We began our second day in Ko Lanta with a 40 minute scooter ride through treelined mountains to Ko Lanta's old town. It used to be the main trading center but now it's off the beaten path. It features original 1800s wooden buildings, buddhist shrines and timeworn shops. Our favorite was a handmade hammock store. The downstairs floor was filled with colorful hammocks while the upstairs was reserved for the family residence.
After days of taxi rides through traffic and crowded public transit, we thoroughly enjoyed the freedom to explore on the scooter. Dave said "the scooter transmission is automatic but you have to manually override your ego when pre-teen girls in birkas pass you and make you eat their scooter dust." From the old town we headed to a view point atop one of the hills to recon the surrounding islands. We ordered our favorite drinks to quell the heat - watermelon shakes.
Just before sunset we headed to Freedom Bar to lounge on the beach. Freedom Bar oozed authentic bohemian style, with pillows and rugs atop sand beds and hammocks swinging in the breeze. They lit fire pits at night and played a mix of reggae music and old school rap. You could tell this place has hosted some astronomic late-night soirees.
The next morning we took our private long tail to Ko Kradan. The boat was captained by two teenagers with wayfaring style who were boozing on malt liquor out of a 2 liter of Coke bottle and chain-smoking hand rolled cigarettes. We enjoyed freedom of movement on the boat which was usually chartered for about 15 people. We sat on the bow with our feet dangling in as we sailed on the open ocean through huge uninhabited jutting islands. Koh Kradan is so small you could circumnavigate it by foot in a few hours. There are no roads, no doctors, no police, no cars, no convenience stores - just 7 small beach resorts surrounded by glassy water. At low tide, the sand bar goes out 200 feet at knee depth, creating a giant swimming pool. The reef drops off at the edge of the sandbar and offers the best snorkeling we've ever experienced. The fish completely surrounded us, welcoming us into their school.
On our second day in Koh Kradan we hiked down to the end of the island which is part of a national park for some more snorkeling. We saw all sorts of neon tropical fish, needle fish, bright coral and a barracuda. We then trekked through the jungle to the center of the island to find a hidden resort called Paradise Lost. A Hawaiian guy bought some interior land on the island and hacked through the jungle to build bungalows. Everyone thought he was crazy to build a small backpacker resort in the jungle and not on the beach. It does no advertising or online booking and has no website, but it's booked year round via word of mouth alone. The restaurant sources from its jungle garden to serve tasty thai food. We savored their homemade gelato before walking back along the beach under the myriad of stars.
The hotel we chose was the nicest on the island with an outdoor bathroom and huge, double-king bed. As we were lounging to watch a movie, Erin noticed a giant cockroach in bed crawling towards her. She freaked and Dave murdered it. We spent the rest of the night barely sleeping, tucked into the mosquito net with only robes as blankets.
We "woke up" (just kind of got out of bed) at sunrise the next morning and embarked on a private long-tail boat to do explore a secret hidden pirate beach that is only accessible by swimming through a bat-infested cave. Our driver took us to a monolith rocky island jutting out of the ocean about 20 minutes away. As we got closer, we noticed some caves at the base of the rock with only a few feet of ceiling clearance. These little cracks are completely hidden at high tide.
The first mate of our long tail boat hopped in the water about 20 feet from the rock wearing a headlamp. We hopped in and swam into the watery cave. We swam for about 5 minutes in pitch black darkness following the guide, who speaks no English. We read that if you take a wrong turn the current pins you up against a dead end. The guide used his head lamp to show the legion of bats nestled up in the cave crevices. We kept swimming, not knowing the path or which way our swim would take us, but then we started seeing light in the distance. Eventually the cave opened up into a magical beach with neon green water and 100 foot sheer rock walls on all sides. Pirates used to store treasure there because the beach was only accessible via cave at low tide swim or by rappelling down the cliffs.
After we returned to our hotel, we packed up quickly and headed to the airport. We started with another long tail boat to the coast (Erin rode on the front tip of the boat and gave herself wicked heat stroke later in the day). Then we rode on a 2 hour drive from the coast to Krabi airport. After a 1.5 hour flight to Bangkok, we were lucky to find some high quality airport massages before our 12 hour flight to Paris.
Next stop Paris!
Erin and Davey
Expat Adventure Blog