Every twenty-four hours, the earth rotates the sun into disappearance. The process is governed by physics. Why, then, does this gravity-induced phenomenon become magical when viewed from a beach on the little Thai island of Koh Lanta?
Jessica spent the night before we left Bangkok for Koh Lanta kneeling before the porcelain god in frequent attempts to purge her body of some unwisely-consumed street food.
“Honey,” I said supportively as I wondered if I had also eaten the evil substance, “we can cancel the trip if you want.” I was also hoping that if something similar happened to me in the future, she would likewise offer to walk away from non-refundable airline tickets and hotel deposits.
“I’ll be okay,” she said bravely and we gathered our things and headed for the airport. There is no bacterium strong enough to keep Jessica from traveling. “If I do have a problem on the way” she said in the cab, “I’ll just say that I’m pregnant. People here are so nice to pregnant women.” Great, I thought. We have a plan.
We were on our way to Koh Lanta toward the end of December from our month-long “base camp” in Bangkok. The flight from there to the town of Krabi took less than an hour but then the trip got interesting. For 3,000 baht (around US$85) our hotel arranged for a driver to meet us at the airport and take us to the hotel. The car was large, comfortable and equipped with bottles of cold water for the two-hour journey. After about an hour, the driver slid the car into a space on an ancient, rusty ferry and, when the boat was full of sundry kinds of scooters, delivery trucks, and passenger vans, it puttered its way across a narrow waterway to a small island. A half-hour later, the car slowed to line up to get onto yet another ferry. This one would take us to Koh Lanta.
Soontreeya Resort is made up of 16 bungalow-type rooms. Ours included all of the things that are important to us when we travel: a clean room, a comfortable bed, and plenty of hot water at the shower. It also had a bathroom conveniently located not far from the bed which I appreciated when the need to make frequent use of the porcelain throne struck me. I guess I did eat the culprit of Jessica’s malady.
More importantly, the place is owned and lovingly operated by people who are justifiably proud of their creation and are passionate about ensuring their guests’ enjoyment. Conor, a strapping Irishman, and his partner in all things, Sa, met in Phuket where he was spending some time playing golf and she was a caddy at the country club he frequented. After becoming a couple, Conor and Sa with daughter Kelly in tow, bought a small, capital-starved hotel just steps from Long Beach on the island of Lanta and, in Conor’s words, “spending probably more” than they intended, did an extensive renovation of the property and hit the ground running. If you become a guest at Soontreeya, you will get to know Conor and Sa and your stay will be richer for that experience. They know the island and its people and are valuable resources for information on things to do during your visit. You can even rent a scooter at the hotel, though I have yet to develop the requisite amount of courage to do ride one of the things on what I consider to be the “wrong side” of the road.
Soontreeya was the perfect place for us to experience Koh Lanta. Each of the many beach bars lined up along Long Beach hosted a generous happy hour every day (like, from 10am to 8pm) and we availed ourselves of the opportunity to sip a beverage and take in some of the most dramatic and moving sunsets to which we have ever been witness. There was not a color we could name that did not present itself as the sun slowly dropped into the sea and we couldn’t stop the oohs and aahs from escaping our gaping mouths.
The resort was also an easy walk to the main drag of the area and its street food options, massage opportunities, and vegetable and fruit vendors. You can even buy a bottle of gasoline from carts along the road. Tourists and locals mixed in a splash of colors, scooters, strangely-configured transports, and bicycles built for cargo crowded the road and the smells of the various kitchens assaulted the senses as we strolled the busy thoroughfare. A leisurely walk there becomes very cheap entertainment.
“Relax” is a small resort just up the beach a bit from where we were staying. The restaurant at the resort produced some of the best food we had on Koh Lanta, though we had to trim our desire for a second bottle of wine since the route back to our hotel involved a long, steep, uneven set of stairs. The wine deficiency was cured, however, back at Soontreeya’s bar where we were but a few steps from our room.
There is an interesting mode of transportation in use on Koh Lanta that we simply had to try. It consists of a motorscooter with a sidecar attached and we took a 15-minute ride in one in order to reach a beachside restaurant called Kwan’s Cookery. Diners at Kwan’s sit at heavy wooden tables surrounded by colorful lanterns, floating candles, and beach entertainers. The Thai cuisine takes full advantage of the bounty of the sea and, though still smarting a bit from our encounter with some Thai monarch’s revenge, we dove into Kwan’s menu and made an experience of it.
It was with some reluctance, then, that a few days after our arrival on Koh Lanta we climbed into the van that would do the drive-ferry-drive-ferry-drive back to the airport in Krabi and return to Bangkok. Conor, Sa and Kelly waved a warm good-bye as the van pulled away from the resort and we settled in for the trip.
(For the record, we received no discounts or any other consideration from any person, place or thing mentioned in this post.)