Our Thailand Rite of Passage

By: leelefever on April 27, 2006 - 1:38am

We had just stopped the moped at a food cart to get some phad thai before heading home when we sat by a friendly Frenchman for a bit.  He was on the tail end of a six month journey and had been in Thailand for a few weeks.  In fact he had been to Phuket and a beach in Krabi, much like us.  He said something simple that really struck me.  He said, with a slight French accent, “You know, I have been to some of zee other places in Thailand, but sometimes zey feel like Southern Europe. In zhose places, I don’t feel like I’m in Thailand at all. Ahh but Ko Lanta, Ko Lanta feels like Thailand

Looking back on our experience in Southern Thailand, I know what he means.  We’ve had a wonderful time and each place we go teaches us about what we’re really looking for in Thailand.  Like the Frenchman, we feel like we’ve reached a pinnacle in Ko Lanta and all the places before it were a sort of rite of passage for us. In fact, I honestly do not believe that we could appreciate Ko Lanta as we do without having gone to Phuket and Krabi first.

Don’t get me wrong, Phuket and Krabi are both absolutely beautiful places and there are gems to be found everywhere, like Baan Krating. However, what we’ve found is that we’d prefer a place that is not so developed with resorts and shopping malls. Railay Beach West was a good example.  It was a stretch of beach that had one resort on top of another.  It was almost impossible to get a feel for Railey Beach outside of how the resorts think you want to be treated.  As it turns out, we don’t need the high-end resort treatment.  It was busy, with kids running around, competition for beach chairs and higher-than-needed room rates.  We thought it was great at the time, and it was superb, but we now have the advantage of hindsight and can feel confident that we will not go back. As the Frenchman said, “I don’t feel like I’m in Thailand at all.” (Note: Railay does have an east side that is more laid back and popular among rock-climbers, but lacks a beach)

And so our rite of passage continues. Ko Lanta is not efficient, but efficiency isn’t the goal, it’s not spotless, but clean where it matters (like the water), the service isn’t great, but always comes with a smile, some of the roads are unpaved, but they go no where. You might feel like a stranger in a strange but endearing land in Ko Lanta, but it is, if nothing else, Thailand- and we’ll be back for more.

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