Day 391 – 26 March, 2016
My opinion on Ko Lanta? Over. Rated. Sorry, part of the fun of this blog is to give my unsolicited opinion as often as I can whether it be popular or not. I had always heard positive things about Lanta, but it was probably in relation to Phuket. Phuket, the once popular resort destination in southwestern Thailand, has now discovered its seedy side so that big fancy resorts are fighting for space against the lady boy clubs and underage prostitutes. I didn’t go because I was searching for a different type of tropical experience. With so many wonderful islands to choose from, I chose Lanta. It was never really a choice. I just knew I wanted to go there, but looking back, I have no idea why.
Partly because in late March Thailand was drifting into its off-season, the beaches in Lanta were empty, but not necessarily in a good way. It’s one thing to have a quiet secluded beach all to yourself and quite another to have a wide stretch of sand with empty sun chairs the entire length. One day, Ofelia and I went snorkeling at Ko Rok on a day trip. The coral was mostly bleached as in every other place I had so far snorkeled in Asia, but we spent an afternoon with a picnic on the sugar white sand and were greeted by the friendly monitor lizard who was looking for a handout.
In spite of my tepid reaction to Lanta’s vibe, I stayed for five nights. I was on my way south to meet Martyn in Langkawi with the intention of island-hopping the whole way. Koh Ngai and Ko Lipe were on my wish list. A brief Google search told me that Ngai, the high-end luxury island, was out of my league. When I learned that I could ferry directly from Lanta to Lipe, the decision was made. I would stay in Lanta a little while longer even if it felt like I was the only one there.
Because of this spontaneous decision to stay, I had a very random meet up with Kara. I met Kara in Huanchaco, Peru in June of last year. I remember her being the one that literally slept an entire day away and she remembers me as the one that was busted dancing with drunk locals. Kara, originally from the States, is working in Abu Dhabi and because the flight from there is a reasonable length of time, she and a coworker had decided to take a short holiday in Thailand. The world just gets smaller when you coincidentally meet someone on two different continents…
Lanta is also where my iPhone 6 went to die. The hostel was a creative design; shipping containers had been divided into small cubes for rooms with 4 beds each. During the day, they shut down the air conditioning between the hours of 10am and 6pm so it could be likened to a hot car and it wasn’t possible to be inside, not that you wanted to be anyway. I had a top bunk with a tired mattress. I set my phone on my bed, with the mattress sloped in just a way that gave my phone/primary camera a perfect slide right on to the floor. It landed facedown but I already knew it was done for. I was never much of a phone person in my pre-travel life, forgetting to check messages, or sometimes leaving it behind when I would go to work or out with friends. Since I started traveling, my phone has become my most valuable possession. It represents a connection to home, to friends and family, and to my former life. Passports can be replaced, but phones hold data and memories that are not always backed up with finicky wifi connections and, I might add, much more expensive to replace than a passport.
Feeling really bummed out over my phone, it’s possible it may have clouded my perception of Lanta but even now, I can’t remember any especially redeeming qualities. I found it pretty boring and dull. I did meet a guy in my dorm who was from California. I never would have guessed his age, but Tien confessed to being 40 so we shared some commiserating laughs about trying to fit in to dorm life as the oldest ones in the room. Moping about my phone, I was motivated to go for a run on the beach and Tien decided to join me. It was evening and the temperature was still punishingly high so he suggested that we could just jump in the ocean afterward. That didn’t sound like such a bad idea! The sun was setting, the tide was going out, and we both dove into the warm waves. It was a fun night that temporarily took my mind off the expense of replacing my phone, but it wasn’t long before my mind drifted to Martyn. I couldn’t help but embrace the enthusiasm that in less than one week we would be meeting on the island of Langkawi and I could share a sunset swim with him instead.