Having boarded the plane and after a seamless flight to Phuket we were thrilled for a number of reasons. The main ones being that we were back in one of our favourite countries so far with the lovely locals and food that follows. And secondly, we were able to expand our travelling duo to a foursome, meeting up with our old flatmates and BFFs, Becca and Charlie!! 👭👬
While we were all travelling the world, an Australian wedding meant our old flatmates had taken the opposite route to us. Hoping to meet up, we have been in contact with them the whole time, counting down the months, weeks and days that we would be crossing paths in Thailand. Planning a number of activities with them (airbnbs, beaches, diving and full moon parties) we were super excited to see some friendly faces, swap travelling stories and have 2 1/2 weeks of holiday (or what feels like a holiday!).
Starting off, we headed to Krabi to try and catch a ferry to Koh Lanta; our first stop and where Becca and Charlie (aka Checca) were already waiting for us. Unfortunately, the online guide on how to get from Phuket Airport to Krabi town was less than clear. The only message we could consistently gather was to go to the information desk at the airport to try and arrange a cheap bus. Doing just this, we soon found the information may not have been so reliable, as the girls at the information desk seemed to know less than us about transport links and decided to send us to the domestic terminal to try and find someone with more knowledge. Making our way to the domestic terminal, we were met with many bus ticket sellers and taxi drivers who all made it pretty clear that no airport buses run to Krabi and a taxi is involved to get to the bus stop. Like all things in Asia, it’s always best to confirm this with someone who isn’t trying to sell you a taxi fare. However, on this occasion the second information check point confirmed we could either get a ridiculously expensive airport transfer to a bus terminal or take a cheaper taxi to a bus stop and just jump on the next bus that passes. Surprise surprise, we picked the cheaper option and were soon sitting in a random bus shelter waiting for a bus to pull alongside.
When the bus did arrive we were shocked to see that it was completely full except for 2 seats. Expecting the seats to be at the back we couldn’t believe our luck that they were right at the front. With comfy seats and a good view of the road we both settled in for a nice nap. But alas, our plans of a nice kip was soon scuppered by the realisation that our bus driver and conducter were big fans of Thai pop music; blaring it from the speakers at front (we realised why our seats at the front were left till last) and playing the cringe-worthy 80s style music videos on the huge screen, we soon found ourselves with nothing to do but watch endless music videos of couples breaking up and getting back together with as much drama and anguish as all our childhood bands put together. After 2 hours of mind numbing music, extremely dangerous driving and an overloaded bus, we were more than happy to hop off our ride in Krabi bus terminal. Finding a driver who needed to collect someone in town, we were able to get ourselves a discounted taxi rate to town. Since our journey had already involved a few transfers and a lot of walking around aimlessly, we decided to stay in Krabi that night and delay our reunion for another day. Rocking up at a recommended guest house in town, we ate, showered, booked a minivan to Koh Lanta for the next morning and finally collapsed in bed.
As you may have gathered by our previous blog posts, transport in south east Asia is far from seamless. While you have no idea if a bus is direct or will involve 5 changes, you also won’t know what time anything is going to arrive with everything being extremely late and time predictions vague at best. We were reminded of this unpredictability the next day when, having booked our bus to pick us up at 10am, we were told to get in the bus at 9.20 instead. Half way through packing our bags and getting dressed, we frantically pulled all our stuff together and climbed into the minivan apologising to the two Korean girls that had patiently sat and waited for us. Thankfully after the initial rush, our ride to Koh Lanta did not involve any transfers to other buses and we were soon on our way and catching ferries to the island.
With buses being the main for of transport in south east asia, you get used to the maniac driving of each driver with time and efficiency always being put ahead of passenger safety. Our driver to Koh Lanta was no exception and as he hurtled around bends, we commented on how strange it was that so many people die on Thai roads but you don’t see that many accidents. Much like a bad omen, we soon came across just that with the worst crash we’ve seen so far, shaking even our driver into a much safer, slower position on the road. Having just arrived in Koh Lanta, we realised all the cars were slowing down – which isn’t particularly odd – however they seemed to be swerving around random objects. Suddenly realising there had been a crash, we realised a motorbike had toppled, surrounded by the odd items everyone was trying to avoid, including flip flops lying next to the man who had come off. While everyone was milling around, directing cars out the way, and calling the police, no one was tending to the man in the road and as we drove closer it became clear that he was beyond help with the large amount of blood around his head making it clear why no one was attempting to help him, instead trying to keep the site clear until the police arrived. It was devastating to see how normal he had looked – just like all the locals popping down to the shops each day – and how upsetting that he hadn’t worn a helmet which could have easily saved his life. After being fielded past by some locals so as to not create a backlog, we realised our driver was suddenly slower, much more cautious, and even waited for long periods before crossing over lanes of traffic to turn right. While this is normal back home, it is literally unheard of in Thailand and made us realise just how shaken the driver must have also been, as well as ourselves. Dropping us off at our Andaleaf Bungalows, we were thankful to have arrived safely and in one piece with a stark reminder that it’s not always the case.
Thankfully, our first traumatic experience in Koh Lanta was also the last and while we were slightly more subdued when greeting Checca, we were soon hugging, laughing and catching up on all the things we had all been up to since we last saw each other.
Koh Lanta as an island is fairly small with the main attractions originating in the North near the bridge. We were just below this area of popularity which meant that the roads were quieter, the restaurants were cheaper (though still more expensive than mainlands) and our beaches were quiet (if slightly unkept). Just like the gentle flow of Lanta life, we spent our 3 days in Lanta chilling out in our bungalows – which were the nicest bungalows any of us had stayed in so far – with our private balconies, spaces rooms, massive comfy beds, and large, clean en suites. It seems that anytime one of us brought something up, a conversation would be triggered which would lead to hours of chatting and just enjoying each other’s company after so much time apart. Other than the bungalows (and endless chats) there wasn’t a lot else to do.
Having been spoilt by our beaches so far, we weren’t that impressed with ours and didn’t want to waste our time swimming in rocky seas or sunbathing while avoiding the debris that had washed up. Instead we found the Koh Lanta Animal Welfare Centre; a centre set up by a Danish woman who took in and cared for any cats and dogs that needed her help. The centre was small but had around 100 cats and dogs and is mainly powered by the volunteers and a cooking school the owner runs in order to generate more profit. Needless to say, we were all in love at first site. Not only are the volunteers genuine animals lovers with extremely kind hearts, but you can tell straight away that they provide quality care for all the animals. The animals themselves, despite being strays, were all extremely friendly with humans and loved the attention their new rescued life had given them.
The first time we visited the sanctuary we were asked to socialise with a large pack of dogs. Kept in packs, this helps the dogs bond with one another like they would in the wild and means they keep each other company. Since we were all experienced with dogs, they wanted us to play with a pack that had a boystrous teenager called Andreiz (who loved getting attention above all the other dogs) and a very shy dog called Sam who was the gentlest dog around but still very scared of humans and often needed her own space if she didn’t feel safe. Since we were all used to dogs, we agreed and went to meet our furry friends!
Alongside Andreiz and Sam, we also had Romeo (who has a heart shape on his side), Lola (a puppy who looked like a small, red Alsatian) and Sally (who was a very calm, gentle all black dog). The whole pack perked up when we went into their compound to see them and soon we were showering them all with lots of love and attention. Taking it in turns to pet Andreiz, we worked our way around the others only taking a break if Andreiz got jealous and sat in your lap for forced cuddles.
Sam was the sweetest dog I’ve ever met and enjoyed being friendly but was quick to freighten so would sometimes growl and we would leave her to retreat into one of her spots for some alone time. But soon enough, she would always come back and slowly began to trust us and enjoy the company.
Since each pack is kept in their own compound, more people arrived to socialise with other packs and take them for walks. As soon as this started to happy (and we saw the leads coming out), Andreiz was inconsolable that other dogs were being taken for a walk. Since Becca had managed to get Andreiz all worked up by playing with him (and he was now biting our shirts and tshirts) we thought it would be a good time to take our lot for a walk too. Asked to hold on tight to Andreiz (which somehow became my job!) and be very gentle with Sam (which very fittingly became Fitzs job), we went for a beautiful walk around the forest outside the sanctuary.
While we weren’t able to take them off the lead, all the dogs were beside themselves with joy and hopped, skipped and jumped everywhere they could in order to make the most of it. It was so nice to know that while we were all loving being with dogs again, we were also helping the sanctuary walk all the dogs they had and since t was low season decided to come back the next day and walk more dogs for them.
As soon as we had the dogs back in their compound, they all collapsed for nice long nap. Despite the fact that our walk had been short, and they hadn’t been taken off the lead, the heat from the mornings sun was so strong, the dogs got wiped out easily and we were glad we hadn’t taken them out for much longer. Giving everyone a cuddle goodbye (except for Sam who had crawled into her special hiding place) we had a quick tour of the sanctuary, met all the dogs. Completely in love with the place and the animals, we promised to come back the next day to say hello and help the volunteers walk the dogs.
📷 Cuddling Lola one last time
📷 Saying goodbye to our exhausted canine friends
On the walk home we all felt our hearts break a little, each having found our own special dog in the pack:
Ella: also Sam
With both myself and Chris having fallen in love with gentle Sam, it was so hard not to turn around and adopt her there and then! But we knew it wasn’t possible so simply assured ourselves that she would soon find her happy home. After a delicious dinner at Angels, we all settled into our bungalows for a good nights sleep, ready to get up early and walk the dogs before it got hot.
Getting up, dressed and out our rooms as quickly as possible, we made our way back to the animal sanctuary for more animal loving. As we were there early – and the dogs have morning routines – we took our time playing with the cats who were equally as adorable and very playful. With names like Sunset, Sushi, Sprite, Cashew, and Baghera, we were totally in love and couldn’t get enough of our feline friends.
📷 Cuddles for everyone
When volunteers started coming out the doors, they were thrilled to see some eager beavers waiting to take the dogs for a walk. This time we were given Ellie, Mojo, Willy and Arthur. Having already met Ellie the day before (she had the special spot that day of hanging out with the volunteers in their break room), we knew she was a very friendly, playful teenager who was often referred to as the volunteers favourites as she simply didn’t have a bad bone in her body. Her brother, Mojo, is in the same pack as her which is odd as normally siblings gang up on other dogs and throw off the packs balance. However, as testament to their good nature, Ellie and Mojo got along with their pack just fine and have been able to stay together since they were puppies. While they weren’t found together, it is clear that they are siblings as you’ve never seen two dogs more alike. The only thing telling them apart is Ellie’s patch over her eye. Originally, Mojo was found first by a volunteer who spotted the puppy in the pouring rain. Taking him in, they thought he was too good natured to be a stray so put up signs incase he was lost. However, no one came looking for him. Instead, someone brought another puppy who looked exactly like Mojo. Seemingly waiting for Mojo, Ellie was thankfully spotted and brought to the sanctuary to reunite with her brother.
And so we went on our second adventure with Ellie and Mojos pack. A much shorter walk (since the pathway we wanted to go down was locked) and a much hotter day meant that we were back to the sanctuary quickly, saying goodbye to the dogs so they could go rest in the shade.
Taking their cue, we also had a rest in the shade, playing with the cats once again. Once we had well and truely stayed too long, Becca bought a shirt (to donate to the cause), and we all trundle back to our bungalows well and truely on cloud nine. We were so exhausted that we all collapsed onto our beds, ready for a nice little power nap.
I woke up from my power nap with Fitz inches from my face, trying in the least gentle way to wake me up. Eye to eye, and talking to me at full volume, I was well and truly awake within seconds. What Fitz wasn’t expecting, however, was the meowing noise that kept interrupting him. Waking me up far more effectively than Fitz, I bolted upright to find a cat at the end of our bed. This very friendly cat was circling around our feet, seemingly desperate to some attention. We obliged and with very little excitement, the cat jumped up on our bed and started purring. Awake from his own nap, Charlie came and joined us to which commenced our next 30 minutes of cuddling and playing with our new found cat.
As if we hadn’t had enough cat time that day, our new found friend suddenly stopped playing with us and pricked its ears towards the garden. Quickly following suit, we looked down onto the path outside our bungalows and quickly located a much softer, higher meowing. A little kitten had was wondering down the path seemingly very hungry. Going and scooping it up we tentatively tried to introduce the two cats (hoping they were mother and daughter) but quickly found that while the older one would tolerate sharing the same space, she wouldn’t socialise 🙄. Slinking off in a grump, we were left with the kitten who was just as adorable as the first cat and seemed smitten with having humans to take care of her.
She stayed with us for hours and wanted nothing more than to walk the others play Poi, be given a lot of attention and to get a few saucers of milk (with which we obliged). Going off for a very cheap dinner around the corner, we were all extremely happy with our rather unexpectedly animal filled island experience and – considering the lack of other activities – felt we had spent our time in Koh Lanta rather well.
📷 Farewell Koh Lanta
Packing up for your journey to Koh Samui the next day we were all looking forward to getting into the eat coast, moving into our Airbnb with a pool and spending a week without travel, stress, or any kind of Noodles or rice – home cooked meals here we come!