Koh Lan is an island, which sits approximately 7.5 kilometres off the coast of Pattaya, Thailand. It is often referred to as Koh Larn or Ko Laan but for the purpose of this article, it will be referred to as Koh Lan. The island is an idyllic location, popular with tourists, due to its many serene beaches and tranquillity. It is four kilometres long and two kilometres wide. The island is a small hilly affair, reaching a height of 180m, covered in tropical forest, with beautiful beaches around its coastline, which is what attracts the many of its visitors. The island is home to around 3,000 people, who mainly live around the piers and surrounding area. Koh Lan is incredibly popular attracting between 3,000 and 20,000 visitors a day, depending on the time of year.
From Pattaya’s Bali Hai Pier, there are a number of old style ferries that transport thousands of people per day to the island. These boats travel to two destinations, namely Tawaen Beach, which is to the far side of the island or to the main pier at Naban, the closer of the two trips. The ferries at first glance are old rickety devices but are in fact perfectly seaworthy and offer excellent photo opportunities for the budding photographers amongst you. Fares are extremely good value for money costing between 60-80 bath per return journey, with an average sailing time of 45 minutes to one hour. You can pay before you board or purchase tickets from the pier or via many agents around the city, with the latter offering mini-bus pick up services. Prices for these excursions, may be as much as 600 baht. This sounds more expensive than making your own way to the pier but if you consider that you may require the services of a taxi to get you to and from Bali Hai, you will discover that the fares of the agencies are not so bad.
Ferries run hourly from 06:30 till 18:00 but you should be aware that the last boat back to Pattaya is 17:30 from Tawaen and 18:00 from Naban. Alternatively, if you wish to spend a bit more on your choice of seagoing transport, you can hire a speedboat from Pattaya Beach or Bali Hai. You can of course share the cost, with friends but generally the cost is around 2,000 to 3,500 baht, depending on the size of the boat. Shop around and look for the best deal, for there is plenty of speedboat operators to choose from. You can even hire a speedboat from Jomtien. If your condo/hotel is located nearby, then this could be beneficial, saving the cost of a taxi into Bali Hai.
Why would you choose a speedboat over the ferry though? Well firstly, there is the time saved as the journey takes on average, 20 minutes. You can also split the cost between a group of people, which again makes it more affordable. The drawbacks include being tied down to a specific return schedule, so if you wish to return a few hours earlier, this may not be possible. Then there is the journey itself. Speedboats may not be suitable for those who suffer sea sickness or those who are very young or the elderly, due to the buffeting of the craft across
the sea. Choose the method of transport according to your requirements and budget.
What To Do
There is an abundance of activities on Koh Lan. Irrespective of age and level of fitness, you will find some form of entertainment to suit the individual.
For the thrill seekers amongst you, why not have a go at parasailing. This adrenalin filled experience is awesome as you are pulled behind a speedboat, as your a parachute hauls you high into the air. It is not for the feint-hearted and it doesn’t take long to complete but like the thrill of a good roller coaster, the exhilaration will have you wanting to do it again. For this activity, you must be on the island early for they tend to close for business just after midday.
Yes you can go fishing on Koh Lan. The island is steeped in a history of fishermen, long before the tourists arrived for the first time. In fact, many people still secure a living from the fishing industry. As you approach the island by ferry or speedboat, you are sure to pass at least one archaic looking fishing vessel, that still works the waters around the island today. These people fish for all sorts of creatures including crabs, lobsters, prawn and squid and fishes you may never have seen previously. Their catch is sold at local markets and incredibly low prices, and are so fresh, they may still be moving in their crates. But for the tourist, you may be restricted to fishing off one of the piers but care is needed, for many of the older structures are far from safe. Try to stay close to the newer piers, cast a line, and enjoy a relaxing day. You can also charter a boat and get out amongst the waves, where the bigger fish can be caught. Again, shop around and compare prices before jumping in. Remember that a fishing trip requires time, so arrive early.
Take A Ride On A Banana Boat
Yes, you can but what is it? Effectively it is a large yellow, inflatable device, shaped like a banana, that gets pulled along behind a jet-ski or speedboat. Once the banana boat is in motion and skimming across the sea, the fun really begins. The driver, who will often have a sense of humour and want to see if you can hang on, will suddenly change direction. The passengers are then subjected to a white knuckle ride as they attempt to remain on their seat for the duration of the ride.
There can be up to ten people on these seafaring air filled boats and each and everyone of them will be screaming and hanging on for dear life, as the driver rotates and spins in an effort to dislodge you. Don’t worry if you get thrown off, for everyone has to wear a life jacket and they will come back and pick you. The fun though is immense and highly recommended providing you are reasonably fit and old enough to get on.
Take a relaxing swim in the clear waters around the island. The waters are clean and much warmer than the beaches around Europe for instance. There is no sudden shock to the system as you wade into the waters, for it is more comparable to stepping into a cool bath. Don a snorkel and mask and check out beneath the waves or hire a rubber ring and simple lie back and enjoy the sun as you float along with the waves. All kit is available for hire from beach vendors for a small fee. Swimming and snorkelling is a great way to relax and almost every member of the family can take part.
Hire A Jet-Ski
This one requires fitness, good reactions and is not to be tried if you suffer from back problems. They look small and easy to use but in fact are propelled across the sea at intense velocity. Should you decide to hire one, and you have never ridden one previously, take your time to accustom yourself to their capabilities. They are not toys, jet-skis can really motor along the surface of the water. Neither do they steer easily. It takes time to master and should be learned at slow speeds first. They are however, wonderful fun and a great way to get around the perimeter of the island. When hiring one, check for damage to the body and always take photos of it before you sign the contract. Basically the person taking it out on the water is responsible for the jet-ski and if damaged, you could find yourself with a hefty bill. So do not taken chances. Inspect the vehicle, take those photos, and ride carefully. If you follow these rules, you should have a great few hours entertainment.
Rent A Motorbike
There are motorbike taxis and the familiar baht buses on the island, which are very reasonable price wise and a great way to get around. But at certain times of the day, you may find it difficult to find a taxi bike and many of the baht bus operators will not move until they have enough passengers on board, unless you wish to pay substantially more than a single fare. It is possible to wait 30 minutes on the back of a baht bus as the driver waits on people to join you, and if there is no taxi bikes, it can be a long, warm wait. However, you can of course hire a motorbike and get around the island in your own time, as and when it suits you. There are numerous places to hire a bike from on Koh Lan and whilst most are well maintained, it is always advisable to check the bike over before departing. Again, a few photos will stand you in good stead, should the operator suggest there is damage to the bike, which would be rare but its always best to be prepared. The roads are often narrow with some have steep inclines and declines. There are testing bends as the roads wind their way downhill, which can be daunting for those not familiar with riding a motorbike. Test the brakes and get used to steering before venturing away from the safety of the hire area. A bike is a fantastic way to get around. Ride up the hills and enjoy the views across to Pattaya. If you are traversing the roads, taking pleasure from the sights, take time to stop the vehicle, get off, and sample the panoramic views. Do not try to look as you are driving as the roads change direction without warning. You could end up in the jungle or eating grass. Beware at junctions too. Ride the bike with care and attention and you will have a ball.
Other Things To do
How about a bit or snorkelling or scuba diving? If this is something you wish to consider, then book with a reputable company in Pattaya, ensuring they are PADI qualified instructors. There are a number of excellent dive companies in Pattaya or Jomtien, who will take you out on a boat to Koh Lan or other islands near and far, for a superb day out. If you enjoy walking, there are superb beach walks or hilly but often strenuous hikes for those who are fit enough. How can you go to Koh Lan and not consider the obvious – sun bathing. The island has miles of white sands, an abundance of deckchairs and weather to die for. If all you wish to do is chill and lap up the rays, then sunbathing is right up your street. If you get bored, visit the many shops, which are a tourists dream. The shops sell almost everything you can imagine, with many of the items being handcrafted by local tradesmen and women.
Eating – fresh produce is the order of the day here, especially if you enjoy seafood. There are numerous restaurants and vendors dotted around the island just waiting on you to visit and sample their cuisine. Of course no meal of this standard is complete without a glass of wine, a cold beer or a soft drink. These is even a shooting range for those who fancy something completely different. Now if you are completely insane, super fit and want a really good workout, bring tour bike. With the humid conditions, steep hills and long drops, riding a mountain bike for example, is an exhilarating experience. This is not for the person who cycles to the shop and back. The roads on Koh Lan are hard going on a push bike, so be prepared for an arduous test of your stamina.
No matter what activity you decide upon, remember to treat the island with respect. Put all garbage in the bin, take everything you brought with you home or discard of properly.
The island is home to many people, so be polite when chatting to locals, and you will find them to be very approachable and helpful.
And of course – enjoy your time on Koh Lan. Take away fond memories from your visit and enjoy the ferry or speedboat trip back to Pattaya.