Ko Lanta is a not a large island, but walking between the beaches is not really an option if you want to sample more than the one where your hotel is located.
We knew that we mostly wanted a foodie experience on our first island of this trip so we located ourselves smack bang in Saladan, the islands main town. It is also host to some of the best restaurants and nothing is more idyllic than munching your way through the Thai restaurant’s menu and sipping a cocktail on one of the many pier restaurants on the top of the island. So that’s what we did for the first few days of our Lanta experience.
However, we soon had the urge to see more of the island and sample some of the beaches further away from the main town. It was coming to the end of the season and John managed to negotiate a fantastic deal on scooter hire from our hotel, the Lanta Residence. For 200 Baht (about £2/$3per bike) we managed to grab ourselves a scooter each for the day to set out and explore.
You can see our trip in condensed form in the video below or read on for our guide.
Manchester vs Liverpool
The hotel had an array of bikes to choose from but two stood out. Each was liveried in the colours and emblems of the football teams of Manchester United and Liverpool. With us being from those respective cities we asked for those two for our day trip. Alas it was not to be, the Liverpool one wasn’t working at the moment, bit like the team itself I thought, but kept it from myself lest I get John in a grump before we had even set off.
We hadn’t ridden scooters (or ATV’s) since our Santorini experience a couple of years back so we set off around the north end of the island first to get used to our bikes before setting off on the main roads
Kaw Kwang Cape and Beach
This area was a good fifteen to twenty minute walk from our hotel in town, but took us just a few minutes on the scooters. While not one of the biggest beaches on the island it is rather beautiful and you really get two beaches for the price of one each side of the strip of land that forms the cape. The Cape is blessed (or cursed depending on your point of view) with one of the upmarket hotels on the island – Crown Lanta resort and Spa. The beaches thankfully are free and certainly when we were there were both pretty deserted.
No doubt the Crown guests were sipping cocktails by the pool – lucky buggers. However, if you want a pretty deserted beach to yourselves close to the town this would be our pick.
Once we were confident on the scooters we headed back to Sala Dan town and joined the main road heading down to first Klong Dao beach.
The main roads around this long stretch of beach will give you plenty of choices to eat sleep and drink here they were packed along the whole stretch. Good place for the flashpacker and the budget crowd to congregate. The beach here was long (around two miles) and quite busy even through we were nudging into the low season.
Long Beach or Haad Phra Ae
As Khlong Dao recedes in your rear view mirrors you scooter around a small cape and enter the Long beach area of Lanta. Probably the most famous of Lanta’s beaches, probably because of its simplified name. Its official Thai title is Haad Phra Ae and its northern end is the most packed full of accommodation and restaurants, as you head further south the beach becomes more rocky and the establishments fewer and farther between giving the beach a feeling of peace despite the many places that line its shore.
We headed as far south as Khlong Khoang beach and Baan Phu stopping to take a peek at these smaller quiter beaches before heading across the island towards Lanta Old town. If however you continue further south you will discover more quieter and secluded placess to lay your towel.
Getting to Lanta Old Town
Its around 10 kilometres to Lanta Old Town of windy road through the centre of the Island after you leave the main beach road at Caipi. The roads are reasonably quiet, but there are some steep curvy bends to negotiate, so ease of the throttle for these ones. The scenery is pleasant and you pass through some small villages and lots of rainforest on your way to the east coast and south to Lanta Old town itself.
Beware of the monkeys though John nearly had an argument with a couple as they failed to use the Monkey green cross code when deciding to cross!
Lanta Old Town
The town itself is small and peppered with restaurants and a few hotels and cabins. The wooden houses that line the main road are built out into the sea, so you enter the small unassuming doorways and end up 100 meters over the water by the time you have sat down to take a drink or bite to eat.
The town was originally a Sea Gypsy settlement and later became and important port and commercial centre for the island inhabitants, years before the tourists arrived. The town sports a beautiful Buddhist temple and a useful pier which you can walk out on and view the stilted houses from afar.
You can park your scooter at the entrance and walk around by foot, the place is no more than 150 meters in length.
Scooter Safety in Ko Lanta
Apart from the monkeys there are only two other things to watch out for when biking round the island. Owners of big 4×4 trucks don’t deem it necessary to look behind them for scooters when they open the doors onto the road and we had one near miss until we learned to give them a wide berth. The final danger is the little scooters with a side-car attached that act as island tuk tuks. When the small engines are straining with the weight of the side-car contraption and a couple of fat European tourists and luggage in the side they cant get up much speed so get in your way quite a bit on uphill stretches.
All in all though we found it reasonably safe to scooter round the island. Though we rarely got above 30kph, its best that way you can take in more of the scenery.