A bumpy, sick-inducing van took us to Ko Lanta, an island at the end of the Krabi province.This is where we came to the conclusion that Thailand beaches are a hoax.
The van crossed the short stretch of ocean by ferry, while we all sat inside the air conditioned van and wondered why they didn’t just build a bridge. As the van dropped our fellow passengers off at their selected hotels and hostels, we were still in the van. We drove a long stretch down the coast to our accommodation, A&J Lanta, where we felt like we were the only ones on the planet who ventured this far south. The van dropped us off at the start of a dusty path and pointed vaguely ahead as he drove off quickly. We wandered down the path thinking the worst, when a trendily dressed woman ran out of her house and welcomed us. She knew who we were as we were the only ones arriving that day.
That afternoon we attempted a walk down the beach, but there was so much trash that it made for difficult going. Apparently the beach is only cleaned in busy season. The rest of the year it is left to fester. Usually in these environments the area would be conducive to feral dogs, but luckily their dog-management program is not tourist-dependent. The beach itself was very rocky where we were staying. It was picturesque, but no good for swimming. I can tell you, staring at the ocean in 30+ degree heat and not being able to swim is a special kind of torture.
The next day we hired bicycles (which were the same price as hiring motorbikes) and attempted to go for a bike around the island. The bike shop dropped the bikes off at our accommodation, so we set off late morning, after the heat had built to epic levels. I wrote “attempted to go around the island”, as I had only just reached the end of the dusty driveway when the rear derailleur had decided it had had quite enough of these antics and wrapped itself around my back wheel. I came to a screeching halt (much to my surprise) and only just avoided being thrown sideways into a pile of trash and rocks. As the back wheel was now fused to the frame of the bike, Ben carried my bike while I peddled his monstrosity of a bike back to our accommodations. We were then driven to the bike shop to switch my bike for one with dual rotating wheels.
My “new” bike was a thousand years old and was the model made just after the Fred Flintstone car was released. Despite this, we headed north towards the tip of the island. We had a little look around, stopped for a fizzy drink and then headed back towards home. Having been driven to the bike shop, we had no idea of the distance back to our home. At each beach we stopped and had a look around. Long Beach was definitely the nicest beach, with some questionable swimming opportunities. The trash problem persisted at each beach, leaving a dirty impression of the otherwise beautiful locations.
With our Thailand days coming to an end we realized we had not yet tried “a bucket”. This consists of a spirit (rum, whisky, vodka) mixed with fizzy drink and filled with ice, served in a bucket. We decided this was our chance and ordered a rum and coke bucket to share with our lunch. When it arrived it didn’t seem that big, but boy did it taste strong. We were nearly finished and feeling very relaxed when we asked the server how much alcohol was in it. “A bottle” he replied casually. In shock, we asked him to prove it and he promptly bought over an empty bottle of rum and promised us he had put the whole thing in. Let’s just say the ride back went surprisingly quickly and we giggled all the way home.
The next day, our final day in Ko Lanta and nearly our last day in Thailand, we booked a speed boat trip to the Phi Phi Islands. The purported highlight of the trip was to visit Maya Bay, where The Beach was filmed, followed by snorkelling, lunch and a visit to a couple of other islands in the area. The speed boat over to the Phi Phi Islands was very rough. One of the contributing factors to the low season is a large swell that rolls in, despite it still being warm and relatively dry. The boat rolled up and down for 45 minutes. Even though I had taken sea sickness pills I felt green around the gills.
By the time we reached Maya Bay I was more than ready to get off the boat. Unfortunately so were the million other tourists who arrived at the same time as us. The bay was beautiful, white sand, turquoise water and massive limestone cliffs all around. However, its beauty was sadly tarnished by the battalion-sized tourist army encamped on the narrow strip of sand. I had never seen so many people on a beach and I’ve been to South Beach, Miami. It seems the day Leonardo DiCaprio stepped on to the beach was the day it was doomed to be destroyed. I hated myself for being part of the problem.
Ben went for a swim in the bay and fought his way through armfuls of trash. Despite the trash there were still many people bathing in the water. If these people just came to New Zealand they would soon realize that this was not paradise. Although I’m sure Oscar the Grouch would be in his element. We soon left (there’s a limit to 30 minutes on the beach to ensure they can fit the maximum number of tourists in). Our next stop was a pretty good snorkeling spot, although I kept getting mouthfuls of water when trying to breathe through my snorkel underwater. It seems I have been conditioned to be a SCUBA diver.
Our whole time in Thailand we had been searching for a beach that would take our breath away, like those shown in the travel agent’s photos. We had seen some nice beaches, but they were either un-swimmable, filled with trash, filled with people, or the water just didn’t sparkle the way it does it should. We were beginning to think Thailand beaches were an elaborate internet hoax. At lunch we finally found the beach we had been waiting for. We arrived at Bamboo Island and it was perfect. There were few people around, the sand was so white it glowed, the water sparkled just right, and when we swam in the water it was glorious. There wasn’t a speck of trash around.
Bamboo Island: The Best Beach in Thailand
We spent a few hours lying in the sun, swimming in the water, repeat. Perhaps in high season all the beaches are like this one and then I would understand why Thailand beaches are so popular. However, until I come back in high season I will remain firm on my stance of the elaborate swindle (#Thailandbeachesareahoax, #Notmybeach, #goodoneleo), with this one exception; and with that, we were done in Thailand.
Click here for the next in the series.