Sunday, February 2, 2014

This is the (Island) Life...Even If Only For the Weekend

A few months ago, my friend S., who's currently working and living in Macau, told me she was coming to Thailand for her week-long break for Chinese New Year. She was going to spend some time on Ko Lanta, an island in southern Thailand, before coming to visit us in Bangkok (which is still up in the air because of the protests). When I realized that we were also going to have a long weekend for Chinese New Year, I got the idea that we would meet her at Ko Lanta and spend the weekend on the shores of the island. What could be better than a weekend getaway to an island, right?

Thing is, traveling in Thailand can be difficult and exhausting, and I always forget that. I realized last week that, even though the flight was only an hour and 20 minutes long, there was way more to getting there than just the flight. In fact, traveling to Ko Lanta first involved a 45-minute taxi ride to the airport (a different one than the one we usually fly to and from), and a plane ride to Krabi, where we got on a 2 1/2-hour van ride (which we had booked ahead of time with the airline), including on two ferry boats. Then, once we got to Koh Lanta, we were dropped off on the side of a random street, where we took a 20-minute songtao ride to where we were staying. Our trip home was in reverse, except no one explained to us when and where the van would pick us up, ensuing in confusion and requiring us to make several phone calls the day before our departure to figure out. Our flight home also was delayed. So the traveling alone basically took most of the day, and ended with us having only one full day at Ko Lanta.

On our van ride to Ko Lanta, my husband struck up a conversation with a Polish family visiting Thailand for two weeks. Because my husband's great grandmother was from Poland, he was delighted to meet people from Poland. On the way home, we struck up a conversation with an older Canadian couple from Manitoba. The man was a farmer, but from their appearance and mannerisms, it would seem that Canadian farmers are much more worldly and sophisticated than American farmers. They travel to somewhere warm for three weeks every winter, usually California or Hawaii, but this year, they decided to visit Thailand. One thing I've really loved about traveling in Asia is meeting people from all over the world and hearing about their lives in their home countries.

Once we got to our paradise destination, life improved drastically. Our friend had picked out the place where we all stayed and managed to get us a room as well. It was a quirky and rustic, but quite charming, place with nine little cottages with names like Red Snapper, Shark (S.'s cottage), and Whale (our cottage). The cottages were simple and very minimalist. Inside our cottage were two beds with mosquito nets (had not seen those since I was a little girl!), a couple of fans, and a few benches to put our things on. Between the beds was a doorway leading to the bathroom, which was semi-outdoors. It was really cool, actually. There was no hot shower, but the cool water felt great after a day in the hot sun.

The place was really relaxed, with a mix of young travelers and families. Some people returned to that place every year. There were so many Europeans traveling and it's amazing to think they are able to do so for weeks and weeks at a time every single year. The restaurant and bar had reasonably priced, amazing food and drinks. The guys who ran the place were really friendly and cool. They also lived on the premises. Each night, they would crank up the music, and people would hang out and drink. The first night we were there, there was a Jenga tournament. We were already in bed, but it sounded like so much fun. The beach also was lined with resorts, restaurants, and bars. We tried a couple of them, one being a recommendation from a couple staying at the same place as we were. The food was among the best I've had in Thailand so far.

Because we only had one full day there, we spent it just hanging out on the beach, in the water, chatting, relaxing, exploring the beach, eating, and drinking. And it was unbelievably hot there, at least compared to the mild weather we had been having in Bangkok. The heat totally wiped me out, but the water was cool and clear and beautiful. Every day, the tide went out around 4:00 in the afternoon, exposing the sand and rocks under it, and everyone would venture out to walk on and climb all over the rocks.

And of course, it was great to see S again! It had been about 13 or 14 years since we last saw each other, before I started law school, I think. Since then, she's lived in Poland, traveled in Europe, and gotten her master's degree, and has lived in Asia for the last five years. Such a fun and exciting life! It was really nice to see an old friend again and even better to be able to just pick up right where we left off all those years ago. If only the weekend had been just a little bit longer, it would have been perfect.
Asian fashion sighting at the airport: A purse that says "DRAMA." My husband saw another woman carrying the exact same purse with the word "BITCH" on it.
On the ferry inside the van from Krabi to Ko Lanta.
Another view on the way to Ko Lanta.
Our cute little cottage.
Cottage name and number.
Front door from the inside.
The room.
This is what I called the "closet," which consisted of a stick to hang things on.
The ceiling.
The bathroom with showers on the left and right.
Toilet on the other side of the bathroom.
Toilet paper holder.
My overhead view in the shower!
S.'s cottage.
Her view from the front door at low tide.
I loved this cottage with bright-red flowers all over it.
Outdoor shower by the beach.
The restaurant/bar.
"Inside" the restaurant.
One of the sitting areas of the restaurant.
I love this sign.
The beach at low tide. Even without all the water, it was still breathtaking. There were a couple of boats that the kids loved to climb on when the tide was out.

Restaurants and bars along the beach. Many advertised and promoted the smoking of "joints." The smell of pot was all over the place.
Where Else Bar...because where else would you want to go?
"Smoke here joints."
"We R Cannabis...."
View of our place at night.
The beach all lit up from the restaurants and bars.
Our view at dinner our first night.
The drink menu printed on cloth.
The food menu on cloth.
One of the best shakes I've ever had. The ingredients included coconut, pineapple, and cashew nuts, which gave it just a hint of nutty flavor. Amazing!
Dinner included chicken with cashews, massaman curry with chicken, pad Thai, and stir-fried mixed vegetables in oyster sauce.
Travelers making new friends, hanging out, and having a good time.
Enjoying the view and breeze at breakfast and freshly squeezed orange juice.
Our very own "privet" beach.
My kid loved the hammocks.
We found these tracks all over the beach in the morning. Apparently, they are from hermit crabs, which would come out late at night.
The tide has come in.
My view from the hammock.
If it wasn't for the sun, I wouldn't have moved all day.
More of the beach.
View from the water.
Taming a land shark!
Caught a ghost crab.
Our view at lunch on Saturday.
My lunch: tofu with cashew nuts, rice, and watermelon juice.
Restaurant where we had dinner the second night, where it was full of little gazebos like this and even a tree house.
A "library" at the restaurant.
Yummy margarita.
The best deep-fried fish with garlic and pepper I've ever tasted.
Deep-fried prawns. So good!
Our view at dinner on Saturday.
After dinner, we went back to "our" restaurant for a dessert of deep-fried (notice a pattern here?) bananas with ice cream and a game of Jenga. My son was quite good!
Spending hours at the airport didn't seem so bad with this view. There was apparently some fighting going on near the airport in Bangkok on Saturday, so we lucked out that there was nothing going on Sunday, even with the election, though we heard many of the polling places were shut down.


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