After my huge failed attempt at a relaxing for a few days on Koh Phi Phi, Heather and I were making our way to Koh Lanta, where I hoped to have a little more luck.
I wasn't off to the greatest of starts, thanks to my horrendous hangover and the pain from my ripped ear making me want to throw up over the edge of the boat, but I was optimistic for the days ahead. Koh Lanta is home to the Lanta Animal Welfare Centre, where anybody is free to visit and help walk the dogs. There are a million and one incredible sights to see around the world, but somehow, nothing ever really excites me as much as hanging out with animals.
We checked into a little hippy beachside hostel, which consisted of a number of rickety bamboo huts, lots of Jimi Hendrix artwork and what felt like half of Thailand's entire population of mosquitoes. I literally had to climb over Heather's bed to get to my own, so there wasn't exactly room to chill out in our hut, and we ended up in a weird treetop bar across the road listening to a random live covers band until a storm came out of nowhere and rained us off. I was slightly skeptical that the huts would keep the rain out, but miraculously, everything was dry when we got back!
I woke up the next morning with approximately six thousand mosquito bites. There was a mosquito net on my bed, but obviously the night before I must have somehow invited the entire cast of 'A Bug's Life' inside the net for a cuddle before sealing it closed. By this point in my travels I'd developed a serious Tiger Balm habit which I'd been hoping to kick, but judging by the state of my legs, I had no chance of giving up anytime soon.
Rustling in the bed next to me signalled Heather's awakening, and she immediately informed me that she wanted to move to a proper hostel. There was absolutely no hesitation on my behalf - I'd had a better night's sleep than her, but I was more than happy to move somewhere which actually had lockers, wifi and a higher chance of not ending up as a mosquito buffet whilst we slept. We found a cute little hostel, dumped off our stuff and hired a moped so we could make our way to the animal welfare centre.
The Koh Lanta Animal Welfare Centre is an incredible little non-profit charity which is dedicated to controlling the overpopulation of stray cats and dogs on the island of Koh Lanta. To date, they have sterilised and treated over 15,000 animals, and visitors to the centre have helped to re-home hundreds of cats and dogs, giving them new homes, all over the world. The centre gives each sterilised animal a fashionable little tattoo inside their ear once they've been treated, so locals are able to check which strays still need a trip the centre. Visitors are free to visit the centre each day to help play with the puppies and walk the dogs.
After our tour of the centre, Heather got lumped with a dog that refused to budge, whereas mine ended up taking me for a walk, pulling me down a leafy path at supersonic speed. Heather had to turn back due to lack of co-operation from her new friend, whilst I got dragged through some bushes into the wilderness.
I eventually got dragged back to the centre and became immediately attached to a couple of puppies. The charity organises everything for you if you want to adopt a pet and bring it back to your home country, and I came dangerously close to cutting my trip to an early finish, so I could bring my new friends home with me. I tried to raise a reaction from my mum by telling her I was coming home with a pair of puppies, but instead of telling me not to dare, she asked if we could call one of them 'Fudge,' and put an instant end to my attempts of winding her up.
The animal centre was pretty close to the hippy hostel we'd first stayed at, and seeing as when we'd initially arrived the hostel owner had recommended a food stall nearby, 'Mr Pad Thai,' we agreed to jump on the bike and reward our hard days 'puppy patting' with a giant plate of noodles each. 'Mr Pad Thai's' noodles were as good as the hippy hostel owner had told us, and watching Heather battle with the chopsticks to try and eat them provided us with a good laugh. Our shrieks of laughter attracted some stares from the people on the tables nearby, and when the guy at the end of our table looked over, we asked if he wanted to try some of our food. He politely declined, but we were insistent that we wanted someone else to taste how good it was!
Derek, from the States, was probably not enthralled at the idea of two random Bristolian girls turning up to ruin his peace and quiet, and have them try and ram (really good) noodles down his throat, but he put up with us for long enough to decide that we were actually alright (Well, he didn't tell us to buggar off, at least...)
We can't have been too bad anyway, as a couple of hours chatting led to him introducing us to the girls he was travelling with, Libby and Gloria, and after a couple more hours of chatting (and also a couple of bottles of SangSom) it felt like we'd all known each other for months on end.
Gloria had a dive booked in the next day, but the rest of us hired bikes and explored Koh Lanta. It's definitely one of the more chilled Thai islands. We found a cool little hammock shop (which we ended up hanging out in for a long time due to Derek's hammock obsession...) and then trekked through a mini jungle to reach Khlong Chak waterfall, where we had a much deserved, cooling dip. We stopped off in a roadside restaurant on the way home and watched the sun set over the ocean.
The next day, Heather and I decided to relocate from the other side of the island, (back to the side we started on,) and get a hut just across from the one the others were staying in. It saved us going back and forth on a moped all the time, seeing as we were spending all our time with Derek, Libby and Gloria. (And Mr Pad Thai....) I made friends with a cat, named him TJ and invited him to live with us. Heather wasn't especially happy about it but I couldn't really kick him out after inviting him to stay.
The next few days flew by in a whirlwind which pretty much consisted of stuffing our faces, and general bumming around. On my birthday we went skinny dipping at night, and swam with the bioluminescent plankton, then listened to Nirvana on the beach. Not a bad way to turn twenty seven!
Before we knew it, it was time for Gloria to fly back to Germany. A large amount of SongSam on her final evening led to more drunken tattoos, (not me this time!) and emotional goodbyes. It's funny how when you're travelling you can become so attached to someone you've really only just met!
There's not too much to do on Koh Lanta, but it ended up being one of my favourite weeks in Thailand - I feel like I made so many friends!