The palm leaves are rustling in the breeze, the sun peaks through cracks in the hut’s walls, and the masseuses chatter quietly here and there as I’m lost in who-knows-how-many minutes (hours?) of bliss. When my masseuse is done, I drearily open my eyes. She thanks me with a smile and a cup of purple morning glory tea. And just like that the rain begins to fall, as if someone flicked a switch, hard and intense, yet more peaceful than anything. She tells me to lay back and sleep until the rain stops if I’d like, so I do.
It was bittersweet to leave Chiang Mai. But the sea was calling and I thought my first trip to Thailand would be missing something if I didn’t bask in its turquoise waters and long, white sand beaches.
So, after a 10-hour layover in Bangkok, I went way down south to Krabi province and started with a few nights at Ao Nang.
To be honest, Ao Nang itself was kind of underwhelming and too touristy for me. But it was worth it to see the gorgeous surrounding scenery of towering limestone cliffs and clear waters full of long tail boats.
I stayed a 30-minute walk away from the beach. At first, I thought this was a bummer but it turned out to be plus because it meant I was away from the hoards and closer to the cheap and delicious local food. To further sweeten the deal, my AirBnb host was a gem and fellow Squamites Ryan and Sugi and their gang were also staying nearby, so I got to hitch rides on their scooters and check out their villa.
I met up with them for a day trip to Railay Beach via longtail boat, which was the highlight of this leg of the trip. Cliffs, stellar viewpoints, monkeys, caves, and penis shrines for fertility (look it up). It all had me feeling like an avatar lost in Jurassic Park.
Soon, I was on a ferry to Koh Lanta – an island known for being more chill than most in Thailand. And it lived up to its name.
On the first full day, I and two girls I met through the Girls Love Travel Facebook page, Sapeer and Anna, took scooters to explore the island with the help of my bungalow’s uber-chill bartender. That day truly captured the essence of Ko Lanta as we cruised the island’s less developed roads, breezing by stunning view after stunning view. We stopped at a nearly empty cove beach with perfectly blue water as the hours slipped by, basked in a lighthouse viewpoint, and enjoyed the sunset with fruit shakes and beer from a nearly secret seaside bar.
Despite still working while I’m here, the days have felt effortless. The rest of my time has been spent snorkeling through rainbows of fish, enjoying slow evenings watching the sunset or sipping beers, visiting the Ko Lanta Animal Welfare, finally renting my own scooter, scoping out and eating the most delicious spicy food, enjoying a beach massage, watching the odd rainstorm, and simply soaking up the sea.
Women in headscarves serve roti and fruit shakes along the fairly quiet pot-holed streets and Muslim prayers fill the air via loudspeaker a few times a day, giving the whole island a spiritual feeling. A peaceful, easy feeling.
Cue: The Eagles.
In a way, Ko Lanta has felt light years away from Chiang Mai’s faster-paced city life in the northern mountains. Perfect contrasts and compliments to one another.
Of course, it’s now time for another bittersweet departure of saying goodbye to people and places along the way. One goodbye always means another hello. This time, after a one-night layover back in Chiang Mai, it will be goodbye to Thailand. And then, “Hello, Hanoi”. Bring on the pho.