Thursday, 25 February 2016

Travelling Southeast Asia: Ko Lanta & Ko Phi Phi

After much deliberation in Ko Lipe, we decided to give two more Thai islands a visit before heading to the mainland: Ko Lanta and Ko Phi Phi. There are so many islands to choose from but in the short amount of time we had left, this was the most logical progression. We had a flight booked from Krabi to Phnom Penh, where we were to meet our friends for a month travelling around Cambodia, and we knew that we wanted about four nights in Krabi itself. Tom suggested Ko Lanta after a recommendation from a friend, and although we wanted to avoid islands with a pure party reputation, Ko Phi Phi was described as one of the most beautiful, and as it was between Ko Lanta and Krabi, it made sense to stop there for a night.  

Ko Lanta

Our ferry from Ko Lipe to Ko Lanta cost £50 for the two of us, which meant painfully departing with a whole day's budget. It was a long six hour boat ride, and not the most pleasant experience, since the seating area was stiflingly hot and filled with the overpowering smell of fumes, but such is the backpacker life...

When we arrived in Ko Lanta we were unavoidably ripped off for a taxi to our guesthouse, but there really was no way around it. We stayed at Luna Lanta, which was a very basic (but very clean and reasonable) guesthouse, which was run by an English guy who was super helpful and friendly throughout our stay. 

Having spent all day on a ferry with just some mango and pineapple between us, we headed straight out to find some food. Luna Lanta Guesthouse is just one road away from the beach, so we sat down at Sea Sun Bar to eat. I would definitely recommend this great location on the beach for a drink, but you can get much better food for your money, even on a backpacker’s budget. 

Another great bar on the beach was N and N Bar, and we sat in one of their wooden huts for the rest of the evening. 

We only had one full day to spend in Ko Lanta and wanted to see as much of the island as we could, so we made the slightly terrifying decision to hire a moped (and two helmets of course) for the day. Let's just point out here that neither of us had ever driven a vehicle of this kind before. 

Our guesthouse hired us the moped, which reassured me a little, as I knew the owner would be able to help us straight away if we had any problems with it. Plus, it only cost us £4 to use the moped for 24 hours; in light of the expense of travel the day before, this felt like pennies. 

Once we'd devoured breakfast burritos on the beach, we got onto the moped and after a slightly shaky start, we drove to Lanta Old Town and had a wander around. 

We had a quick pit stop at Sunee Place for a shake, and then drove down the entire length of the west coast of the island up to the entrance of the national park, stopping at Bamboo Bay for some (very) late lunch and to shelter from the passing rain. 

Once the rain had slowed down, we headed back to the guesthouse, and pulled over at some amazing viewpoints on the way.

That evening we made full use of the fact we had the moped for 24 hours and drove to a restaurant called Patty's Secret Garden. We were pretty lucky to arrive when we did and secure a table, because by the time we left there was a huge queue and people were being turned away. It was here that I had one of my favourite meals of the trip, pineapple fried rice served in a pineapple

Ko Phi Phi

Our ferry to Ko Phi Phi the next morning cost us £10, and included a (questionable) free transfer from our guesthouse to the port. 

At the other end of the hour-long ferry ride there was someone to meet us to walk us to our guesthouse, Kitty House. This might sound a bit extravagant for backpacker accommodation, but Ko Phi Phi is a complete maze of pedestrian streets, and I think it would have taken us a couple of hours to navigate the 20 minute walk ourselves. 

The owner of Kitty House was probably the most welcoming host we encountered on our trip, and he sat us down with some water to chat about what we wanted to do whilst on the island, before showing us to our room, which was modern and clean. The only thing I would say, is that it was very noisy at night (from outside noise), but as Ko Phi Phi is predominantly a party island, I would imagine it's the same wherever you are. 

We spent our limited time on the island at Long Beach, which was a 30 minute walk (or at moments I'd even push for hike) away from our accommodation. 

The guidebooks aren't wrong, the scenery around Ko Phi Phi is stunning, but sadly the island itself had been ruined by tourism and the party culture that dominates the island. I might make it look like a deserted paradise island in the photos, but the reality was that every metre of the beach was taken up with people and the water was murky with pollution from the boats bringing floods more tourists in. 

I always feel a bit uncomfortable commenting on how tourism is spoiling a place when I'm clearly there myself as a tourist and contributing to this damage, but sadly in Ko Phi Phi it seems as if nothing had been put into place to protect the island, from environmental, cultural and social perspectives.

In the evening we had some amazing curry dishes at Pirates House Restaurant and wandered around the island, amazed at how much it felt like we'd just landed in Magaluf or Ayia Napa, with a girl being wheelbarrowed down the path by paramedics. 

It was such a contrasting atmosphere to what we'd experienced in Ko Lipe and Ko Lanta, but in some ways I was still glad that we got to see what the other half of the Thai islands are like, or perhaps have been manipulated into by the economic draw of party tourism. 

My vlog of Ko Lanta and Ko Phi Phi will be up this weekend; subscribe to my YouTube channel so that you don't miss it!


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