It was decided early on that Lanta would be our destination for Christmas as it is an easy island to spend time on. Lanta actually consists of two islands, Noi and Yai, Lanta Yai being where the tourists head. We decided to travel overland, a route that’s not advertised much to backpackers as the travel mafia tend to push them onto the boats from Phi-Phi, Krabi or Phuket. We opted for the shortest sea crossing to Pak Bara and then a minivan on to Koh Lanta (via a couple of small car ferries), a much cheaper option than a boat the whole way.
Lanta’s busiest area is around Long Beach, a 6km long sand beach close to town which is home to a bunch of bars, restaurants and huts as well as mentioned earlier, half the population of Sweden. We quickly realised most people would be celebrating Christmas on the 24th, so the search was on for an English bar!
But before that, the first job was to move accommodation. We had booked an AirCon room for the week at a place called Nautilus, but when we arrived we were presented with a fan room for much the same price. When we asked the owners about it they were not so much laid back more apathetic, and informed us they were not bothering with Christmas and didn’t have an explanation as to why the room did not resemble what we paid for. Coupled with the fact that the resort was right at the arse end of Long Beach and a good twenty minute walk to the action, we decided to look for alternative accommodation. So the next day, motorbike rented, we set off and found a dirt cheap room in the middle of Long Beach, Blue Sky Bungalows. It was a perfect spot, clean, friendly and free Wi-Fi for 500 baht a night, not bad for high season.
The weather now decided to behave; we had hot days of blue skies, we spent days on the beach, only 30 seconds walk from our hut, and many hours skidding round the island on the motorbike with Leah hanging on the back. I made her wear a helmet under the guise of safety; really it kept me amused as she looked hilarious in it, sorry Leah.
Most of the island is covered in dense tropical forest/jungle and we ventured in on foot to visit waterfalls, followed sand tracks to hidden and beautifully deserted beaches and ticked off the items on the Koh Lanta ‘must-see’ map.
We also made it out on the boat trip that we had postponed when in Phi Phi. We spent the day hopping around islands on a speedboat – after breakfast on Phi Phi Don the first stop was Monkey Beach where there are, surprise surprise, lots of monkeys. All very cute until the tour guides started feeding them Pringles and cans of Coke. Then off for a spot of snorkelling which was very impressive indeed, even compared to what we had seen already in Lipe. Next was Bamboo Island, where we had a spot of lunch and relaxed on the beach, then finally on to Phi Phi Le and the famous Maya Bay, immortalised in The Beach. It’s an incredibly beautiful spot but unfortunately when there are hoards of tourists running around and twenty speed boats moored at the shore it somewhat loses its charm. But if you can block all that out it’s still worth a visit.
The local 7-Eleven provided some decorations – hut sorted. An English bar called The Tavern promised an authentic English roast – booked. And while the Scandinavians scoffed meatballs and ‘many herrings’ we had a couple of Chang and stumbled on the bar next door playing some nasty techno. Christmas Eve complete.
So, here is our Christmas day itinerary, somewhat removed from the usual, but great nonetheless.
9am – Wake up and opened mini Christmas stockings, thanks mum, decidedly more Christmassy now.
10am – Huge fry up, greasy spoon style. Leah opted for extra pancake, take note.
11am – Swim, the water was exceptionally clear and bath water temperature. A first for us both on Christmas day.
1pm – Massage for an hour, Leah opted for an oil massage and I suffered a back and shoulder assault. While Leah was blissfully nodding off I was being beaten to a pulp by a very smiley Thai lady who seemed to be enjoying the pain she was inflicting.
2pm – Fish feet pedicure, weird. This practice involved suspending your feet into a tank of about 100 hungry small fish who nibble away at your feet for 15 minutes. For the first 5 minutes we regressed into small giggling children while the staff looked on blankly – they had obviously seen it all before.
2.30pm – Christmas pudding, yay! We’d brought a couple of mini puds with us all the way from London and persuaded the local restaurant to stick them in the microwave for us in exchange for a generous tip. A little taste of home, even without the brandy butter.
3pm – Film, as per tradition.
7pm – Dinner at The Tavern. Unbelievably, we were served up a meal the size I’ve never seen before. Prawn cocktail, full Turkey (we think) roast, sprouts, the works. We lucked out, the food was great and even the wine was half decent. I couldn’t finish the meal, Leah surprisingly nailed the lot.
9pm – Leah takes a short nap as she is feeling a little sick (note extra pancake and huge dinner)
10pm – Beers with the staff of the huts, massage place and restaurant, they even found and erected a Christmas tree. Perfect end to the day, except the naff R’n’B on the hi-fi and the creepy Israeli guy (name forgot) who was trying to get me to dance to Ice T – never going to happen.
So, there you go, an exhaustive description of a very weird Christmas day in Thailand that turned out almost perfect. We’ve now been away for one month and it’s still just as exciting as when we set off. Fellow travellers’ stories of South America just seem to excite us more. And we still have two months left to explore Asia.
Next stop Koh Pha-Ngan, and the infamous New Year’s full moon party…