Island Paradise: Koh Lanta

Has it been one week since I arrived here? The days all run together. There is no weekend or weekday. No work hours or schedule. Even the people who work here have a relaxed air that suggests a permanent state of vacation.

I knew. I knew the moment I stepped off the ferry I would be staying a while. And not just because a tall, handsome Dutch guy invited me to a party within minutes of my arrival… But Koh Lanta – an island with a long and seemingly endless beach in the south of Thailand – just has a way of trapping you like a fly on honey.

BeachThe charming little thatched cottages of Saladan beckon coconuts and reggae music.  There is one long main road busied with tourists and locals alike on scooters. Most of the bronzed tourists wear little more than their beach shorts (even while driving). And it’s not uncommon to see a whole family of Thais riding on just one scooter.  As you go down the road, the beaches become more and more mellow, and the bars and restaurants a bit farther apart. But like so many solo travelers I’ve chosen to stay in Long Beach – by far the best beach for mingling with others.

My mornings are spent at Oasis Yoga by the water on Klong Doa beach. My afternoons are typically spent laying around or playing Frisbee with the boys in the ocean. (Don’t worry, I’ll get to “the boys” later). Evenings are spent watching the sunset and having dinner with other travelers who have also stumbled across this little paradise.

Most of the hotels along the beach are little bamboo bungalows. It’s impossible to stay here without “embracing” the nature. (The flies and mosquitos won’t let you!).  The showers are cold water or lukewarm if your lucky, and the standards of clean are a little different here… But the pros far outweigh the cons. If you’re not too fond of luxury you can find a charming little room near the water for about $18/ night. There are even cheaper options if you don’t mind sharing space in a hostel and there are fancier options if you have the money to spend.

The heat never ceases. Nor do the pineapple shakes and cocktails. You could snorkel, or scuba dive, or going elephant trekking if you felt the urge. But honestly, the best part of Koh Lanta is the mellowness. You can just chill. For hours. Every day. With other people or by yourself. You can also get an hour-long massage on the beach for about $9. I don’t think I’ve ever been to a more relaxed place.

But what really makes Koh Lanta a magical place for me, are the people I have met at the Clayzy house – a little hippie hostel where backpackers come and go with their stories,  their creativity, and their general love of life. My first night out on Long Beach I stumbled into this little gem for an open mic night. Greeted warmly by a handsome Irish guy with smiling blue eyes at the bar, and a friendly little cherub of a girl from England traveling with her boyfriend, it didn’t take long before I knew everyone and everyone knew me. The ‘instant traveler family’. I had heard of it from friends but now I know it isn’t just legend.

So please, let me introduce you to my family:

Bob: The Irish barman and soon to be hostel manager who charms all the ladies. Bob has made a bit of a life of traveling doing some teaching here and there and finding ways to extend his island life. He’s friendly and full of heart. A guitar plaCharlieyer and writer, he sings some nights and motivates others to share their talent. When I mentioned I write poetry, Bob insisted I share on stage for open mic night. Despite my nervousness it was quite fun, and it looks like I’ll be doing it again soon!

Charlie: A sweet young blond girl who has moved many times growing up with her family and continues to love to explore new places. She is motherly and warm without an ounce of distrust for people. I truly admire her warmth. She’s traveling with Jay, her boyfriend of 2 years, who is a jovial guy with a love of telling jokes and general silliness. The two of them are traveling together for 6 months before settling back in England.

Kat: Kat is co-manager of the Clayzy house and a true hippie, from her dreadlocks to her handmade shell jewelry. Whenever I stop by she is usually making something or painting something. (Her creativity is infectious. I found myself picking shells for her on the beach yesterday.) Kat’s from Poland but, like Bob, has made a life out of travel and considers Koh Lanta home now.

Nick: My new Canadian friend and ally, Nick, looks a bit like a backstreet boy. You wouldn’t quite expect him to co-habitat with the hippies at Clayzy house, but talk to him for five minutes and you’ll learn he’s also an artist and singer with a big heart. We share a guilty pleasure of going to the gym and have an easy time chatting about relationships and love.
Tom: Tom is the James Dean of Clayzy house. A tall, thin, beach-bronzed boy from Luxembourg, Tom oozes cool. Yoga and detoxification is the mission of his stay in Koh Lanta. He doesn’t say much and doesn’t seem to need anyone. (Nick and I joke that he’s like the Dos-Equis man… ‘Locals ask him for directions.’). But in contrast to this cool demeanor, he’s a soon-to-be grammar school teacher and a dog-lover. Watching him play affectionately with the puppy, Boo-Boo, it’s pretty impossible not to like Tom.

Zak: Zak is one unique individual. Born and raised in Bangkok by American parents, he’s neither American nor Thai. He spent the last 7 years in the states and has good understanding of both cultures. He’s charismatic and energetic, often busy farming when I stop by (yes, there’s a farm at Clayzy house!) We’ve had many great chats and of everyone I met on the first night, he really made the effort to make sure I got back to my hotel safe and make me feel included.

These are the great people I’ve been spending my time with. Honestly, there are more but if I keep writing I will miss out on all fun. So if you will excuse me, I’ll be getting back to my island family now, and our quiet little life on the beach. More soon ;).

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