You know when you’ve been in a place long enough. By Thursday night I had tried all the restaurants on or near Had Farang beach, swam in its green waters six mornings in a row, watched five sunsets with drink in hand (although the sun only showed up twice, being hidden behind clouds the remaining evenings) and taken six cold showers. I had adopted a routine: swim in the morning, write in the afternoon, watch the sunset, dinner, internet, bed. I quickly get bored of routines.

Friday was my last day, an especially hot and humid one, and I didn’t do much. I felt unwell. It wasn’t anything drastic, but I had no appetite, my stomach felt vaguely unsettled and I became mildly nauseous at the thought of food or as soon as I exerted myself. So I took it easy and drank mostly fruit shakes all day. I skipped lunch and I skipped dinner. I had an afternoon nap. I had an alcohol-free cocktail at sunset. I was hoping to feel better for my transfer to Koh Lanta on Saturday.

Fortunately, by Saturday morning I felt in pretty good shape. I finished packing, had breakfast and waited for the “taxi” to take me to the beach to catch the ferry to Koh Lanta. Since Koh Mook has no cars, taxis are side-cars attached to motorcycles. Driving down the rutted dirt track, loaded with luggage, you can’t help wondering if they ever flip over!

Since Had Farang beach has no dock, I had to take a long-tail boat for the 2-minute ride to the ferry which was anchored offshore. I always had fun watching the tourists trying to get themselves and their luggage onto one of those long-tail boats while fighting the surf and trying not to get knocked over by the bobbing boat, but now it was my turn!

My foot must have hit something in the process because I noticed a trickle of blood. It looked like just a nick, but I still disinfected it properly once on the ferry, because any kind of wound can easily get infected in the tropics.

The ferry itself was a rather small speed boat, covered, with padded seats along the sides, enough to fit perhaps 24 people comfortably. It never got near full, even though we made a few more stops along the way. Less than two hours later we arrived at the Koh Lanta pier. My hotel had agreed to send a taxi, but I didn’t see it. It was a little confusing. Someone said that we were not at the Saladan pier, but some other place. Basically I had no idea where I was. I showed the name of my hotel to someone who seemed to be in charge, and they directed me to a pick-up truck. The ride cost 50 Bahts ($1.70) and they took me straight to my hotel.

Koh Lanta is a big island, about 30 kms long and 6 kms wide with nine beaches strung along its west coast. I was here in 1997 and I also remember riding in a pick-up truck, but the road wasn’t asphalted then.

My hotel is called “Lanta Just Come” and is located along the main road, two minutes walk from Klong Khong beach. I picked this location solely based on the Trip Advisor reviews of this hotel, the fact that it is within my budget (barely) and has all the amenities I’ve been lacking on Koh Mook: air-conditioning, hot water and cappuccinos. It even has a large TV and a mini-fridge. True luxury!

I was rather disappointed when I saw the beach in the mid-afternoon though: at low-tide, large rocks sat at the water’s edge and the sand looked rather mucky. I was also shocked at the food prices, a mark-up of about 50% on Koh Mook’s. But as I discovered later that day, restaurants along the main road (as opposed to the beach) are more reasonably-priced and authentic, although without the lounging mats, and cutesie little lamps and lights that give the beach shacks their shabby-hippy-touristy vibe.

The afternoons are too hot for me here, so I stayed indoors and took advantage of the WiFi in my room to look where else I can go after my four nights here are up. I`m thinking perhaps Long Beach, the next beach north of here. I`ll check it out tomorrow.

Once the heat had abated last night, I headed out for another walk on the beach. The tide had risen and the rocks were now under water. I found a place offering mojitos for 80 Bahts. That’s less then $3, almost as cheap as in Cuba! It was pretty good too. I drank my mojito while relaxing on one of those ubiquitous Thai lounge mats.

By the time I left it was dark, and as I was taking pictures of the prettily-lit beach shacks, I realized that I had lost my lens cap! I looked in the camera bag as it often comes off the lens and stays in there. No luck this time. I combed the beach, retracing my steps, but it’s like looking for a needle in a haystack. It’s dark, the sand shifts, and is littered with shells and dead pieces of coral. Some people tried to help me with little flashlights, but in the end I had to give up. Sigh. At least I have a UV filter on the lens to protect it, and a camera bag. But if I scratch the filter, then what? I’ll see if I can find a replacement in Krabi town. Still, I find this vexing. I’m so careful with my stuff (and myself) when I travel. But on second thought, it’s surprising I haven’t lost it before.

At my hotel recommendation, I had dinner at a local open-air restaurant across the road called Cha Cha (come to think of it, all the restaurants are open-air here). I had a good vegetable green curry at a price comparable to Koh Mook (100 Bahts for curry and steamed rice).

A lot of people in this area are Muslim as I’ve noticed many women wearing head scarves, and some men also wearing some form of head gear. This includes the people at my hotel, and at the dinner restaurant. It’s a different story on the beach where some places even have foreign staff/owners.

Another people observation is the large number of families with babies or young children travelling in southern Thailand. You were not seeing this in 1997 when the southern beaches were mostly the realm of backpackers and really felt like you were travelling in a foreign country. Now you could be anywhere. As I expected, Thailand has really turned into a mainstream destination and prices for accommodation (at least in the south) have risen.

I woke up with a mild headache this morning but I knew the cure: a cappuccino at the hotel’s restaurant! Many restaurants advertise them here. Ha, the benefits of civilization! I also had a “pancake with chocolate” which looked and tasted more like a bad chocolate cake than a pancake. Someone needs to explain to the Thai that a pancake is not a cake!

The beach looked a lot more inviting this morning (high tide) and I had a swim. I kept my Teva sandals on however because those rocks are now under the water. There are also a lot of those little stingy fish (some kind of jelly fish?) and more surf. Not as pleasant a swim as Koh Mook. I also took a walk on the beach before it got too hot. I must have walked at least a kilometre and a half before the beach stopped at a headland. On the way I saw many more of those beach shacks restaurants/bars, many advertising “happy shakes”. Hummm, whatever they are, I have the feeling that they include an ingredient that’s probably illegal in Canada. Should I try one in the interest of research? 🙂

By the way, I’ve made a slight change of plans: I will not stay in Bangkok before my flight to Burma (over Christmas) because the unrest and protests are continuing there with no end in sight. Instead I will stay in Krabi town (two hours from here) and fly to Bangkok on Dec 26, connecting directly to my Burma flight without having to leave the airport.

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