10 days into family life on Ko Lanta: What’s the reality like?
The Journey: London >> Ko Lanta
‘It’s a pretty sophisticated system and it’s saying that it can’t check your bags all the way through to your final destination for some reason. It’s not saying why. I’m sorry’
I’m sorry, computer is saying no to all our kit going beyond Bangkok?
Well this was a problem. We’d just spent two manic weeks de-cluttering five years of family home-accumulating life (during which we’d gained three children and a lot of baggage). We had packed carefully for our nine month adventure where (we thought) every item was ‘essential’ and within the regulations. However, we were told we were ‘overweight’, at least for the second leg of the journey.
What this meant in reality was that we’d have go through immigration on arrival bleary eyed in Bangkok, pick-up all our bags (16!) and wheel our lives up to departures to re-check-in and go back through security in two and a half hours.
Normally that wouldn’t bother me. If you go on on big trips you expect bumps along the way. But this time, for us at least, it was different. This time we had our three precious items of carry-on baggage: Isla, Mali & Jack. By this stage they would have spent 11 hours in the cabin (not the overhead ones) and changed time-zones; we suspected they wouldn’t be as co-operative or excited as when we’d left home (whenever that was).
We hit the runway in Thailand. Piled off the plane, and ‘ran’ through the airport already sweating more than we had for the whole of the hottest British summer, ever. It felt like I was in an exotic version of a Richard Curtis film, only much less romantic.
We joined the ‘family’ queue at immigration which was moving slower than a family of sloths on holiday. Finally, passports stamped, we spilled out into the baggage hall which seemed to be the length of Thailand itself. Our ‘oversized’ baggage needed to be collected from Z2, we were at A2. Great. ‘Daddy, I’m coming’, Isla shouted as I ran down the hall. Now on my shoulders, Isla and I were side-stepping luggage, backpackers, families, everyone in our path.
Up on level 4, Bangkok Airways kindly checked-in all our bags and, with a few more moving walkways negotiated, we were soon on our way to Krabi in Southern Thailand. A couple of hours later and our mini van was driving up the ramp onto the short ferry crossing to Ko Lanta. We’d made it!
The First Week
We found a great base for the first week at The Escape Cabins, where we could unpack (a little) and jump in the pool. Having arrived in the early evening we optimistically thought we might even beat the jetlag with a quick round of milk and off to bed. Wrong. By 1am all three children were wide eyed and hungry. A midnight feast/snack-a-thon ensued. Tomorrow was going to hurt.
The tail end of rainy season, or the ‘green season’ as they say here, welcomed us the following morning with a shower so heavy it felt like there may have been a leak in heaven’s plumbing. The skies soon cleared we headed out of the air-conditioned safety of our apartment and into the tropical heat.
To the beach!
You’re never far from the sand on Ko Lanta. The kids ran to the sea like they’d crossed a continent on their own little feet to get there. At this point it felt like a long way to come for a holiday but we did our best to pretend it was — sipping coconuts, watching the sunset, chasing gecko’s, riding tuk-tuks with our favourite Disney characters embossed on their seats, jumping in any pool we passed and generally trying to all stay friends through the tiredness and new waves of sensory overload. A new cultural and climate immersion is an intense experience for an adult, never mind a one year old who usually buzzes off seeing a pigeon in the garden.
First impressions of Ko Lanta is that it’s busier, more developed and more interesting than I expected. There are still wilder, quieter spots but if this is low season and Lanta is one of the quieter islands then Phuket and beyond must be intense.
Island Life Checklist
We took each day at a time to try and tick things off:
What to eat? Fried rice, Pad Thai, Massaman shrimp curry. Delicious. And for the children? Not much quality dairy so the staples of organic milk, yoghurts, and cheese have to take a break. Can we really give them pasta and veggie sauce with a side of dragon fruit, twice a day, everyday? Whatever it takes!
New school? Five days after arriving we took Isla & Mali to Global Village School which was setup up with the philosophy of:
“It Takes a Global Village to Raise a Global Citizen”
The staff, students and parents of the school have been wonderfully welcoming and we’re very grateful the children can attend.
New home? Finding a longer-term basecamp on Ko Lanta has taken more energy and funds than we thought. Peak season (December-March) really does mean there’s very little family accommodation beyond a week at a time. But with some help from the friendly people of Lanta we’ve found a wonderful ‘Balinese’ style villa, up the hill out of the tsunami zone so my wife can sleep better.
New wheels? After 5 days of tuktuk-ing we rented a car and decided we liked it so much we negotiated with the owner — Yak, a used-car salesman of the finest calibre—until we were able to get a deal. We now have a safe, cool (aircon not style) mode of transportation for getting around the island.
New office? Today has been my first full day at Kohub, a ‘tropical coworking’ home setup here a few years ago. It’s a fantastic open space and community and the wifi speed is almost as good as the vegan lunches.
The best bits so far? The children’s reactions to things.
Isla’s constant curiosity has included, amongst many other questions: ‘But I can’t see any Gods?’ whilst looking at a shrine with fizzy drink offerings.
Mali is winning over everyone with her sassiness and smiles. The snails, geckos, frog jungle calls, and giant lizard (that we saw on our Sunday island drive) have her bouncing with glee.
Jack is literally turning into a monkey — eats 5 bananas a day and climbs everything, which brings us to…
The hardest bits so far? The children’s reactions to things.
Jack climbs everything, which is good if you’re in a soft play in Berkshire but not when you’re on a ledge over-looking a pool, a pot hole or a roof terrace.
Getting them into a routine again is hard. We’re trying to stay relaxed but have only really managed about two out of ten nights of decent sleep. Isla has had an ear infection (long flight plus lots of swimming) which has been painful for her and meant she’s missed quite a lot of the first week of school (and therefore not given her Mum much relief). Mali’s behaviour has been erratic, more tantrums than normal and doesn’t seem to be able to listen to us. Jack, after 3 days of sweating and not eating, is coping much better, despite his cot being in our bathroom as that was the best way to create a ‘third bedroom’.
So now its about getting into routines, connecting more with the local culture and having as many mini-adventures as we can muster.
And after school and work we get to go to the beach.
We can always go to the beach :)
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