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This post is sponsored by Tourisme Montreal
During our trip Dave has been dreaming about renting a motorbike and freeing us from the buses, taxis and tuk tuks we have to take on a regular basis. Being the paranoid and distrusting person that I am, I deemed every location we had been in too dangerous and risky for a first time motorbike lesson.
But when we got to Koh Lanta, which only has one main road running down the west coast of the island and fairly minimal traffic, I finally folded. This seemed like as good a place as any to teach ourselves how to ride a motorbike, and so we rented one for around $5 a day courtesy of the hostel. Finally a mode of transportation we didn’t need to haggle for!
And so after the reality of going from a luxury condo in Phuket to a one room hostel with a shared bathroom set in, we hit the road. After needing some instruction from the shop owner as to how to get the damn thing started, we were off. With my helmet on, fingertips gripping into Dave’s back, and loud bursts of “slow down” we were finally mobile. In reality, we never cleared 35 km/hr but when you’re completely exposed it feels like 60!
The driving takes a bit of getting used to but it’s really not that difficult. These were automatics of course and you just need to get a handle of the breaking and accelerating. Give yourself some time to turn and slow down, stopping if need be. It’s not too hard but we did see one tourist take a rather nasty fall. In fact, given the nature of motorbikes I don’t know if there are any other kinds of falls to be had. Prepare for a really scraped leg.
The island itself is fairly small – 27 kilometers in length and with only one main road running along the west and east coast the navigation part isn’t too difficult. We were staying by the pier town in the North West of the island so figuring out a heading was simple. You could go from Northern tip to Southern tip in probably 1.5 hours.
Our plan was to pick a different beach to explore each day and so we slowly explored more and more of the west coast of the island. Unlike some of the other more toursity Thai islands (Ko Phi Phi, Phuket, Ko Samui, etc) Koh Lanta has somehow skipped of the major developments. This island still feels very relaxed and laid back, and while Phuket was a Russian mecca Koh Lanta seems to attract more of a German/Swedish crowd, but altogether was pretty light on tourists.
The main attraction for me was the Time for Lime Cooking School (review to follow) where I would take four cooking classes, but the island itself quickly won me over. The uncrowded beaches and quaint sea-view hangout cafes make it easy to lose track of time. My cooking classes were either in the mid afternoon or evening so in the off time we would set off for some beach time, everyday checking out a new one to see what the island had to offer.
Through out our days we explored the Klong Dao, Long, Khlong Khong, Klong Nin and Kantiang Bay beaches, all of which were within an hour or so of our hostel by motorbike (and most much closer). They were fairly easy to get to, with dirt roads connecting the beaches to the main road so you could just turn off whenever and land on a new beach. It’s pretty much a straight shot.
Our favorite was Kantiang Bay with the Klong Nin beach coming in at a close second. At these two beaches in particular you could see cliffs in the distance and scattered condos, creating the atmosphere of a more romantic and intimate beach setting rather than a beach going on for miles and miles offering nothing in between. I like the smaller beaches with cute beachside cafes and no crowds, so these two were our favorites.
Still, I have to say that having been on Phuket, Ko Phi Phi, and Koh Lanta, I haven’t been OVERLY impressed with the Thai beaches I’ve seen so far. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining about “having” to spend time on beaches in the Thai Islands. It’s just that, while nice, they’re probably not any better than some of the beaches I’ve been to before in the Caribbean and Mexico, and most likely worse. I just thought these were going to be some of the world’s best – I guess my expectations were just too high. What do you think? Where are your favorite beaches?
All the same, despite some minor disappointments in the beaches we’ve seen so far, we really enjoyed Koh Lanta. If you’re looking for a quieter island where you can relax, safely drive a motorbike and do some exploring, then this one is for you!