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A Koh Lanta Journey
Hi my name is Ben – I came to Koh Lanta, Thailand in 2001. Back then there was no electricity, landlines or phone signals, and no road – just a red dusty, muddy track down one side of the island. Accommodation was limited to a string of bamboo huts on the beach lit by lanterns and open fires. People came for snorkelling and the beach - it was, in fact, a traveller’s paradise!
Ten years later I still see Koh Lanta as paradise. The heavenly beaches are still here and now there is electricity, phone services and concrete roads! Year by year I’ve seen the island grow and develop, but thankfully in a tasteful way, unlike some other areas of Thailand that have grown out of control. The local government pledged to learn from mistakes made by other areas and thankfully they have been true to their word, enforcing strict zoning and development restrictions on all resort and residential projects.
Ampur (district) Koh Lanta is an archipelago of 52 islands in the Andaman sea in the Krabi region, south west Thailand. Most of these islands are uninhabited and part of the protected Mu Koh Lanta National Park. The main island here is Koh Lanta Yai with eleven sweeping white sandy beaches on the west coast. The middle of the island is untouched jungle and rainforest, with hills ranging up to 500m high.
During high season (November –April) the island is visited by backpackers, families, couples and singles, staying in wooden huts, bungalows, private villas or 5 star resorts. There are a huge amount of restaurants to enjoy ranging from small beach shacks serving fried rice to 5 star restaurants with panoramic sea views. Nightlife is good here too, with plenty of shanty beach bars where you can enjoy a sunset beer or two. The weather is hot and dry, and people take advantage of the huge range of activities on offer – world class scuba diving, snorkelling, kayaking, elephant trekking, massage & spa, yoga and more.
So what do I love about Koh Lanta so much to have lived here for 10 years?
The first reason is that it’s not popular! Ask most people and they won’t even have heard of this beautiful island. While you have all the facilities and amenities you need for a great holiday, you can walk on the main beaches in peak season and they are not crowded at all. Even in the busiest months you can still find a deserted beach to sit on all day. Koh Lanta really is still a hidden gem.
Secondly, its still very Thai. While the east coast has blossomed with resorts, shops, restaurants, villas and apartments, the west coast still functions as if tourism never existed - small fishing villages and traditional plantations with locals farming rubber, palm and shrimps as they have done all their lives. Also on the east coast is Koh Lanta’s heritage ‘Old Town’ with its wooden seafront houses on stilts over the water, and ancient Chinese shophouses dating back hundreds of years.
Thirdly, accommodation here is still very reasonable – my family and friends can stay here close to the beach (or right on it) in high standard accommodation for much less than you pay in other parts of Thailand.
And finally, one amazing secret about Koh Lanta is the green season. Green season is the time of year when it rains more (May – October). It’s a beautiful time of year for many reasons – the island gets more nourishment from the rainfall and everything is a vivid green again after the dry high season. The cool westerly breeze makes falling asleep easy. And last but not least (and this is a secret), the GREAT weather in July and August means you can enjoy all eleven beaches in almost complete solitude.
Why are the beaches empty when the weather is great?
Let me explain. There is a popular belief that from May - October, this part of Thailand has constant fierce monsoon winds and non stop rain. This is wildly over exaggerated by travel websites and guidebooks, resulting in a huge drop in tourist numbers during this period. The truth is that the rainy periods (May-June and September-October) are actually very pleasant, with long sunny spells and sometimes sunshine for days on end. And July-August is even better weather, meaning you can enjoy this paradise without being bothered by many (if any) other people.
Resorts and private rental properties offer up to 50% discount during this period, giving you a chance to enjoy our paradise island affordably at a time when the cost of a European holiday is sky rocketing.
In short, Koh Lanta can give you a dream vacation at any time of year, but at certain times you get the perfect weather without making a hole in your pocket. But shhhhh…it’s a secret!
To get to Koh Lanta is easy – just fly from any country to Bangkok, Singapore or Kuala Lumpur. From all 3 of these cities it’s a short 90 minute flight to Krabi International Airport. From Krabi a private taxi (or even private speedboat) will get you to Koh Lanta in no time.