Upon arrival, Thailand was extremely different than I'd imagined it would be. Everywhere we'd been, except for Tonsai, had been so built up and geared towards tourists that it hardly felt like authentic Thailand at all.
While the white sand beaches and beautiful clear waters were just as I'd imagined, it was hard to feel like we were on an exotic adventure when so much was laid out for us in terms of tourist information, tour guides, and demanding tuk tuk drivers saying, "tuk tuk?", every time we walked by them.
We were on the hunt for something a little less crowded with tourists and a little more authentic to what Thailand would've been like before all the tourists discovered it's beautiful beaches and friendly people.
With the promise of a chilled out vibe, a ton of untouched beaches, and less tourists and traffic, we made our way to Koh Lanta with high hopes that it would be exactly what we were searching for. And it did not disappoint!
Any doubt of whether or not I liked Thailand came to a screaming halt the second our mini bus dropped us off in front of our hostel on Koh Lanta Yai, the larger and more popular of the two side by side Koh Lanta islands.
With smoother and less busy roads than anywhere else we'd been so far, we decided to rent mopeds as an easier and cheaper method of getting around the small island. Neither of us had ever driven mopeds before, but they were pretty easy to maneuver and we caught on pretty quickly. Driving on the far left side of the road, we spent three days driving our little mopeds around, exploring the beautiful and deserted beaches, as well as Old Town Lanta, a little piece of what Thailand used to be like that's stood still in time.
On our first morning driving, we saw a sign for a place called, "Atcha's Chai Cafe", and having grown such an attachment to Chai's Pyramid Cafe on Tonsai, we parked our bikes and wandered up the steps to a little open-walled cafe with cushions as seats and a bunch of friendly faces.
We ordered iced chai teas, sat down, and ended up talking to the owners, two Swedish girls, a guy from Holland, and an Australian couple for a couple of hours before hopping back on our bikes and exploring a bit more of the island. One of the best parts of travelling is being able to connect with so many different people from all around the world, and sitting there in that little cafe, talking to a bunch of strangers, turned temporary friends, was a really special moment of our trip. I had a little bit of a hard time meeting new people and feeling so connected to them through our conversations, only to say goodbye a couple of minutes or hours later, without an email, or even their names, to stay in touch. I guess that's what travelling is though- making connections with people, places, and things, only to say goodbye shortly after.
One of my favourite things about our time on Koh Lanta was that we made a pact to watch the sunset on the beach every night we were there, and I'm so glad we did. Up until that point, which was well over a week into our trip, we had yet to watch a sunset from the beach.
Right before sunset every night, we'd hop on our bikes and make the short ride to Long Beach, where we'd set down our things and play in the waves under the setting sun for an hour or so until it sank below the horizon.
Earlier in our trip, Madi had asked me whether or not I could see myself coming back to Thailand in the future. I told her maybe, because I really wanted to see more of the north, but that I'd probably steer clear of the south because it wasn't what I'd really expected. Koh Lanta completely changed my mind on my answer, and I have a feeling I'll be back to that lush little island before I know it!