Heavy lids enclose me in darkness, but with each gentle sway of the boat, I slowly rock back into consciousness. Muffled voices gain clarity and as I fight the urge to slip back into a deep sleep, an excited voice wakes me “We’re here, please depart the boat on your left!”
We’re in Koh Lanta, and as I step off the boat and wait for my backpack to be unloaded I can already tell that this place is different. There’s not the usual attack on the senses that so many places in Thailand can bring.
It’s quiet, and serene, and has just a handful of taxi drivers waiting to see if you need transport. I politely decline the offers and in return, I receive smiles and “mai pen rai” (no worries), a completely different reaction to that of Bangkok.
I walk off of the pier and towards the guesthouse, my earlier lethargy wearing off as I go, and with each step the excitement builds. I’m staying in Sincere Guesthouse, a very budget yet still charming wooden house built on stilts overlooking the sea and Koh Lanta Noi.
The wooden features, quiet environment, no-shoe policy and open terraced restaurant had me from the moment I stepped inside, and with it being situated just two minutes from Saladan pier, five minutes from town and seven minutes from the beach, it had the perfect location.
The island is rustic and low-key and if you step away from the trash-free beaches, you can see that it’s not really designed for tourists. It was, and has stayed, built for locals. In a place like Thailand, (which has such a heavy footfall of tourist traffic and developments that happen quicker than a sandstorm), this generates a lot of concern.
Will Koh Lanta be ruined when more people discover it?
Will tourists negatively increase development?
Does economic advancement have to come at a loss to natural beauty?
As it stands, at the moment, people need not worry as the tight-knit community of Koh Lanta has ensured that whilst the island develops, it has done so in a controlled manner, stopping it from becoming a free-for-all on who can profit the most.
The island has significantly grown in popularity over the past ten years, but despite a slight price increase, and the introductions of a few high-end resorts and restaurants, the essence of the island has remained low-key and serene.
From the villages so quiet you’d think they were abandoned, to the seaside resorts that make the most of the materials that they have, to the more built-up beaches, there’s an area for everyone.
However, one thing is for sure. If you’re looking to party, this isn’t the place for you. Koh Lanta is a place to relax and enjoy yourself. A place to immerse yourself in local life, and culture, and to really appreciate your surroundings. A place to spend your days exploring, touring the island looking for the old abandoned Chinese temple, enjoying the marine park, or helping a local charity.
It’s a place where your evenings should be spent dining in local restaurants, settling down with a good book as you wait for the sun to set. Which you should definitely do.
Because look at those colours!
Koh Lanta is a place that not only helps you rest and relax, but it’s a place where you can truly find yourself. And because of that, it’s one (out of two) of my favourite islands.