am sure you are enjoying your new home now that it’s all finally done and dusted… Take care, and glad you’re still on board the GBWT train…!! R.

Leave a Reply

 

 

 

You can use these HTML tags

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>