Exploring Koh Lanta, Koh Rok and Krabi
“If my phone were waterproof, I’d email my resignation letter right now,” said my friend Patra while floating in the sparkling light blue waters off Koh Rok, Thailand. With its sugary white sand, palm-fringed beach, bright coral and florescent fish swimming in the bathtub-temperature water, being at Koh Rok is like living in a postcard. “It’d just be a photo of my floating feet with the island in the background and something simple like, ‘Nope, you can’t make me leave here. I quit!’ ” So you’ve been warned: visiting Thailand’s idyllic southern islands might jeopardize your ambition and/or career. Unless you aspire to sell coconuts on the beach, then you’re in luck!
Just an inexpensive, 1-hour flight from Penang, you can enjoy Krabi and its lush, nearby islands in a quick 3-4 day trip. There are dozens of tiny islands you can explore near Krabi, and on this trip, Patra and I chose to have our adventures on Koh Lanta and Koh Rok.
We didn’t spend much time on Krabi. It has some spectacular karst rock formations and picturesque beaches, but they’d be a lot prettier if they weren’t crowded with zillions of tourists, especially men who appear to be smuggling grapes in their bikini briefs. We chose to spend the bulk of our time on the islands, which were truly an escape from it all – even sausage-slings.
Accessible only by boat, Koh Lanta is about an hour from the Krabi airport, but it’s worlds different than the bustling mainland. This is one laid-back, chilled out island. During the day, most visitors seem pretty content to just stroll on the soft sand of one of its many empty beaches. The more ambitions opt for a massage under a coconut tree while listening to the waves gently lap against the shore. And the downright adventurous saunter down the sleepy, charming streets of old town, where faded wooden houses perch on stilts over the water.
Because I occasionally like to cheat death, I decided to rent a scooter to drive around the island to check out as many of its beautiful beaches as possible. The thorough scooter instruction lasted a full 15 seconds, consisting of “here on, here off, here brake.” With a Thai farewell that sounded an awful lot like “Swat Da Car!” I was off and swerving.
By some miracle, I survived long enough to enjoy the picture-perfect beaches of Kantiang, Diamond Cliff and Long Beach – each simply gorgeous in their own unique way, and definitely ones I’d recommend visiting. We also stopped in at a really wonderful animal rescue group called Lanta Animal Welfare to support their life-saving efforts. If you love animals and want to help, swing by to meet some great rescues. They’ll even arrange to have one fly home with you to your local animal shelter to help these sweet animals find the homes they so deserve.
If you’re ready to burn some energy, there’s great hiking through the jungle at the Mu Koh Lanta National Park, which is filled with extremely entertaining monkeys. And if you’re into scuba, hold onto your regulator – Koh Lanta is world-renowned for its exceptional diving. Visibility is often around 100 feet, there are eye-popping live coral formations, stunning tropical fish, and around April, you can even dive with whale sharks.
After handing in my helmet, which shockingly only had two to three new dents, Patra and I were just in time to watch the sun make its dazzling escape into the ocean. I’ve got to say, the sunsets on Koh Lanta are kind of ridiculous. It’s like a Van Gogh painting… on fire…with extra colors… in a kaleidoscope. And it lasts for about an hour! And after we ooo’d and aaaaah’d for the millionth time over the last rays of the day kissing the sky, we walked down Long Beach to eat at one of the funky outdoor restaurants right beside the water, which I also highly recommend. With the colorful silk lanterns swaying overhead, the warm sand between your toes and the delicious passionfruit margaritas, you’re going to start feeling drunk on the magic of Koh Lanta right around this point.
If you really want to go for it, a perfect follow-up is a day-trip to snorkel around Koh Rok with Opal Speedboats. It’s about 45 minutes away from Lanta, and as Patra and I can attest, it’s paradise.
We got to snorkel at three spots, and at each one, I sucked water through my snorkel while gasping at the insanely shocking beauty of these dive locations. There were platter-sized glowing purple starfish covered with huge chocolate chips. Rainbow striped wrasse nibbled my toes. The “Nemo” orange-white clownfish peeked at us through waving soft coral. And thousands of teeny cobalt fish shot out from behind massive pink coral heads to surround us, making us feel like we were in an underwater snow globe.
“Stop it. I hate you so very much,” your co-workers will comment on your million-and-one photos of perfect tropical bliss. While being cradled by the warm sea and floating in its clear, pale blue water, you’ll smile to yourself while composing your letter of resignation in your head. Just be sure to take a photo of your feet floating in the water with the island in the background so you can attach it to your “See ya suckas– I’m not leaving this paradise!” email.