“Mountains or beach?” That’s a question many people ask each other when making small talk. Generally, we choose mountains (as you may have guessed given that we live in Colorado – Della can provide a whole rant if you want), and we haven’t made a big effort thus far on the trip to spend a lot of beach time. Still, we figured it would be a shame to miss out on the world-class Thailand beaches, so we built a few days into the end off our time in Thailand to do so.
Picking a Beach
There are a huge number of beaches in Thailand, and we only wanted to see one. This meant sifting through a vast maze of information, from the recommendations of friends and family to guidebooks and online resources. So many data points just served to confuse us. And, just when we thought we’d made a decision, we’d discover something that turned us off. Wow, this island looks amazing… but it sounds pretty hard to get to quickly. Or This beach would be really easy to get to… but it doesn’t sound like there is much to do once you get there. And so on.
In the end, the island that best fit our criteria was Ko Lanta. It seemed fairly easy to get to for a quick trip from Bangkok, it looked scenic and had plenty of stuff going on, and we could pre-book affordable accommodation. It was nice to get that decision made and get to the beach.
It wasn’t quite as easy as we had hoped, but we made it there in one piece.
Where We Stayed
Based on the recommendation of some of our travel friends, we booked a bungalow at The Hut on Khlong Nin beach. (Even once we had decided on the island, we still had to pick the beach on the island to stay on.) Our bungalow was nice and spacious, with a covered front porch and a large bed. We did have an attached bathroom with a Western toilet and cold-water shower… but no sink, which we found inconvenient. The only cooling apparatus was a fan; no A/C, which would have been nice on the hot, muggy days, although we managed to cool off enough at night to sleep. The staff was very laid-back – almost a little too much so at times, but maybe we just don’t have the correct attitude for a beach ;-). The location was not on the beach itself but just across the road, so not too bad. The price (about $15 a night) was pretty reasonable compared to other bungalows we priced out as well.
What We Did
We were looking forward to some relaxing times and we definitely were able to achieve that. Both the first and second days we didn’t emerge from our bungalow until it was time for lunch. The first day we just stayed on the beach after lunch and read and took turns swimming in the warm waters of the Andaman.
The second day we intended to rent a motorbike to see some of the other sights on the island… but when we admitted to the staff at The Hut where we were going to rent from that it was our first time, they refused to rent to us. Too discouraged to try another place, we spent another afternoon lounging on Khlong Nin beach.
In the evening we headed over to check out what we had seen advertised as a free beach exercise session followed by a yoga class. We were a little skeptical, but it turned out to be exactly that! A South African named Yakut first led us through a variety of exercises he seemed to make up on the spot, many involving the use of a large volcanic rock we picked up nearby. After a refreshing swim to cool off, the yoga session started. The yoga instruction itself was a little hit-or-miss, but the opportunity to do a sun salutation towards the setting sun was pretty incredible. We also enjoyed listening to Yakut espouse some of his personal philosophies.
The third day we decided to be a little more active and book a snorkel tour to the Four Islands area. We debated which company to go with, and ended up choosing “Lanta Nature Tour” since it was the cheapest. We were taken on a small “longtail” boat along with five others, including someone from Boulder, Colorado and a German who had gone to the University of Colorado for a year of study abroad – talk about a small world! We stopped at two small islands and hopped out for about 20 minutes of snorkeling. We didn’t see anything amazing, and the coral seemed a little worse for the wear, but the water was crystal clear, and we enjoyed swimming among schools of a smaller type of fish that had no fear.
The third stop was at the Emerald Cave, where we hopped out and swam into a natural opening underneath the limestone karst. Just past the entrance we got to see where the cave got its name from, and the water beneath us glowed in an emerald-esque color as it was lit from the sun outside. After we swam about 100 meters, we emerged into an interior oasis of a small beach open to the sky. It was quite pretty, although the effect was marred a bit by the vast crowds of loud tour groups talking excitedly.
After we swam back out the cave, we headed to our final stop: lunch on the beach at Ko Ngai. This was our favorite stop; the view from our table of the longtail boats bobbing in the bright blue water above a white sand beach with limestone karsts in the distance was exactly what we had hoped to see on the beach in Thailand. We had about an hour to eat lunch and then relax in the water before we took the long ride back to Ko Lanta.
Where We Ate
Khlong Nin has a nice selection of restaurants along the beach, and we visited quite a few of them. Since it was our last few days in Thailand, we tried to eat our fill of curries and fried noodles. Della was especially insistent on choosing places that offered her favorite dish, pad see ewe.
Many of the beachfront restaurants offered happy hour deals on beer, which was great since the beach faces west. We took advantage and made sure to find a good seat to watch the sun fade below the horizon.
We are glad that we made our way to the beach, and Ko Lanta was very scenic. Khlong Nin was the right beach for us to choose (we saw some of the party beaches on the way out and were glad we didn’t choose them). It’s hard to say if we chose the right island or not. The frustrations of getting there and the relatively high prices once we arrived soured things a bit, but we might have had similar issues at many of the other islands. So, our trip to the Thailand beaches didn’t change our affiliation as “mountain people,” but it did provide for a scenic and relaxing way to say goodbye to Thailand.