Today was going to be an active day. Well… holiday active anyway. Koh Lanta is a fairly big island, too big to explore on foot, so there are a few roads you can take to have a look around the island. The main mode of transportation seems to be the scooter. Both locals and tourists alike race down the streets on them and every other house has a sign ‘motorbikes for rent’. However, I’ve never driven a scooter. So my plan was to rent a bicycle, which is much harder to find than a scooter. Luckily I’d met a lovely Swiss girl who was keen to do something active today. So I rented a 6-speed bike from the hostel and was on my way.
Nora was waiting for me close to her hostel and off we went. The plan was to visit the old town on the other side of the island, which was about 17km away. The road on this side was fairly flat, so we cruised past all the shops and restaurants easily. Then the turn off to the other side of the island came. It seemed like we had to get over a hill to get to the other side. We had all the time in the world, so no worries, but I frequently used gear number one. I crawled up the hill like a snail and tried to go down as one as well, hitting the breaks frequently. I didn’t fully trust the roads, with lovely holes here and there, and I didn’t fully trust my citybike with thin tyres.
The landscape we passed through was amazing. There were lots of rubber plantations and it all looked very lush. We biked past two elephants, but unfortunately they were ready to carry tourists around, all chained up with about a meter of slack. As soon as we stopped a lady came towards us, asking if we wanted to feed the elephant some bananas. Even though I thought the elephant probably deserved some, we politely declined and kept going. On the other side of the island were lots of houses, small and big. People were hanging out on their porches, smiling at us or shouting hello. Others raced past us on their motorbikes, holding covered bird cages in their hands. When we passed a bunch of kids, one of them held his hand out, ready to receive some high fives. It seemed like biking was the right decision. We could enjoy the landscape so much more and easily stop when we wanted to look at some monkeys or take some photos.
After a long, sweaty bike ride we arrived in the old town. I must admit I expected a more authentic village, but it was all set up for tourism. The buildings here were traditional, just like my hostel. They are built on stilts above the sea and are very long in shape. Most of them were in great shape because they’d been transformed into restaurants and shops. Even though it was great to see some Thai style buildings, I feel like the area I’m staying in is more authentic than this old town. Off the main street were some more of these houses and they often looked a bit more shabby and real. Often a longtail boat lay in between houses, seemingly waiting for the water to rise again. After a wander through town, we took the same route back and enjoyed seeing people’s real houses along the way.
Back on ‘our side’ of the island, we were desperate for three things; toilets, food and a swim. So we found a restaurant where we had noodle soup. Now normally when you order noodle soup, you get a massive bowl, so when the tiniest bowl arrived I was already disappointed. Then it turned out that all the tofu, which we had asked to leave out, was overwhelming. It looked like tofu soup. “You don’t like tofu?” the man asked when he came to pick up the plates. He felt very sorry about not having understood us, so he brought out a plate of mango on the house. I happen not to like mango, but ate it anyway so I wouldn’t offend him, perhaps again. After this, it was time for the beach. The waves were a little crazy, but it was absolutely beautiful. So beautiful that we decided to move on to the next beach for a sundowner.
At Klong Dao we found a pretty bar with lounge cushions spread out over the sand. All we needed were some cocktails. When the sun went under they even had a fire dancer giving a little show. The whole beach was full of bars and restaurants, so in the dark you saw all these lights along the beach. We only had to move over a few places to have dinner. What a beautiful way to end the day! I just had to ride home in the dark. Luckily they’d given me a green, flashing disco light as a tail light. Koh Lanta keeps surprising me. On a bike we may not have covered as much ground as on a scooter, but it was fun, easy and we’ve seen so much!