The south of Thailand is famous for its many island paradises where you can get lost in island time and really relax. The latter of which was definitely in order as we still weren't completely rested from our month in New Zealand as demonstrated by The Herps Fiasco. After reading too many blogs, articles and WikiTravel pages, we decided to start on Koh Lanta. And so the beginning of April saw us entering the country which, when all is said and done, will be the country we spent the most time in.
Adventurous Kate and Never Ending Voyage are big fans of the island and we understand why. As you head south from Ban Sala Dan along the coastal road, the world quiets down. While developing at a fast pace, Koh Lanta still retains a little charm that was missing from the other island we visited. Local life went on around you and while restaurants and hotels and the like abound, you can still hop on a motorbike and find yourself in a different world on the east side of the island or in the National Park on the southern tip. We had plenty of good food, got more sleep than I thought possible, and we were able to unwind, get healthy, and let go of travel for a bit.
Life is pretty damn good when most nights start with sunsets like this:
A week later, a long day of travel brought us to Koh Phangan. We wanted another island to relax on and, since our visit coincided with the Full Moon Party, we thought we'd check it out. Arriving without accommodation, we got a little caught off-guard and stayed at a place that wasn't the greatest. But, we got a fair deal for the FMP time period and it was located off a path right across the main street from a wonderful café that served delicious Belgian waffles, tons of syrup, and tasty cappuccinos and lattes. I know, not really Thai food, but it was too delicious not to have every morning. Our days here passed much like on Koh Lanta with late wake ups, slow brunches, reading by the pool/beach, and leisurely dinners.
We were also here for Songkran, which was nowhere near the production it is in Bangkok or Chiang Mai, but was still a very fun day interacting with the local people and celebrating an important day with them. Everyone was jubilant, greeting everyone else in whatever language they could think of, dumping water freely, and spreading shaving cream or whatnot for good luck. We received more hugs and handshakes on that one day that the rest of our time in Thailand combined. We felt welcomed and were grateful to be a part of their festivities.
When the day of the FMP came, we applied our glow-in-the-dark paint, tossed on our uniforms (tank tops and shorts, of course), and prepared to rage. Our hotel was fairly antisocial, but we armed ourselves with a couple old water bottles filled with Thai whiskey and coke - no Red Bull as we had sampled a bucket a few nights before and it sent my heart into a somewhat scary overdrive - and joined a few people in a songthaew for the ride to Haad Rin. After paying half-price to get in (Anaïs just walked straight through security. Like a Boss.), we headed down to the beach to experience the mayhem.
It wasn't as crazy as we expected. Plenty of drunk people dancing/passed out/peeing in the ocean, plenty of drink and food vendors, and of course the fire sign was there, but I kept saying to Anaïs all night that it was basically Las Vegas on a beach. Which is to say it was a ton of fun - we reveled as we danced and drank our way between the different bars, checking out the designated sleeping areas, and watching the mass of inebriated travelers rage in the dark.
After a day to recuperate (and eat more waffles, duh), we got back on the ferry to the mainland and caught the night train to the city that became our home base for the next two and a half months - Bangkok.
On Koh Lanta, we stayed at Lom La Lanta. Located directly across the street from the Red Snapper restaurant, we thought it was in a good location near good food. They rent motorbikes for 250 THB per day and don't care what the fuel situation is when you return it. The rooms were comfortable - especially the beds - and we had a small balcony with a mountain view. Price was 800 THB per night, which was a little expensive for not being on the ocean side of the road, but we had a good experience.
On Koh Phangan, we stayed at Phangan Great Bay Resort. Nothing special about this one, but considering it was FMP time, we were happy with our little room for 800 THB per night. The pool was nice enough, the beach meh, and the atmosphere was pretty boring considering the impending party. Also, the restaurant was overpriced, but who cares about that when you can find the waffles above just across the street. Speaking of which, those can be found at 100 Islands Coffee Bar. Certainly not cheap, as two orders of waffles, an iced latte, and an iced cappuccino came in at 440 THB, but considering we would eat it as brunch and only eat dinner else wise, it was worth it to us.