Friday, January 11, 2008

Over to Ko Lanta

On the morning of the seventh I got up nice and early to get over to the travel agent's so that I could book a hotel room for that evening. Unfortunately, he didn't show up. I waited in the neighboring climbing shop for half and hour, then decided that I couldn't keep waiting. I went back to our place and borrowed the mobile phone of the woman from the front desk. I then proceeded to call every hotel on Ko Lanta that was listed in our Lonely Planet that was in our price range. None of them had rooms. Half of them didn't even bother to answer the phone. Finally, on my last number, I found a room available. It was more than I was planning to spend, and it was in an area that we didn't want to be in, but I took it. Better that than having to deal with all the touts when we got off the boat.

Colleen and I grabbed our bags and headed for the other side of the island to catch our boat. We hurried over to make it for the 10:00 departure time, but we should have known better. Some time around 11:00 we were directed to a couple of long tail boats. Piling in with a group of other tourists it looked like it was going to be a long voyage, but once we got out of the bay we pulled alongside a much larger ship, which we were transferred to.

The boat was full. Actually, I expect that it was far more than full, but that's what we've become used to. Colleen and I found a spot along the railing, half-way up the ship, that had a bit of space and sat down. And that's where we remained for the entire voyage. Now, other than the overcrowding, it wasn't that bad. We had a beautiful view of islands going by for part of the trip, and for the rest we just looked out on open water. It was a beautiful sunny day. I read my book and we tried to relax. We got far far too much sun, but beyond that it was very nice.

After a couple of hours we arrived in Ko Lanta's primary port. We grabbed our bags and piled off. As expected, the touts were out in droves. I wasn't happy about the place I'd booked that morning, but I was glad not to have to deal with those guys. Our place, The Diamond Sand Palace, had sent someone to pick us up. We piled into the back of their pickup truck and made the 5 minute voyage to our hotel. We had a little bungalow. It wasn't necessarily nice, but it did have AC, hot water shower and a TV, which is pretty fantastic relative to what we'd been staying in.

We grabbed a bite to eat. Colleen got an amazingly delicious curry. We had a bit of a nap. Then walked down the beach to do a little shopping. We bought all the essentials: A couple of beach mats. A beach towel. Some beers. And one of those stupid paddle and ball sets that I always see people playing with on the beach. I don't know why, but I've always wanted one. Then we sat down to watch the sunset.

To be honest, it wasn't a particularly spectacular sunset. When the sun was about 10 degrees above the horizon it seemed to drop behind some clouds or pollution and that was it. But we were very happy anyway. This place was much nicer than Railay. Sure, there were no huge limestone formations rising from the water, but there were no longtails buzzing around either. And there were fewer people. It was a much nicer, far more chilled atmosphere. Actually, it turned out that most of the people around us were Swedes, who appear to have taken over this region of Thailand. That's cool though, as I've come to like the Swedes quite a bit through my work at Coastal.

After the sunset we had dinner on the beach at a restaurant that had set its tables out in the sand. Very romantic, except for the mosquitoes.

Following dinner, we went up to a local travel agent to try to find another hotel on the island. While ours was decent, it was out of our price range (I am unemployed after all.) and wasn't on the right part of the island. It was in the north, which is somewhat more touristy. Again, most places that we were interested in were full up. After much debate and deliberation we booked a very cheap room for the following day, then the next two days after that in a more expensive place on what sounded like a better beach. We were set.

We returned to the room and I flicked on the TV to see if anything interesting was on. To my delight an NFL playoff game was on. A real rarity here in Asia. Steelers vs. Jacksonville . And it was a great game, although my team came out on the wrong end. Needless to say, it was a very late night, and Colleen was wonderfully patient.

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