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Ko Lanta

May 1, 2012

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When an accident causes a traffic jam in America, everyone gets mad at the rubberneckers slowing down the operation. Thailand takes this phenomenon a bit further.

On the road from Trang to Lanta Island (Ko Lanta), we passed by the recent remnants of a horrific head on collision. One car was smoldering, the fire department working to put it out. The windshield was completely gone, as was most of the front end of the car. There were a lot of random people out on the road, walking around, and the driver of my van spoke to one of these people. As I was riding shotgun, the driver turned to me. “Die,” he said, pulling his finger over his throat.

A policeman told my driver to move on, and he did, but then parked a little ways down the road and got out of the van, joining the swarms of people hovering around the wreck. The packed van waited for 20 minutes or so while the driver hung out at the accident site. I could have gotten out for a better look as well, but I didn’t. I don’t know if it was out of respect for the dead or just not wanting a closer look at the carnage, but I stayed in my seat.

Thai drivers are nuts, of course. I was introduced to this fact as soon as I got to Bangkok for the first time a few years back, and cars on a three-lane freeway were driving five abreast, not counting motorcycles. Roads have shoulders and passing lanes and no-pass zones and speed limits and helmet laws and everything else you may expect in, say, Denmark, but drivers are, again, nuts.

This was an important thing for me to keep in mind on the way to Ko Lanta, as I was only going there for one reason. I was going to learn to ride a scooter. I’ve only done so once, 4 years ago in Malaysia, and I rode it about as well as a drunken penguin, crashing it twice. Ko Lanta was an ideal place to learn. It’s a large island, with long, flat roads. Plus, it was the off-season there, so traffic would be minimal. Ultimately, I had no trouble with the bike, and returned it after circumnavigating the island without incident.

Ko Lanta was, as advertised, dead. The high season ended last week, so hotels, boats, vans, scooters, everything but food and beer came at a discount, and if one is looking for a private expanse of beach, it’s there for the taking. The down side was that there wasn’t much in the way of socializing. Not only did I eat every meal alone, I did so in completely empty restaurants. Every bar along the beach that I was staying on closed at 8 p.m. or so, and they probably could have closed earlier. Only one beach bar was happening at all, Freedom Bar, where I met a cool little group that was at the bar both nights I was in town. Thus, I had the exciting opportunity to lose in pool to a British girl, a Dutch kid, and several Thai dudes.

Lanta, of course, is quite beautiful. Check it out.

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Going to Ko Lanta requires rides on two different ferries. The sea passages were no wider than rivers though, so I don’t know why there was no bridge. Maybe it keeps Lanta more tranquil.

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My first glimpse of the Andaman Sea. Part of the Indian Ocean. Woot! Then I looked at a map, and discovered that this isn’t the Andaman Sea at all, it’s just the Strait of Malacca, the connector between the Indian and Pacific Oceans. Way less exotic. Oh well.

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My sweet ride. This was at the Muslim Market about two and a half minutes from my hotel. It was a pretty white-knuckled ride getting there, but I got better.

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Boom.

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One more time.

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This is Old Lanta town, on the opposite side of the island from where I stayed. Sea Gypsies live there. Srsly.

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This is the view from the Viewpoint restaurant. I took a bunch of pictures there, but they didn’t end up being very interesting. If you happen to go to Lanta, I can assure you, despite this dull pic, that the Viewpoint is worth checking out and has a hell of a view.

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There were a lot of dogs on the beach. My hotel seemed to be the dividing line between two rival packs. Two or three dogs from each pack would head toward my hotel, scope each other out, bark, then retreat.

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More beach dogs.

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A lot of them were puppies, and they seemed to belong to the hotel next door.

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Here’s the hotel I was at. Nice, but dead. Kinda like Ko Lanta.

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