In Asia Pacific on 13/06/18
A wooden boat floating on clear water with the reef visible below and a rocky island outcrop in the background

Ko Lanta, Thailand

“If you think adventure is dangerous, try routine; it is lethal.” Aldous Huxley

My suntanned feet on a sunlounger with a fresh coconut shell next to me, decorated with a flower. Green tropical shrubs, a sandy beach and blue water dotted with longtail boats are in the background

It’s ironic that Maya Bay, made famous by the movie The Beach for its seclusion, is now so crowded the Thai government are closing it periodically to give it a chance to recover.Thailand has so many islands that offer natural beauty, if you look beyond the fame and package tours and you can find some hidden gems.

Ko Lanta is one such island. Rather than huge crowds of unruly backpackers downing shots, the beaches here attract small groups enjoying chilled drinks and friendly conversation. This is a destination for grown-ups. Loosely putting myself in this category, I flew over for the Christmas holidays to visit my friend Lucy.

A few shops and restaurants border the road with no passing traffic. The buildings are basic, single storey structures with plant pots and bright signs outside

A slower pace

Kantiang Bay is a small village packed with family run restaurants, tour operators, scooter rentals and guest houses.

The massage parlours do not require inverted commas, they offer top notch Swedish and Thai massages with a choice of therapeutic oils.

All this is set around a mile long bay of clean sand and calm water. It’s an idyllic village ecosystem you could put in your pocket.

Waking to the sound of tropical birds and the call to prayer, I fell into a morning routine of coffee swinging in a hammock, watching traders and tourists ambling by as I planned my day. For two weeks I did nothing in a hurry.

First, learn the local lingo. Or not…

On the taxi ride from Krabi airport, Lucy attempted to teach me Thai. A small mispronunciation can completely change the meaning of a word, Lucy’s mishaps to date include:

  • Beautiful: bad luck (she inadvertently told someone their baby was bad luck)
  • Good job: underwear
  • She mispronounced the name of a friend’s cat as: boy penis
  • ‘Pet’ means spicy, ‘my pet’ means not spicy. Ask to ‘cook my pet’ and you’ll get a plate of non spicy food. Not to be confused with a resident Northerner who calls everyone ‘pet’. I avoided any attempt at Thai for fear of accidentally telling the waitress I wanted to kill her, or her pet.
A small wooden shelving unit stands by the roadside with 'Gasoline 91' on a sign. Two rows of amber gasoline are displayed. in the background are lush green trees, the beginning of the rainforest

Adventures by scooter

Scooting across the island I passed scattered wooden shacks and curious monkeys waiting to steal unguarded food from tourists.

Most of the island is dominated by gorgeous rainforest providing crisp, clean air and views of isolated beaches.

Lanta Old Town is a charming strip of old wooden shops and harbour with hazy glimpses of islands to the east. The shops here sell beautiful souvenirs and clothing, well worth a visit.

A stunning bright orange sunset with the sun burning bright just above the horizon, a catamaran floats on the water, a few people walk by and in the foreground, a lady is doing a yoga tree pose

The main tourist area of Long Bay is an understated strip of small restaurants and guest houses.

The sunsets here are spectacular and attract relaxed, friendly groups spread across the two mile stretch of beach.

A few of us shared a Christmas Day sunset here followed by dinner at Yang restaurant. Set back off the main road down a dirt track, it’s one of the island’s top rated restaurants and deservedly so.

For residents of Kantiang Bay, this is considered a night out in the big city.

The wonders of the sea

Ko Lanta is surrounded by beautiful uninhabited islands surrounded by reefs with excellent snorkelling and diving. This is where you’ll find an idyllic island paradise.

Ko Rok is relatively unspoiled although the day trippers created a crowd. I found a quiet spot on the beach to eat my buffet lunch under the shade of a tree and enjoy the view. The reef here offers world class snorkelling with blue starfish, purple clams, numerous fish and masses of hard and soft corals, all in crystal clear water. It was the perfect day out to remember during a cold English winter.

A bartender lights alcohol cascading from a pyramid of glasses on the bar

Ko Haa is an archipelago of five small rocky islands jutting out of the sea. The diving here is especially good, If you’re lucky you’ll also see eagle ray, manta ray and whale sharks.


There are several bars in the village open into the early hours, attracting a mix of tourists, locals and expats who collectively create a lively, friendly vibe. Aqua Bar was my favourite, perched on the edge of the beach it’s open to the elements with casual seating, a great view and friendly staff.

Bright blue/white sparkles fill the shallow water at night as it laps on the beach

Christmas Eve I was honoured with an invite to Lucy’s friends’ hilltop house overlooking Klong Jark beach. Representative of the global expat presence in the village, we enjoyed a Swedish spread for dinner. Above us on the wall was the mounted skin of a 20 foot King Cobra they’d found in the villa the previous year.

We welcomed Christmas day with a midnight skinny dip which brought to life a stunning bioluminescent display. Bright blue-white sparkles lit up in the water around us as we swam. Just breathtaking and the best Christmas gift nature can offer.


Three men juggle fiery batons on the beach after dark, surrounded by crowds

New Years on the beach

I rounded off my stay on New Years Eve at the collaborative party held between the beach bars.

Fireworks were followed by fire juggling and a giant sparkler display by the water. There was enough of a crowd to create a great atmosphere but not so much to create a hectic crush. The atmosphere was fantastic and as with the rest of my stay in the village, I felt safe and welcome.

A view of the beach from a bar on the hill, just as the lights on the beach come to life early evening. In the foreground a lantern covered in think material blows in the wind

And finally…

The Krabi region has so much to offer, in hindsight I’d have split my time with another location. However, I can see why so many expats have made this friendly community home, far from the stresses and clutter of western life.

If you’re looking to unwind and enjoy great food, hospitality and island hopping away from the madding crowd, this little treasure of a village is really worth a visit.

Getting there

Krabi is the nearest airport, with most flights connecting via Bangkok. Connecting via Kuala Lumpur opens up opportunities for a multi-destination holiday to other countries such as Cambodia and Vietnam. It’s often cheaper to book a flight to Kuala Lumpur/Bangkok and onward flights separately. I did this and saved several hundred pounds.

On arriving in Krabi, buses or taxis take you to Kantiang Bay via a car ferry. Lucy and I shared a private taxi from the airport to Kantiang Bay for £35.

Getting around

Scooter tuk-tuks are always available in the village, car taxis on request, and buses can be pre-booked via tour operators.

Scooters cost from £3 a day to rent and are available from several places in the village – prices vary.


Most travel insurance policies require you to have an international driving permit to be covered in case of a scooter accident. These paper booklets are available for £5 from major Post Offices. Check the small print on your policy and plan ahead.

Scooter accidents are all too common. Check the condition of the roads and be mindful of local laws and rules. For example in Thailand they drive on the left, but to turn right scooters should pull over to the far left of the road and wait for the traffic to clear before crossing and turning.

The exhaust pipe is usually on the right hand side, so always climb on and off from the left to avoid burning your leg, especially when riding pillion.

I had to ask for a helmet, which I wore at all times. You can be fined for not wearing one and of course they can be a life saver, literally.

The company I rented from wanted to keep my UK driving license. Not only would I need it if stopped by the police, I never leave ID documents with anyone. In the end they took a photo of it and gave it back to me.


Costs vary from £7 to £500 a night. I stayed at Simply Life Bungalows. It was basic but a bargain £9 a night and excellently located in the middle of the village. I could have saved 10% by booking directly with them, but preferred the protection of Airbnb where they are also listed. Pimalai resort is 5* and the most expensive, there are plenty of options in-between.




The best way to enjoy a snorkeling trip is on a traditional wooden longtail boat (as seen in the headline photo in this blog). These are available for private hire to Ko Rok or the ‘4 Island Tour’. The 4 islands are a lot to cover in a day and can get crowded but remain ever popular. Ko Rok is just stunning and a trip there is less frenetic, this would be my recommendation. Simply Life Tours run trips from Kantiang Bay or Old Town on the south of the island, private hire starts from £150 and the boats take up to 12 people, great value if you’re in a group.

I couldn’t persuade anyone to share a private boat hire with me, so I went with Sinthongchai Tours. They picked me up from Kantiang Bay beach and provided towels, water and a great hot and cold buffet lunch. I’d highly recommend them.

Outer islands

I’d have loved to visit Ko Por, but I would have needed to hire a private long tail boat. These gorgeous wooden boats offer the perfect day out for a private group, but alone the cost was prohibitive. If you go with a larger budget and/or a group, look into hiring one for a day out to an island not frequented by the scheduled tourist boats.


I had a fantastic massage at Arista Spa and highly recommend them. They don’t have a website, but they take walk in bookings and are right in the middle of the village next to 7-11.


Anti Gravity Divers are a very well run operation with top notch instruction. A fellow visitor had some confidence issues with diving, and the instructors helped him through it.

Underwater photography

Lucy offers a bespoke underwater photography service in Ko Lanta, either via Anti Gravity Divers or by direct contact. With over 20 years experience in diving to instructor level, she knows her stuff and captures beautiful photography of divers and what they see while underwater. Her photos are featured on this blog, and she has written for Diver Magazine.



Drunken Sailors, despite the name, is a daytime cafe offering a great breakfast and lunch menu. Right in the centre of the village, they have a lovely open terrace with hammocks. This was my favourite morning spot.

My lunch favourite was a shrimp, papaya and toasted peanut salad for £4 with coconut milk served in its shell, enjoyed on a sun lounger overlooking the beach at Phra Nang resort.

Kantiang Cuisine do a mixed Thai and western menu. Their massaman curry was fantastic, really friendly service at very reasonable prices.

Baan Lanta resort offer a lovely breakfast. They also serve pizzas for lunch and dinner which were popular with the expat crowd drinking in Aqua Bar next door.

Yang Garden restaurant in Long Bay is one of the best rated restaurants on the island and deservedly so, the inventive western menu was absolutely delicious. It’s set back off the main road down a dirt track, like a little secret. It’s a big wooden restaurant with a lovely ambience and very good service. The food is expensive by local standards but worth it in my opinion.

Alama resort has a pool and sunbeds which non-residents are welcome to use, lunch here was very nice.

For a fancy night out, Same Same But Different is on the south side of the beach. A beautiful restaurant with tables in the sand, the food is as good as any other in the village but twice the price. Great for a romantic night out though.


Aqua Bar was my favourite evening spot. Overlooking the beach, they have wooden bar seating and an area of low comfortable cushions. It’s friendly and lively with a gorgeous view and great service. A beer costs £1.80 here as with most of the relaxed bars in the village.

Blues Doo is up some steep stone steps above Aqua Bar, Blues do have live music a few nights a week with a big open terrace, fantastic views across the bay and friendly service.

The Bad Penny, hidden behind Drunken Sailors, is an expat favourite with a lively, social atmosphere of an evening.


Dry season is from November to April. Outside of these months several businesses close down so it’s best to stick to dry season.