What an awesome adventure of a bicycle trip did I have myself today! This being my first full day on Koh Lanta, I decided to spend it exploring the island. And though motorbike is pretty much the only method of transportation used here -- I haven't seen a single person, local or tourist, on a bicycle today -- I sought one out for myself as I believe the perspective form the bike is much different than the experience one gets on a faster moving motorized vehicle.
I am staying at the northern-most beach called Khlong Dao, and so the decision of which way to head was easy. For as long as I want to see beaches I gotta stay on the West side of the island, and heading South was the only option. The route, some 30km one way, was supposed to be relatively flat, though I anticipated some rocky headlands as otherwise the island's more than a dozen beaches would just be one very long stretch of sand. I figured, if I'm not up to the task, I can take a taxi back -- I did that in Koh Samui and was able to hitch a ride in a shared-taxi pickup, going over 20km for a price equivalent to $3. And so, my rusty mountain bike and I headed South to see how far the road takes us.
The ride, though conceptually similar to Koh Samui, was a very different experience. Even in the North of the island, which is more developed than areas further South, the vibe is very chill and living is simple. I've stopped at several beautiful beaches, some to swim, and some just to take in the scenery:
If the last picture looks like it was taken from a meaningful elevation, that's because it was. This was one of the headlands I had to climb, and signs like this one below were not uncommon. I was actually relieved to notice them, because they alleviated my concern that perhaps I wasn't just breezing through those because of lost fitness.
On my way, I had a couple of notable encounters. I saw monkeys in the trees on several occasions, this one was a male patrolling the road while his family was frolicking in the trees above. At a later point of the ride, when the sun was about to set, I was ambushed by another monkey who jumped out of the woods in front of me in the middle of one of those grueling climbs with a skill of an experienced hijacker. We had a brief standoff, with me hissing back at the monkey to make it retreat. I won.
At one of the windy steep descents, I came across an unexpected 'vehicle' I needed to get around -- local boys returning from town after running an errand. I would later meet these elephants again.
I rode my bike all the way down to the last beach of the island, Mai Pai Bay (Bamboo Beach). While all of Koh Lanta has the vibe of the Southern Pacific zone of Costa Rica, this most deserted beach, with the mountains of the national park as its backdrop, very much resembled my favorite hangout there, Uvita. The very last resort of the island, La Laanta, is adjacent to the national park and offers seclusion in a rather comfortable setting.
I had to backtrack a little bit to get to the Noon View Point, a place where I would watch the sun set over the water while having a cold beer and something to eat. On the way, I heard the trumping of elephants in an area not far from where I saw the two elephants earlier. So, I followed the sounds to the beach, to find several elephants in the ocean bathing, with tourists on their back. I couldn't miss this one! Apparently most tourists sign up for this trough various travel agents for a rather steep fee, however lucky for me, showing up on a bicycle from the opposite side of the island warrants a discount of some 65%. It was a really fun experience to ride an elephant without a 'saddle', and to have her submerge herself into the water with me on her back (for those concerned, there was a trainer either with me on the elephant, or right next to me, who was overseeing this).
I really like Koh Lanta, so much so that I decided to stay here a while rather than look for greener-yet pastures further South. I'm staying here until Dec 15.