Ban Ba Kan Tiang, Thailand
Jarvis Cocker had it right. Everybody hates a tourist. And no one more so than I.
After looking up some islands (Thailand has well over 300 to choose from) we decided Koh Lanta was a good next destination. It didn’t require abseiling from a helicopter to get on to it, nor was it across on the other coastline. Koh Lanta is a pair of islands connected by a shiny new bridge. Conveniently a vehicle ferry connects this conjoined pair to the mainland. Oddly the Lonely Planet mentioned “riding your motorbike” along the coast road of the southern island as a highlight of your visit. Sounds perfect. Did they know we were coming?
We should have known better. The ferry from the mainland shaped up very well. It was the first time we’d been on a boat with the bike and it was quite a scenic backdrop. We looked around for that rectangular metal thing that takes pictures and asked it nicely if it would like to work. No! No pictures for you! We waited for all the ferry traffic to leave on disembarking so that we could have a smooth run up the hill and sweep through the jungle before turning south for the bridge. It was only when we came down off the bridge we realised what we’d landed in. A massive tourist island, sprawling and hectic and filled to the cliff edges with fa-rang. It was like the bad parts of Phuket had escaped to have an even more hedonistic holiday by the beach.
It was ok though, we had anticipated some busy parts and planned to go to the far end of the island. Not many people could be bothered to go down there. Hmmmm, another oversight? There were pink-tinged fa-rang EVERYWHERE; alone on scooters, in couples on scooters, in convoy on scooters, riding tentatively, riding like locals, trying to ride like locals. It was fucking mayhem. We’d just come from a mostly deserted beach without any real vehicular traffic and now it was on, like donkey kong. Just keeping 25 km/h involved jostling and defending your road space with stares and regular usage of the mega horn.
Eventually we found a place to stay that seemed pretty nice. A beach hut with a little verandah from which we could survey the beach and sea. As we unpacked the bike and changed into our swimmers, the grey mass of sky came over the hills behind us and unleashed the rain again. There is nothing better than swimming in the rain as you can’t get much more wet. The huge droplets churned the surface from the shore all the way out to the moored catamarans as we cooled off in the shallows. The hills rumbled as the thunder rolled nearby. And nearer it came. Bobbing in the small waves we watched the lightning strike the buildings by the beach, instantaneously followed by the crack of thunder. With nothing protruding from the water surface except our heads and a yacht mast a 100 metres away, was this the best place to be in an electrical storm? Nickiy thought not. I wasn’t sure. So we took shelter in a highly flammable bamboo hut instead.
The best part about our hut was that we could enjoy all the local entertainment without leaving our bed. After a few days of listening to midnight acoustic singalongs at the adjacent beach bar and paying twice the price for everything, we tired of the Koh Lanta scene and made a run for Krabi town, just up the coast.