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Friday, March 05, 2010

March 1, 2010-East of Lanta

We had sailed Wings around the south end of Lanta Island looking for shelter from strong NE winds on a dark afternoon in November ’09 so when we anchored off the Old Town on February 27 this year it was our second visit.

On that other occasion the whole mood of the place was gloomy and foreboding: it was late in the day and gusty and a nasty chop made crossing the shallows of Lanta Flats seem impossible. A lee behind Koh Po offered a place to drop the hook and that was as far as we got. We left the next morning without further exploration.

wingssail images-fredrick roswold
Saladan Stilt Buildings, Lanta Island

This time we arrived at noon on a calm sunny day with a carefully charted route and found it easy to across the flats and reach Talat Lanta where we anchored, glad to have finally achieved our goal of visiting Old Town.

I can’t say for sure what the draw was: no fellow cruisers recommended it to us or could even say they’d been here and there are no stunning beaches. It is not a snug anchorage and there are not even any resorts or tourist attractions. The guidebooks barely mention the place. But we did hear that the Old Town of Talat Lanta was “real”; an authentic Thai village with wooden buildings on stilts over the water and a local mix of Muslim, Buddhist, and Chinese culture still untouched by crowds of visitors. Add to it that is on a large protected body of water with miles of virgin shoreline, several potential anchorages which no-one we know has ever bothered to use and there are no other towns or villages…that’s enough to motivate us to come a bit out of our way and nose Wings into this place for a look see, even twice.

Now, two days later, I can say it was a good move; Talat Lanta is charming. We found friendly people and a quiet but festive mood in town with Chinese lanterns hanging from the eves of the buildings and food vendors set up shop on both sides of narrow lanes of small shops where we browsed with nothing particular in mind to buy.

On a rented motorbike we spent a day touring the rest of the island; zooming around empty roads with the wind blowing in our hair and stopping at every interesting spot. We had lunch at Saladan Town and watched the ferries come and go. We had a beer and looked at the view at the “Top of the Hill Bar” where we had to wake the Rastafarian bartender who was sleeping on a table. We got a haircuts and massages at some other out-of-the-way place along the way and generally whiled away the afternoon. Back at Old Town we had a nice meal on a restaurant on a pier and watched the moon rise over the anchored boats.

Lanta is a quaint and peaceful island but it is the natural surroundings which give it its true magic. Endless mangrove forests are backed by rolling hills carpeted in lush green jungle and nearby tall limestone islands with vertical cliffs rise straight up from the sea. At midnight under a full moon I sat on Wings’ deck and gazed 360 degrees around the horizon at distant islands and shorelines, all silent and dark. Other than Old Town few lights are on and there are no fishing boats on the water or aircraft overhead; no signs that humans have ever come here. It is almost like we were on a different planet or in another time.

wingssail images-fredrick roswold
Thunderhead over Lanta

Nature did provide spectacular displays in the night skies however; each afternoon thunderheads formed off to the east and by sundown they drifted toward Lanta and towered overhead. At nightfall they began to flash with lightning and the thunder rumbled for an hour or two. This show we watched nervously but the lightening storms spent themselves far aloft and did not get close to us.

It has just been Mother Nature reminding us who is in charge.

Tomorrow we will leave this place and I don’t know if we will ever come back but at least we got here once.

Click here to see more of Lanta.

Click here for more cloud shots.

Click here for more images from our sailing trip onward from Lanta.

Click here to see the log book pages of our sailing trips in March 2010

Fred & Judy, S/V Wings, East of Lanta, Thailand


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