Friday, March 20, 2009

Lazing in Lanta

And there I sat in the after light of the sunset contemplating. This will be my final holiday for now and shall be uncertainly long before I have the next. A package again I bought about a year ago during the Thai travel fair. Business was still rolling then and I had no troubles buying a break. Business is really bad this year and so at the fair just 2 weeks ago, I could only drool and dream. No more good relaxing holidays for me as there I sat concluding sadly.

Cha Da, located north east of Koh Lanta Yai is proclaimed to be one of the top 3 destinations on the island. This resort had two large pools visible form Google Earth. One of which I never dipped in lay further west near the beach, and the other made for rooms with pool access nested inland. There are a couple of different rooms offered but the highlight of this resort has to be the Gold Suite (having pool access). Having my own private waterfront meant a place to berth my whale of a body anytime I wanted when the heat got too extreme. Sitting on the steps half soaked enjoying a cold Heineken as the sun shone fiercely on the cool blue waters was exquisite. On one night the weather was hot, windless and humid. I stopped my copious flow of perspiration by sipping cold apple juice soaking in the same manner. Again, my thoughts if only everyday could be like that.

To get there, I got on the minivan service offered as part of the package. When the driver was asked on the travel time, he could only answer that it will take 1 hour to get to the pier. Beyond that, the timing was unpredictable. As no bridges links mainland to Koh Lanta Yai, we had to get on 2 vehicle ferry services across to Koh Lanata Noi and onto Koh Lanta Yai. If we had arrived during the peak season where both Thais and Farangs are a plenty during the New Year months, it could take as long as three hours just for queues. Since we will never know when chaos will set on the barges used for decades or we could never predict if there will be sudden mass human short term migration onto the island, he rather not speculate on the exact time it will take to get to Cha Da.

I had fish and chips on first arrival 3 in the afternoon after a 2 hours ride. It was large fishes swimming in sea of chips delivered. Definitely worth the 300 Baht it cost as the servings was made for that of the Farang. On some nights the restaurants offered buffet which was only satisfactory to the taste buds but very fair for the wallet. I would recommend for one to use the vouchers on the Ala Carte instead for the orders were generous in servings and the taste on a different level compared to mass cooked food. One advice I have on dining in Cha Da, bring your own mosquito repellent. On the first night, there was no breeze after a short rain. I had a hundred flying insects joining me for dinner sticking onto my sweaty arms and legs. On other nights, my legs were mosquito food in between sporadic occurrence of cool sea breezes. And the breakfasts were conveniently a buffet everyday and I had issues with their Dim Sums. The Siew Mai (Chinese meat dumplings) could be used as a ball replacement in a squash game and it could outlast the best squash ball ever made to last. The bacon was overdone tasting and having a texture like beef jerky. The rest of the spread were fine, I gave my thumbs 85% up on Cha Da food and 100% on the attentiveness and politeness of staffs.

Koh Lanta Yai is a very long island with about three large stretches of beach westwards for one to explore. This trip for me, no car rental. I am having a very bad economic crisis in my wallet and the GDP in my bank account is negative. So I spent my days only in the resort and the town called Sala Dan just a kilometer or two away. The sandy beaches front of Cha Da big and wide, the sand however not at all white. I was greeted by the color brown, to be stirred into a Milo shake as the sea broke the shore. The water ain’t clear on Lanata, it was definitely not Nai Harn of Phuket.

Though this ain’t no Phuket, the Farangs still flocked there in hordes, it was Swedish galore at Cha Da. I had no idea what’s with their country, but it seemed to me they are in a hurry to breed and over take the world. The Swedish occupation of Cha Da involved about 90% families with two to three screaming toddlers. The morning breakfast in the dining hall was more like a nursery gone wrong. Of the hundred or so occupancy, there were only three Thai clusters inclusive of me.

I turn my head to the east, I see screaming toddlers to my side,
I turn my head to the west, still the toddlers in sight,
So I turn my head to the north, want to purchase a pill called cyanide….

Just a joke about the cyanide thing… he he. Anyways, I asked the reception what’s with the Swedish spawning season. Was informed Cha Da had always been Swede occupied most of the time. There is a big agency in Sweden promoting the resort as a family destination with heaps of kiddy activities while the parents romance their time away. On everyday in the pool clad paradise, I saw different white rabbit or orange kola mascots entertaining the screaming sound machine toddlers so invasive to the chirps of birds and soothing sounds of breaking waves.

As I walked in the violet evening light in Sala Dan seeking out fresh seafood, Farangs, more Farangs and so many more Farangs. Strange it is how there exist hidden zoning factions in Thailand, like Bang Sean is mainly for Thais, but Pattaya will all be Farangs. Lanta? At least for the part I was in north west – Farang’s Zone.

To get around from Cha Da, there were “two rows” parked waiting front of the hotel. It cost 50 Baht per pax standard to get to the nearest town of Sala Dan. It cost only 40 Baht for Thais to get back.

And what breed of taxis were on Lanta? That of which was made of motorcycle with a passenger carrying rack woven together on a third wheel. Between clicks of gear change, the sun basked mid twenties driver told us about the upcoming Songkran, which will last only a day compared to Bangkok’s one week of wet t-shirts and wild fun. This is Muslim island he said, and Muslim not like wet and wild, Allah not like. The driver said he rents his service out for three hours at 300 Baht, one giant tank of water and maybe up to three Farangs. Around the towns he will go, as the Farang will play the Songkran.

And so I spent a 3 nights in Cha Da like any typical Asian, while the Farangs I knew from conversations heard had been there a whole 2 weeks and some even more. How you Farangs managed it I envy so much, as I believe yours will be a true holiday compared to the short Asian try-to-pack-everything-in-4-days style of travel. We Asians often end up more tired after a holiday then a working week. We don’t have the privilege of time-off-work on our hands like you do, we could only envy. However this trip round I lazed like you do (actually crisis in wallet) and I got to really rest my mind just waddling around the pool and doing nothing compared to how I would normally set off on exploration and cataloging the Island like the first man from the sea do. I had rested a plenty and am now back in Bangkok, my working holiday continues, the stress from bad business I am not immune.

These are the Emerald Suites, nothing much to them, no pool access.

Pool access rooms, otherwise known as Gold Suite.

I have heard of Crop Circles… but never heard of Crab Circles. The whole beach was just full of them.

A fat village cat in Sala Dan.

An island south of Koh Lanta I visited known as Koh Rok. Will blog about it soon.

Click here for full photo sets under Lazing in Lanta Mar 2009.

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