Tuesday, 20 August 2013

Koh Lanta & Kwan a match made in heaven


We wanted some ‘island time’ but didn’t want to spent it with every Tom, Dick and Harry all searching for the same thing as us. Paradise.

After doing some brief research in our Krabi Hotel (that happened after we had again paid a visit to the infamous bar to see the Kraoke in full swing), we decided Koh Lanta would be the next destination to check out.

Far bigger than Koh Phi Phi but large enough that you can explore most of the nooks and crannies in 2 days. Most of the souvenir shops were closed, picture menus put away and neon signs turned off during the low season meaning that we felt like we had the island to ourselves. 

Typical for this time of year the westerly winds pick up. Thailand's Southern Coastlines dramatically change as onshore swell makes its presence known on the beaches. Expectations run high that this may result with some surf. To be able to surf in Thailand for me, feels pretty special as its not something you'd expect from a destination renowned for its calm, clear waters. 

Our home in Koh Lanta was a basic bungalow overlooking Long Beach. With low season we only shared the entire complex with 10 other people. I could almost spot the invisible tumble weed rolling through the resort like what you see in a typical Western Cowboy film. 

Coming to Thailand at this time of year, you do feel like you get to see more of an  untarnished version of this country. All of the beaches we visited in Koh Lanta were strewn not with sunbathers but plastic. It did break my heart to go for a morning run along the beach and instead of dodging clumps of shells or coral I was instead avoiding plastic. I could only pick up so much before I realised that a rubbish truck would be far more helpful. Bottles, bags, containers, straws from the last Full Moon Party Bucket littered the beach. It doesn't feel right to point the finger at anyone in particular unless your looking directly at the government. I don't yet understand why when tourism is such a huge money earner for this country it doesn't feel like any funding is put aside for setting up recycling plants and education to raise awareness around the protecting the environment. I'd like to think I'm wrong and already this is in development, its just Rome wasn't built in a day. I do hope that's the case. 

I have a little makeshift business card/ book mark that has a face of a smiling lady in a caricature style. It's emblazoned with the message, 'Kwan's Cookery' followed by the sub line, 'Restaurant and Cooking School.' After being given it by Kwan herself, I was given solemn instructions that I have to cut this business card/book mark up up and hand out the contact details to everyone I meet. We accidentally met Kwan on a mission to find some tasty Thai. Walking into her open air restaurant overlooking the main street, she marched right over to us with open arms and a big smile. The menu had everything I had come to Thailand to taste. Laab, Papaya salad, sticky rice with mango, Panang curry, I don't Kawn realised how much I was in food heaven before I had even tasted her food. We didn't know at the time but this Kwan's Cooking School and Restaurant is one of the most popular places to eat on the island, yet she's only been open for a couple of months. 

Her big heart and chat was soon shared and we had one of those memorable evenings that you'll attempt to recount to others but it won't quite live up to actually being there. 

I don't think I've ever eaten so much Thai food at once. But it kept coming out as Kwan suggested we have noodles instead of rice with the Panang curry. Oh and how about we try the homemade Issan Sausage from today that goes great with some lime juice and fresh ginger....

It didn't take long for us to join the crew in the kitchen. She heard that Tim was hungry and soon had him making his own vegetable spring rolls. Instructing him with a sharp firmness on when to turn over the rolls, quickly announcing that they were ready and we needed to return to our seats to eat them. 

Its not every day that after a meal you have an impromptu photo shoot with the owner of a restaurant and the kitchen staff. But anything can happen during an evening with Kwan. I just hope her 'swimming' improves over time.

I think by the end of the evening and after drinking the infamous 'no name' drink that I decided to call the 'sleepy' drink we felt like Kwan was an old friend we had to say goodbye to with a heavy heart. She set a benchmark for how good Thai food can be and how you can not just taste the fresh ingredients in each dish but the passion and hard work she and her team put into everything they serve.

Toodle pip x

The real way to fill up a tank.

An attractive self portrait. 

Thai Titanic.

Koh Lanta living.

I couldn't find the key for the chain.

Flash rain.

Fruit market heaven.

The crew from Kwan's restaurant getting 'crazy' in the kitchen.

Kwan

Kwan and Tim going for a casual swim.

Striking a pose from the kitchen.

Saladan Town in Koh Lanta.