• Koh Lanta: A storm, a power cut, a lot of tuktuk rides

    Phra Ae beach apartments koh lanta

    Some cheery apartments in Phra Ae Beach

    When it started to drizzle one afternoon in Lanta, we welcomed the rain. It cooled the air a little, and made walking outside more bearable, since we’d just returned our tuktuk to the rental place.

    Then it got serious. The sky turned ashen, it began pelting down in earnest, and we took shelter where we could find it. The roads ran orange with clay dirt. Thunder and lightning joined the party. And by the time we made it back home, it was almost dark. There we were stumbling our way through to our hut, only to find the power completely out when we got there.

    Rainstorm + electricity outage = our first slightly unnerving experience.

    Luckily, the power came on maybe an hour later (partway through the movie we started watching on the laptop). Cue an almost-warm shower and a much more comfortable sleep.

     

    View from inside a tuktuk thailand

    The view from inside our tuktuk. We ran out of gas at one point (the gauge, unsurprisingly, wasn’t working) but fortunately, we puttered to a stop right outside a petrol station. Here, you pay the attendants at the pump!

    Palm Beach Resort, Koh Lanta

    phra ae huts

    Out and about at Palm Beach resort – the second place we stayed (a bit of a downgrade from the Nakara Longbeach resort, but still nice).

    Koh Lanta

    koh lanta old lanta town pier

    Over on the east side of the island is Old Lanta town. Check out the low lying fog.

    Next stop, Bangkok. Trying to organise this myself online was thoroughly flustering, but Lanta is packed with travel agents who make the whole process pretty painless. And while this might not be the case elsewhere in Thailand, they don’t seem to be out to gouge you – the prices were on par with what I’d seen on the web.

  • Koh Lanta: Kicking it on the beachfront

     

    nakara longbeach resort koh lanta phra aenakara longbeach resort koh lanta phra aenakara longbeach resort koh lanta phra ae

    How did we end up at a luxury beachfront resort on Koh Lanta?

    Well, we winged it basically all the way from Malaysia. We booked our sleeper train tickets on the same day, and arrived the next morning in Hat Yai, but T wasn’t feeling up to any more journeying that day.

    So instead of hopping on a van to Krabi, as originally planned, we spent the night at the first guesthouse we found. The next day we made the 4-hour trip to Krabi, followed by another 2 hours to Lanta … and found ourselves a little lost. Initially, I wasn’t sure we’d be able to make it to Lanta on the same day, and thought we might have to stay overnight in Krabi. But since my international data sim card wasn’t working, once we DID know we’d be reaching the island that afternoon, there was no easy way to book a place.

    The ride to Lanta was a confusing one, but a fun one, as we were seated next to a gregarious American, which helped pass the time. It ended rather abruptly, though. The driver (who spoke very little English and seemed to be laughing at us half the time, which amused us and our new bud Catalina to no end) basically booted us out at one point. This turned out to be in the middle of Phra Ae (Long Beach), which was actually a pretty good part of Lanta to be in.

    nakara longbeach resort koh lanta phra aenakara longbeach resort koh lanta phra ae

    May marks the start of the quietest season of the year, so finding a place wasn’t difficult. The first one we encountered – the Nakara Longbeach resort – was a little pricey, but T’s eyes lit up as we walked in. At a mere 1200 baht (about $50), much lower than the printed rate of 1900, I didn’t have the heart to say no. So for one night, we basked in luxury. When we awoke we realized we were amoungst sufers and paddle boarders, it must of been a festival or event because even my best paddle board for beginners was a little player in comparision to what these people ride.

    nakara longbeach resort koh lanta phra aenakara longbeach resort koh lanta phra aenakara longbeach resort koh lanta phra ae

    The resort was absolutely deserted, and aside from one other couple that we briefly saw, we had the entire place to ourselves. Our little villa was just steps away from the two enormous pools, and a minute away from the beach. You could step straight off the deck onto the beach, which was itself practically a private beach at that time.

    The sea itself? Like stepping into a warm bath. The two pools were just as comfortable, and you can bet we jumped in immediately after unpacking and blissed out.

    Set down a long, wide, private driveway, the Nakara really is a prime piece of property. As I understand, it was recently refurbished, and the villas are absolutely luxurious. Spotless wooden floors, bathrobe and lockable safe, a luxurious bathroom with pebbled floor and both a wall and rooftop shower head … there really is nothing more you could ask for. It also seems to be staffed by perpetually smiley workers – the girl who came out to help us figure out how to work the air con was literally skipping and singing to herself.

    A good start to our Koh Lanta adventures, all around.

  • Kuala Lumpur: Recollections and reconnections

    I definitely knew we weren’t in Kansas/Auckland any more when I was woken by the early morning Muslim prayer call.

    A heady mix of the familiar and the new would be the best way to sum up KL. Sights and sounds long forgotten, but instantly recalled. Navigating the footpaths, cracked tiles, grates over open drains, and all. The underlying scent of sewage. Solid retro fire hydrants. The curious juxtaposition of all this against the high tech digital billboards, endless shopping (malls after malls after malls!) and other trappings of a cosmopolitan city on a whole different scale than what we’re used to. I veered between feeling like a total hick (e.g. attempting to figure out the monorail) and marvelling at the lack of certain basics (no GPS in taxis? Whaaaat?).

    It’s been more of a shock for T, bless, who’s soldiering on despite:

    • The heat. Our first order upon arrival was to seek refuge inside an air-conditioned mall, but as we learned, things don’t open till 10 or later, and finding your way out of the currently-being-refurbished Sungei Wang plaza is a hell of a lot harder than it might seem.
    • The unfamiliar food. He’s reasonably used to Malaysian, but not for 3 meals a day. I would happily wander around at length, eating only street food, but comfort/hygiene concerns on his part are curtailing me a little bit. Where he sees a disease-ridden hawker stall, I see good, real, cheap food. Having been here before, that kind of thing is not that jarring for me.

    “Is that a prison?” he asked of the first big building we passed. “Erm, that’s a school,” I said. True story.

    Our four days passed in a bit of a whirlwind, meeting up with an old friend, a fellow blogger (again, thank you for showing us Putrajaya – see above – it was fantastic), some family, and my godmother/former neighbour. The latter was probably the most emotional. Physically, somehow the terraced row of houses looked smaller than I remembered; the entire street itself felt somewhat cramped. While some of the roads were familiar (I sometimes dream about those streets) the area, like any other, keeps getting built up further and expanding.

    One common thread that comes through very strongly is the importance of politics. Elections were held just a week before we arrived, and is still the topic on everyone’s lips. Friends and family all brought up the fact that my parents emigrated to give us a “better life”, but speak of hope for the future, a more equal, democratic, peaceful one.

    Aside from a couple of monorail trips, we mainly got around on foot, with rides from others (in particular from my friend, who deftly navigated the cavernous carparks and chaotic traffic like a pro – driving on these roads would probably send me into a catatonic state in no time) and via taxi. Oh, the taxis. Cabbies in KL are meant to be among the worst in the world. While I still have a tiny bit of Malay, my knowledge extends to, say, counting to 10, or simple words like hot/cold (panas/sejuk), which, combined with my NZ accent, made us prime targets for taxi rip-offs. As long as you get either a) prepaid taxi coupons or b) a taxi that uses its meter, you’ll be okay.

    Next stop: Thailand. We haven’t been vigilant about avoiding ice while in KL, but we will from now. (I seriously hate paying for bottled water, but it’s a necessary evil.)

    One other thing we haven’t been vigilant about? Tracking money. It’s been a little wacky as we’ve bought a couple of things and what with the meeting up with so many people (I feel sorry for T, being dragged around to meet all of them, which isn’t the most relaxing) but from now it’ll be about sticking to a budget (this is where blogging should help!) and taking things a bit slower as we (hopefully) settle into a little bit of a routine.