It has just rained here and everything is now cool and quiet. The waves are gently coming in and the fog is lifting – sublime, but in a very different way than we had expected. We decided to stay on the not-touristy side of the island, the one that has no beaches and the one that sees the sun rise instead of the sun set. Our large wooden house is on stilts allowing the tide to bring the Andaman Sea right underneath us twice a day.
Thailand’s Koh Lanta is known for its gorgeous serene beaches, a party scene that is gentler than neighboring islands and fantastic snorkeling. But if you come with these expectations to Koh Lanta in the rainy season (May to October), you will be sorely disappointed, as many bars, restaurants and tourist shops are closed and often the water is too rough to swim in or go on snorkeling adventures. You might be surprised to learn then that we thoroughly enjoyed our two weeks celebrating our 8th wedding anniversary on Koh Lanta in September, one of the locations rainiest months.
We began by approaching the island with different intentions. We opted out of the resort options and decided to stay in Lanta Old Town, a village of historical significance for the locals. One of the benefits of traveling in September is there are less tourists in general and this meant that almost all the touristy souvenir shops on the entire island were closed up, leaving open only the fresh grocery shops and the general stores.
Our two week visit ended up being the perfect combination of observing the daily lives of locals and enjoying a romantic getaway. Here are some of the great ways we enjoyed our anniversary in Koh Lanta:
Drove Around the Island on a Motorbike
We rented a motorbike and Mindy drove with me on the back; after my motorbike accident in Chiang Mai, I decided that I was better suited to be a passenger. With my arms wrapped around Mindy (perhaps for dear life), it felt like the perfect adventure for a happily married couple.
We drove through villages, sometimes waving to the locals, came across rubber tree plantations and drove to the beautiful beaches on the other side of the island, where we were completely alone.
Hiked to a Waterfall
We enjoyed a leisurely hour hike to Khlong Chak Waterfall, passing through thick jungle made lush from all the rain. The pathways were rather slippery with mud, which made the journey that much more fun as we slid along the trails trying to find shortcuts. We had lots of fun getting lost and finding our way again. And we were pleasantly rewarded for our efforts by cooling off at the waterfall. It was the perfect way to spend an afternoon.
Walked Dogs on the Beach
The island of Koh Lanta is home to Lanta Animal Welfare, a not-for-profit shelter for dogs and cats in need. They are very happy to have visitors and give tours every hour. In addition to donations and adoptions, they welcome visitors who are willing to walk dogs. Really? How could we resist?
So we spent a couple hours with two dogs on the beach, playing and running with them in the cool ocean breeze. When leaving, of course we had to spend some time petting the many resident kitties there. (For longer term volunteer opportunities, check out their website.)
Ate Yummy Vegan Food
We were disappointed that Kunda Vegetarian and Vegan Restaurant was closed for the month of September (everyone is entitled to a vacation though), but we found Kwan’s Cookery just next door. Kwan, the owner, waitress and chef, understood vegan requests very well and made great suggestions. And because she is originally from Chiang Mai, she was able to make me an authentic vegan kao soy and, unlike many places in the north, she prepared it nice and spicy the way I had ordered it. Mindy enjoyed the very flavorful fruit curry.
Koh Lanta has a nomadic fresh market that changes location every day giving easy access to all the islands’ residents. On Sundays this open-air market comes to Lanta Town so we made sure not to miss our opportunity to try new vegetables, taking advantage of our full kitchen. We enjoyed most meals on our large wooden balcony overlooking the water.
Cuddled Up During Thunder Storms
Our accommodation was built out of wooden slats and the entire wall facing the water was actually huge accordion doors, each piece being about 2 feet wide and 8 feet tall. We always kept these open to allow for the gentle sea breeze to flow through the house and frankly so we could always enjoy the beautiful view and at night the sound of the waves coddled us to sleep.
But, this being the rainiest month of the year, we awoke on more than one occasion to sudden loud thunderclaps that seemed to shake the house. Once night in particular the sky just beyond our balcony lit up with lightning and the wind was so strong that it pushed the heavy balcony chairs and even unfastened the large doors causing them to slam shut.
This might also be a good time to tell you that we shared the house with at least ten bats. We mostly saw them in the evenings when they left for the night. Well on the stormiest night they, not surprisingly, preferred to stay home, where they darted from wall to ceiling to wall, sometimes even hitting us in the process, all night long. (To be fair, we never had a mosquito problem during our entire stay!)
These storms caused us to be closer than ever cuddled up in the bed and taking it all in, feeling the wind, listening to the thunder and watching the bats. Definitely and awesome and unforgettable night!
Watched the Sunrise
We enjoyed watching the sun rise several times during our two-week stay. Sometimes we managed to stumble out of bed the few feet to the hammock on the balcony and other times we stayed cuddled in bed and simply turned our heads to the right, out the front of our house. Most mornings the water was perfectly still, as if it were a lake, and, in each others arms, we watched the various shades of blue turn to bright hues of pink and yellow and listened to the birds waking up and the bats coming back home after exploring the night.
Renewed our Vows
We laid in the hammock on our balcony overlooking the Andaman Sea and discussed and renewed our marriage vows to each other, just like we do every year. Afterwards, we walked to the end of Lanta pier to make our annual wish for the upcoming year and threw two Thai baht coins into the Andaman.
Spending our anniversary on Thailand’s Koh Lanta was not only the perfect way to begin another blissful year of marriage, but it was also a great way to bid farewell to Thailand, a country in which we had lived for 2.5 years.