After a full on, but fun week in Singapore, we flew to Krabi (with Scoot Air – a name which somehow doesn’t convey a great deal of assurance, although admittedly we had no problems!) and over to Ko Lanta island, for a week of relaxation in the Thai sunshine.
The transfer from Krabi aiport to our accommodation in Ko Lanta was an adventure in its own right and brilliant fun to boot (booked with Amazing Lanta). We were picked up by a private mini bus and driven about an hour to a small jetty in the middle of nowhere.
After only a five minute wait, we heard the roar of an approaching engine; the sound of the next part of our voyage – a ten minute trip across to Ko Lanta Yai on an extremely powerful speedboat. The kids were thrilled by this method of travel, with the sun beating down and the wind whipping through their hair, as we whizzed along the glorious coastline.
We landed in Saladan, on the north of the island, and tied up to one of the stilt houses for our next transfer. At this point, I was slightly regretting and MrJ was openly berating me for the large amount of suitcases we’d brought with us, as the men struggled to carry them up the rickety staircase. Perhaps a lesson in how to pack lightly might be in order prior to our next trip!
The final leg of the journey was a real eye opener for the children, as they took in the beauty and colour of the island and all its people from the open backed minibus. They had great fun spotting just how many people it was possible to squeeze onto one motorbike – six was the record, a whole family squished onto one small bike – and we saw another balancing a small shed on the back, as it wove precariously along the road!
After the long journey, we were relieved to arrive to the tranquility of the heavenly Baan Kantiang See villas, our home for the next week. We felt extremely blessed to find this superb accommodation, with its spacious two bedroom villas, each with its own private bathroom and outdoor shower, along with a fully stocked kitchen, living area and spacious outdoor terrace, where we spent most of our time, when not in the stunning pool. The kids loved the abundant geckos, small and large, and the troupe of monkeys which regularly visited the villas. We were careful not to leave anything out on the terrace though as some other guests had things stolen by the monkeys; one took a lady’s bikini and yet another was spotted on the roof of a villa tucking into a pot noodle he’d pilfered from someone’s kitchen! The children were constantly amused by the antics of these cheeky monkeys!
The villas were located in the tsunami evacuation area at the top of a steep hill, which provided dazzling views across the bay, but did mean a relatively hard descent/climb to get to/from the nearby village of Kantiang Bay. This was no problem though, as the villas run a shuttle service down to the bay twice a day, three of the best restaurants provided a free taxi service to and from their eateries and to be honest, it was a nice walk, provided it wasn’t completed during the hottest part of the day! And if you were feeling lazy, grabbing a tuk tuk from the village to run you up the hill wouldn’t be too costly.
The pool was shared amongst the eight villas, although only four of these villas were occupied during our stay, and it had the added bonus of providing an opportunity for the children to make some new friends. We were fortunate enough to bump into a lovely British family travelling the world with their two boys (6 & 8), along with a friendly Australian family with their 8 year old son. The five children made firm friends within a short space of meeting each other and spent many a happy hour playing together in this gorgeous pool.
A believed lack of opportunity to socialise is one of the prime reasons people give for not wanting to home educate their children, and yet, I would strongly agrue that it is in fact, one of the major advantages of both home educating and world schooling. Since leaving the school environment, I’ve watched our children’s confidence in mixing with people of all ages grow significantly. They have key, long term friendships with home educators where we live, but in addition to this, they’re completely comfortable making friends wherever we go. I think this is partly because they’re constantly thrown into new and unfamiliar situations as we attend various science and history workshops or travel to new locations around the world, where they often don’t know a soul. They learn to make friends quickly. They don’t mix with the same 29 children day in day out; instead they socialise in the real world, with adults, children, babies and teens alike, from a huge variety of backgrounds and, in the case of travelling, cultures. Bean8 made 15 friends throughout our trip, some fleeting, others were deeper friendships, with addresses swapped and penpal commitments promised!
After the fast pace of our Singapore visit, things slowed down considerably on this beautiful island. We spent a large part of our time reading, relaxing around the villa, swimming in the pool, chatting to our new friends, wandering around the village (marvelling at the petrol sold in glass bottles at the side of the road… um not remotely dangerous!) and unwinding on the deserted golden sands of the beautiful Kantiang Bay.
Whenever we’re on holiday MrJ, our resident maths phile, loves to get them excited about doing maths by setting them puzzles on the courtyard. I never leave for the airport without some outdoor chalk packed in our bags, and alongside the enthusiasm of a maths fanatic, number problems have been completed on courtyards around the world! He worked on geometry with Bean8 and challenged her to come up with a method for constructing Pythagorean triples (right angled triangles with integer length sides). Together they developed their own solution and he then introduced her to another solution invented by a 17th century monk! To be honest, he then had to slowly talk me through what they’d done as it all went a little too fast for me…. He drew a 12×12 grid for Bean7 to practise his multiplication tables and then highlighted numbers that occurred most frequently and helped him understand why, based on the number of their prime factors. They love this 1:1 time with their Daddy and his enthusiasm is infectious; it’s hard not to get excited along with him!
The main focus of our days was often which restaurant to try out for dinner that evening! And then, which of the luscious fresh fruit smoothies to try next (coconut and watermelon were definitely the best)! We never had a bad meal in Thailand; all the food was delicious. There were a great selection of excellent restaurants in and near Kantiang Bay, some set into the cliffside with views out over the sea – perfect for watching the glorious sunsets – and some on the beach – there’s nothing better than the feeling of sand between your feet as you share a tasty candle lit meal with your family, whilst live music plays in the background. And then chatting just the two of you with a thirst quenching ice cold beer, while the children run around the beach with their newly formed friends. All followed by the nightly fireshow, always a big hit with everyone!
The Four Island Tour
One of the activites we had to do whilst in Thailand was a snorkelling excursion; a chance for them to see a coral reef and the tropical fish they’d been learning about prior to our holiday. We opted for the Four Island Tour; a trip to four of the nearby islands, for snorkelling, swimming and cave discovering! This was a fantastic day out, but in truth I was saddened by the state of the coral reefs: bleached and colourless. There were however many beautiful tropical fish for the children to swim with, but Bean7 took one look at the reef, popped his head out and said, “Mummy, I thought it would be so much more colourful than this!”
So here I have learned a lesson about not overpromising. They first mastered snorkelling in Sardinia and Bean7 claimed it to be the best day of his life! Given that he only saw about three fish, I was thrilled at the opportunity to show him the beauty of a coral reef. I waxed lyrical about my experiences diving on the reefs of Hoga, off Sulawesi in Indonesia, where the reefs are pristine and breathtakingly beautiful. We talked about diving with manta rays, sea snakes and turtles and they watched the stunning Blue Planet series. In truth, expectations had been set too high. Nevertheless, it was an important and impactful lesson about how coral polyps expel algae living inside their tissues, as a result of rising sea temperatures caused by global warming, leading to the bleaching effect. Some of these corals may recover, but some will die. There’s nothing like a hands on experience to make these issues a reality for the children.
On a more positive note, Bean8 adored her snorkelling experience. She was totally focussed, spotting and identifying all the fish and corals she’d spent time memorising in the Singapore Aquarium. Little squeals of joy and shouts of “Look mummy, look!” sounded regularly through her snorkel and she was the last one back to the boat, eeking out every last minute of this amazing encounter.
On a practical note, we brought along the children’s wetsuits, booties, fins and these brilliant new masks with us on the trip. I felt like a bit of a banana when I first lugged all this kit onto the boat and looked around at all the other passengers with their bikinis and tiny day bags. The embarrassment level increased when the kids started pulling on their wetsuits in the 35 degree heat. But I don’t regret it for a second. The currents were really quite strong on one of the snorkelling stops and I was having to swim quite hard just to stay in the same place, but the kids were fine with the added propulsion of their fins. I was stung a few times by small jellyfish in the water; nothing serious, only a minor irritation, but I suspect it might have been a much bigger deal for Bean7. As it was, he was completely protected by his wetsuit.
After all that snorkelling, we were starving and ready for a delicious lunch served on the beach of yet another picture postcard island, and a swim in the clear turquoise seas. The final island though was my favourite part of the day. I’ll admit to feeling slightly nervous when we were told we’d need to swim 80m through a dark tunnel to reach the Emerald Cave. Oh, and the tide was coming in, so we’d need to get in and out in about 20minutes…. No pressure then! The children weren’t remotely concerned though, so we slipped on our lifejackets, jumped in and set off for the tunnel. My fear reduced somewhat when I saw a lady from another group pushing her baby towards the tunnel in a little rubber ring…
We headed through the small opening, taking care not to bang our heads and swam (rather quickly I might add!) through the long and seriously pitch black tunnel. It was all worth it though as the tunnel opened out to the most magical hidden cave, with its own beach, hanging vines and towering cliff faces with rainforest flora and fauna hanging to its sides. It was like Famous Five goes tropical; a really special experience and one I’ll never forget. Bean8 has decided to include it as a setting for part of the book she’s currently writing. Sadly I don’t have any photos as I wasn’t sure I could trust that the black plastic sack brought along by one of the guides would be completely waterproof. After a short stop to admire this enchanting spot, we swam safely back through the tunnel (the baby made it too) and back onto the boat.
On the way home, we stopped to look at a whole colony of bats clinging to the side of the limestone karst jutting out of the azure sea. A perfect end to an exhausting but wonderful day.
The Island Tour
After a few days of relaxation following the snorkelling excursion, I started to get restless and keen to explore the island, so we hired a car and set off for a day of discovery. First on the agenda was a visit to the Mu Ko Lanta National Marine Park. The park actually encompasses several islands covering 134 square kilometres, but we focussed on the land based sections on our island.
Starting off with a walk to the southern most tip of the island past the old lighthouse, we admired the beautiful views and on our return, spent quite some time investigating the amazing rock formations along with the fauna in the neighbouring rock pools. Our science topic this year has been Earth Science as Bean7 has a fascination with rocks, so he was thrilled to look at the interesting rock formations and distinct layers of sedimentary rocks in the cliff face.
They both squealed with delight as they spotted a proliferation of mudskippers in the rock pools. It turns out they both know a lot of information about mudskippers, far more than I do (which to be fair is not a great deal!). Apparently they make an appearance in the Deadly 60 series and Bean8 had written about them in her Thailand lapbook. They were delighted to see them in the wild and spent a long time examining their habits.
And then we noticed all the sea cucumbers, and Bean7 and I were lucky enough to spot a monitor lizard run back to its cave with a fish hanging from its mouth.
After finally dragging ourselves away from the rock pools, we meandered alongside the beautiful white sand beach, observed the play of a family of crab eating macaques, and completed part of the 2km trail into the forest. We decided to turn back after a while though and save our energy for the hike to the Klong Jark Waterfall, given the high 38 degree heat of the day.
Despite the heat and humidity, I loved the trek through the rainforest to the Klong Jark Waterfall. The waterfall itself was pretty unremarkable (more of a trickle to be honest…), but it was a wonderful for the children to be able to experience walking through a jungle with its exotic sounds, sights and smells. Bean7 has a keen eye and spotted many small, and well camouflaged lizards and we all got a fright when we heard an enormous crashing followed by a splash as what looked like a crocodile swam towards us across the river. We realised it was only a water monitor lizard, but it was really quite large, so we agreed that speeding up our walking at this point would be a good plan (hence the lack of photo of this magnificent animal)!
The caves were also fun for them to explore.
The only sad part of our visit was seeing the elephants, these majestic beasts, chained up by the side of the track in the bright sunshine. Bean8 was extremely distraught by this (they’re her favourite animal) and she’s vowed to make people aware of their plight. I would encourage anyone visiting this island not to do the elephant trekking excursions. All the animals used for these excursions were prevented from escaping by a chain only 1m in length. It was more than heartbreaking.
Our last point of call for the day was to Old Town for a late lunch and a wander around this pretty town.
This was our favourite day on the island, rounded off with dinner and relaxing on the beach.
Our time to say goodbye to this island came far too soon. We’ll certainly be back one day and I would highly recommend this location to anyone as a holiday destination. Without a shadow of a doubt it was our favourite family holiday.