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Thailand 23/02/02 - 09/03/02

The Pimalai, Ko Lanta - Day Four and Five - A driving tour of Ko Lanta

Luckily the hotel holds two National Car Rental Suzuki jeeps at their disposal, otherwise renting a car would mean a one way trip to Ban Sala Dan, some 20 kilometres, and a fee of 450 bart (£8) for the transfer. As it is the roads are so bad for the first 8 km that it is hardly worth hiring one, unless, like us, you are really up for seeing behind the wizards curtain of the luxury that is Pimalai.

We sign our lives away at the fee of £30 for 24 hour rental and set off right out of the guarded compound gates towards the south of the island. We bump very slowly along the dusty pitted track, up and over the next couple of hills before deciding progress is so slow and the road so bad that we should head up north and see what we really wanted to - civilisation.

Ban Sala Dan, Ko LantaKo Lanta still very much bellows to the locals. Unlike Phi Phi Island, which is by all accounts is overrun by tourists wanting to see where the film 'The Beach' was filmed and Maya Bay (and is therefore overrun by longtail boats since there are no roads on the island), the tourist industry is taking a while to kick in, thanks mainly due to Ko Lantas distance from Krabi airport, and the inability to travel that far down the island, except by boat. The chao ley or Malaysian fishing communities that inhabit the island are still the majority, and although a lot of them work in the tourist industry there is still a surprising amount of fishing and farming of the flat land between the coast and the hilly interior. Everyone is still amazingly friendly, with kiddies and oldies alike smiling and waving, even in the most remote parts of the south east coast, which is a remarkably peaceful and attractive part. Even after we meet tarmac there is no option of travelling at speed, as, apart from the views, the road constantly deteriorates to pot holes and dust.

Ban Sala Dan, Ko LantaWe stop in Ban Sala Dan to change the rest of our travellers cheques, happening on a bank (probably the bank) with a good exchange rate which quickly develops a huge queue of back-packer-type tourists, and is on the direct route from the boat quay from the mainland. Ban Sala Dan is a real gateway for back packers to the joys of the island of Ko Lanta, and is just a cross roads for travel agents and bungalow touts. We shop, and refresh ourselves with iced coffee, and shoot film before following the drive south, taking in what few tourist attractions there are on theBan Hua Laem, Ko Lanta island.

The first is and Orchid nursery, which is very badly advertised, and actually quite an eye opener, even though it is only an open-top shed just off the main road. There are multi lingual guides and you are walked round by the staff when it is quiet there. There are apparently some 20,000 species of orchid, and only a small percentage are on display here, but they do have sealed samples that you can take home, and we do.

Our second stop is a bar we have had recommended to us by friends at home. It's a place called 'Where Else', and is a lovely little bungalow set up on flat ground behind a long beach in the shade of a palm tree wood. It's a sleepy corner with stylish comfortable looking reed panelled bungalows, and we stop for lunch in the bar, eating lovely food and having fresh fruit shakes for very little money.

Ban Hua Laem, Ko LantaFrom here we move on south passed our turning along the dirt road to the Pimalai and across the island to the east coast, stopping to have a look at the Mae Keaow caves and discovering that it's a two hourround trip to get into the caves - a half an hour walk each way. We drive on, and come across great views as we reach the plains of the east coast. Driving south as far as we can go we discover a very different Ko Lanta, one which has little regard for tourism, and dispite smiling faces and waves wherever we go the communities are remote, and the town of Ban Hua Laem is untouched by the western world, and Mrs A and I have troubled deciding whether the smart little main square (with the islands only pavement and the islands only fire engine) is more Chinese or Japanese. See photo.

The road to the south has the best surface because it is the least used, and comes to a halt outside a school. We retrace our steps, and reluctantly take the turn back down the dirt track to our southwest corner of the island.

After finding out that we don't, as we were told, have to change rooms for our last night, we grudgingly do a little packing after a quick dip in the 'infinity's edge' pool. We return, once again, to Same Same But Different for another ultimately relaxing dinner under the twinkling clear stars, tonight commenting on how the piece de resistance is to be able to dig your bare feet into the cooling deep sand below your table! We chat with off duty hotel staff, including one of the managers, play with a kitten, and schmooze the evening away, spinning it out to the last drop before the slow stroll home along the beach. Our last surprise, as we glance starward for one last time from the deserted sunbeds on the darkened beach, are fireworks at the other end of the bay. So much of this trip has been just like a dream.
Summary | Bangkok | Bangkok Day Two | Khao Lak Bay Front Resort | Khao Lak Day Two | Ko Similan Islands
Turtle Conservation Festival | Leaving Khao Lak for Pimalai Resort, Ko Lanta | Ko Rok Snorkelling
Pimalai Resort and Ko Lanta Driving Tour | Leaving Thailand
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