Oh Koh Lanta! One of Thailand's Most Mysterious Islands- Part One
Updated: Dec 20, 2022
Koh Lanta is located about 85 kilometers south of Krabi, just south of the Andaman Coast. There are 2 main ways to get to this tropical island. One is to take a ferry from neighboring destinations or by vehicle. You can fly to the Krabi airport and rent a car or hire a driver if you want the most direct route from Bangkok.
I was traveling to Koh Lanta from Koh Yao Noi, so I took a ferry to Ao Nang and then rented a driver to take me to Koh Lanta. The cost of the ferry was less than 10 US dollars and the driver was about 40 USD.
Honestly, I was a little confused about how my driver was going to drive me to an island and was hoping there was a bridge like when you drive to Phuket from mainland Thailand. Nope! There was a car ferry from Hua Hin Pier to Koh Lanta. This is not a fast journey, but with limited regular ferries running in Thailand due to Covid, it seemed like the best option.
My entry to Koh Lanta was probably one of my most challenging arrivals in the 4 months I traveled solo through Thailand. My driver was super hospitable but did not speak a lick of English.
I had booked my accommodations through Agoda who had not let me down yet. I showed my driver the name and address of the hotel and somehow ended up at a place with a few shacks in the jungle. I tried my best to explain the place was on the beach and shared a map with him. He seemed to understand and brought me to the Lanta Palm Beach Resort, which was very abandoned.
Trying not to panic, I noticed a nearby scuba school called Palm Beach Divers and went in to ask for help. I met the most lovely human, Iwona, who was from Poland and owned the scuba school with her husband, Wlodek. These amazing people would be some of my lifelines on Koh Lanta.
Iwona informed me that the resort I had booked had not been re-opened since Covid, but there was a sister resort nearby. She called the resort and my driver dropped me off at the front desk.
Koh Lanta's indigenous population is said to be about 80% Muslim, which I realized before arrival. The lady at the front desk at the resort was dressed head to toe in a berka and I quickly realized this was a Muslim-owned hotel. I have nothing against Islam or any religion for that matter, but I like to socialize and drink alcohol and this place was not the vibe I wanted for the next week.
The woman apologized for the confusion about the other resort and showed me to my room. I told her this was not in any way similar to the resort I booked on Agoda. It was nowhere near the beach, there was no restaurant or bar and there were about 100 screaming kids in the small pool outside my door. She continued to apologize and said she would move me into the best room the next day and bring me breakfast every morning if I would stay.
I barely slept that night wondering how I could handle the situation gracefully. I knew for sure that I did not want to stay at this accommodation, but I wasn't sure what to do to not offend the owners and get them in trouble with Agoda.
The next morning I packed my bags and went and talked to the woman at the front desk. I explained that I was checking out and that she could either refund me the money that I paid on Agoda or I would have to make a complaint against her hotel.
The woman called the big boss who was a Muslim male and we negotiated a deal. They would give me cash for the amount I paid on Agoda as long as I didn't report them. My caveat was that they had to take down the listing from Agoda immediately so no other solo traveler would have to go through the same ordeal I did to arrive at a resort that was abandoned.
It was all a huge hassle but in hindsight a good learning experience. Oh, the joys of solo travel and having to figure out hard situations on your own.