SOKI Travel - Gap Years for 50plus
We are Steve and Sarah, and thought it would be fun to share, for those of you in your fifties like us, our experience of feeling like you are gap year travelling, without the backpack, or being on a tight budget.
We are lucky enough to be able to take multiple, extended holidays yearly, to some great locations world-wide, including The Caribbean, Turkey, Portugal, Greece, Thailand, and more, spending our time relaxing on sun drenched beaches, eating local food, and searching out the best beach bars around.
We will start our on-line exploration with Thailand, and specifically the island of Koh Lanta.
Koh Lanta - Thailand
Idyllic and Charming
We discovered the Island Koh Lanta 5 years ago and fell in love with it and it's people and have visited every year since.
Koh Lanta is located just off the coast of Krabi and is only accessible by ferry, but well worth the little bit extra effort to get there. It has some amazingly beautiful beaches and scenery. During high season daily boat tours are run for you to explore the Andaman sea, Emerald cave and nearby Islands.
Where to Stay
There is an abundance of accommodation to suit all budgets on Koh Lanta.
A firm favourite of ours is Crown Lanta at the far end of Klong Dao beach. It offers a range of different room styles from villas with plunge pools plus fabulous views as well as swimup pool rooms and deluxe pool/sea view rooms along with less expensive standard ones. All nestled in an expanse of beautifully planted gardens and it's own small private beach.
The best way to explore the Island is on two wheels, by that I mean a moped or scooter. They are a cheap form of transport and allow you the freedom to go where you want whenever you want. The roads are generally not busy, wide and safe, just mind the potholes and the odd monkey.
Chasing that elusive glass of nice wine...
One of the problems for a wine lover in Thailand is finding a decent glass of wine.
Thailand imposes punitive taxes on alcoholic beverages, with taxes on imported wines being as high as 400%. This can make finding a good glass of wine rather difficult.
As a way around the high import taxes, grape juice and grape concentrate are imported and either fermented into wine locally, or mixed with other alcohol. It has also been suggested that inexpensive fruit juices can be blended with the imported grape juice, but the truth of this is unknown. Regardless, such wines are known as fruit wines.
Examples of fruit wines include Montclair, made with grape juice from the Montclair South-African winery, and Peter Vella, based on juice from the California E&J Gallo winery.
Any fruit wine should have the words 'fruit wine' stated on the back label, but is usually in extremely small print.
As a quick check, a blue tax label means the product is imported, and therefore real wine, while an orange label means that it is locally made, so imported grape juice that is then fermented, or has alcohol added.
Beaches, Bars & Eats
Klong Dao Beach
Klong Dao is the nearest beach to Ban Saladan the port of entry where you will arrive on the Island. It's a 3km wide horseshoe stretch of sand that curves round to almost meet Kaw Kwang Beach in the north. It is quite developed with many hotels, Bars and restaurants, but it never feels crowded.
Our recommendations for a beverage and a bite to eat on Klong Dao are the following, starting at the northern tip of the beach, heading south:
- Friendly Bar and Kaw Kwang Bistro right next to each other both offer good local food and some western dishes.
- A little further along is the Costa Lanta a good spot for a sunset happy hour drink.
- Veed Vew offers seating on the sand and inside in an attractive setting. A varied Thai and western menu all nicely presented. Our choice for a light lunch is soft shell crab and spicy papaya salad.
- Indian Bar has a spectacular nightly fire show around 8pm all choreographed to music. They do a good Mojito and chilled beer.
- Kola Bar owned by a friendly Aussie is worth a visit as it serves decent wine. In the evenings it specialises in Western style themed menus...steak night, rib night and pizza etc.
- Time for Lime is the famous restaurant and cooking school. Only open from 5:30pm. Here you can experience Thai/fusion tapas plates that change daily, plus some great signature cocktails and wine to enjoy at sunset. A bit more upmarket, hence more expensive, but proceeds help support Lanta Animal Welfare.
Pra Aa Beach
The next beach heading south is the aptly named Pra Aa (Long Beach), which is the longest white sandy beach on Koh Lanta, and about a 10 minute scooter ride from Ban Saladan. A very popular place with many bars and restaurants to enjoy.
- One of our favourite spots is Pangea which is roughly in the middle of Pra Aa. It is has a rustic setting, serves a tasty selection of Thai food and good cocktails, accompanied by chill out music. A cool place to watch the sunset
- At the South end is Fat Turtle, a more up market beach bar and restaurant with a great view, serving quality food and excellent wine
Relax Bay, situated at the end of Long Beach, is a pretty, small bay dotted with some accommodation and bars and definitely a pleasant spot to relax and swim. The bar at the small Lanta Casa Blanca hotel is particularly pleasant, and serves a nice glass of wine.
Klong Khong Beach
Klong Khong is roughly in the middle of the island and has a hippy vibe with an abundance of beach bars and eateries. It is a bit rocky in places, so not always easily accessible for swimming, but worth a visit to admire the view and have a refreshment, for which we recommend The Lighthouse or the Freedom Bar which are next to each other.
Klong Toab Beach
Klong Toab Beach is a very underdeveloped beach, with a rocky shoreline, used by local fisherman. It is a regular haunt of ours as we love Shanti Shanti Beach House which is on the roadside facing the sea. The owner chef specialises in north Thai cuisine using the freshest ingredients all beautifully presented. There is a daily specials board, freshly made shakes and cocktails, draught beer, a good imported wine selection including Processco by the glass!
Klong Nin Beach
Klong Nin beach is a popular sweeping sandy beach with a few rocky patches. Here you will find an assortment of bars and restaurants varying from basic to more upmarket.
Nui Beach further along the road from Klong Nin at the top of the hill is laid back and remote, hidden from the road by dense forest. It is accessible either through the forest or via steps from Diamond Cliff Restaurant, which is the place to stop for fabulous views of the bay below. It serves a good standard of food and a reasonable glass of wine. The fresh grilled squid with lime garlic and chilli sauce is particularly good.
Kantiang Bay is a very scenic sandy beach with a beautiful mountainous backdrop. It is regarded as one of Thailand's best beaches, hence the location of the 5 star Pimalai Resort.
At the north end of the bay close to the village is the Why Not Bar, a cool place for drinks only.
For a long lazy lunch in the shade of the trees with your feet in the sand or sunset drinks head to the southern end of the bay to Same Same But Different. They specialise in tasty Thai dishes and serve very decent wine.
Klong Jark Beach
Klong Jark Beach is a bit off the beaten track but the ideal beach to escape to somewhere peaceful, with a few rustic bars to get a drink and a bite to eat.
Bamboo Beach is the last beach prior to reaching the National Park. It's beautifully unspoilt with palm trees and crystal clear waters. A real paradise to enjoy some peace and relaxation. There is one beach bar serving drinks and snacks.
Koh Lanta National Park
Koh Lanta National Park is the next destination heading south to the tip of the Island. There is an entrance fee to the Park, however you can easily spend an hour or so being amused by the cheeky monkeys, walking to the pretty lighthouse and strolling along the beachfront. If you are feeling energetic and foot sure there is also a 2km nature trail to explore. An onsite cafe sells drinks, snacks and ice cream.
So many choices
One of the beautiful .
Lanta Old Town
Previously the main town and port of the Island it is a special place in our minds and we have visited many times.
The attraction is a picturesque village of old houses, shops, bars and restaurants, many on stilts with stunning views across the water to nearby Islands.
It's a great place to purchase some souvenirs, spices and crafts from the many shops and stalls.
For a really good coffee, or smoothie stop we recommend Old House. Followed by lunch at Apsara a family run small restaurant serving delicious fresh home cooked dishes.
Another favourite (at the far northern end of town) for a gorgeous glass of chilled wine and craft beer, food with french flair, plus excellent home made ice cream and sorbets, and with an awesome view, head to Shanti Old Town.
If you happen to be on the Island early March the Old Town hosts the Laanta Lanta Festival every year where people come together and setup stalls, selling an abundance of food, drink and every paraphernalia you could think of. Also various music and dance stages to keep you entertained.